Why is Boxing Day Called Boxing Day?

There are many things we associate with Boxing Day: Sales, leftovers, family, a good film! But what gave Boxing Day its name? What's the history behind it?

Monday, 27th November 2017, 11:33 am
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 9:13 am
Boxing Day: A day for giving

What is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is the national Bank Holiday following Christmas Day, allowing the festivities to last a little longer!

Why is it called Boxing Day?

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Traditionally, parishioners in churches throughout the Middle Ages gave to the poor through alms boxes. December 26 is traditionally the feast day of St Stephen, so in honour of the first Christian Martyr the boxes were opened on this day. Christians during the late Roman empire were also known to do this.

However, Victorians were the ones to really start the festivities of Boxing Day. Servants of houses had to work Christmas Day, so Boxing Day was their day off. Employers often gave servants presents on this day, known as boxes, and servants could go home to their families and give to loved ones.

When was Boxing Day made official?

Victorians recognised the day as a Bank Holiday in 1871, following the Good King Wenceslas Hymn which dates back to 1853. John Mason Neale, the writer of the hymn, brought to attention the link between public giving and St Stephen's day allowing for extended festivities throughout Britain.

Who celebrates Boxing Day?

The holiday is recognised by only a small amount of countries: UK, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It is also celebrated by some European countries.