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Boxing Day: History, traditions, and more…

4 min read

Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26!
And this year, 2021, that’s a Sunday.
Why is it called Boxing Day?
And what, if anything, does boxing have to do with it?
Boxing Day, just like a box, has many points of interest, traditions and stories about it.

First, this is a public holiday celebrated in Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries, and most offices are closed on this day (if it is a weekday).
And it is a centuries-old gift-giving day that originated in Britain.
Yes, boxes are a big part of this traditions!
Basically, It was a custom for tradesmen, postmen, and servants to collect their “Christmas boxes”, gifts of money or goods in return for reliable service all year.
The custom arose because servants, who would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, were allowed to visit their families the next day and employers would give them boxes to take home containing gifts, bonuses and, sometimes, even leftover food.
The original boxes were usually made of earthenware and contained money, which could be retrieved only by breaking the boxes open.
On modern days, a gift of money is usually contained in a greeting card and traditionally given before the holiday.

One of the earliest records of these box gifts dates from 1663.
In an entry in his diary, English Parliamentarian Samuel Pepys writes that he sent a coach and messenger to his shoemaker literally “to deliver something to the boys’ box against Christmas”, in addition to funds to cover his bill.
Later, during the Victorian era (1837–1901, the period of Queen Victoria’s reign), Boxing Day evolved, becoming an occasion for church parishioners to deposit donations into a box that was put out for the purpose by the clergyman, and the money in the boxes was given to the poor.

Elsewhere Boxing Day is also known and celebrated as St. Stephen’s Day.
But did you know that there are two saints named Stephen? One was stoned to death shortly after Christ’s crucifixion, and he is considered the first Christian martyr, while the other practiced mission work in Sweden and had a fondness for animals, especially horses. And this may be the reason that horse racing is popular on this day.
He’s also named in the Christmas song “Good King Wenceslas”.
Its first line describes the king’s activities on St. Stephen’s day: “Good King Wenceslas looked out/on the feast of Stephen.”
Written by John Mason Neale and first published in 1853, the lyrics celebrate the spirit of Boxing Day—generosity—as it describes King Wenceslas watching a poor man “gath’ring winter fuel.”
The king then brings the peasant food and logs for his fire.

In any case, where celebrated, Boxing Day is spent with family and friends with lots of food and fun, and welcomed as a quiet day of recuperation from the season’s hectic festivities.
Because it is the cook’s day off (at least, traditionally speaking), mostly leftovers are on the menu.
Food on Boxing Day usually includes left over turkey from the day before, that can be eaten in sandwiches or as a meal with vegetables, roast potatoes and all left over trimmings.

Also sporting events have taken place on Boxing Day for centuries.
However, pugilism…fighting with gloved fists, yes boxing (!!!) is not normally one of them.
Foxhunting was once a tradition among wealthy British on Boxing Day. In 2004, however, laws prohibited hunting with foxes and allowed hunts only with tight rules.
Today’s more popular Boxing Day sporting activities include watching horse races and football matches against local rivals.
Of course, another popular “sport activity” is the post-Christmas shopping as folks do their exchanges and returns and look for the best deals.
Charity and giving to the poor is still a big part of Boxing Day, and some folks participate in charity runs.
The Boxing Day Dip is another charity event where people in fancy dress swim in the sea on Boxing Day.
Can you imagine swimming in the chilly English Channel? Would you do it?

Images from web – Google Research