Boxing Day is the holiday celebrated the day after Christmas,
December 26th, in Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand,
although most Canadians have no idea about the origins of this
day off from work. In Britain, it is also known as St.
Stephen’s Day, which commemorates the first Christian martyr.
The holiday may have started in the Middle Ages, but other
sources date it to the middle of the nineteenth century, under
Queen Victoria. In any case, the origins of this holiday are
not very clear.
One theory is that business people gave
boxes of food and fruit to trades people and servants the day
after Christmas in appreciation for their work. These gifts
would have been presented in boxes, so the name “Boxing Day”
Another theory is that in olden days
everyone living on a large estate would celebrate Christmas
together, so December 26th was a convenient time for the lord
of the manor to distribute the annual allotment of goods like
cloth, leather, food supplies, tools, etc, which he was
obliged to distribute. Since everyone put their supplies into
boxes, the day came to be called, “Boxing Day.”
Still another theory is that on the day
after Christmas, servants in England would arrive at work with
boxes which their employers would fill with coins, like a
One final theory is that the alms boxes in
churches were opened on December 26th, and the money collected
over the year was distributed to the poor.
Whatever its origins, today in Canada,
government buildings and small businesses are closed, but the
department stores and the malls are open and busy with people
returning gifts or shopping frantically at “Boxing Day Blowout
Sales.” Some people use the day to meet with friends and
family who they may not have visited before or at Christmas.
However you spend the day, make sure you
quiz everyone you meet about the origins of Boxing Day.
Happy Boxing Day!