Why do we

Why do we celebrate Boxing Day?

Why do we celebrate Boxing Day?

The history behind the celebration of Boxing Day!

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Boxing Day is a public holiday held on December 26th. It’s mostly celebrated in those countries with historic links to the UK. These include Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand, as well as a few countries in Europe. In Germany, it is known as ‘Zweite Feiertag’, which translates to English as ‘second celebration’.

In spite of the name, Boxing Day has nothing to do with the pugilist sport. Nor is it anything to do with the act of returning unwanted presents (in boxes) to department stores that is also often suggested. The first documented use of the term ‘Boxing Day’ has been traced by the Oxford English Dictionary to Britain in 1833. Four years after its first known use, celebrated author Charles Dickens, used the expression in his book The Pickwick Papers. The precise origin of the Boxing Day designation remains uncertain. However, the two most prominent theories are both related to the act of charitable giving on the 26th of December.

The first school of thought is that in times past, the 26 December was the day when Lords of the Manor would distribute ‘Christmas boxes’ to their household servants and employees. The boxes would typically be filled with small gifts, money, and leftover food from Christmas. The presents were in recognition of the good service provided by their workers throughout the year.

The second more popular theory is that the term ‘Boxing Day’ arose from the alms boxes placed in churches during Advent. These were used for the collection of charitable monies from parishioners. On 26 December, the clergy staff would then distribute the monies collected from the boxes to the poor. The day also coincides with the feast of St. Stephen, as memorialised in the Christmas carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’. Saint Stephen is venerated as the first Christian martyr who is particularly well revered for his many charitable acts. In many historic Catholic countries, the 26th of December is also a public holiday. However, it is more commonly referred to as St. Stephen’s Day, rather than Boxing Day.

For many people today, Boxing Day is not seen in any great religious context. It’s more a day when you can catch up with family and friends that you never managed to see at Christmas. In the UK, sport also features prominently on Boxing Day, particularly horse racing and football. Boxing Day is also normally the start of post-Christmas sales. This ensures that the country’s high streets are usually flooded with people all looking for a bargain.


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