When is Boxing Day, why is it called that, how is it traditionally celebrated and what are its origins?
22nd December 2018

But do you know why it's called Boxing Day? We explain the origins of the day…

When is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26 each year and is a national holiday in the UK.

When Boxing Day falls on a weekend, as it did in 2016, the Monday after it is declared a public holiday, too.

Boxing Day is primarily a British tradition, and the UK has exported it to Australia, Canada and New Zealand (where is primarily become a day dedicated to shopping and sporting events).

Why is it called Boxing Day?

There are a few competing stories for the origin of the name, but none are definitive.

The first is that the day after Christmas was when servants of the wealthy were given time off to visit their family, as they were needed to work on Christmas Day.

Each servant would be given a box to take home with food, a bonus and gifts.

Another theory is that in the Victorian era, churches often displayed a box for parishioners to donate money.

Also, it was customary for tradespeople to collect 'Christmas boxes' of money or gifts on the first weekday after Christmas as a thank you for good service over the year.

How is Boxing Day celebrated?

Boxing Day is a time to spend with family or friends, particularly those not seen on Christmas Day itself. It is also a day to eat left over turkey.

In modern times the day has become associated with sports – particularly football and rugby. Local rivals are often pitted together, especially in lower leagues.

The day used to be synonymous with hunting.

The 2004 foxhunting ban put an end to this, although many places still carry out drag hunts (the dogs chase a scent that has been laid out) to keep up the tradition.

Boxing Day is also a time when the Brits show their eccentricity by taking part in all kinds of bizarre traditions including swimming the icy cold English Channel, or legging it into the sea, fun runs and charity events.

December 26 is a big day for sales too. Dramatic price reductions lure out millions of shoppers who even queue for hours before the shops open.

Many retailers are now starting their Boxing Day sales online on Christmas Eve – or earlier.

Where else is Boxing Day celebrated?

Boxing Day is mostly a Commonwealth tradition, with the likes of Canada, Australia and New Zealand celebrating the day just like in the UK.

December 26 is also a national holiday in Ireland, but there it is known as St Stephen's Day.

A saint who was stoned to death for believing in Jesus, St Stephen is also the patron saint of horses which could be where the hunting association came from.

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