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In Australia we have a public holiday on 26th of December and call it Boxing day. Why is it called Boxing Day? Boxing day is a tradition held each year the day after Christmas in the Commonwealth.
Boxing day was used (in the UK) by many landed gentry to give a gift to their staff and/or suppliers as a thank you or payment for the services supplied during the year, this could be money or goods ie food or materials.
This is an easily searched for topic, but one that I have been interested in as it is also my birthday.
I will let you confirm the information provided…
A brief history of Boxing Day
It's a day we now associate with sales shopping and the enjoyment of Christmas dinner leftovers. But what is Boxing Day, and how was it historically celebrated? We asked Mark Connelly, professor of modern British history at the University of Kent
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Published: December 26, 2020 at 5:05 am
Q: What is Boxing Day?
A: Boxing Day is also known as St Stephen’s Day – Stephen was the first Christian martyr, stoned to death in c34 AD.
Being a saint’s day, it has charitable associations. Charitable boxes – collections of money – would have been given out at the church door to the needy.
While the wider significance of St Stephen’s Day collapsed in Europe, it held on in Protestant England. It is an Anglo-Saxon thing. As England made more and more of a thing about Christmas, it began to concentrate its rituals onto just a few days. This was happening by the 18th century.
The English came to believe that they owned Christmas – perhaps in partnership with other ‘Teutonic/Nordic’ peoples. This was a bit of an over-exaggeration as, of course, there are plenty of southern European Christmas traditions.
The Church of England had gotten rid of so many days. The charitable efforts that, under the Catholic calendar, would have been scattered, became tied to the one day.
By the late 18th century or early 19th century, Boxing Day became a day of outdoor activity.
While Christmas Day was about being at home with your family, Boxing Day was a time to get outside, to get away from the home. People can only be cooped up for so long! There’s a need to exorcise – and exercise – all of that.
In the 18th century, Boxing Day became a day for aristocratic sports – hunting, horseracing, shooting. By the 19th century, as a result of urbanisation, it was about professional football.
As British society, particularly English society, became marked by large industrial cities, distinctive working class leisure pursuits evolved. With Boxing Day already associated with pleasurable, outdoor activities, it was soon adopted as a key date in the professional soccer calendar.
Q: When did the charitable side of Boxing Day end?
A: By the early 19th century, charitable aims became more focused around Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but it was a very slow petering out. There was a debate about whether inmates should get beer and beef on Christmas Day, for example.
Whether they got this depended upon the attitude of local guardians.
And by this point, there were enough poor people to be thought of as an entity. Provision for the poor turned into a local government issue, as opposed to something individuals organised.
Q: So when did Boxing Day originate?
A: Boxing Day emerged quite quickly after the establishment of Christmas. The very early church took no notice of Christmas – it wasn’t until the turn of the first millennia that the church started to push Christmas.
It was a way to make sure converts stayed on board – the early church knew it could not stamp out all the winter festivals, so it decided to ‘Christianise’ them. So a whole series of pre-existing European mid-winter ceremonies were white-washed with Christianity. Boxing Day came quickly after.
Christmas feast days were chipped away at – largely because of Protestantism and the development of the British economy. A more urbanised, factory-oriented economy meant that the machines and methods of production just had to be kept going.
It was completely unlike the rhythms of the rural world which had dominated, and which allowed for more punctuation marks in the course of the year – so you ended up having to peg festivities on fewer days.
Q: Historically, has Boxing Day been celebrated differently in other parts of the world?
A: England, Wales, Australia and New Zealand are distinctive in making quite a thing of Boxing Day, with outdoor events such as picnics, horse shows, rides and walks.
Q: How did Boxing Day become a bank holiday?
A: The 26th of December became additional bank holiday in 1974, but in fact it had been a de facto day off for many years. This is partly because football made such a big thing of Boxing Day that many took time off anyway, and gradually during the course of the 20th century more and more employers realised that business was generally slow during this period and so, in effect, turned a blind eye to people taking the time off, which then became a custom in its own right.
Q: Boxing Day today tends to be associated with shopping. When did this trend emerge?
