What is Boxing Day? Why is it called Boxing Day? What, if anything, does boxing have to do with it? Boxing Day, like a box, has many points of interest.
What is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day is a centuries’ old British traditional gift-giving day once recognized across the British empire. Today Boxing Day is considered part of the Christmas season’s festivities in many nations, including Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
When is Boxing Day in Canada?
Boxing Day occurs on December 26 (the day after Christmas). However, if Christmas falls on a Saturday, Boxing Day takes place on the following Monday.
Origin of Boxing Day
Boxing Day in Ireland is also known as St. Stephen’s Day. But did you know: There are two saints named Stephen! One St. Stephen was stoned to death for his Christian faith and is considered the first Christian martyr. The other St. Stephen practiced mission work in Sweden and had a fondness for animals—especially horses. (This may be the reason that horse racing is popular on this day.)
Are you familiar with the carol titled “Good King Wenceslas”? Its first line describes the king’s activities on St. Stephen’s day: “Good King Wenceslas looked out/on the feast of Stephen.” Written by John Mason Neale and first published in 1853, the lyrics celebrate the spirit of Boxing Day—generosity—as it describes King Wenceslas watching a poor man “gath’ring winter fuel.” The king then brings the peasant food and logs for his fire.
Why Is It Called Boxing Day?
Yes, boxes are a big part of Boxing Day traditions!
During the Victorian era (1837–1901, the period of Queen Victoria’s reign), Boxing Day was the occasion for church parishioners to deposit donations into a box that was put out for the purpose by the clergyman.
Boxing Day was also the day on which wealthy employers gave their workers a box into which they had put cash, food, and other treats. Servants were given the day off to enjoy the day with their family.
On Boxing Day, tradespeople received “Christmas boxes,” usually made of pottery and containing cash and/or gifts. Recipients broke open the boxes and used the money to celebrate Boxing Day.
One of the earliest records of these box gifts dates from 1663. In an entry in his diary, English Parliamentarian Samuel Pepys writes that he sent a coach and messenger to his shoemaker to deliver “something to the boys’ box against Christmas” in addition to funds to cover his bill.
Do Boxing Events Occur on Boxing Day?
Sporting events have taken place on Boxing Day for centuries. However, pugilism—fighting with gloved fists (boxing!)—is not normally one of them.
Foxhunting was once a tradition among wealthy British on Boxing Day. In 2004, however, laws prohibited hunting with foxes and allowed hunts only in modified form.
Today’s more popular Boxing Day activities include watching horse races and football games, jogging (in organized fundraising runs), charity events, and taking a dip in the frigid English Channel.
Boxing Day Trivia & Lore
- On this day in 1776, George Washington crossed the ice-clogged Delaware River to attack Hessian forces in Trenton, New Jersey at dawn.
- On this day in 1963, two songs by The Beatles—”I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “I Saw Her Standing There”—were released in the United States.
- Weather lore says, If wind blows much on St. Stephen’s Day (December 26), the grape will be bad in next year.
Boxing Day Recipes
Want to eat something typical for Boxing Day? Because it is the cook’s day off (traditionally speaking), leftovers are on the menu. Here are a few recipes, suited for the remains of a Christmas dinner or a fresh start:
The Best Box for Boxing Day (or any special day)
If you are feeling especially clever, or crafty, make a white-chocolate candy box and fill it with treats for someone special!