Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What Is Boxing Day?

Despite its name, Boxing Day, which is celebrated on 26 December in Great Britain, has nothing to do with pugilistic competition. Nor is it a day for people to return unwanted Christmas presents. While the exact origins of the holiday are obscure, it is likely that Boxing Day began in England during the Middle Ages.

Some historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes.

Church Alms Boxes
Another theory is that the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited coins for the poor were opened and the contents distributed on 26 December, which is also the Feast of St. Stephen.

As time went by, Boxing Day gift giving expanded to include those who had rendered a service during the previous year. This tradition survives today as people give presents to tradesmen, mail carriers, doormen, porters, and others who have helped them.

The Day after Christmas
Boxing Day is 26 December, the day after Christmas, and is celebrated in Great Britain and in most areas settled by the English (the U.S. is the major exception), including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Bank Holidays
Boxing Day is just one of the British bank holidays recognized since 1871 that are observed by banks, government offices, and the post office. The others include Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, Whitmonday (the day after Pentecost), and the banking holiday on the first Monday in August.

St. Stephen's Martyrdom
The Feast of St. Stephen also takes place on 26 December. St. Stephen was one of the seven original deacons of the Christian Church who were ordained by the Apostles to care for widows and the poor. For the success of his preaching and his devotion to Christ, St. Stephen was stoned to death by a mob. As he died, he begged God not to punish his killers. (source: Fact Monster)

Tags: Boxing Day, Christmas, 26 December, Church Alms Boxes, Bank Holidays, St Stephen Martyrdom, Fact Monster



Blogger Random J said...

I don't think most people in the UK even know what Boxing day is! You are taught it at school, but you don't really care too much and take it in. You just see it as another day off to eat more food and get presents from those you didn't see on Christmas day!

This is a very interesting post.

27 December, 2006 06:15  

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