Christmas 2022: Why is Boxing Day called Boxing Day?

Pair of feet rest on the table in front of the Christmas tree

After the Christmas stress, Boxing Day is a welcome respite (Picture: Getty)

It’s not just a time for family, friends, parties and watching Good TV, Christmas is also the time when we can all take a break from work for a few days and take a well-deserved rest.

And in the UK, after the madness of Christmas Day itself, we have an extra opportunity to do so thanks to Boxing Day – December 26th.

The holiday is often associated with the launch of sales and people flock to the shops to snag a bargain – but this particular tradition couldn’t be further from the actual origins of the day.

Retail therapy aside, why do we actually call the day after Christmas Boxing Day and why do other countries celebrate it?

Why is it called Boxing Day?

Before you do your best Antony Joshua impression on an unsuspecting sibling or friend, no, Boxing Day has nothing to do with actual boxing.

It gets its name from the 19th-century custom of being a holiday when the rich would wrap gifts to give to the less fortunate.

19th century boxing day illustration

Workers would normally receive “wrapped” gifts from their employers (Image: The Print Collector/Print Collector/Getty Images)

It was traditionally a day when people such as postmen, errand boys and servants received a special Christmas box from their employers – and were given the day off to spend time with their families.

Churches also traditionally play a role, collecting money from churchgoers throughout the year and giving it to those in need.

Do other countries celebrate Boxing Day?

While many countries enjoy an extra day off after Christmas, not all celebrate Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is almost as special as Christmas for many in the UK – a time to unwind after all the Christmas stress.

Sale shopping is usually a big part of Boxing Day (Picture; Getty)

Boxing Day has been a bank holiday in the United Kingdom since 1871.

If it falls on a Saturday it will be moved to the following Monday and if it falls on a Sunday we will have the following Tuesday off.

Boxing Day is celebrated in countries formerly part of the British Empire – so it’s celebrated in Hong Kong. Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Singapore, South Africa and Bermuda.

In many of these countries, it’s best known as a shopping holiday, akin to Black Friday – and is the day when many clearance sales begin.

The day is still a public holiday in other countries, but has a more religious meaning – it is observed as Boxing Day in Romania, Hungary, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Scandinavia.

It is also celebrated as St Stephen’s Day in Ireland and the Catalan region of Spain.

MORE : When was Christmas banned in England?

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MORE: Out of practice after two Covid Christmases? Expert tips to get back in the festive mood

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Justin Scacco

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