A: It began in the late 1990s, when the John Major government amended Sunday trading laws.
When you open the door to trading on a Sunday, changing the spirit of when it is morally ‘right’ to shop, you open up trading on festival days.
This article was first published by HistoryExtra in December 2013
Start a Boxing Day Tradition
Ready to celebrate Boxing Day on December 26? Put on your gloves and get ready to box—just kidding. Actually, Boxing Day has nothing to do with the sport and everything to do with the good that can come in a box.
So, what is Boxing Day and what do you do on Boxing Day? Celebrated around the world as a day to give back, Boxing Day is a wonderful opportunity to repurpose your leftover holiday boxes into donation packages. Bonus: By joining the party and paying it forward on Boxing Day, you’ll also get a jump on any New Year’s resolutions to declutter, downsize or do good for others.
Here’s a quick look at the history of Boxing Day, and how you can use your holiday boxes to celebrate.
Boxing Day Explained: A Brief History
Boxing Day became an official public holiday in the United Kingdom and many other British Commonwealth countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand during the rule of Queen Victoria in the 1800s. Though the root of the name Boxing Day is not certain, the most common theories center on boxes being used as a way to give back.
In the U.K., a Christmas box means the same thing as a Christmas present, but this explains only part of the puzzle behind the holiday’s name. One of the holiday’s more popular origin stories traces back to when there were lords of manors. During this period, December 26 was the day that the lords would present members of their households’ staff with Boxing Day gifts filled with items like money and leftovers from Christmas dinner. The box served as a token of recognition and thanks for working on Christmas Day.
Another theory is that Boxing Day was born out of an 800-year-old church tradition of putting out alms boxes during Advent season. These boxes were used to collect donations from parishioners and distributed to those less fortunate on December 26.
Whatever the origin, Boxing Day traditions have been observed for more than a century, and today many people around the world still use Boxing Day as a time to pack up useful items for donation and give these boxes back to their communities.
Boxing Day in the 21st Century: How Boxes Make Boxing Day Better for Everyone
This year, when December 26 rolls around, celebrate the wealth of leftover holiday boxes in your home by giving these packages a new purpose—one that also gets them out of your house. Use your boxes to collect donations for your favorite charities or a school drive. After you fill your repurposed boxes with unwanted household items or Santa’s toys from years past, take advantage of resources like Give Back Box, which provides prepaid shipping labels for you to send your reused boxes to a variety of charities.
So, as you exhale on December 26 and look around at all of your holiday boxes, just remember there’s no better time to buy in to the Boxing Day tradition and continue the legacy of using boxes to give back.
By long tradition, a Sheffield Shield match between Victoria and New South Wales had been played at the MCG over the Christmas period dating back as far as 1865.  It included Boxing Day as one of the scheduled days of play, much to the chagrin of the NSW players who missed spending Christmas with their families as a result. The Melbourne Test was usually held over the New Year period, often starting on 1 January.
During the 1950–51 Ashes series, the Melbourne Test was played from 22 to 27 December, with the fourth day's play being on Boxing Day, but no test matches were played on Boxing Day in Melbourne between 1953 and 1967. Because there were six Tests in the 1974–75 Ashes series, in order to fit them all in to the overall schedule, the Third Test at Melbourne was scheduled to start on Boxing Day. That was the origin of the modern tradition, although it was not until 1980 that the Melbourne Cricket Club and the Australian cricket team secured the rights to begin a test match annually on Boxing Day at the MCG.
Individual awards Edit
In December 2019, Cricket Australia announced plans for a medal to be awarded to the best player of the Boxing Day Test match from 2020, named in honour of Indigenous Australian cricketer Johnny Mullagh.  
