Boxing Day is a national Bank Holiday, a day to spend with family and friends and to eat up all the leftovers of Christmas Day. The origins of the day, however, are steeped in history and tradition.
Arguments abound on the origins of the name Boxing Day.
All the answers below are valid, so maybe it is one, or even all of them.
- A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present.
- Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants and the day when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.
- A box to collect money for the poor traditionally and placed in Churches on Christmas day and opened the next day - Boxing Day.
- Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. Were the voyage a success, the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents given to the poor.
Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box", from their bosses or employers, in the United Kingdom, Barbados, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Bermuda, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and other former British colonies. Today, Boxing Day is the bank holiday that generally takes place on 26 December.
In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. In the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical calendar, the day is dedicated to St. Stephen, so is known as St. Stephen's Day to Catholics, and to the population generally in Italy, Ireland, Finland, and Alsace and Moselle in France. It is also known as both St. Stephen's Day and the Day of the Wren or Wren's Day in Ireland. In some European countries, most notably Germany, Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands and those in Scandinavia, 26 December is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day.
Various competing theories for the origins of the term boxing day circulate in popular culture, none of which are definitive. However, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations of the term as being from England in the 1830s, defining it as 'the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box'