Why is Boxing Day called Boxing Day?

A quarter of Britons will shop in the Boxing Day sales (PA)
A quarter of Britons will shop in the Boxing Day sales (PA)

For some, Boxing Day means goodbye to the festivities and hello to the hangover. For others, the party continues with fizz flowing and turkey sandwiches all round.

However you celebrate, it's a warmly welcomed bank holiday in the UK, which means no work or school and more time with family and friends.

But where does the name “Boxing Day” actually come from, and why do we get that extra day off after the Christmas festivities?

Here’s everything you need to know:

When is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is always celebrated the day after Christmas, on December 26. It has been a public holiday in the UK since 1871, and is celebrated across much of the Commonwealth.

This year, Boxing Day falls on a Monday. The UK will get another bank holiday on Tuesday, December 27, too, because Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.

Why do we call it Boxing Day?

There are various stories which hint towards the origins of the holiday, with the Oxford English Dictionary dating the name back to the 1830s.

Falling on St Stephen’s Day, history suggests that the day got its name from the tradition of churches collecting donations in boxes for the poor after Christmas during the Victorian era.

The day also seems to have its roots in the tradition of servants being given a day off to celebrate with family after Christmas Day, where they would often be gifted a box of gifts or with a holiday bonus.

Boxing Day traditions in the UK

Until the ban came into force in 2005, fox hunting was synonymous with December 26 for some, and people still continue the tradition to this day by having drag hunts, in which dogs follow a scent pre-laid by organisers.

When it comes to sport, the day is now more widely associated with a full day of football fixtures. Since Christmas Day football was abandoned due to dwindling numbers after 1958, Boxing Day has become the football family day out over the festive season and proves extremely popular.

It is now an institution in the fixture lists across most of the English leagues, and matches are planned as locally as possible, so that fans don’t have to travel too far during the holidays.

Until the ban came into force in 2005, fox hunting was synonymous with December 26. (Getty Images)
Until the ban came into force in 2005, fox hunting was synonymous with December 26. (Getty Images)

Boxing Day shopping has become a staple of the Christmas holidays, with the sales beginning on December 26 and continuing into the New Year. Though traditionally the post-Christmas sales would begin on January 1, the frenzy for post-Christmas deals was brought forward a few days to match demand and was seen as an opportunity to boost sales during the 2008 recession.

Boxing Day shopping has become a staple of the Christmas holidays. (Andi Graf / Pixabay)
Boxing Day shopping has become a staple of the Christmas holidays. (Andi Graf / Pixabay)

Westfield shopping centres open their doors at 5am on the holiday, with dedicated bargain hunters starting to queue from as early as 2am. High street fashion retailer Next is famous for it's bargains on Boxing Day, which are available both online and in-store.