|Year||Opposition team||Result||Boxing Day Crowd||Total Attendance|
|1950 ||England||Australia won by 28 runs ||60,486 ||191,197 |
|1952 ||South Africa||South Africa won by 82 runs||24,609||120,314 |
|1968||West Indies||Australia won by an innings and 30 runs||18,766||113,376|
|1975||West Indies||Australia won by 8 wickets||85,661||222,755 |
|1981||West Indies||Australia won by 58 runs||39,982||134,081 |
|1982||England||England won by 3 runs||63,900||214,882 |
|1984 ||West Indies||Draw||15,504 (25,555 Day 1)||97,271 |
|1986||England||England won by an innings and 14 runs||58,203||107,817 |
|1987||New Zealand||Draw||51,807||127,184 |
|1988 ||West Indies||West Indies won by 258 runs||26,287||108,408 |
|1990||England||Australia won by 9 wickets||49,763||129,530 |
|1991||India||Australia won by 8 wickets||42,494||89,369 |
|1992||West Indies||Australia won by 139 runs||28,397||83,320 |
|1993||South Africa||Draw||15,604 [n 1]||48,565 |
|1994 ||England||Australia won by 295 runs||51,620||144,492 |
|1995||Sri Lanka||Australia won by 10 wickets||55,239||105,388 |
|1996||West Indies||West Indies won by 6 wickets||72,891||131,671 |
|1997||South Africa||Draw||73,812||160,182 |
|1998||England||England won by 12 runs||61,580||159,031 |
|1999||India||Australia won by 180 runs||49,082 [n 1]||134,554 |
|2000||West Indies||Australia won by 352 runs||73,233||133,299 |
|2001||South Africa||Australia won by 9 wickets||61,796||153,025 |
|2002||England||Australia won by 5 wickets||64,189||177,658 |
|2003||India||Australia won by 9 wickets||62,613||179,662 |
|2004||Pakistan||Australia won by 9 wickets||61,552||129,079 |
|2005||South Africa||Australia won by 184 runs||71,910||192,337 |
|2006||England||Australia won by an innings and 99 runs||89,155 ||244,351 |
|2007||India||Australia won by 337 runs||68,465 ||166,663 |
|2008||South Africa||South Africa won by 9 wickets||63,263 ||174,246 |
|2009||Pakistan||Australia won by 170 runs||59,206 ||156,267 |
|2010||England||England won by an innings and 157 runs||84,345 ||240,156 |
|2011||India||Australia won by 122 runs ||70,068 ||189,347 |
|2012||Sri Lanka||Australia won by an innings and 201 runs||67,138 ||137,455 |
|2013||England||Australia won by 8 wickets||91,112 ||271,865 |
|2015||West Indies||Australia won by 177 runs||53,389||127,069    |
|2016||Pakistan||Australia won by an innings and 18 runs||63,478 [n 1]||142,188     |
|2018||India||India won by 137 runs ||73,516||176,539|
|2019||New Zealand||Australia won by 247 runs||80,473 ||203,472 |
|2020||India||India won by 8 wickets||27,615 [n 2] ||89,472 |
Instead of a Test match a One Day International was held on 26 December 1989 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between Australia and Sri Lanka. Australia won by 30 runs in front of a crowd of 45,012. 
Fun Boxing Day Trivia
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In countries like England and Ireland, it was a popular trend to kill wren, small brown birds, by stoning them, replicating St. Stephen’s death, by young boys. It was believed that one could kill a wren, only on Boxing Day and not on any other day. They would then decorate the corpse of the bird with ribbons and shafts of vibrant plumage, melanize its face, hang it by a rope on a pole and go about begging for alms knocking each door with the pole. Thus, St. Stephen’s Day was also called ‘Wren Day’. This particular tradition seems to be cropped up in the Battle of Kinsale in 1601, when the hushed efforts of Irish to silently attack the English invaders were jeopardized by the song of a wren, which alerted the British troops. The truth in the tale is questionable though. The ‘wren boys’ would also sing the following song while begging.
“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
On St. Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze,
We hunted him far and hunted him near
And found him under the bushes here.
Hurrah, my boys, hurrah!
Hurrah, my boys, hurrah!
Knock at the knocker and ring at the bell,
And give us a copper for singing so well.”
They would also present a feather to the donor, which was supposedly potent of bringing good luck. The money would then be used up to organize a dance. In Ireland though, they said that the donation would be used to cremate the dead bird. This cruel tradition has thankfully now been stopped. The Irish now only dress weirdly, wear wigs, and go about begging with a stuffed bird in a cage all the while singing carols. This money generally goes to charity.
