What do you do with boxes on Boxing Day?
Boxing Day is a holiday traditionally celebrated the day after Christmas, especially within former British colonies, including the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Kenya, Jamaica, and a whole host of others.
The United States notably does not celebrate Boxing Day. Since many calendars sold in North America are made for both the US and Canada, even some Americans wonder what this mysterious “Boxing Day” is listed on December 26. Do people get into a ring and start fighting one another once Santa comes around? If you think that’s true, you should really read on…
Even if you are familiar with Boxing Day, find out about the origins and how we celebrate it today.
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The Origins of Boxing Day
The “boxing” of Boxing Day actually refers to the practice of giving Christmas boxes to servants and tradespeople hundreds of years ago. Originally, servants would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, so they would instead celebrate Christmas the day after. On this day, their masters would give them a box containing gifts, bonuses, and even leftover food from their lavish Christmas Day feast. They would “box” these things up – thus the name Boxing Day. This tradition expanded to giving similar Christmas boxes to tradespeople on the first weekday after Christmas to thank them for their work throughout the year.
Nowadays, Boxing Day is celebrated a bit differently. In many places, it is a day of big sales and hectic shopping, almost like Black Friday in the United States. Black Friday is seen as the unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season, but on Boxing Day people run to stores to take advantage of good post-holiday deals, to use gift cards they received at Christmas, or to return items they are not happy with.
In some parts of Canada, state or local laws, or else just friendly agreements between retailers, prevent stores from opening on Boxing Day to give employees a chance to enjoy their holiday. In these areas, Boxing Day sales will generally take place on the day after.
Boxing Day is a federal or national holiday in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, meaning that most people have the day off and government offices are closed. In the United States, Boxing Day is not recognized as such, but the states of Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Texas recognize the holiday as the “Day After Christmas Day” to give employees another day off work. In states that don’t recognize this day as a holiday, most people will use vacation time.
Boxing Day is not the only holiday that falls on December 26. St. Stephen’s Day also falls on the same day in many countries (although some countries celebrate it a day later).
In Ireland, St. Stephen’s Day is an official public holiday, and is known as Lá Fhéile Stiofán or Lá an Dreoilín in Irish, meaning “Day of the Wren” or “Wren’s Day.” Historically, participants would dress up in masks, straw suits, and colorful clothing and would “hunt” a fake wren (a wren is a type of bird) and place it on top of a decorated pole. The relation of the wren to St. Stephen is not known for sure, but is likely related to Celtic or Norse tradition. Although the practice is not nearly as popular in modern times, it is still celebrated in some local communities.
How will you celebrate Boxing Day?