Why is it called Boxing Day? Here's everything you need to know about 26th December

why is it called boxing day
Why is it called Boxing Day?House Beautiful/Rachel Whiting

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated in the UK on 26th December, the day after Christmas Day. But why is it called Boxing Day? And where do the origins of Boxing Day come from?

What is Boxing Day?

Firstly, despite sharing the same name, it has nothing to do with the sport boxing. Rather, Boxing Day got its name when Queen Victoria was on the throne. In Victorian times, the wealthy would box up items they no longer needed to give to the poor. It was a day where servants would be given time off and thanked for their hard work with a 'special box' of treats. The servants would then head home and use the 26th to spend with their own families — and share the presents they had just received.

The national holiday also refers to a nautical tradition. Ships that were setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board as a sign of good luck. If their voyage was a success, their box would be given to a priest, opened on Christmas and then given to the poor.

christmas tree with drinks on nearby table
House Beautiful/Jon Day

Boxing Day is a bank holiday in the UK, however, when it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday is designated as the official public holiday. This year, Boxing Day falls on a Tuesday.

When was Boxing Day invented?

Many people believe that the tradition of Boxing Day began in churches in the Middle Ages, where parishioners would collect money for the poor. It was thought this was done to honour St Stephen, the first Christian martyr, whose feast day fell on 26th December.

Another tradition is that the churches in Victorian times would use it as a day to display a box outside their building to collect money for the poor.

Which countries celebrate Boxing Day?

It's mainly countries with close connections to the UK, such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada and some European countries too.

In Hungary, Poland and the Netherlands, Boxing Day is known and celebrated as a second Christmas Day. Over in Germany, Boxing Day is known as 'Zweiter Feiertag' (which means 'second celebration') and also 'Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag'.

What do people do on Boxing Day?

hb christmas 2021 giovanna ryanall rights photographer david loftus direction sarah keady
House Beautiful/David Loftus

Over the years, Boxing Day has become a holiday that is spent with friends and family. Many will use it as a day to eat leftovers (mainly turkey sandwiches), binge-watch Christmas films and generally continue the festivities. Some households also meet with extended family to celebrate Christmas if they weren't together on 25th December.

It has also largely become synonymous with sports, such as horse racing and football. Before it was banned in 2004, fox hunting was a popular Boxing Day pastime for the wealthy.

Many people use Boxing Day as a day to get involved in charity fundraisers, such as swimming in ice-cold water, taking part in fun runs or volunteering with the local community.

How has Boxing Day changed over the years?

Boxing Day has become more commercialised over the years. As well as eating Christmas leftovers, Boxing Day is a chance to peruse the sales — and snap up some great bargains. Sales in-store and online offer big discounts to lure shoppers. Some retailers reduce their prices on Christmas Eve, sometimes as early as 23rd December.

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