Boxing Day is the name given to the December 26th public holiday, which was identical to the exchange of gifts that would normally occur on this day. It falls on the day after Christmas and is also known as the Feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Boxing Day is one of the few British holidays, recognized since 1871, which is observed by banks, government offices as well as the post office.
Tradition and historical background
Despite its name, Boxing Day has nothing to do with boxing the sport. Some say it is the day for people to return unwanted Christmas presents but even this has no basis in the truth. The fact is that the name goes back to medieval times (more than 800 years ago). Traditionally, poor boxes were placed at the back of every church to collect money for the poor. It is on this day that, at every English church, these boxes are opened and the contents given out to the poor.
Another popular belief is that since servants were required to work on Christmas day, they took the next day (the Boxing Day) off to celebrate their Christmas. Before they left the homes of their masters to spend their day with friends and families, their employers gave them a small gift as a token of their appreciation. The rich royals would ‘box’ up their left over Christmas food or even gifts and handed them out to the tenants who stayed and worked on their land.
St. Stephen’s Feast Day
The day is also celebrated as the Feast of St. Stephen, who was stoned to death by a mob for the success of his preaching and his devotion to Christ.
- These boxes were made from clay and actually were not made in the shape of a box. As a matter of fact they were hollow clay balls with a little slit at the top.
- Traditionally Boxing Day is also a day for fox hunting. Nowadays, the ’sport’ is slowly losing its attraction due to the growing support for the fox.
- It is unlucky to kill a wren on any day apart from Boxing Day. Little children would kill the bird and go from house to house collecting money in exchange for a wren’s feather.