Boxing Day: The Second Christmas Day

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated on 26 December, since 1871, in many English speaking countries, with the exception of Greece, which always celebrates it on 27 December. In the liturgical calendar, it marks the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr. The tradition demands charity and distribution of gifts to the destitute on this holiday.

But since the beginning of the XXIth century, the Boxing Day refers particularly to a day when many customers rush to the shopping streets to purchase clothes, which is often compared to Black Friday in the US.

According to some sources, the Boxing Day dates back to the XVth century, but the exact origins of this holiday are still uncertain. Many people celebrate this day without knowing their exact origins. The first story refers to a religious origin of this festival. Stephen, known as the first Christian martyr, was chosen by the apostles to distribute alms to the poor one. For a long time, the idea of charity and alms was associated with December 26 as is found in most theories.

It is also present in one of Christmas songs called The Good King Wenceslas that tell the story of King Wenceslaus II of Bohemia. One day, as he traveled through his land, he saw a scrawny man desperate for wood to overcome the cold. The king then pitied him and ordered his servants to prepare a sack in which there was plenty of food and wine that Wenceslas brought to him with his own hands.

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Another hypothesis says that the origin of Boxing Day was when in the XVth century, there was a period of Discovery during which marine shipments were increasing. During these, many superstitious sailors brought, on board, a box in which they deposited money as a sign of protection for their adventures. This box was sealed until they returned. If by chance they safely returned from their travels, the box and its offerings were given to village priests who distributed them to the poor.

At the same time, many English-speaking churches also provided a gift box in which pilgrims and other visitors could deposit money. This box remained sealed until December 26. Once reopened, the money was distributed to beggars and the poor. These stories would have given its origin and its name to the day of boxes.

Other sources contest the religious origins of December 26 and argue that this commemoration was born in the XIXth century in the high bourgeois society. Traditionally, aristocrats allowed their servants to take leave on Boxing Day to enjoy with their family and friends. Before leaving, the master of the house offered them a box full of presents and food, and on most of the time, the remains of the Christmas meal.

Many English-speaking countries such as England, Scotland, Wales, Australia, Ireland, Canada and New Zealand attach great importance to December 26. These are primarily the countries where Christianity is predominant. The modern Boxing Day has nothing in common with the traditional handing over of alms from the past centuries. In English derbies, the traditions of Boxing Day are many and some more traditional than others like hunting foxes.


For some, 26 December is an auspicious day for reunions and family gatherings during which the remains of the Christmas feast was served. For others, this day was synonymous with shopping because, since 25 years, the first day of the winter sales in Britain began on 26 December. The shops opened their doors very early in the morning and welcomed hundreds of customers until closing time. Many of them spent the night of December 25 at the doors of the stores to be the first to enjoy the best promotions. These ranged from 50% to 80%.

For those who are not interested in family gatherings and compulsive shopping, there is the famous fox hunt. Traditionally, the rider wears a red suit symbolic of the Boxing Day and chased the foxes with a horde of dogs. Today, this tradition is confined to hunting prey without hurting, as the British government formally banned fox hunting since 2005.


On the other side of the globe, the Australians are just as fond of purchases and promotions. This is why the day after Christmas is also considered the first day of the sales. Sports is also important with cricket matches on the day of December 26. Indeed, one of the greatest cricket matches, the Boxing Day Test match that pits the Australian national cricket team to another team takes place on Boxing Day at Melbourne Cricket Ground. Like cricket, the Sydney-Hobart racing is traditional during the Boxing Day, when thousands of citizens travel to Port Jackson and admire the yachts and other boats take off.


In Ireland, 26 December became famous of St. Stephen. It also means hunting troglodyte. Irish mythology defines the troglodyte as the symbol of betrayal. It is said that this bird had started singing as the Irish soldiers silently attempted to challenge the Scandinavian warriors in ambush. Hunted and stuffed by the Wren Boys at the time, today, the Irish dress and wear masks bearing its image and march through their neighborhood.


The mumming or murmuring is a tradition that is found mainly in the province of Newfoundland in Canada. This custom is to go from house to house and play dramas telling the story of a champion like the famous St. George and resurrection. As a result of the performance, the actors collect the money donated by the inhabitants. However, another version of this tradition exists. The actors try to break into various houses and the owners have to guess who is behind their disguise.

After cricket and racing boats in Australia, derbies like English Premier League football is a customary event on Boxing Day in Britain. The first derby took place in 1860 but did not have as much impact as today. As time went by, football grew, clubs multiplied, and the Boxing Day rendezvous that took place in homes, become unmissable in the 1960s. Thousands of viewers have followed, since that day, matches between the biggest clubs.