Boxing Day is an annual Christmastide holiday occurring on the 26th December in the United Kingdom and the countries of the Commonwealth. The 26th of December is also observed as the Feast of Saint Stephen on many Christian calendars, although religious observances of Saints' Days have fallen into decline, and it would be unusual to find special services commemorating Stephen the Martyr, except in churches bearing his name.
Boxing Day is often a quiet celebration, spent visiting or entertaining friends. In the UK, seasonal football matches, horse races and traditional fox hunts are held. Sales begin in the high street, with shoppers usually coming out in force to hunt for bargains, and pubs fill with Boxing Day revellers. Events to raise money for charity also take place, such as the Tenby Boxing Day Swim - in which people rush into the sea despite the chilly temperatures.
There is no definitive answer for the origin of the name, which has nothing to do with fisticuffs, but probably originated during the medieval period from the “boxing” of Christmas gifts for non-household servants and their families and tradespeople, people who would not be seen on Christmas Day. Australian broadcaster Kel Richards recalls, “I remember when I was a boy that we used to leave out a bottle of beer for the garbo on the garbage collection day before Christmas – same idea really. Among the better off, there was also the custom of boxing up left over Christmas food and distributing it to the poor on the day after Christmas Day.” Some suggest that the tradition stems from the opening of church alms boxes on the day after Christmas, and a modern interpretation is that presents are “boxed” to be taken to friends and extended family.
Although many Americans take the 26th of December off, especially when it can be made part of a long weekend, the 26th is an ordinary working day in the United States.
- Reporter Kel Richards, ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/txt/s1534242.htm. Sourced 15th December 2007.
- http://www.pch.gc.ca/progs/cpsc-ccsp/jfa-ha/boxing_e.cfm Sourced 15th December 2007.