Boxing Day | Calendar Table

Boxing Day

The day after Christmas is known in many countries as Boxing Day. This holiday is predominantly celebrated in the United Kingdom and countries that were once a part of the British empire. December 26th is the official date of Boxing Day, but some countries may celebrate the holiday a day or two later.

Many people assume that boxing day is a reference to the sport, but in fact, it has nothing to do with competitive boxing. There is plenty of debate over the reason and purpose of Boxing Day. It’s hard to pin down where it came from. However this holiday began, it is important to many people and acts as an extension of Christmas for several areas of the world.

British Commonwealth countries are the main countries that celebrate Boxing Day. Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have the most adherents outside of the United Kingdom. Many other countries, such as Germany, Poland and Romania, have December 26th celebrations as well. But these countries do not call the day “Boxing Day.” So where did this holiday come from?

What Is the Purpose of Boxing Day?

The way Boxing Day is celebrated varies region to region. You find that many people who celebrate the holiday have different backstories to share about the reasons why they celebrate it. But where exactly does it come from? Is there historical evidence to prove its origins?


There are two main theories of how Boxing Day originated. One theory claims that millennia ago aristocratic families would give Christmas boxes to their servants or other underprivileged people. These boxes were often filled with leftovers from Christmas dinner and other gifts like money or clothing.

The second theory proposes that the holiday stems from donations left at churches on Christmas or the day after. The clergy then distributed these gifts and donations to the underprivileged families in the area. Therefore, this holiday more than likely finds its origins in charitable acts performed during the Christmas season.

While there is no proof of the exact origins of Boxing Day, the 26th of December has long been a day set aside for charitable causes. This is most certainly because of its proximity to Christmas, but the holiday evolved over time to become an important day on its own.


Theories in favor of Boxing Day stemming from acts of charity have become more popular over the last couple hundred years. As Boxing Day has been adopted as an important holiday in many countries, the charitable nature of the day remained, and traditions were developed around these charitable causes. Many of these selfless acts were inspired by the Christmas holiday, and because Boxing Day falls on the next day, it is inspired by the same traditions.

We also find a spiritual connotation for Boxing Day. December 26th is the feast day for the Christian martyr St. Stephen. This is a major feast day in Ireland and is recognized as an important day in the Christian canon. This further solidifies the concept that Boxing Day is a charitable extension of Christmas.

Why Do We Call It Boxing Day?

We see the origins of Boxing Day begin to take shape when we examine its roots in Christendom. But since they didn’t call it “boxing day,” where did this name come from? Charles Dickens used the term in ‘The Pickwick Papers’ in 1837. But according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term first appeared in print in 1833.

It’s obvious there’s an association with actual boxes when we refer to Boxing Day. In the not-so-distant past, people would box up donations or deliver boxes on the day after Christmas. The immense amount of boxes thrown out on December 26th may also contribute to the name.

Another thought is that the Boxing Day moniker came from a nautical term. Ships set to sail long journeys would take a box full of money on board to bring good luck. Once the ship returned safely, the box would be donated to a church. The box would then be opened on Christmas day and given to the less fortunate.

There are various potential origins for this holiday, but they are all rooted in acts of good will. Charitable donations during the winter season are common in many cultures. How these holidays form is often mysterious, and Boxing Day is no exception.

We now know where Boxing Day found its roots, but how is this holiday relevant today? Are people still celebrating this day every winter?

How Is Boxing Day Celebrated Today?

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Charitable Christmas donations are often given during the weeks leading up to Christmas, leaving the days after Christmas for relaxing or travelling back from the homes of friends and family. December 26th is still widely celebrated as Boxing day with less focus on charity and more focus on relaxing with loved ones.

National Holidays

In the United Kingdom and Ireland, Boxing Day is a national holiday. Banks are closed and almost everyone is off work. This leaves ample time for recovery after the vacation. Many people believe that Boxing Day is simply an extension of Christmas implemented by those of us who want a longer vacation. These cultures often enjoy a casual lunch on Boxing Day, savoring leftovers and desserts. Christmas celebrations are well known for heavy imbibing, so perhaps a drink on the 26th can help get rid of your headache.

While there is no proof of the exact origins of Boxing Day, the 26th of December has long been a day set aside for charitable causes. This is most certainly because of its proximity to Christmas, but the holiday evolved over time to become an important day on its own.


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While the word ‘boxing’ isn’t referring to the sport, sports have become an integral part of Boxing Day in modern culture. Soccer, cricket, hockey and horse racing are all popular sports that are played on December 26th. Many people take this day to visit friends they couldn’t meet on Christmas Day.

While spending time with family is important, many British traditions for Boxing day are more bizarre. Swimming the ice cold English Channel, running events and other games are popular on this day. Many of these events will be for charitable causes, which helps further bolster Boxing Day’s selfless roots.

We also need to note here that in some Commonwealth countries in Africa there are actual boxing matches held on Boxing Day. Italy also has a tradition of important boxing matches on Boxing Day. These traditions are relatively new and we can only assume they stem from the name of the holiday, rather than the other way around.

Fox Hunting

The tradition of going fox hunting on Boxing Day became prominent in the 19th century. In 2004 there was a fox hunting ban instituted, and the hunting tradition became less popular. Men still gather to hunt foxes, dressed in traditional attire. They are no longer allowed to use dogs in the hunts even though that had long been the tradition.


Similar to the United State’s post-Thanksgiving shopping day, Black Friday, December 26th has become the go-to shopping day for the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. This consumerism has become the norm for many families as they take advantage of sales. Many large stores lower their prices on excess Christmas stock, which inspires Boxing Day shopping sprees.

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Until recently, these shopping sales were typically reserved for New Year. And while many see this takeover of materialist values to be a corruption of a charitable holiday, many others find time to take advantage of these sales to make charitable donations.

Irish Traditions

In Ireland, December 26th is also celebrated by many as St. Stephen’s Day. This martyr was stoned to death for his passionate beliefs in Jesus Christ. The St. Stephen’s Day traditions typically involve a feast and charitable work.

One distinct Boxing Day tradition in Ireland is characterized by the activities of the Wren Boys. This group of men invented a tradition of dressing up and stoning wren to death as a symbolic gesture of what happened to St. Stephen. They would then carry their dead birds around town knocking on doors and asking for money.

The Wren Boys tradition is no longer as violent as it once was, but the Wren Boys still dress up and go door to door asking for money. Only now the money goes to charity.


We have found that the Boxing Day traditions followed today are relatively new. These traditions stem from traditions implemented only a few hundred years ago. In the world of holiday traditions, a few hundred years is a relatively short period of time. Boxing Day may have many origin stories, but this only adds to its beauty and appeal. The roots of this holiday are firmly grounded in charity, and we still see this theme today.

As we see Boxing Day develop, there is no doubt that the traditions will continue to vary from region to region. We already see a distinct variety of celebrations–and reasons for celebrating–on December 26th, whether it is called “Boxing Day” or not. This variance from country to country is what makes these days amazing. While we may have differing opinions on the origin story, as well as different ways to celebrate Boxing Day, its adherents are still upholding the themes of charity and togetherness.

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