Despite its combative-sounding name, Boxing Day has nothing to do with pugilist punches, returning unwanted Christmas gifts, or throwing out gift boxes! Instead, it’s a day dedicated to giving back to those who have provided services for us throughout the year. It’s most widely known as a day to spend with friends and family doing fun activities such as charity events and sports, and scoring major shopping deals and sales!
Boxing day — which always occurs on December 26 — is a highly anticipated day in the UK and can be the best day of the year to grab spectacular deals online and in-store. Last year, shoppers spent nearly £3bn on Boxing Day sales, according to a survey.1
While the overarching celebrations today may be based on lining up outside of your favourite stores and scoring the best deals, Boxing Day’s origins date about 800 years to the Middle Ages2 and have humble beginnings. Although there are a few different theories as to the exact origin of the holiday, they both suggest the day started as a way to give back to service men and women who helped throughout the year. Those giving traditions live on today in some shape or form.
One theory is that boxes placed in churches for seasonal donations to the needy were opened and distributed by the clergy on December 26. This expanded to include those who had rendered a service during the previous year. This tradition survives today as people give presents to tradesmen, mail carriers, doormen, porters, and others who have helped them. Some churches still open these ‘Alms’ boxes on Boxing Day.
Others say the holiday developed because tradespeople and servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants got ready to leave and visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes of food and other goods as an expression of gratitude, in much the same way that one now tips the paperboy extra or gives the building superintendent a nice bottle of wine at Christmastime. Those long-ago gifts were done up in boxes, hence the name “Boxing Day.”
1Stone, Jon. (27 December 2014). Shoppers spend nearly £3bn in Britain’s Boxing Day sales. Retrieved October 13, 2015 from
2Cooper, James. (2015) Boxing Day — the day after Christmas. Retrieved October 12, 2015 from http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/boxingday.shtml
Johnson, David. (n.d). Boxing Day. Retrieved October 12, 2015 from http://www.factmonster.com/spot/boxingday1.html
Snopes. (n.d). Boxing Day. Retrieved October 12, 2015 from http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/boxingday.asp
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