What is Boxing Day?

What is Boxing Day, or, why is it called Boxing Day?

Arguments come thick and fast as to why, and I hope, like me, you find the answers below interesting. But firstly, I must say, it has nothing to do with the sport of boxing.

The simplest answer would be that we are a little greedy here in the UK and Ireland in wanting a longer holiday.  It is not enough for us to have only Christmas Day celebrations, we have added on this other event called Boxing Day. But the answer is not that simple.

Boxing Day is a national Bank Holiday, a day to spend with family and friends and to eat up all the leftovers of Christmas Day. The origins of the day, however, are steeped in history and tradition.


Arguments abound on the origins of the name Boxing Day.  All the answers below are valid,  so maybe it is one, or even all of them.

  • A ‘Christmas Box’ in Britain is a name for a Christmas present.
  • Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants and the day when they received a  ‘Christmas Box’ from the master. The servants would also go home on Boxing Day to give ‘Christmas Boxes’ to their families.
  • A box to collect money for the poor traditionally and placed in Churches on Christmas day and opened the next day – Boxing Day.
  • Great sailing ships when setting sail would have a sealed box containing money on board for good luck. Were the voyage a success, the box was given to a priest, opened at Christmas and the contents were given to the poor.

When is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is the 26th December and is a national holiday in many countries.


Boxing Day is a time to spend with family or friends, usually those not seen on Christmas Day itself. In recent times, the day has become synonymous with many sports. Horse racing is particularly popular with meets all over the country. Many top football teams also play on Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is also a time when the British show their eccentricity by taking part in all kinds of silly activities. These include bizarre traditions including swimming the icy cold English Channel, fun runs, and charity events.


Article adapted from About.com, “What is Boxing Day? Why is it Called That?”, December 2016.