Boxing Day
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Boxing Day

Boxing Day
Also calledOffering Day[1]
Observed byCommonwealth nations
TypeBank holiday, public holiday
Date26 December
Related toDay of Goodwill
Saint Stephen's Day
Second Day of Christmastide

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated the day after Christmas Day, thus being the second day of Christmastide.[1] It originated in the United Kingdom and is celebrated in a number of countries that previously formed part of the British Empire. Boxing Day is on 26 December, although the attached bank holiday or public holiday may take place either on that day or one or two days later.

In parts of Europe, such as Romania, Hungary, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Scandinavia, 26 December is celebrated as a second Christmas Day.[2]


There are competing theories for the origins of the term, none of which is definitive.[3]

The European tradition of giving money and other gifts to those in need, or in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is sometimes believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in the narthex of Christian churches to collect donations to the poor. The tradition may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era wherein alms boxes placed in churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen,[4] which in the Western Christian Churches falls on the same day as Boxing Day, the second day of Christmastide. On this day, it is customary in some localities for the alms boxes to be opened and distributed to the poor.[1][5]

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations from Britain in the 1830s, defining it as "the first weekday after Christmas day, observed as a holiday on which postmen, errand boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas box".[6]

The term "Christmas box" dates back to the 17th century, and among other things meant:

A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.[7]

In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.[8] This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys' diary entry for 19 December 1663.[9] This custom is linked to an older British tradition where the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families since they would have to serve their masters on Christmas Day. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food. Until the late 20th century there continued to be a tradition among many in the UK to give a Christmas gift, usually cash, to vendors although not on Boxing Day as many would not work on that day.

In South Africa, vendors who normally have little interaction with those they serve are accustomed to knock on their doors asking for a "Christmas box", being a small cash donation, in the weeks before or after Christmas. This practice has become controversial and some municipalities have banned their staff from asking for Christmas boxes.[10]


Boxing Day is traditionally celebrated on 26 December, the day after Christmas Day, though many people hold - and there is documentary assertion - that it would not fall on a Sunday and consequently Monday 27 December would be Boxing Day. 26 December is also Saint Stephen's Day, a religious holiday.[11][12][13]

Status by country

In the UK, 26 December (unless it is a Sunday) has been a bank holiday since 1871. When 26 December fell on a Sunday,27 December would have been a Bank Holiday. When 26 December falls on a Saturday, the public holiday is on the following Monday. If 26 December falls on a Sunday, the public holiday is the following Tuesday.[14]

In Scotland, Boxing Day has been specified as an additional bank holiday since 1974,[15] by royal proclamation under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971.[16]

In Hong Kong, despite the transfer of sovereignty from the UK to China in 1997, Boxing Day continues to be a public holiday.[17] If Boxing Day falls on a Sunday, a compensation day is given on the next weekday.

In Ireland, when the entire island was part of the United Kingdom, the Bank Holidays Act 1871 established the feast day of Saint Stephen as a non-moveable public holiday on 26 December.[18] Following partition in 1920, Northern Ireland reverted to the British name, Boxing Day. In East Donegal and Inishowen, the day is also popularly known as Boxing Day.

In Australia, Boxing Day is a public holiday in all jurisdictions except the state of South Australia, where a public holiday known as Proclamation Day is celebrated on the first weekday after Christmas Day or the Christmas Day holiday.[19]

In New Zealand, Boxing Day is a statutory holiday. On these holidays, people who must work receive 1 1/2 times their salaries and a day in lieu is provided to employees who work.[20]

In Canada, Boxing Day (French: le Lendemain de Noel) is a federal statutory holiday. Government offices, banks and post offices/delivery are closed. In some Canadian provinces, Boxing Day is a statutory holiday[21] that is always celebrated on 26 December. In Canadian provinces where Boxing Day is a statutory holiday and it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, compensation days are given in the following week.[21]

While not generally observed in the United States, on 5 December 1996, Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld declared 26 December as Boxing Day in Massachusetts in response to the efforts of a local coalition of British citizens to "transport the English tradition to the United States",[22] but not as an employee holiday.[23]

In Nigeria, Boxing Day is a public holiday for working people and students. When it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, there is always a holiday on Monday.[24]

In Trinidad and Tobago, Boxing Day is a public holiday.

