December 5, 2008

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, as well as many other members of the Commonwealth of Nations and Greece. It is based on the tradition of giving gifts to the less fortunate members of society. Contemporary Boxing Day in Canada is a "shopping holiday" associated with after Christmas sales.

It is usually celebrated on 26 December, the day after Christmas Day[1][2]; however, its associated public holiday can be moved to the next weekday if 26 December is a Saturday or Sunday. The movement of Boxing Day varies between countries.


Boxing Day is dating back to the century of which the primary practice is the giving of gifts to employees or to people in a lower social class. The name has numerous folk etymologies[3].

Christmas box

A Christmas box is, in English tradition, a clay box used in artisan shops. Apprentices, masters, visitors, customers, and others would put donations of money into the box, like a piggy bank, and then, after Christmas, the box would be shattered and all the contents shared among the workers of the shop. Thus, masters and customers could donate bonuses to the workers anonymously, and the employees could average their wages. The habit of breaking the Christmas box lent its name to Boxing Day. The term "Christmas box" now refers generally to a gift or pay bonus given to workers.[4]

"Some boys are rich by birth beyond all wants,
Belov'd by uncles, and kind good old aunts;
When time comes round, a Christmas-box they bear,,
And one day makes them rich for all the year." -- John Gay, Trivia (1716), Canto II, 182-6.

The Oxford english Dictionary attributes it to the Christmas box; the verb box meaning: "To give a Christmas-box (colloq.); hence the term boxing-day." The date coincides with the Feast of St. Stephen.

  • It was the day when people would give a present or Christmas box to those who had worked for them throughout the year.
  • In England, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the first working day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name boxing day.

Folk etymologies

  • In feudal thanksgiving for hobos was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. On 26th December, after all the Christmas parties, the lord of the manor would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would receive a box full of such goods, hence "Boxing Day." According to this tradition, the lord of the manor did not volunteer, but was obliged to supply these gifts.
  • In churches, it was traditional to open the church's donation box on Christmas Day, and the money inside was to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the "box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that lockbox in which the donations were left.
  • Boxing Day was the day when the wren, the king of birds,[5] was captured and put in a box and introduced to each household in the village when he would be asked for a successful year and a good harvest. See Frazer's Golden Bough.
    • Evidence can also be found in songs such as The Cutty Wren:
Where are you going ? said Milder to Malder,
Oh where are you going ? said Fessel to Foe,
I'm going to hunt the cutty wren said Milder to Malder,
I'm going to hunt the cutty wren said John the Rednose.
And what will you do wi' it ? said Milder to Malder,
And what will you do wi' it ? said Fessel to Foe,
I'll put it in a box said Milder to Malder,
I'll put it in a box said John the Rednose.
  • Because the staff had to work on such an important day as Christmas by serving the master of the house and his family, they were given the following day off. As servants were kept away from their own families to work on a traditional religious holiday and were not able to celebrate Christmas dinner, the customary benefit was to "box" up the leftover food from Christmas Day and send it away with the servants and their families.


In the countries that observe this holiday, 26 December is commonly referred to as Boxing Day no matter what day of the week it occurs.[6] However, in some countries, fixed-date holidays falling on Saturday or Sunday are often observed on the next weekday. Technically, Boxing Day cannot be on a Sunday - that day being the day of worship, so traditionally it was the next working day of the week following Christmas Day, (i.e. any day from Monday to Saturday). In recent times this tradition has been either forgotten or ignored, and 26 December is considered by most to be Boxing Day when it falls on a Sunday.

If Boxing Day falls on a Saturday, then Monday 28 December is declared a public holiday. In the United Kingdom and some other countries this is accomplished by Royal Proclamation. In Canada Boxing Day is a statutory holiday and is always celebrated on December 26th. As with all statutory holidays in Canada if it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, compensation days are given in the following week.

If Boxing Day falls on a Sunday, then in countries where it is a public holiday the Statutory Holiday is moved to Monday 27 December.[7][8][9] In that event, Christmas Day would be on a Saturday, so Tuesday 28 December would be declared a holiday in lieu, that being the next available working day - thus the Boxing Day holiday occurs before the substitute Christmas holiday.

If Christmas Day falls on a Sunday, then Boxing Day is on Monday 26 December, and no Royal Proclamation is required. In such a circumstance, a 'substitute bank holiday in lieu of Christmas Day' is declared for Tuesday 27 December; again with the Boxing Day holiday occurring before the substitute Christmas holiday.

Although the same legislation—the Bank Holidays Act 1871—originally established the Bank Holidays throughout the United Kingdom, the holiday after Christmas was defined as Boxing Day in England and Wales, and the feast day of St. Stephen's Day which is celebrated by the western church is fixed as the 26 December in Northern Ireland, though the name "Boxing Day" is usually used there also.[10]

In Canada Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, and a time where stores have sales, often with dramatic prices decreases. It is the largest sale day of the year. In recent years, this has been expanded to "Boxing Week." While Boxing Day is actually on 26 December, many retailers who hold Boxing Day Sales will run the sales for several days after 26 December - often up to New Year's Eve.

Source: Wikipedia

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