Boxing Day Traditions to Celebrate the Day After Christmas

Updated October 27, 2021
Woman holding small gift with ribbon

Whether you prefer to go out around town or enjoy a quiet day at home with family, Boxing Day has many traditions that appeal to people of all ages. This holiday centers around a variety of activities that can be enjoyed with both friends and family.

What's Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas, traditionally in all of Great Britain and also Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The holiday is observed by many businesses, particularly banks, post offices, and government offices. This tradition has been in existence since 1871. The day is generally celebrated in conjunction with the Feast of St. Stephen, who was a deacon the Apostles ordained to take care of the widows and the indigent. St. Stephen was eventually stoned to death for his faith in God and Christ.

In United Kingdom, Boxing Day is a government-mandated holiday, but if it's on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday is the holiday. All schools and many organizations are closed on this day. Many stores are open and start their post-Christmas sales on Boxing Day.

In Canada, Boxing Day is a federal holiday. However, it is not observed in all provinces and territories. It is not an official holiday in Quebec, nor is it a statutory holiday in Alberta and British Columbia. Many organizations and businesses are closed, although stores are often open.

Boxing Day History

Some historians tie the term "boxing" to boxes of donations that were installed in churches in the early days of Christianity during the second and third centuries A.D. The boxes were opened and the money distributed to the poor the day after Christmas.

One theory dates back to the 16th century. The working class would seek out Christmas "boxes" from the people they served throughout the year.

Another theory is associated with 19th century Victorian England. Aristocratic employers gave servants a rare day off.

Boxing Day Traditions

Some traditions that are associated with Boxing Day include the following.

Honor Those Who Serve

One of the oldest Boxing Day traditions is to give a monetary to people who provide you with services throughout the year. When this tradition started, it was a day that the wealthy gave off to their servants. The wealthy would give a box containing a gift to their servants as a gesture of appreciation. Today, the tradition includes showing appreciation to anyone who provides you a service such as your mail carrier, or trash collector. You can also remember those people with a small, simple present in lieu of money.

Help the Less Fortunate

Another popular tradition is giving to those who are less fortunate. For instance, donate money to a local food bank or donate to a local charity.

Sporting Events

Many people observe Boxing Day by taking in a sporting event such as horse racing or a football game. Gather a group of friends and spend the day together cheering on your favorite team. In the United Kingdom, Premier League Football has a full day dedicated to games on Boxing Day.

Polar Bear Plunge

Others prefer to participate in the annual plunge into the freezing English Channel along with members of various swimming clubs on Boxing Day. This daring event raises money for a range of charities.

There are also others who enjoy participating in or simply watching a regatta or those who are brave enough to jump into the Channel themselves.

Shopping Deals

Boxing Day, much like Black Friday in the United States, is a day filled with great deals and bargains for shoppers. Many make Boxoing Day sales a shopping tradition.

Out With Friends

On Boxing Day, many people make it a tradition to meet friends and visit the local pubs in the area. Enjoy drinking and socializing with friends at local establishments. Of course, extra police are on duty to make sure that things do not get unruly or out of hand.

Holiday Leftovers

Many people simply like to stay at home on Boxing Day. Inviting family and friends over is a common tradition on this day as well. People enjoy their presents from Christmas and many set up a buffet filled with holiday leftovers, such as glazed ham, cold sliced beef, leftover turkey, cold salads, cheese and crackers, pickles and bread.

Enjoy the Extra Rest Day

However you celebrate Boxing Day, take this opportunity to get together with those you love. There's nothing more gratifying than having an extra rest day to unwind, enjoy holiday leftovers, help others in need and shop for great deals.

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