When is Boxing Day?
This public holiday is celebrated on December 26th in several countries as part of the Christmas holidays.
Typically it will be moved and celebrated on the next working day if December 26th is a Saturday or Sunday.
Traditions of Boxing Day
It has been said that the name of Boxing Day comes from people getting rid of empty boxes from presents after Christmas day. While a beguiling notion, the tradition dates back to England in the middle ages, though the exact origin is debatable
One theory is that it comes from the fact that servants were given their presents in boxes on this day, the 26th being the first working day after Christmas day. This tradition of giving gifts for service extended beyond servants to tradesmen, such as milkmen, butchers, etc.
Another popular theory is that it is named after the custom of priests opening alms boxes in churches after Christmas. These held money which had been donated to the poor and needy in the run-up to Christmas. Some churches still open these boxes on Boxing Day.
In South Australia, Boxing day is known as Proclamation Day. It celebrates the proclamation of South Australia as a British province by Captain John Hindmarsh when he arrived at Holdfast Bay on December 28th 1836.
In South Africa, December 26th is a public holiday known as the Day of Goodwill. Before 1994, the day was celebrated as Boxing Day. Though the name has changed, the traditions of Boxing Day remain. As it is summer in South Africa, non-traditional Christmas activities such as going to the beach are popular.
Boxing Day has been a Bank Holiday in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 1871. Having this status during the height of the British Empire explains why this holiday is still celebrated in many Commonwealth countries.
In non-Commonwealth countries, the day is more commonly referred to as St Stephen’s Day or the Feast of Stephen as mentioned in the carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’.