Celebrated each year on December 26 in Great Britain and the Commonwealth nations, Boxing Day may sound like a day to clear a home of the boxes that accumulate during Christmas gifting celebrations. Some people may think it’s a time to head to the gym and work off some of those extra holiday pounds by landing a few hits on the punching bag.
Despite its name, Boxing Day has nothing to do with heavyweight fighters or post-holiday cleanup. In fact, the holiday’s origins can be traced to Great Britain and the practice of bestowing gifts on the lower classes, primarily house servants and the working class.
Centuries ago, among family members and friends of equal station, Christmas gifts were exchanged on or before Christmas Day. Presents for the working class were bestowed the day after. A gift from one’s employer was called a “Christmas box.” The Oxford University Press defines a Christmas box as a present or gratuity given at Christmas. In Great Britain, it was usually confined to gratuities given to those who were employees or paid by the grantor of the gift or a customer.
Although the holiday was once based around gifting, today it is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much like Black Friday in the United States. Banks and non-retail businesses are closed on Boxing Day, but shoppers flock to stores to use gift cards or other funds to purchase or return gifts. Sales are prevalent, and the day presents yet another opportunity for retailers to maximize year-end profits.
In the world of sports, Boxing Day is an opportunity for fans to see their favorite teams play. In the United Kingdom, football and rugby leagues host a full schedule of matches on Boxing Day. In Australia, cricket matches are held. Boxing Day also marks the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Boxing Day also may be an opportunity for wild game hunts across the UK.
Boxing Day is a day for residents of Australia, Britain, New Zealand, and Canada to celebrate and take advantage of great deals offered by retailers.