Boxing Day is a public holiday observed in many Commonwealth countries on 26 December. In many European countries it is also a holiday, called St. Stephen's Day or the Second Day of Christmas. Depending on its origin, it may have traditionally been strictly defined as the first weekday after Christmas . However over the past few decades, Boxing Day has been almost universally accepted as the 26th of December , although its associated public holiday may fall on a different day.
Boxing Day is often celebrated by giving gifts and donations to the poor and needy.
In Commonwealth countries, any fixed-date holidays falling on Saturday or Sunday are often observed on the next weekday, so if Boxing Day falls on a Saturday then Monday 28 December is a public holiday; while, if Christmas Day is a Saturday then both Monday 27 December and Tuesday 28 December will be public holidays. In the government holiday listings of the United Kingdom for 2004, the bank holiday in lieu of Boxing Day was observed on Monday 27 December, before the holiday in lieu of Christmas Day on Tuesday 28 December.
There is great dispute over the true origins of Boxing Day. The more common stories include:
- Centuries ago, merchants would present their servants food and fruits as a form of Yuletide tip. Naturally, the gifts of food and fruit were packed in boxes, hence the term "Boxing Day".
- In feudal times, Christmas was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. After all the Christmas parties on December 25, the lord of the estate would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would get a box full of such goods the day after Christmas. Under this explanation, there was nothing voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was obligated to supply these goods. Because of the boxes being given out, the day was called Boxing Day.
- In Britain many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the day after Christmas (December 26). Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.
- In churches, it was traditional to open the church's donation box on Christmas day, and the money in the donation box was to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the "box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that one gigantic lockbox in which the donations were left.
- In Britain because many servants had to work for their employers on Christmas day they would instead open their presents (i.e., boxes) the next day, which therefore became known as Boxing Day.
In Canada, and indeed any other country that celebrates it, Boxing Day is also observed as a public holiday, and is a day when stores sell their excess Christmas inventory at significantly reduced prices. Boxing Day has become so important for retailers that they often extend it into a "Boxing Week". This occurs similarly in Australia and New Zealand. Because of the popularity of this occasion to go shopping for bargains, it's a common joke that "boxing day" is named as such because "you have to fight to grab what you want."
In Australia, the cricket Test match starting on December 26 is called the Boxing Day Test Match, and is played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground before the largest crowd of the summer. Similarly in New Zealand a Boxing Day Test Match is played at Basin Reserve in Wellington. In Sydney, the annual Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race, one of the biggest and most prestigious ocean racing events in the world, begins on this day, as the yachts depart Sydney Harbour before many thousands of spectators around the harbour and in spectator boats.
In South Africa, the 26th is also observed as a public holiday. Although officially the day is known as the Day of Goodwill, it is also often referred to as Boxing Day by local English speakers. It is common for a cricket test match, played against a visiting international team, to start on this day.
The 2005 Boxing Day Test match is being played in Australia between Australia and touring South Africa. It is also observed that Ausralians turn out to be the sour losers in such boxing day test matches.
In Austria, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden, the 26th is known as the Second day of Christmas ("der zweite Weihnachtsfeiertag" in Germany, Annandag Jul — "the day after Christmas" — in Sweden) and is also a public holiday. In Ireland, the holiday is known as St Stephen's Day, or Wren's Day; in Austria it is called Stefanitag and in Finland tapaninpäivä which also mean "St. Stephen's Day"; in Wales, it is known as Gŵyl San Steffan (St. Stephen's Holiday). In Catalonia, this day is known as Sant Esteve, Catalan for St. Stephen. A practice known as Hunt the Wren is still practiced by some in the Isle of Man, where people thrash out wrens from hedgerows. Traditionally they were killed and their feathers presented to households for good luck. In Germany the days between Christmas and new year are called "the days between the years" (zwischen den Jahren) and becoming more and more important for retailers to clear the unsold christmas goods.
North American observance
In both the United States (where the term "Boxing Day" is not used and is in fact unfamiliar to most) and Canada (where, as previously mentioned Boxing Day is observed as a holiday), Boxing Day is the day when many retail stores sell their products at discounted rates. This results in huge lineups at retailers. Stores have these sales to clear out old inventory for the next year; this is often in large part because for many US corporations and proprietorships, there is a millage tax (similar to property taxes) on any inventory retained as of 1 January of each year (or 7 January/15 January in some tax jurisdictions). Thus it behooves retailers to clear out as much retained inventory as possible to avoid the millage tax consequences. Many products have a mail-in rebate to be used, a tactic used by manufacturers to clear their inventory. This trend is also increasingly occuring in the UK (despite it being a public holiday).
Events on Boxing Day
- Boxing Day Test (Test Match cricket)
- Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
- English and Scottish Football matches
- Junkanoo is celebrated in The Commonwealth of The Bahamas
- ^ Merriam Webster and Encyclopedia Britannica describing Boxing day as "the first weekday after Christmas", where weekday may or may not include Saturday.
- ^ The British Broadcasting Corporation refers to Sunday, 26th December as "Boxing Day"
- The Origins of Boxing Day (from Snopes.com) - A discussion of various theories on the origin of Boxing Dayda:2. juledag