Boxing Day is a holiday that’s observed on the day that comes right after Christmas and has got nothing to with the literal meaning of its name.
Celebrated every year on the 26th of December, this is a British public or bank holiday and has been recognized and observed by govt. offices, banks and post offices since the year 1871.
If Boxing Day falls on a Saturday, the holiday is extended to Monday and if Christmas falls on a Saturday, then both the upcoming Monday and Tuesday are bank holidays.
It began in England during the Middle Ages when servants or workers would receive gifts called traditionally as “Christmas box” from their employers or masters. According to the western Christianity, in some European countries, this day is an extension of Christmas and known as the second day of Christmastide.
It’s also called St. Stephen’s Day or the Day of Goodwill. In the “Christmas boxes”, there would be food, clothes, money or other needful goods that would come in use to the employees. This day is celebrated majorly in Great Britain as well as other areas like Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
In recent times, the contemporary celebrations include various sporting events and post – Christmas discounts and bargains.
Origin And Background
There are quite a few versions of the stories behind the origin of this day. The most prevalent one says that back in the 17th century, the servants had to work on the Christmas day itself. It was on the next day i.e. on the Boxing day did they get a chance to go back to their families and as a token of gratitude, the employers would present them with gift boxes to take back home.
During feudal times, the Lord of the manor would call everybody who used to work on his lands and give away useful goods like food, cloth, agricultural tools etc. this was a sort of a reward for all the services rendered by them throughout the year.
Another story goes like on this day, the metal boxes or the alms boxes that used to be placed in the churches into which parishioners would donate coins for the poor would be opened up and the contents would be distributed among the poor.
In modern times, the Christmas boxes have been transformed into elaborate hampers that are gifted to the employees usually in the week before Christmas. Also, small presents are given to the mail men, newspaper delivery boy, doormen, porters and all who play such crucial roles in everyday life.
A religious significance of this day is that St. Stephen’s martyrdom is also celebrated and thus the Feast of St. Stephen also takes place on this day. He was one of the seven main deacons of the church who were ordained by Apostle to do the noble task of looking after widows and children.
Even when he was stoned to death by a mob because of his devotion to Christ and he was taking last few breaths, he prayed to God to not punish his killers.
For majority of the population, this day is utilized to rest the body after the excessive festivities of the Christmas season before returning back to office the next day. This day is also spent with family and friends whether it is taking a walk in the countryside, going on a picnic or flocking to the malls to get hold of the huge post – Christmas bargains and deals.
Some people are such ardent shoppers that they queue up in front of the stores since midnight or dawn to grab the best discounts. On top of all this, Boxing Day is also popular due to the various sporting events held on this day. Earlier, fox hunting was majorly associated with this day as hunters on horseback covered in red coats and accompanied by hunting dogs were considered to a symbol of this day. In recent times, after fox hunting has been legally forbidden, the sports commonly seen are horse racing and soccer.