Fox hunting with the help of fox hounds was officially banned in Wales and England, from 18th of February, 2005 with a cumulative consent of all members of the Parliament and relentless efforts of animal lovers. However, in Ireland this cruel practice still persists.
History talks of another St. Stephen, a Swedish religious missioner, who lived in the 9th century. He was the patron saint and guardian of horses. Killed by Swedish pagans, his love for horses probably gave rise to the horse riding tradition of Boxing Day. Moreover, it was due to this that one could ride horses in and around a church during the St. Stephen’s Day Service, in Germany, some time ago.
Years ago in Wales, St. Stephen’s Day traditions included ‘holming’ or beating maid servants with holly bowers until their hands or feet leeched. Usually young lads and dames took to thrashing their helps. This trashing was also inflicted upon the last person who woke up in the morning and was made to do all the work of the family on that day. Gwyl San Steffan, as the day was called, also saw beating up of horses and other livestock, with holly sprigs, as it was believed to boost their stamina. These ancient Welsh practices were, however, stopped sometime in the 19th century.
Canadian shops open their shutters as early as 6 in the morning on Boxing Day, to let in people who often line up in front of shops during the night. They also refer to this post-Christmas clearance sales week as the th month’.
Many people gather along the coasts of Britain, attired in clownish or weird fancy dresses, and indulge in a tradition called Boxing Day Dip, wherein they dance in shallow waters to entertain the watchers and assemble money for charity.
A very colorful street procession called Junkanoo is organized on Boxing Day, in the Bahamas, when elaborately dressed ethnic dancers known as ‘gombeys’ fill up the streets. Their costumes are very flashy and attractive, generally made with the help of cardboard, paper crepes, and lots of sequins. Goombay music fills the air during this parade, generated by a variety of horns, goat-hide drums, and cowbells. The procession generally starts at midnight.
In some countries, if Boxing Day happens to be a Saturday, then the coming Monday is observed as a holiday, on its behalf, by Royal Proclamation of the King or Queen in Council, in England. However, if it falls on a Sunday, then both Monday and Tuesday are holidays compensating for both Christmas and Boxing Day. The same practice is followed in Canada, without the proclamation, of course.
So, now I leave you to ruminate about all the different aspects of this day, including the history, its practices, and the pros and cons of all its traditions. It’s meant to be a beautiful day with noble purpose, so enjoy it as you sway to the strains of the carol “Good King Wenceslas looked out, On the Feast of Stephen…” which goes on to narrate the tale of a medieval Duke of Bohemia, who nourished the poor peasant living by the forest with wine and meat and brought him warmth by burning pine logs on a cold snow-laden Boxing Day.
What Is Boxing Day, And Why Do Canadians Celebrate It?
You may have been celebrating Boxing Day for decades without actually knowing what it stands for.
Observed annually on December 26 in Canada, the U.K. and Commonwealth countries around the world, Boxing Day was traditionally the day employers would give their staff Christmas presents, called "boxes," to celebrate the season. But since the day after Christmas is now usually a statutory holiday, in our modern society, we now often give those boxes to ourselves.
Or at least that's one way of looking at this longtime tradition, which has been noted for centuries. There's no exact definition of Boxing Day, though some tie it to British servants who helped their lords and ladies with Christmas dinner and literally took home boxes (and got a day off) the next day. Samuel Pepys noted the existence of such boxes in his diary in 1663.
In Canada, as well as the U.K. and Australia, December 26 is now better known as a day for scooping up shopping deals, similar to Black Friday in the U.S. Most stores open their doors early and discount prices on items ranging from clothing to technology to appliances. In recent years, some shops have started their sales even before Christmas has begun, hoping for more spending from customers.
In other countries, December 26 has taken on a different name. In Germany, Poland, Scandinavia and the Netherlands, it's known as Second Christmas Day, simply extending the holiday for an extra day. In Ireland, they celebrate St. Stephen's Day, or the Day of the Wren, participating in parades in masks and suits.
