What is Boxing Day?
On the first (strictly, the first weekday) after Christmas Day, a national holiday was observed in the United Kingdom and several Commonwealth countries, including New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, known as Boxing Day. December 26th is celebrated as Boxing Day as a Day of Goodwill.
Boxing Day is 26 December, thus being the second day of Christmastide. However, every time Boxing Day occurs on a weekend, the holiday is celebrated on the next Monday, and either on that day or one or two days later, the attached bank holiday or public holiday can take place. It is regarded traditionally as the “Feast of St. Stephen.”
Boxing Day coincides with another holiday celebrated in several of the same nations, St. Stephen’s Day. A Christian martyr who was stoned to death in 36 AD is honored on St. Stephen’s Day.
Boxing Day Origin
It originated in the United Kingdom and is celebrated in several nations that were once part of the British Empire. The origin of Boxing Day has more than one interpretation.
It applies to the alms or poor boxes in churches to collect donations for the needy.
Others assume that the name is taken from the boxes of presents given to servants on Christmas Day who had to work. The next day, they were given gifts.
The feast day of St Stephen, the patron saint of horses, is also on December 26. Many athletic activities are also organized on this day for this purpose. Fox hunting used to be part of the boxing tradition in England and Wales until a statute outlawed the sport in 2004.
Some claim that the history behind the Christmas carol of Good King Wenceslas, published in 1873, started this generous tradition.
In the poem, on the feast day of Saint Stephen, Wenceslas, the Duke of Bohemia, spies on a poor man gathering wood in the snow, slogging through a blizzard to bring delicious food and wine to the man and his kin, with the aid of his page.
Boxing Day has increasingly come to be synonymous with discounts and promotional deals, with stocks being offloaded by several retailers.
Boxing Day History
When Queen Victoria occupied the throne in the 1800s, Boxing Day got its name and was born from the practice of rich families boxing up presents to donate to the needy. The following day became the time when their employers loaded up boxes with presents, money, and Christmas leftovers for them, much like a holiday bonus, as servants of aristocrats were expected to work on Christmas. Servants will then go home with their families and share the gift boxes.
Another theory said that the name emerged from boxes of alms distributed in churches to raise donations for those in need. This practice has been dated back to the Middle Ages through the exact origin is unknown. Members of the church will send these funds to the needy on December 26 in celebration of the feast of St. Stephen, a Christian martyr renowned for acts of charity. St. Stephen has so much importance that Boxing Day is known as St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland.
Another explanation of the name may be related to ships carrying a sealed box containing cash for good luck when setting sail. The box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas, and the contents were then given to the poor if the voyage was a success.
Boxing Day Traditions
For more than a century, Boxing Day traditions have been observed regardless of origin, and today many people around the world still use Boxing Day as a time to pack up useful donation items and return these boxes to their communities.
They have bizarre traditions, such as cycling, fun walks, and charitable events in the icy cold English Channel. Boxing Day hunts were a traditional part of the day until 2004, but the ban on fox hunting in its usual sense has put an end to this. Hunters will still gather to the sound of the hunting horn, dressed brightly in red hunting coats.
Polar Bear Plunge
Others choose to join together with members of different swimming clubs on Boxing Day in the annual plunge into the freezing English Channel. For several causes, this daring event raises funds. Some love engaging in a regatta or just watching it or others who are courageous enough to step into the Channel themselves.
Boxing Day Celebrations
For some people, Boxing Day is a time to with family or friends, with food usually including baked ham, pudding, a slice of Christmas cake, and more.
Boxing Day is also celebrated with stores offering reduced Boxing Day sales prices. For countries that celebrate it, Boxing Day has been such a sales-heavy day that some stores now advertise Boxing Week. This time of year, Boxing Day is just one of several days with deals with worldwide Black Friday deals and month-long holiday discounts leading up to Christmas, particularly online. But promotions for Boxing Day are still a big deal in the U.K., Australia, and elsewhere and spend their day off for many people.
It is also celebrated by watching sports like football and rugby matches in England, Scotland, while Australia and South Africa are known for test cricket matches. Horse racing and ice hockey are other sports that typically occur on Boxing Day.
Young children can be brought to see family-friendly pieces of vibrant theater based on fairy tales, usually performed on Boxing Day, singing along with the musical numbers and engaging on stage with the performers.
Interesting Boxing Day Facts:
- The tradition of hunting wrens was once a common Boxing Day activity in England. Every other day, it was considered unlucky to kill wrens.
- Ireland often refers to it as Wren Day on December 26, a reference to an old practice in which poor children will kill a wren and then sell the feathers for good luck to neighbors.
- It was not unusual during the Age of Exploration to put a Christmas box on ships. The money placed in the box by the sailors was later offered to a priest for good luck. The priest will open the package and give the money to the needy on Boxing Day.
- South Africa changed its name from Boxing Day to Goodwill Dayin 1994.
- They don’t just have a different name for Boxing Day in the United States, they have a different event-National it’s Candy Cane Day on the 26th there.
- A massive earthquake of 9.3 magnitudes produced a tsunami across the Indian Ocean on Boxing Day 2004, resulting in the deaths of over 300,000 people. The worst affected country was Indonesia, followed by Sri Lanka, India, and Thailand. In the history of Boxing Day, it was the worst natural disaster.