In Singapore, Boxing Day was a public holiday for working people and students; when it fell on a Saturday or Sunday, there was a holiday on Monday. However, in recent years this tradition has ceased in Singapore.

In South Africa, Boxing Day is a public holiday. Many South Africans spend the day at the beach.

In the British overseas territory of Bermuda, the costumed Gombey dancers perform throughout the mid-Atlantic island on Boxing Day, a tradition believed to date back to the 18th century when slaves were permitted to gather at Christmastime.[25]


Boxing Day crowds shopping at the Toronto Eaton Centre in Canada, 2007

In the UK,[26] Canada,[27] Australia,[28] Trinidad and Tobago, and New Zealand,[29] Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday. Boxing Day sales are common and shops often allow dramatic price reductions. For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest revenue. In the UK in 2009 it was estimated that up to 12 million shoppers appeared at the sales (a rise of almost 20% compared to 2008, although this was also affected by the fact that the VAT was about to revert to 17.5% from 1 January, following the temporary reduction to 15%).[30]

Many retailers open very early (typically 5 am or even earlier) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. It is not uncommon for long queues to form early in the morning of 26 December, hours before the opening of shops holding the big sales, especially at big-box consumer electronics retailers.[27] Many stores have a limited quantity of big draw or deeply discounted items.[31] Because of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, many choose to stay at home and avoid the hectic shopping experience. Local media often covers the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began queuing up, and showing video of shoppers queuing and later leaving with their purchased items.[32] Many retailers have implemented practices aimed at managing large numbers of shoppers. They may limit entrances, restrict the number of patrons in a store at a time, provide tickets to people at the head of the queue to guarantee them a hot ticket item, or canvass queued-up shoppers to inform them of inventory limitations.[31]

In some areas of Canada, particularly in Atlantic Canada and parts of Northern Ontario, most retailers are prohibited from opening on Boxing Day, either by provincial law or by municipal bylaw, or by informal agreement among major retailers, in order to provide a day of relaxation following Christmas Day. In these areas, sales otherwise scheduled for 26 December are moved to the 27th.[33][34] The city council of Greater Sudbury, Ontario, which was the largest city in Canada to maintain this restriction as of the early 2010s, formally repealed its store hours bylaw on 9 December 2014.[35]

While Boxing Day is 26 December, many retailers will run the sales for several days before or after 26 December, often up to New Year's Eve, branding it as "Boxing Week". Notably, in the recession of late 2008, a record number of retailers held early promotions due to a weak economy.[36] In 2009, many retailers with both online and High Street stores launched their online sales on Christmas Eve and their High Street sales on Boxing Day.[37][38]


The tradition has been compared to the U.S. phenomenon of Black Friday -- the Friday following the Thanksgiving holiday in late-November -- which is usually considered the first day of the Christmas shopping season. In the late-2000s, when the Canadian and U.S. dollar were near parity, Canadian retailers began to hold Black Friday promotions to attract consumers who would otherwise travel across the border to visit U.S. stores. This has lessened the appeal of Boxing Day in Canada somewhat, as it was overtaken by Black Friday in terms of sales by 2013.[39]

In the 2010s, many British retailers also began to import the Black Friday tradition, led primarily by retailers with American ownership such as Amazon and Asda (the latter owned by the U.S.-based Walmart). In 2015, British retail sales in November overtook sales in December for the first time.[40][41] In 2019, a retail analysis firm estimated that there was a 9.8% drop in British store traffic on Boxing Day in comparison to 2018 (the largest year-over-year drop since 2010), citing several factors, such as the weather, the increased prominence of online shopping, uncertainties in the wake of the general election, and the growing prominence of Black Friday sales.[42]

Boxing Day sales are not a prominent tradition in the United States, although many retailers often begin after-Christmas sales that day. It is typically the earliest starting day after Christmas for people to return unwanted gifts for exchanges or refunds, and to redeem gift cards.


Boxing Day Meet of the Blencathra Foxhounds in Keswick, 1962

In the United Kingdom, it is traditional for all top-tier football leagues in England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland - the Premier League, the Scottish Premiership, and the NIFL Premiership - and the lower ones, as well as the rugby leagues, to hold a full programme of football matches on Boxing Day. Originally, matches on Boxing Day were played against local rivals to avoid teams and their fans having to travel a long distance to an away game on the day after Christmas Day. Prior to the formation of leagues, a number of traditional rugby union fixtures took place on Boxing Day each year, notably Llanelli v London Welsh and Leicester v The Barbarians.

