There are few theories explaining the origins of the name ‘Boxing Day’. It probably comes from the times when people used to give their employees or servants boxes with gifts or money the day after Christmas. It was a practical way to thank them for their good service. This custom has been mentioned as early as in 1663, but it was connected with an even older British tradition. The servants had to serve their masters on Christmas Day then, so they were allowed to visit their family the next day – on 26 December. They received boxes with gifts, food or bonuses from their employers to take home.
Nowadays, Boxing Day is usually connected with shopping and post-Christmas sales. The shops are open even as early as 5 am. It is therefore not surprising that the tradition has been compared to the American ‘Black Friday’. Some people even spend part of the night to be the first to get into the store and take advantage of the best bargains. Even though there are always crowds of people in the stores on Boxing Day, many decide to stay at home, spend time with the family and have a rest after Christmas activities. Some Brits also take part in activities such as charity runs or swimming in the icy cold water.
Another important element of Boxing Day in the United Kingdom is the sport. All of the top-tier football and rugby leagues cultivate the custom of holding a full programme of matches between local rivals on 26 December. The tradition also roots back to the previous ages – it was common for the upper class to do the fox hunting, which has become a sport symbol of Boxing Day. As fox hunting is outlawed today, football and horse riding have become popular sports.
Did you know?
Although the Boxing Day tradition comes from the United Kingdom, it has spread to many other countries around the world. Of course, the countries of the Commonwealth, such as Canada, New Zealand or Australia celebrate the day just like the Great Britain. Boxing Day, however, can also be observed in countries such as Nigeria, Singapore, Hong Kong, or Trinidad and Tobago.
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