A group of orphans receiving gifts in East London, 1921
If you're looking for something that explains the origins of Boxing Day, well, you're not going to find it here. The day-after-Christmas holiday is celebrated by most countries in the Commonwealth, but in a what-were-we-doing-again? bout of amnesia, none of them are really sure what they're celebrating, when it started or why.
The best clue to Boxing Day's origins can be found in the song "Good King Wenceslas." According to the Christmas carol, Wenceslas, who was Duke of Bohemia in the early 10th century, was surveying his land on St. Stephen's Day Dec. 26 when he saw a poor man gathering wood in the middle of a snowstorm. Moved, the King gathered up surplus food and wine and carried them through the blizzard to the peasant's door. The alms-giving tradition has always been closely associated with the Christmas season hence the canned-food drives and Salvation Army Santas that pepper our neighborhoods during the winter but King Wenceslas' good deed came the day after Christmas, when the English poor received most of their charity.
King Wenceslas didn't start Boxing Day, but the Church of England might have. During Advent, Anglican parishes displayed a box into which churchgoers put their monetary donations. On the day after Christmas, the boxes were broken open and their contents distributed among the poor, thus giving rise to the term Boxing Day. Maybe.
But wait: there's another possible story about the holiday's origin. The day after Christmas was also the traditional day on which the aristocracy distributed presents (boxes) to servants and employees a sort of institutionalized Christmas-bonus party. The servants returned home, opened their boxes and had a second Christmas on what became known as Boxing Day.
So which version is correct? Well, both. Or neither. No one, it seems, is really sure. Both the church boxes and the servant presents definitely existed, although historians disagree on which practice inspired the holiday. But Boxing Day's origins aren't especially important to modern-day Brits Britain isn't known for its religious fervor, and few people can afford to have servants anymore, anyway. Today's Boxing Day festivities have very little to do with charity. Instead, they revolve around food, football (soccer), visits from friends, food and drinking at the pub.
Boxing Day has been a national holiday in England, Wales, Ireland and Canada since 1871. For years in which the holiday falls on a weekend, the celebration is moved to make sure workers still get a day off (except in Canada, where it remains Dec. 26), but since visits to Grandma and other family obligations are fulfilled on Christmas, there isn't anything left to do on Boxing Day except eat leftovers, drink and watch TV. Just as Americans watch football on Thanksgiving, the Brits have Boxing Day soccer matches and horse races. If they're particularly wealthy or live in the country, they might even participate in a fox hunt.
The annual Boxing Day fox hunts which have been held all over the English countryside for hundreds of years were imperiled in 2005 when Parliament banned the traditional method of using dogs to kill the prey. Despite the dogs' limited role (they can still chase the animal, but they can't harm it) hundreds of thousands of people turn out at Boxing Day fox hunts around Britain.
The Irish still refer to the holiday as St. Stephen's Day, and they have their own tradition called hunting the wren, in which boys fasten a fake wren to a pole and parade it through town. Also known as Wren Day, the tradition supposedly dates to 1601, to the Battle of Kinsale, in which the Irish tried to sneak up on the English invaders but were betrayed by the song of an overly vocal wren although this legend's veracity is also highly debated. Years ago, a live wren was hunted and killed for the parade, but modern sentiments deemed it too gruesome.
The Bahamas celebrate Boxing Day with a street parade and festival called Junkanoo, in which traditional rhythmic dancers called gombeys fill the streets with their elaborate costumes and headdresses.
And of course, there's the shopping. England and Canada's Boxing Day evolved into a major shopping event in the 1980s the equivalent of post-Thanksgiving Black Friday. But this year, many of the sales started earlier in an effort to boost the slumping economy.
Boxing Day has evolved from a charitable day to an extended Christmas afternoon. It's a holiday with presents that have already been opened and a dinner that has been eaten. It's a holiday best spent lounging around in brightly colored sweaters, wondering, lazily and lethargically, what to do next. Come to think of it, it's a wonder Americans haven't adopted it yet.
Where did the tradition of Boxing Day come from?
Boxing Day falls on December 26 every year. The tradition is thought to have originated in the UK, unlike the origin of Black Friday. However, there are conflicting opinions on where the name for the day actually came from.
