While many people in the United States only think of December 26 as the day after Christmas, to some, especially people in Great Britain, its known as “Boxing Day.”
Boxing Day started in the UK about 800 years ago, during the Middle Ages. It was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were traditionally opened so that the contents could be distributed to poor people. Some churches still open these boxes on Boxing Day.
It might have been the Romans that first brought this type of collecting box to the UK, but they used them to collect money for the betting games which they played during their winter celebrations!
While the origin of the name “Boxing Day” isn’t entirely clear, usually one of the following three explanations is given:
The name is a reference to holiday gifts. A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants and the day when they received a ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.
The name is a reference to charity drives. A box to collect money for the poor traditionally and placed in Churches on Christmas day and opened the next day - Boxing Day.
The name refers to a nautical tradition. Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. Were the voyage a success, the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents then given to the poor.
What To Do On Boxing Day
Traditionally, 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 many sports. Horse racing is particularly popular with meets all over the country. Many top football teams also play on Boxing Day.
Until 2004, Boxing Day hunts were a traditional part of the day, but the ban on fox hunting has put an end to this in its usual sense. Hunters will still gather dressed resplendently in red hunting coats to the sound of the hunting horn. But, since it is now forbidden to chase the fox with dogs, they now follow artificially laid trails.
Over the past few decades shopping has also become a big part of Boxing Day with many stores offering great deals, Boxing Day is like the UK’s version of Black Friday.