Boxing Day 2024: What Is Boxing Day? | Boxing Day History, Traditions, and More | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Boxing Day 2024: What Is Boxing Day?

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Boxing Day on a chalkboard with paper wrapped gifts

Boxing Day Date, History, Traditions, and More

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Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26! This year, that’s a Tuesday. Why is it called Boxing Day? And what, if anything, does boxing have to do with it? Boxing Day, like a box, has many points of interest. Enjoy these Boxing Day recipes, a short history of Boxing Day, and more.

When Is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day occurs annually on December 26 (the day after Christmas). In 2024, Boxing Day falls on Thursday, December 26.

This public holiday is celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. Most offices are closed on this day if it is a weekday.

Boxing Day Dates
YearBoxing Day
2024Thursday, December 26
2025Friday, December 26
2026Saturday, December 26
2027Sunday, December 26

What Is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is a centuries-old gift-giving day that originated in Britain. Yes, boxes are a big part of Boxing Day traditions!

During the Victorian era (1837–1901, the period of Queen Victoria’s reign), the upper class would box up leftover food, money, or goods and give them to their tradesmen as well as their servants for reliable service all year. 

  • 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.

The custom arose because servants, who would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, had the next day off. They were given gifts from their masters and would go home to visit their families.

In the church, the money in the Alms (charity) boxes was given to the poor. The church parishioners deposited donations into a box the clergyman put out for that purpose and handed it out at Christmas.

boxing day activities illustration

St. Stephen’s Day

Boxing Day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day. He was known for helping the poor, and he was the first Christian martyr.

Ever heard the Christmas song, “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. 

good king wenceslas sheet music

How Is Boxing Day Celebrated Today?

Today, Boxing Day is a day off in England and Canada, and just a day to relax after the festivities of Christmas. 

There’s no feast. It’s all about the leftovers! Think turkey sandwiches.  See turkey leftover recipes.

And perhaps a little drink. Here’s our recipe for Champagne Mimosa.

santa on a beach with an i love boxing day shirt on and a drink in his hand

Sporting events have taken place on Boxing Day for centuries. Today’s more popular Boxing Day sporting activities include watching horse races and football matches against local rivals. 

Of course, another “sport” is post-Christmas shopping, as folks do their exchanges and returns and look for the best deals. See our ideas on what to do with those Amazon cardboard boxes!

Charity and giving to the poor are still a big part of Boxing Day.  Some folks participate in charity runs. The Boxing Day Dip is another charity event where people in fancy dress swim in the sea on Boxing Day. Can you imagine swimming in the frigid English Channel? 

Boxing Day Trivia & Lore

  • On this day in 1776, George Washington crossed the ice-clogged Delaware River at dawn to attack Hessian forces in Trenton, New Jersey.
  • 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 the wind blows much on St. Stephen’s Day [December 26], the grape will be bad in the next year.”
About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann