What is Boxing Day?

January 12, 2017
boxing day, boxing, boxing gloves, santa, christmas

boxing day, boxing, boxing gloves, santa, christmas

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.

history, tradition, boxing day, christmas

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.


Good luck!  Make me proud!
Let me know in the comments if I have educated you sufficiently! lol


Ciao for now

Link up here at WOTM or with another of us in the Lovin’ Life Linky team:
Leanne of Deep Fried Fruit, Johanna of Lifestyle Fifty, Lyndall of Seize the Day Project,
Kathy of 50 Shades of Age, and Deb of Debbish
It doesn’t matter where you link up as it will magically appear on all six blogs.


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  • Reply Kathy Marris January 12, 2017 at 6:58 am

    Min this is so interesting. I had no idea. I thought it was just a term for recovery day after Christmas for the birth of Jesus. Ignorance is bliss!

    • Reply Min January 12, 2017 at 2:03 pm

      Phew! Glad I’m not the only one who had no idea. LOL

  • Reply Amy @ Handbagmafia January 12, 2017 at 6:59 am

    I must say, I had wondered at this! Thanks for clearing that mystery up! Fascinating. I love learning the reasons behind traditions etc like this.

    • Reply Min January 12, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      I hadn’t even wondered about it until asked and realised I knew nothing! It is fascinating isn’t it. Great to know now! 🙂

  • Reply Deborah January 12, 2017 at 8:50 am

    I knew some of this, but not all of it Min so thanks so much for sharing! I’ve not thought too much about the meaning behind it all I guess, rather am just happy for more public holidays / days off work!

    • Reply Min January 12, 2017 at 2:05 pm

      I knew none of it Deb so have been fascinated and amazed to find out the history behind Boxing Day … and yes Public Holidays are always a good thing! lol

  • Reply Sue January 12, 2017 at 8:54 am

    Thanks Min for explaining Boxing Day. It isn’t all about the Boxing Day sales is it? I wonder how many people now the reason behind the tradition of Boxing day? I’ve found the US doesn’t have the same holidays as us and they aren’t used to our Aussie vernacular either LOL:) Have a wonderful week. Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond.

    • Reply Min January 12, 2017 at 2:06 pm

      Haha Boxing Day sales – maybe donning the gloves to box your way through the crowds? lol I’m glad I’m not the only one who didn’t know the history behind Boxing Day. You have a wonderful week too Sue. 🙂

  • Reply Vanessa January 12, 2017 at 9:31 am

    I always wondered where the “6 pack for the garbage collectors” tradition came from – it was only a few years ago I heard of this apparently common tradition. And now I can see where it comes from.

    • Reply Min January 12, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      I had forgotten about the 5 pack for the garbage collectors. I remember Mum and Dad doing this when I was a kid! Yes I guess it would stem from the Boxing Day tradition. Good point!

  • Reply Leanne@crestingthehill.com.au January 12, 2017 at 3:30 pm

    It’s funny how the meanings of things change as time goes on. I was always told that Boxing Day was in remembrance of people packing up their left-overs after Christmas Day. I don’t really care why we have it – I’m just grateful for the extra public holiday 🙂

    • Reply Min January 13, 2017 at 1:43 pm

      It kind of is about people packing up their left-overs after Christmas Day … but then putting them in a ‘box’ and giving them to the poor or servants. I like a public holiday too Leanne! 🙂

  • Reply Jo January 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

    How interesting Min! I read this with great interest 🙂 Isn’t it funny how we just accept some things without question. We need to become like 5 year olds again and full of ‘Why’s” I’m so glad now I know why Boxing Day is Boxing Day. Fascinating! #TeamLovinLife

    • Reply Min January 13, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      Yes we lose our childlike inquisitiveness don’t we. Such a shame! I was amazed to find this out and to think I knew none of it! 🙂

  • Reply Lyndall @ SeizeTheDayProject January 12, 2017 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks for educating us about the origins and meaning of Boxing Day Min. I wasn’t aware of these very interesting facts! I’ve always loved watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race on Boxing Day. I was involved with the race many years ago and it’s close to my heart 🙂 #TeamLovinLife

    • Reply Min January 13, 2017 at 1:45 pm

      No problem Lyndall – I figured if I didn’t know this stuff maybe there would be others that didn’t either and its good to know! I’m curious as to how you were involved in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race! 🙂

  • Reply Jo Tracey January 12, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    You know, I think Boxing Day could be almost my favourite day of the year. You’ve got the celebration of Xmas, the wind down, the leftovers, and a sleep in & lazy day by the pool. Having said that, I love the history, so thank you.

    • Reply Min January 13, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      Oh I’m with you there Jo – I love Boxing Day for all the reasons you stated! The history is great to know too – true! 🙂

  • Reply Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit January 13, 2017 at 6:26 am

    Oh the pressure of a quiz! Eeek. I’ll come back when my brain wakes up …

    • Reply Min January 13, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      I will be expecting you back Leanne. No-one has told me their score for the quick as yet. Has anyone done it I wonder? Hmmm! lol 😉

  • Reply Sydney Shop Girl January 13, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Thanks for the little history lesson, Min!

    SSG xxx

    • Reply Min January 13, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      No problem SSG – never thought I would ever give a history lesson! LOL xo

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