With the madness of Christmas Day behind us, many of us will be looking forward to a day on the sofa eating leftovers.
The chicken is all but gone, but you made sure there are enough drinks and biscuits to last until the New Year, so roll on Boxing Day!
What exactly is Boxing Day, and why is it even called that? Funnily enough, it has nothing to do with Boxing, instead, there’s a confusing mix of traditions that kick-started the day – from stoning to gift boxes and sailor superstitions.
Here’s what the day is all about, why we celebrate and what the traditions are:
What is Boxing Day?
The day after Christmas, December 26, is called Boxing Day in the UK. It’s where we get another day off before heading back to work.
There’s more to it than that though.
Boxing Day is a National Bank Holiday, a chance to eat your leftovers and watch TV, the actual traditions go back much further and are steeped in history.
Why is it called Boxing Day?
There’s plenty of theories behind the name so we’ve broken them down.
- The earliest mention was in the 1830s where a ‘Christmas Box’ was the name for a Christmas present.
- It also relates to giving to the poor. Traditionally there was a box to collect money for the poor placed in Churches on Christmas day and opened the next day – Boxing Day aka St Stephen’s Day.
- The Victorians were the ones who made Boxing Day a Bank Holiday in 1871. Around the same time the tradition of giving servants time off to visit the family was growing. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants, their master would give them a box to take with them. It used to hold gifts, a bonus and sometimes leftovers.
- Sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. If the voyage a success, the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents then given to the poor.
Apart from slouching on the sofa, stuffing your face and meeting up with the family there are a few other Boxing Day traditions.
Fox hunting was a traditional Boxing Day sport until it was banned in 2004.
Boxing Day in Ireland
In Ireland, it’s known as St Stephen’s Day named after the saint that was stoned to death for believing in Jesus.
Following the theme, the Irish took part in a tradition called Wren Boys. The boys would dress up and stone wren birds to death then carry their catch around the town knocking on doors and asking for money.
The stoning was supposed to represent what happened to St Stephen. The stoning is no longer carried out, but the boys still dress up – they just parade about town to collect money for charity now.
Popular food on Boxing Day
Leftovers are the popular choice on December 26.
Modern Boxing Day Traditions
These days, Boxing Boxing is a popular holiday in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth countries for watching sports such as soccer and cricket, shopping and visiting friends.
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