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Tata Capital > Blog > Generic > What Is Boxing Day?


What Is Boxing Day?

What Is Boxing Day?

25th December is marked on calendars as the auspicious day of Christmas. However, did you know that the next day also holds a unique significance?

Known as Boxing Day, 26th December is more than just an extra day off in most Commonwealth nations. This date carries diverse meanings across various cultures and nations, bringing together a blend of history, tradition, and celebration.

But what is Boxing Day, and what makes this day so special? Join us as we dial back the clock to learn about its historical significance and unravel the unique customs that define this day.

What does Boxing Day mean?

Boxing Day – ironically, the name evokes a scenery of a bustling boxing ring, a roaring stadium, and fighters ready to box each other out to win some annual championship. However, in reality, this holiday is no way near that description. So, what is the meaning of Boxing Day?

Typically celebrated in Commonwealth countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, this occasion embodies a spirit of giving, togetherness, and cultural richness. Originally, this was a day when aristocrats used to hand gifts to their tradespeople as a token of appreciation for their year-long services.

Wondering what day is Boxing Day? This event takes place the day after Christmas, landing on the 26th of December every year. However, if this date falls on a weekend, the event is celebrated on the upcoming Monday instead. For this year, you can mark your calendars for a Tuesday celebration.

History of Boxing Day

Explanations regarding the origin of Boxing Day vary to this day. While some insist it started in the 19th century, many also believe its origins date back to the 10th century. Among the many speculations, here are some of the most commonly believed historical explanations of Boxing Day:

1. The Victorian Reign

One narrative dates back to the 1800s, under Queen Victoria's reign. On this day, the wealthy would box up gifts, money, and leftovers from their Christmas meals. These boxes were then given to servants and employees as a holiday bonus.

The recipients would, in turn, share these gifts with their families to spread the festive cheer. The tradition started to show gratitude and offer a token of appreciation for the hard work these servants and tradespeople undertake the whole year.

2. St. Stephen’s Day

Northern Ireland and the British do not agree on yet another topic. Where most Commonwealth countries call this occasion Boxing Day, Irish people celebrate St. Stephen’s Day.

The story behind this day links to the age-old Christian custom of alms boxes. These boxes were placed in churches to gather donations for the poor and needy. The day after Christmas, clergy would distribute these collected funds to the poor.

The occasion is called St. Stephen’s Day to honour the revered Christian martyr, Saint Stephen. Known for his kind acts of charity, the donations distributed on this day carry his legacy of tending to the underprivileged.

3. Good King Wenceslas

The essence of Boxing Day also resonates in the popular carol 'Good King Wenceslas.' According to TIME, this classical carol might have been the clue that sparked the tradition we know today.

The narrative tells the story of the Duke of Bohemia in the 10th century. On this date, he encountered a poor man struggling to gather firewood in a severe snowstorm. Touched by what he witnessed, the Duke braved the storm and reached the poor man’s doorstep with food and wine.

This act of compassion, immortalised in song, underscores the spirit of giving and caring that defines Boxing Day.

Traditions followed on Boxing Day

Boxing Day has evolved significantly from its origins of giving and sharing. While its original spirit of providing for the needy lingers, contemporary activities have become more commoditised.

Sports play a significant role in Boxing Day celebrations. In the past, wealthy British aristocrats engaged in fox hunting as a Boxing Day pastime. However, since 2004, this activity has been banned to protect the wildlife.

Today, this sporting void is filled with horse racing and soccer matches, which have become integral parts of the day's festivities in the UK. These events attract huge crowds and are a staple of the holiday season.

In Canada, citizens have embraced the wintry landscape and devised ways to foster camaraderie and festivity in the heart of winter. People gather in huge numbers to engage in friendly ice hockey matches or ice-skating activities.

Down under in Australia, cricket is the highlight of Boxing Day. The much-anticipated Boxing Day Test Match usually becomes the best source of enjoyment, as millions watch and enjoy it.

Yet another notable activity on this day has to be shopping. Much like the Black Friday Sale in the US, the UK and Canada have their very own version – Boxing Day Sales. Retailers usually roll out some of the best price drops and deals on this day.

Despite the commercialisation and the shift towards more recreational activities, the essence of charity still persists. Handing gifts to tradespeople or distributing food to needy people is still active in most Commonwealth countries.

On a larger scale, charity events like the Boxing Day Dip garner much attention. The idea is for participants to dress in fancy dresses and costumes and plunge into the chilly English Channel. This act of bravery and fun serves a charitable purpose, often raising funds for various causes.

Final Words

Boxing Day has evolved remarkably from its charitable roots into a multifaceted day of celebration. From its humble origins of philanthropic acts to becoming a day for sports, shopping, and family gatherings, it continues evolving yearly.

Every culture is enriched by its unique holidays. Every occasion, from Japan’s Golden Week to Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo, has a special story. Head over to the Tata Capital website to read more blogs and discover the fascinating world of diverse traditions and cultural histories from around the globe.

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