Boxing Day Origin: How the Public Day After Christmas Got Its Name

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Boxing Day has nothing to do with the boxing sport, unwrapping gifts, throwing away the boxes opened on Christmas Day or repacking gifts. This common holiday traces its origins to the Victorian era and has been a mainstay on the United Kingdom’s calendar and in Commonwealth countries. Contrary to that, it’s not recognized in the United States as a holiday. If you’re wondering how it got its name, this article explains Boxing Day origin. 

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An explainer of Boxing Day. Source: The HISTORY® Channel Canada

What’s the Origin of Boxing Day? 

Over the years, a couple of theories emerged to explain Boxing Day origin. Here are some of them.

Employers Gifting Their Servants

One theory suggests that servants received a day off on the 26th after Christmas Day to spend time with their families. In recognition of their efforts, their employees would give them boxes of gifts which they’d take home, hence the name Boxing Day. 

English novelist Charles Dickens helped to cement this idea through his novel ‘A Christmas Carol’. To this day, some employees give their workers gifts during the holidays to demonstrate appreciation. 

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Church Donations

Another theory points to the church, where boxes would be passed around for people to donate during the Advent season. These donations were stored in alms boxes and priests would open them on Christmas Day and share the contributions with the poor on Boxing Day. 

Some churches, to this day, pass around an offering box, so it has become a deeply rooted tradition.

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Struggles of a Poor Man

A third theory claims that the song “Good King Wenceslas” can explain the source of the day. Reports indicate that the Duke of Bohemia saw a poor man struggling to get food. He was so touched that he took food to him and his acts of kindness led to this day.

Boxing Day also has religious origins. In some countries, mostly European, they use this day to commemorate St. Stephens, a Christian martyr who was known for his charitable acts. 

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Boxing Day Traditions

Just like Christmas, Boxing Day has its traditions. Here are some:

Football Matches

Boxing Day Origin: How the Public Day After Christmas Got Its Name
Mohamed Salah is in Liverpool training. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Sports fans across the globe enjoy the adrenaline that comes with festive football. Whilst they spend the day with their loved ones, they get to watch their best teams and players compete in one of the most popular leagues around the world, the English Premier League.

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Clearing Leftovers

Apart from that, Boxing Day is seen as a day of clearing off the leftovers from Christmas Day. You might choose to share food with neighbors and the less fortunate, extending the charitable characteristic that sparked this holiday in the first place.

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Spend Time With Family & Friends

For those who don’t get to celebrate Christmas, at least they can catch up with their family and friends on Boxing Day together with the numerous activities that go on with it. For example, shopping, a big part of the day, is likened to Black Friday in the United States.

Now you know Boxing Day origin. If you don’t celebrate it, at least it’s an extra holiday to rest after the Christmas Day activities. That said, it’s a day that carries significance if you’re keen on helping the less fortunate. 

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