But where did Boxing Day come from? Who celebrated it first and why has it become a national holiday? And what about the mysterious name?
GIFTS FOR THOSE IN NEED
Boxing Day is a national holiday in the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and South Africa as well as other countries. It falls on the day after Christmas Day; 26th December. There are different schools of thought on why it’s called Boxing Day. The tradition of giving gifts or money on Boxing Day to servants, and also those in need, dates back to the Middle Ages. Servants would always have a day off, when they could return to their families, and their employers would often send them off with a box of treats, such as gifts and leftover food.
Another reason it might be called Boxing Day is because of boxes placed outside churches on Christmas Day collecting alms for the poor. This is a tradition that dates back to the Romans, with the collection being distributed amongst the needy on Boxing Day.
Sadly, the post-Christmas sales seem to start earlier and earlier and now many people either make their way to the nearest shopping centre on Boxing Day, or jump online to snap up deals. Last year saw an extraordinarily busy shopping day with people queuing from 6am: on London’s Oxford Street, flagship store Selfridges reported its most successful first hour of trade ever, with £1.5 million rattling through the tills.
RACES AND RUNS
Boxing Day is also synonymous with sport, with horse racing being the most notable activity. Throughout history, Boxing Day has also been a day when people gather in rural areas to hunt, despite the best efforts of animal rights campaigners. Since 2004, there has been a ban on fox hunting but it is still legal for hounds to flush out foxes to be shot. Some crazy folk choose to swim across the Channel, while others get their trainers on for running events across the UK.
But most of us will spend Boxing Day at home or with family, munching through leftovers and perhaps enjoying an invigorating walk. Whatever you do, we wish you a very happy festive period, with plenty of time to relax and enjoy your family.