What is boxing day and where did it originate?
Today, December 26, is Boxing Day, a major holiday in Britain and its former colonies (Canada, Australia and New Zealand). It’s a holiday that has nothing to do with the sport or returning unwanted Christmas gifts as some believe.
Boxing Day began in Victorian era Britain. Back then, servants for the British elite would often be forced to work through Christmas day. As a form of charity, the aristocracy gave servants December 26 off as a gift. It became quite popular and was officially a holiday in 1871. Charity became a big part of the holiday due to its birth and the fact that it coincides with St. Stephen’s Day, a Christian holiday.
The name of the day is believed to derive from the practice of the wealthy providing small boxes of gifts, money and Christmas leftovers to their servants, and from the church’s practice of putting out large boxes for people to give money to the poor during the holiday season. The collected money was handed out December 26.
Long ago, it was tradition to celebrate Boxing Day with a horse race or fox hunt. Fox hunting has since been banned for its cruelty and horse racing is no longer popular. Nowadays, the holiday is celebrated overseas as a great bargain day for shopping, and a day filled with sports and celebration. In the United States, it is not a recognized holiday but that shouldn’t stop anyone from holding a celebration of their own!