What most historians can agree on is that the name derives from the act of ‘giving boxes’ the day after Christmas. The nature of these boxes, who was giving them and who was receiving them, is where theories begin to differ.
The tradition of ‘Boxing Day’ could have begun in the Middle Ages, when money for the poor was collected in offertory boxes (also known as a poor box or alms box) in churches.
Peter’s Pence alms box – or poor box – which dates back to 1473. The box can still be seen in Holy Trinity church, Suffolk | Getty Images
These boxes were traditionally opened – and the contents distributed to those in need – on the day after Christmas. This day was chosen because it was when the feast day of St Stephen – the first Christian martyr – was celebrated.
However, the use of the name ‘Boxing Day’ is said to have started in the 1800s.
How Did Boxing Day Start?
The BBC explains that Boxing Day got its name when Queen Victoria held the throne in the 1800s, and is borne out of the tradition of wealthy families boxing up gifts to give to the poor. Since servants of aristocrats were required to work on Christmas, the following day became the time when their employers filled up boxes with gifts, money, and Christmas leftovers for them, much like a holiday bonus. Servants could then go home to share the gift boxes with their families.
Another theory, according to History.com, is that the name arose from alms boxes placed in churches for the collection of donations for those in need. On December 26th, clergy members would give these funds to the poor in honor of the feast of St. Stephen, a Christian martyr known for charitable acts. St. Stephen holds so much significance that in Ireland, Boxing Day is referred to as St. Stephen’s Day.
Yet another clue to the holiday’s moniker can be found in the song "Good King Wenceslas." TIME explains that this carol tells the tale of the Duke of Bohemia in the 10th century. On St. Stephen’s Day, he observed a poor man on his land, struggling to gather wood in the middle of a snowstorm. He was so moved by this sight that he gathered up food and wine and delivered it to his door, inspiring a tradition.
With so many competing narratives, it’s difficult to know exactly how Boxing Day began. It’s clear, however, that what they all have in common are themes of charity, gift-giving, and celebrations, which have lived on and is present in how this holiday is observed today.
A brief history of Boxing Day, a UK Christmas tradition
Celebrated annually on the 26th December, Boxing Day is a Christmas tradition for those living in the UK, and other countries that previously formed part of the British Empire. But how did this holiday begin, and does it actually have anything to do with boxing?
For the British, Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians (and other countries that have existing or former ties to the UK), Boxing Day is a treasured part of the Christmas holiday. Of course, for those unfamiliar with the tradition, the first many ask is ‘what does it have to do with boxing?’.
The short answer to that is absolutely nothing. There are a few theories as to how boxing day began, the most common amongst them dating back around 800 years to the Middle Ages. During this period, it was common practice for churches to open alms boxes on the day after Christmas, distributing all the money inside amongst the poor. To this day some churches still follow this practice, whilst many around the world take part in charitable events or give back to their local community on Boxing Day.
Another commonly believed theory is that on the day after Christmas, servants of the wealthy used to be allowed to head home to visit loved ones and have some well deserved time off. Wealthy masters would traditionally gift their workers with a Christmas box, containing food, gifts and maybe even a bonus, to thank them for all their work. This idea of a Christmas box also lends itself to yet another theory, whereby tradespeople such as milkmen and butchers would spend the days after Christmas collecting money or gifts left to them, to thank them for their service all year.
As with most theories, it’s likely that all of these different traditions contributed to the naming of Boxing Day in some way. So that’s why Boxing Day exists, but what about how it’s celebrated?
Boxing Day in the UK
The modern day notion of Boxing Day is less about gifting boxes and more about shopping. In fact in the UK, the day after Christmas is one of the busiest shopping days of the entire year (other contenders for this accolade include Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the last Saturday before Christmas). Most retailers slash their prices for the annual Boxing Day sales, which now start around Christmas Eve and last well into the new year. Visit any high street in the UK on the 26th December and you’ll likely find crowds of shoppers, whilst elsewhere in the UK Brits recognise the day with crazy antics including freezing cold swims in the English Channel, bridge jumping into icy cold rivers, and plenty of football.