In Italy, Boxing Day football was played for the first time in the 2018/19 Serie A season. The experiment was successful, with Italian stadiums 69% full on average - more than any other matchday in December 2018.[43]

In rugby league, festive fixtures were a staple of the traditional winter season. Since the transition to a summer season in the 1990s, no formal fixtures are now arranged on Boxing Day but some clubs, such as Wakefield Trinity, arrange a traditional local derby friendly fixture instead.

In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, Test cricket matches are played on Boxing Day. For more details see Boxing Day Test.[44]

In Australia, the first day of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race are on Boxing Day.[45]

In horse racing, there is the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey, England. It is the second most prestigious chase in Britain, after the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In addition to the prestigious race at Kempton, in Britain, it is usually the day with the highest number of racing meetings of the year, with eight in 2016, in addition to three more in Ireland.[46] In Barbados, the final day of horse racing is held on Boxing Day at The Historic Garrison Savannah, a UNESCO world heritage site. This tradition has been going on for decades in this former British colony.

Boxing Day is one of the main days in the hunting calendar for hunts in the UK and US, with most hunts (both mounted foxhound or harrier packs and foot packs of beagles or bassets) holding meets, often in town or village centres.[47]

Several ice hockey contests are associated with the day. The IIHF World U20 Championship typically begins on 26 December, while the Spengler Cup also begins on 23 December in Davos, Switzerland; the Spengler Cup competition includes HC Davos, Team Canada, and other top European Hockey teams. The National Hockey League traditionally had close to a full slate of games (10 were played in 2011[48]), following the league-wide days off given for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However, the 2013 collective bargaining agreement (which followed a lock-out) extended the league mandate of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off to include Boxing Day, except when it falls on a Saturday, in which case the league can choose to make 23 December a league-wide off day instead for that year.[49]

In some African Commonwealth nations, particularly Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania, professional boxing contests are held on Boxing Day. This practice has also been followed for decades in Guyana and Italy.[50]

A notable tradition in Sweden is Annandagsbandy, which formerly marked the start of the bandy season and always draws large crowds. Games traditionally begin at 1:15 pm.[51]


