How many times am I asked – what is Boxing Day, or, why is it called Boxing Day? Arguments come thick and fast as to why and I hope, like me, you find the answers below interesting. But first off I must say; it has nothing to do with the sport of boxing.
It starts of course with our greed here in Britain and Ireland for a longer holiday; it’s not enough for us to have Christmas Day celebrations we have added on another day called Boxing Day. The day is a national holiday and one to spend with family and friends and eating up the leftovers. Its origins however, are steeped in history and tradition.
Why is it Called Boxing Day:
Arguments abound on the origins of the name Boxing Day, all of the answers here are relevant, so maybe it is all of them.
- A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present.
- Boxing Day was a day off for servants and when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.
- A box to collect money for the poor was placed in Churches on Christmas day then opened the next day.
- Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck.If the voyage were a success the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents given to the poor.
When is Boxing Day?:
Boxing Day is the 26th December and is a national holiday in the UK and Ireland.
Activities on Boxing Day:
Boxing Day is a time to spend with family or friends, usually those not seen on Christmas Day itself.
In recent times the day has become synonymous with sport. Horse racing is particularly popular with meets all over the country. Many top football teams also play on Boxing Day.
Boxing Day is also a time when the British show their true eccentricity taking part in all kinds of silly activities like swimming the English Channel – not the warmest place on December 26th – fun runs and charity events.
Activities on Boxing Day – Fox Hunting:
Until 2004, Boxing Day hunts were a traditional part of Boxing Day but the ban on fox hunting has put an end to the hunt in its traditional sense. Hunters will still gather dressed resplendently in red hunting coats to the sound of the hunting horn but it is now forbidden in law to chase the fox with dogs, so the dogs now follow artificially laid trails.
The New Boxing Day Sport – Shopping:
Another ‘sport’ to emerge in recent years is shopping. Sadly what was once a day of relaxation and family time sees the start of the sales. Sales used to start in January post-New Year but the desire to grab a bargain and for shops to off-load stock means many now start on Boxing Day.
Boxing Day in Ireland:
In Ireland, Boxing Day is known as “St Stephen’s Day” and is famous for its “Wren Boys”. St Stephen was killed, purportedly stoned to death, for believing in Jesus. In Ireland the Wren Boys would go out and stone Wrens to death then with blackened faces, carry their catch around the town knocking at doors and asking for money. This barbaric act has now stopped but the Wrens Boys will still dress up and parade around time though, but collecting money for charity.
With guests often popping in for a snack and quick drink, the food and drink on Boxing Day is more relaxed than Christmas Day. Lunch will usually be a buffet or leftovers from Christmas lunch. Baked Ham is a popular Boxing Day meat and of course, Mince Pies with Brandy Butter or a slice of Christmas Cake are almost obligatory.