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December 26 is not only a day for Santa Claus to catch his breath but a public holiday known as Boxing Day in the United Kingdom and other British Commonwealth countries such as Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In spite of its peculiar name, Boxing Day has nothing to do with fisticuffs, the trashing of empty boxes left over from Christmas or the return of unwanted presents to department stores.

When is Boxing Day?

December 26th, is Boxing Day and is a holiday celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries. Boxing Day originated in England in the middle of the nineteenth century under Queen Victoria. For years in which the holiday falls on a weekend, the celebration is moved to make sure workers still get a day off (except in Canada, where it remains Dec. 26) In the UK it's classed as a Bank Holiday, as said from Paul Denton.

Why is it called Boxing Day?

The term "Boxing Day" was first recorded in 1833, but the official origin of the name has never been determined, according to The Spruce. There are, however, plenty of theories, which include:

  • The name is a reference to holiday gifts. A "Christmas Box" in Britain is a name for a Christmas present. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants and the day when they received a gift from their employer. The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give gifts to their families.

  • The name is a reference to charity drives. A box to collect money for the poor traditionally and placed in Churches on Christmas day and opened the next day, or Boxing Day.

  • The name refers to a nautical tradition. When setting sail, ships would carry a sealed box containing money for good luck. If the voyage was a success, the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas, and the contents then given to the poor.

How Boxing Day is celebrated?

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Photo: The Sun

For some people, Boxing Day is a time to spend with family or friends, particularly those not seen on Christmas Day itself. Many people will gather for meals, spend time outside, or simply relax at home and enjoy the day off. Traditional Boxing Day food includes baked ham, pease pudding, and mince pies with brandy butter, along with a slice of Christmas cake or other dessert.

To some extent, Boxing Day is considered a shopping holiday, with stores offering reduced prices for Boxing Day sales, similar to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. However, the number of people who shopped on Boxing Day has declined.

Additionally, Boxing Day has recently become synonymous with watching sports. A number of leagues in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland hold football and rugby matches, while Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa are known for cricket matches on Boxing Day. Other sports that typically occur on Boxing Day include horse racing and ice hockey. Fox hunts is traditionally a part of Boxing Day activities; however, fox hunting with dogs was banned in the UK in 2004. Hunters still gather, dressed resplendently in red hunting coats to the sound of the hunting horn but now follow artificially laid trails.

Which other countries celebrate Boxing Day?

While many countries enjoy an additional day off after Christmas Day, they don’t all celebrate Boxing Day. As well as here, it’s also celebrated in countries that previously formed part of the British Empire – so it’s celebrated in the likes of Hong Kong. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, South Africa and Bermuda, according to Metro CoUK.

In many of those countries it’s known primarily as a shopping holiday similar to Black Friday – and is the day on which many sales begin. In other countries the day is still a holiday from work but it has a more religious significance – with Romania, Hungary, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Scandinavia marking it as a second Christmas Day. It is also celebrated as St Stephen’s Day in Ireland and in the Catalan region of Spain.

Boxing Day in Pop Culture

Though not nearly at the same level as Christmas or even Thanksgiving, Boxing Day does get its pop cultural representation. There's a 2012 British film called Boxing Day that's roughly based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy; there's also a very uplifting-sounding 2007 film by the same name, about an alcoholic father with a terrible secret who's trying to reunite his family, as said by Vox.

The 10th season of M.A.S.H. featured an episode called “’Twas the Day After Christmas,” which sees British soldiers giving the 4077th the idea of following "Boxing Day tradition" by having the officers and service members switch positions and responsibilities for the day.

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