If you happen to live in the UK, then you’ll know that the day after Christmas is Boxing Day… And that means a bank holiday! But what is Boxing Day? And why is it celebrated in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand?
History of Boxing Day: What is Boxing Day?
Falling on the 26th December, this secular holiday is on the same day as the religious day of St Stephen’s. Although rather confusingly there are actually two Saint Stephens in history, the 26th December is for the St Stephen about whom the Good King Wenceslas carol is written. And when it comes to Boxing Day, although no one knows the exact origins of the holiday, it’s clear that the name comes from the type of carrier (the box) and not the sport of boxing.
A few speculations for the origins of the name include being named for; a box placed in church during Christmas day to collect money for those in need, a box gifted to the servants of grand houses during one of their only days off in the year (ie the day after Christmas), and a ‘Christmas Box’ is a traditional name for a Christmas present.
In more recent times, Boxing Day is a Bank Holiday, meaning that many people have a day off work. As a result, the day is often an extension of Christmas celebrations and ptobides a great opportunity to hang out with friends, family and enjoy even more good food.
Boxing Day Traditions
Food and Drink: After the busy preparations in place for Christmas day, the food and drink on Boxing Day is a much more relaxed affair. Lunch is typically created from leftover Christmas dinner (always a bonus) or a roasted ham. Christmas desserts such as Mince Pies and leftover Christmas pudding are also consumed. Fancy more mulled wine to go with your Christmas leftovers? Here’s my Christmas Markets Vin Chaud recipe!
Shopping: In more recent years, Boxing Day marks the start of the post-Christmas Sales. And since the arrival of the internet, shopping commences from 00:00 on the dot in many of the larger retailers. Elsewhere, shopping has become something of a sport for many keen to grab a great bargain: many stores open as early as 6 AM and shoppers have been known to queue outside in the cold from the early hours of the morning onwards.
Watching the football: Seeing the footie on the telly is a favourite British pastime. Many top teams play matches on Boxing Day, and after the Queen’s Speech on Christmas Day, they’re some of the most watched programmes of the festive season.
Fox Hunting: This cruel sport is luckily not so much of a tradition as it once was. Thanks to laws meaning that fox hunting with hounds is now illegal in the eyes of the law, this 16th-Century tradition is no longer being practised by many. Traditionally, however, Boxing Day was one of the largest events of the hunting calendar.
Swimming: Throughout the UK, swimming in freezing places has somehow become a tradition! The most famous of these ice cold dips is that of swimming in the English Channel. A couple of years ago, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and so I went for my own chilly swim at Bigbury-on-Sea. Not recommended! It. Was. Cold.