What is Boxing Day? Past, Present and Urban Legends

Monday, January 7th, 2013 By

How Boxing Day started

Image from Flickr.

Image from Flickr.

In many countries, Dec. 26 is Boxing Day. However, in countries such as Canada, where Boxing Day is a bank holiday, Boxing Day will be observed Monday. That means banks and some other businesses will be closed. Boxing Day, in general, simply refers to the day after Christmas.

Boxing Day traditions began in mid-19th-century England under Queen Victoria. The web site Calendar Updates says:

It originated as a holiday for members of the merchant class to give boxes containing food and fruit, clothing, and/or money to trades people and servants. The gifts were an expression of gratitude similar to the bonuses many employers offer their employees today.

If you live in the United States, there’s no need to rush out and get instant payday loans with no faxing so you can buy more presents. Boxing Day isn’t recognized as an official holiday in the U.S. Furthermore, the tradition of giving boxes of goodies to “the help” on Boxing Day died off a long time ago.

Modern observations of Boxing Day

Besides closing banks, in most countries that celebrate Boxing Day, it has simply become an extension of Christmas festivities. “It is a time for family and friends to gather with lots of food and fun,” says Calendar Updates. Sounds a lot like Christmas to me.

While the spirit of Boxing Day — giving to the less fortunate — is generally observed in spirit in the U.S., Boxing Day is an official holiday in “commonwealth nations,” which include Australia, Britain, New Zealand, and Canada. Many retailers in these countries hold Boxing Day sales as U.S. retailers hold after-Christmas sales.

Clearing up urban legend

Because Boxing Day isn’t observed in the U.S., many Americans don’t understand the holiday. One common misconception is that the term “boxing day” refers to the need to rid the house of boxes after Christmas is over. While it’s true that cleaning up after present-opening is a lengthy ordeal in many American households, that’s not a Boxing Day tradition.

It also has nothing to do with the type of boxing that takes place in the ring with big gloves. However, if that sounds like a tradition you’d like to introduce to your family, you might want to read up on Festivus, particularly the part about Feats of Strength.

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