Let’s go ahead and answer the first question everyone has about Boxing Day. It has nothing to do with the sport of boxing. Nothing. Nor does it have anything to do with putting torn up Christmas Day wrapping paper in boxes or boxing up the gifts you don’t want to be returned. None of that has anything to do with Boxing Day. So, what the heck is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day takes place each year on December 26, the day after Christmas. Both days are rooted primarily in the spirit of giving. Boxing Day is celebrated in the United Kingdom and other British Commonwealth nations such as Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. While there are no religious ties in those nations, it does have religious connections in Ireland and Spain, where it is known as Saint Stephen’s Day. Boxing Day has also been adopted in other European countries, such as Hungary, Germany, Poland, and the Netherlands, where it has become the second day of Christmas.
What Is Boxing Day
According to legend, the name Boxing Day dates back to Queen Victoria’s time on the British throne. In those days, the royal family and others in the upper echelons of society would box up gifts for their servant staff as well as gifts for the poor. The day after Christmas was traditionally a day off for all servants and employees, who would bring the boxed gifts home as Christmas presents.
According to BBC, English churches of the day would also participate in Boxing Day. They would collect money from parishioners during the year and store it in boxes. On December 25, they would open the “Christmas Boxes,” which were full of money, and the next day, hand out “Alms Boxes” to the poor.
In modern times, the acts of giving gifts and money continue on Boxing Day, but the boxes have sort of disappeared from use.
How Is Boxing Day Celebrated
The traditional way to celebrate Boxing Day is to be charitable in giving to the less fortunate or to use our time to volunteer in the same manner. But, for millions around the Commonwealth, the day has become more like American Thanksgiving, in that it’s a day for watching sports and food.
According to BBC, before World War II, Christmas Day had traditionally been a day of sport with soccer matches scheduled from morning till dusk. But after the war, Christmas became a “football-free zone.” The final Christmas Day football match took place in 1957, and ever since, Boxing Day has become synonymous with watching sports. Football, rugby, and cricket matches are very popular on Boxing Day, along with horse racing.
The historic sport of fox hunting used to be a popular Boxing Day activity in England. But TheStreet reports that since the Hunting Act of 2004 banned the use of dogs hunting mammals, a new sport has arisen, called trail hunting, in which hunters follow a trail as opposed to chasing animals.
And just like their American cousins, the Brits love their turkey. And while they don’t celebrate a Thanksgiving, Christmas is their big turkey day, and Boxing Day has become their day for leftovers. Nowadays, it’s common for folks to sit around the house on December 26th, turn on the telly, watch some football, and stuff themselves silly with turkey sandwich leftovers.
The Spruce Eats lists other food favorites as pease pudding, a traditional savory dish served with cooked meats, mince pies with brandy butter, and Christmas cake.
Thus far, Boxing Day has never really taken off in America, but it’s clear that as time has gone on, Boxing Day has become more like our Black Friday, a day of family, food, and sports.