Boxing Day is a bank or public holiday that occurs on December 26, or the first or second weekday after Christmas Day, depending on national or regional laws. It is observed in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and some other Commonwealth nations.
In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994. In Ireland it is recognized as St. Stephen’s Day (Irish: Lá Fhéile Stiofáin) or the Day of the Wren (Irish: Lá an Dreoilín). In the Netherlands, Lithuania, Austria, Germany, Scandinavia and Poland, December 26 is celebrated as the Second Christmas Day.
Although the same legislation – the Bank Holidays Act 1871 – originally established the bank holidays throughout the UK, the day after Christmas was defined as Boxing Day in England, Scotland and Wales, and the feast day of St. Stephen in Ireland. A “substitute bank holiday in place of 26 December” is only possible in Northern Ireland, reflecting the legal difference in that St. Stephen’s Day does not automatically shift to the Monday in the same way as Boxing Day.
In Canada, Boxing Day takes place on December 26th and is a federal statutory holiday where all workers receive time off with pay.
The exact etymology of the term “boxing” is unclear and there are several competing theories, none of which are definitive. The tradition has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions. The European tradition has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown and there are some claims that it goes back to the late Roman/early Christian era; metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen.
In the UK, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for 19 December 1663; This custom is linked to an older English tradition: in exchange for ensuring that wealthy landowners’ Christmases ran smoothly, their servants were allowed to take the 26th off to visit their families. The employers gave each servant a box containing gifts and bonuses (and sometimes leftover food).
About The Date
Boxing Day is a secular holiday that is traditionally celebrated on 26 December, the day after Christmas Day, which is also St. Stephen’s Day, a religious holiday. However, when 26 December falls on a Sunday, Boxing Day in many places is moved to 27 December. In the U.K., where Boxing Day is a bank holiday, if Boxing Day falls on a Saturday, a substitute bank holiday is given on the following Monday, but if Boxing Day falls on a Sunday – which means that Christmas Day, another bank holiday, fell on a Saturday – then the Statutory Holiday for Christmas is moved to Monday 27 December and the Statutory Holiday for Boxing Day is moved to Tuesday 28 December.
In Scotland, Boxing Day has been specified as an additional bank holiday since 1974, by Royal Proclamation under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971.
In Ireland – when it was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland – the Bank Holidays Act 1871 established the feast day of St. Stephen as a non-movable public holiday on 26 December. Since the Irish War of Independence, the name ‘Boxing Day’ is used only by the authorities in Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK. There, Boxing Day is a movable public holiday in line with the rest of the UK.
In the Australian state of South Australia, 26 December is a public holiday known as Proclamation Day and Boxing Day is not normally a public holiday.
In some Canadian provinces, Boxing Day is a statutory holiday that is always celebrated on 26 December. In Canadian provinces where Boxing Day is a statutory holiday, and it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, compensation days are given in the following week.
In Britain, Canada, New Zealand and some states of Australia,Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much like the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a time where shops have sales, often with dramatic price reductions. For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest revenue. In the UK in 2009 it was estimated that up to 12 million shoppers appeared at the sales (a rise of almost 20% compared to 2008, although this was also affected by the fact that the VAT would revert to 17.5% from 1 January).
Many retailers open very early (typically 5 am or even earlier) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. It is not uncommon for long queues to form early in the morning of 26 December, hours before the opening of shops holding the big sales, especially at big-box consumer electronics retailers. Many stores have a limited quantity of big draw or deeply discounted items. Because of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, many choose to stay home and avoid the hectic shopping experience. The local media often cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began queueing up, providing video of shoppers queueing and later leaving with their purchased items. The Boxing Day sales have the potential for customer stampedes, injuries and even fatalities. As a result, many retailers have implemented practices aimed at managing large numbers of shoppers. They may limit entrances, restrict the number of patrons in a store at a time, provide tickets to people at the head of the queue to guarantee them a hot ticket item or canvass queued-up shoppers to inform them of inventory limitations.
In recent years, retailers have expanded deals to “Boxing Week”, and some stores even have “half way to boxing day sales” on June 26th While Boxing Day is 26 December, many retailers who hold Boxing Day Sales will run the sales for several days before or after 26 December, often up to New Year’s Eve. Notably, in the recession of late 2008, a record number of retailers were holding early promotions due to a weak economy. Canada’s Boxing Day has often been compared with the American Super Saturday, the Saturday before Christmas.
In some areas of Canada, particularly in Atlantic Canada and parts of Northern Ontario (including Sault Ste. Marie), most retailers are prohibited from opening on Boxing Day, either by provincial law or municipal bylaw. In these areas, sales otherwise scheduled for 26 December are moved to the 27th.
In Ireland, since 1902, most stores remain closed on St. Stephen’s Day, as with Christmas Day. In 2009, some stores decided to open on this day, breaking a 107-year-old tradition. Some stores have also started their January sales on this day.
Cyber Boxing Day
The online version of Boxing Day has been referred to as “Cyber Boxing Day”. In the UK in 2008, Boxing Day was the busiest online shopping day of the year. In 2009, many retailers with both online and High Street stores launched their online sales on Christmas Eve and their High Street sales on Boxing Day.
In England, Scotland and Northern Ireland it is traditional for the Premier League, Scottish Premier League and Irish Premier League respectively, as well as the lower divisions and Rugby leagues, to hold a full programme of football and Rugby League matches on Boxing Day. Traditionally, matches on Boxing Day are played against local rivals. This was originally to avoid teams and their fans having to travel a long distance to an away game on the day after Christmas Day. It also makes the day an important one in the sporting calendar. In Australia and South Africa, on the boxing day famous and awaited test matches are played. Especially in Australia nearly 100,000 people come every year to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to witness the Boxing Day test match.
In horse racing, there is the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey. It is the second most prestigious chase in England, after the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Boxing Day is a popular day in the U.K. and U.S. for mounted fox hunters. Despite fox hunting being banned by the Hunting Act in 2004, Boxing Day remains the biggest hunt of the year for most hunts in the UK by use of scent drag trails instead of live quarry.
Australia holds the first day of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the start to the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
The IIHF World U20 Championship (ice hockey) typically begins on 26 December.
The NHL tends to have close to a full slate of games (11 were played in 2010), following the league-wide days off given for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
The Spengler Cup (ice hockey) also begins on 26 December in Davos, Switzerland, and includes HC Davos, Team Canada, and other top European Hockey teams.
In some African Commonwealth nations, particularly Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania, prize fighting contests are held on Boxing Day. This practice has also been followed for decades in Guyana and Italy.