  1. ^ a b c Robb, Nancy (1984). Mid-winter festivals: anthology of stories, traditions, and poems. S.E. Clapp. p. 27. St. Stephen's Day or Boxing Day: Boxing Day, or Offering Day as it is sometimes called, derives its name from the ancient practice of giving boxes of money at the midwinter holiday season to all those who had given good service throughout the year. Boxing Day, December 26, was the day the boxes were opened. Later, it was the day on which the alms boxes, located in the churches on Christmas Day, were opened and the contents given to the poor.
  2. ^ Brown, Cameron (28 August 2006). Christmas Facts, Figures & Fun: Facts, Figures and Fun. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-904332-27-5.
  3. ^ " Boxing Day Origins".
  4. ^ Collins, 2003, p. 38.
  5. ^ Faust, Jessica; Sach, Jacky (2002). The Book of Christmas. Citadel Press. ISBN 978-0-8065-2368-2. Yet another legend is that Boxing Day started the tradition of opening the alms boxes placed in churches during the Christmas season. The contents of the alms boxes were then distributed amongst the poor of the parish.
  6. ^ "Boxing-day, n.", OED Online, 1st ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1887).
  7. ^ "Christmas-box, n.", OED Online, 1st edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1889), sense 3.
  8. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1953 "Boxing day"
  9. ^ "Saturday 19 December 1663 (Pepys' Diary)". Retrieved 2010.
  10. ^ "Christmas box requests by City's waste management staff prohibited | Cape Argus". Retrieved 2019.
  11. ^ American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition - 'Boxing Day'
  12. ^ Oxford English
  13. ^ "BBC Radio 4 schedule, 3 December 2004". 17 November 2004. Retrieved 2009.
  14. ^ "Year Planner Calendar; 2010". 2010. Retrieved 2017.
  15. ^ "London Gazette, 18 October 1974". 18 October 1974. Retrieved 2010.
  16. ^ "Bank Holidays in Scotland - Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2014.
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ "History of Bank & Public Holidays". Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform. Archived from the original on 7 December 2008. Retrieved 2008.
  19. ^ "Public holidays". SafeWork SA. Government of South Australia. Archived from the original on 29 January 2019. Retrieved 2018.
  20. ^ "Working on public holidays". New Zealand Government. Retrieved 2017.
  21. ^ a b Manitoba Employment Standards Branch (27 November 2009). "Fact Sheet". Retrieved 2009.
  22. ^ "Massachusetts celebrates Boxing Day", Associated Press, Sun-Journal, Lewiston, Maine, 26 December 1996.
  23. ^ "Massachusetts Federal and State Holidays 2017". Public Holidays Global Pty Ltd. Retrieved 2017.
  24. ^ "Holidays in Nigeria in 2017". Time and Date. Retrieved 2017.
  25. ^ Johnston-Barnes, Owain. Gombeys dance on Boxing Day, The Royal Gazette (26 December 2017). Accessed 27 December 2017.
  26. ^ Terry Kirby (27 December 2006). "Boxing Day sales soar as shoppers flock to malls". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2009.
  27. ^ a b News Staff (26 December 2005). "Boxing Day expected to rake in $1.8 billion". Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 2009.
  28. ^ "Boxing Day sales to top $2bn: retailers". Special Broadcasting Service. 26 December 2014. Retrieved 2014.
  29. ^ "Boxing Day still big for bargain hunters despite pre-christmas retail sales". Stuff. 21 December 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  30. ^ "Boxing Day sales attract 'record' number of shoppers". BBC News. 28 December 2009. Retrieved 2010.
  31. ^ a b Ashleigh Patterson (25 December 2007). "How to become a Boxing Day shopping pro". Retrieved 2009.
  32. ^ (26 December 2007). "Boxing Day begins with early rush of bargain hunters". Archived from the original on 6 January 2012. Retrieved 2009.
  33. ^ (22 December 2007). "Boxing Day, The Debate Continues". Retrieved 2009.
  34. ^ The Canadian Press (26 December 2009). "Boxing Day madness: shoppers descend on stores looking for deals". Retrieved 2009.[dead link]
  35. ^ "Council repeals Sudbury's store hours bylaw". Sudbury Star, 10 December 2014.
  36. ^ News Staff (21 December 2008). "Boxing Day comes early as shoppers search for deals". Archived from the original on 6 January 2012. Retrieved 2009.
  37. ^ IMRG (22 December 2009). "Many retailers' sales to start on Christmas Eve". Retrieved 2009.
  38. ^ Telegraph (22 December 2009). "Boxing Day sales start on Christmas Eve". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2009.
  39. ^ "Inside the shopping extravaganza that Black Friday has become in Canada". Financial Post. 23 November 2016. Retrieved 2020.
  40. ^ Jones, Lora (21 November 2018). "Have eight years of Black Friday changed the UK?". BBC News. Retrieved 2020.
  41. ^ Ruddick, Graham (26 November 2015). "What is Black Friday and who's to blame for it?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020.
  42. ^ Wood, Zoe (26 December 2019). "Boxing Day sales dip blamed on poor weather and Black Friday". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020.
  43. ^ "Italy's Boxing Day".
  44. ^ Qaiser, S Pervez (25 December 2017). "Boxing Day Test: Grand year-end event with rich cricket history". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 2017.
  45. ^ "About the Race". Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. Retrieved 2017.
  46. ^ "Racecards - 26th December 2016". Racing Post.
  47. ^ "Hundreds of thousands turn out for Boxing Day hunts". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 December 2013. Retrieved 2014.
  48. ^ "NHL Hockey Schedule for December 26, 2011". Retrieved 2014.
  49. ^ "National Hockey League CBA" (PDF). National Hockey League. p. 101--not digital page 101 but the printed 101. Retrieved 2014.
  50. ^ Millman, Joel (28 December 2009). "Season's Beatings: 'Boxing Day' Takes a Pugilistic Turn". The Wall Street Journal (Asia ed.). Retrieved 2011.
  51. ^ Rosqvist, Berndt (22 December 2003). "Festligt och fullsatt på stora bandydagen" [Festive and packed with great bandy day]. Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 2010.

External links

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