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Boxing Day-England's Day After Christmas Holiday

Updated on December 25, 2016
Chuck profile image

Chuck enjoys celebrating holidays with his family. This has led to an interest in researching & writing about holidays & their traditions.

An English Holiday

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated in England and Commonwealth countries (Canada, Australia and New Zealand).

It officially falls on December 26th, the day after Christmas, or the first weekday following Christmas if Christmas falls on a weekend.

The nice part about this holiday is that people are able to continue the Christmas holiday festivities for another day rather than having to return to work the day after Christmas.

As celebrated in England and the English speaking Commonwealth, Boxing Day is a day to visit friends and family, attend sporting events (popular in England and Australia) and go shopping.

Holiday's Origins are in the Middle Ages

Boxing Day originated in the Middle Ages and is generally believed to have begun with the practice of lords of the manor distributing gifts to the servants and other workers on their lands.

As the merchant class developed they also joined the practice of giving gifts on December 26th to household servants and tradesmen with whom they dealt.

December 26th is also the feast of St. Stephen the martyr, the first disciple of Christ to be martyred following the crucifixion of Christ. On St. Stephen's Day the churches would distribute the money and goods, that had been deposited in their alms boxes by their parishioners, to the poor.

We Don't Know How the Name "Boxing Day" Originated

It is not known how the day came to be known as "Boxing Day".

We do know that the name has nothing to do with the gathering up and disposing of the boxes which had contained the Christmas presents.

It also has nothing to do with the sport of boxing. Some have speculated that the name comes from the fact that money in the churches' alms boxes was distributed on this day or referred to the boxing of gifts given by the nobles and merchant class to servants and tradesmen.

It should be noted that Christmas is the day on which people in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand exchange gifts with family and friends.

On Boxing Day gifts are not exchanged between people. Rather, gifts are given by upper income people to those who provide services for them and to those in need.

Queen Victoria is Responsible for Resurrecting Boxing Day as an Official Holiday

Even though Boxing Day has its roots in the Middle Ages, it did not become an official holiday until the nineteenth century during the reign of Queen Victoria.

It was during this period that English power was at its height and the British Empire stretched from one end of the world to the other (which gave rise to the saying that "the sun never sets on the British Empire").

During this period England began to look back upon and celebrate (as well as romanticize) its medieval roots.

Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the leading English speaking states in the British Empire at that time, followed England in formalizing this holiday while their American cousins, who had severed their ties with the British monarchy and empire a century before did not.

Of course the retail sector in America has done its part to encourage shopping on this day as has become the custom also in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The difference being that, in America, the day after Christmas has become an unofficial shopping holiday as shoppers rush out to take advantage of after Christmas sales, while their counterparts in Britain and the English speaking parts of the Commonwealth have made shopping one of the major ways they celebrate the holiday today.

© 2006 Chuck Nugent


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    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      In America, the day after is Christmas is also known as "Returns Day", the day that people take gifts that were defective or the wrong size/color or that they simply didn't like to the store from which they were purchased for exchange or a refund. I prefer the Brit version, Boxing Day. Much more civilized and more keeping in the spirit of the season. ;D

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 8 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      iamasadlittleboy - Thanks for the info. It was years before I learned that the "boxing" in "Boxing Day" had nothing to do with the sport of boxing.

      Now I learn that there is a coincidental connection between the sport of boxing and Boxing Day.

      Thanks again and good luck with your Hubbing.

    • profile image

      iamasadlittleboy 8 years ago

      Funny thing about boxing day Jack Johnson became the first ever African American to be the "world heavyweight champion" by beating Tommy Burns...26th December 1908.

    • profile image

      tom 9 years ago

      american football rules i like the new england patriots team

    • profile image

      MCOMAWHEER@YAHHOO 9 years ago

      thanks from jamaica i neede it for my home work

    • profile image

      tech for geek 9 years ago

      hei...i love boxing day too....

      a lot of soccer game....

    • profile image

      Job Nigeria 9 years ago

      I love Boxing Day. It's one of my favourite....especially boxing day soccer....

      uhhh...i love soccer ... and EPL too.....


      Job Nigeria

    • profile image

      Klee 10 years ago

      Thanks for the help. I needed it for my school project!

    • Hovalis profile image

      Hovalis 10 years ago from Australia

      I love Boxing Day. It's one of my favourite holidays; we have the beginning of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, and the Boxing Day Test (Cricket). I find it a more relaxing day than Christmas Day. I suppose because it's part of the endless days of Summer in Australia. We don't have Thanksgiving here, so I suppose this is our subsitute holiday of the season. :-)

    • Chuck profile image

      Chuck Nugent 11 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Interesting. Thank you for the comment.

    • profile image

      h6g 11 years ago

      england used to rule Nigeria(where I come from) and we also celebrate Boxing Day