Boxing Day is celebrated on 26th December, the day after Christmas
It is a bank holiday, a time to recover from the excesses of Christmas Day and an opportunity to spend time with family, friends, and neighbours.
Traditionally, it was a day when employers distributed money, food, cloth or other valuable goods to their employees.
Boxing Day is an important day for sporting events. Traditionally, fox hunting was a popular sport in the upper class. Pictures of hunters on horseback dressed in red coats and surrounded by hunting dogs are often seen as symbolic of Boxing Day. Nowadays, fox hunting is outlawed. Horse racing and football (soccer) are now popular sports.
It is also the start of the post-Christmas sales in the UK (like Black Friday in the USA).
There are various theories for the origin of the term. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it is “the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box”.
The term “Christmas-box” dates to the 17th century and now refers to a gift, usually of money. But originally it meant the real content of the box.
It was customary for employers to give their employees or servants a gift of money or food in a small box on this day. Also today people who deliver letters or newspapers receive a gift, , although it may be given before Christmas Day.
The custom to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents for the service offered throughout the year is linked to an older English tradition: the landlords would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food.
In feudal times, the lord of the manor would gather all those who worked on his land together on this day and distribute boxes of practical goods, such as agricultural tools, food, and cloth.
The idea is connected to the Alms Box, collection box for the poor often kept in churches, which was traditionally opened on this day so that the contents could be distributed to poor people.
The 26th December is also St. Stephen’s Day the first Christian Martyr, who was stoned to death by Jews who didn’t believe in Jesus.
There is another St. Stephen, a missionary who was also a martyr and was killed by pagans in Sweden in the 800s.