What is Boxing Day?

Although historians disagree on the exact origin of Boxing Day, it appears to have grown from the longstanding British tradition of goodwill and giving to those in need – attitudes associated with the Christian festival of Saint Stephen’s Day which is celebrated on December 26th.

There are several theories as to how the day became known as ‘Boxing Day’. Some historians believe it originated from the boxes installed in churches during the pre-Christmas season of Advent in the early days of Christianity during the second and third centuries A.D. The day after Christmas, the boxes were opened and the money was distributed to the poor.

Another theory is the tradition that developed in 19th century Victorian England, where servants sacrificed time with their own families to serve their aristocratic employers on Christmas day. The day after, employers would give the servants a rare day off and they would receive a box with leftovers from the family’s Christmas feast with added tips and gifts.

Since 1871 Boxing Day has been an official bank holiday, rolling over to Monday if it falls on a weekend. Today, the holiday is associated with sports as major football, rugby, cricket matches and horseraces take place on the 26th December. There is also the ‘Boxing Day Dip’ during which people run into cold water, usually the sea, and raise money for charity.

Boxing Day also tends to be a big shopping day throughout the UK and Commonwealth, with retailers attempting to move old stock before the new year, often resulting in a chance for one last bargain of the year.

At its heart, it remains a day for relaxation after the mad rush of Christmas festivities, and a chance to unwind and of course eat the plentiful leftover Christmas food.