An American friend recently asked me “What is this Boxing Day you refer to”? Huh, I thought? Doesn’t everyone have a Boxing Day? I thought it was universal! Not the case! Isn’t it funny what we accept without really knowing much about the what, why’s or how’s?
What is Boxing Day?
Those of us who have always known of Boxing Day would know that it is a public holiday on the day following Christmas day – December 26. What many of us probably didn’t know is that Boxing Day is only celebrated in a few countries; mainly ones historically connected to the UK (such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) and in many European countries.
In Germany, Boxing Day is known as “Zweite Feiertag” (which means ‘second celebration’) and also “Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag” which translates as Boxing Day (although it doesn’t literally mean that). In South Africa, it is known as ‘The Day of Goodwill’.
In the United States, 26 December is not observed as “Boxing Day”, per se by the Federal Government, however it may be converted to an extension of “Christmas Day Observed” when Christmas falls on a Sunday. The 26th is given as a holiday to some state employees, mainly southern, states: Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas but it is not known as Boxing Day. On 5 December 1996, Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld declared 26 December as Boxing Day in Massachusetts, in response to the efforts of a local coalition of British citizens to “transport the English tradition to the United States”, but not as an employee holiday.
So I now realised that Boxing Day is not a universal thing! My friend then asked “why is it called Boxing Day”? And do you know what? I didn’t know! I had to ask Mr Google! So it got me thinking … how many others don’t know this stuff? How many others just accept Boxing Day as Boxing Day without knowing a thing about it’s origin or who exactly celebrates Boxing Day?
Thanks to my friend I gave myself a bit of educating and so now, whether you already know all this or not, you’re getting a lesson on Boxing Day … and there is a test at the end! Yes there is! You’re welcome.
Why is it called Boxing Day?
Obviously Boxing Day has nothing to do with the pugilistic competition like its name and the feature image for this post implies! It does however have something to do with a box!
It was started in the UK about 800 years ago, during the Middle Ages. It was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were traditionally opened so that the contents could be distributed to poor people. Apparently, some churches still open these boxes on Boxing Day.
It’s also said that the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes. The gift boxes were traditionally made of clay.
As time went by, Boxing Day gift giving expanded to include those who had rendered a service during the previous year. This tradition survives today as people give presents to tradesmen, mail carriers, doormen, porters, and others who have helped them.
It’s a season of giving and it was designed to give happiness and joy to the Christmas celebration of servants who deserved to be happy in the Christmas season.
Sports on Boxing Day
Before it was banned, ‘Fox Hunting’ was the traditional Boxing Day sport in the UK. Boxing Day is still one of the main days in the hunting calendar for hunts in the United Kingdom.
In the United Kingdom, it is traditional for both top-tier football leagues in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the lower ones, as well as the rugby leagues, to hold a full programme of football and rugby union matches on Boxing Day.
In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, Test cricket matches are played on Boxing Day.
In Australia, the first day of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne is on Boxing Day.
In horse racing, there is the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey, England. It is the second most prestigious chase in Britain, after the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In addition to the prestigious race at Kempton, in Britain it is usually the day with the highest number of racing meetings of the year, with eight in 2016, in addition to three more in Ireland.
What else happens on Boxing Day?
- The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race happens every year on Boxing Day.
- It’s St Stephen’s Day on Boxing Day.
- The Kwanzaa Festival beings on Boxing Day – a secular festival observed by many African-Americans from 26 December to 1 January as a celebration of their cultural heritage and traditional values.
NOW FOR THE TEST
Good luck! Make me proud!
Let me know in the comments if I have educated you sufficiently! lol
BOXING DAY QUIZ
Ciao for now
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