When I was younger, I use to believe that Boxing Day was set aside to honor boxers and those who loved the sport. I mean, after all, it is called ‘Boxing Day’.
But as I grow older, I realized that contrary to what I believed, Boxing Day has nothing to do with the sport of boxing.
Rather, the holiday celebrated on December 26 in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, has its origins in small acts of kindness. Who would have thought?
The most accepted explanation is that Boxing Day got its name from the giving of Christmas “boxes” a day after Christmas Day.
And according to online research, the practice originated in the 1800s in Britain. The British aristocracy would give their servants a day off on December 26, and present them with some sort of gift, otherwise known as a Christmas box.
This box could include money and even food from the previous day’s Christmas dinner.
The day could have also derived its name from a similar deed done in the church. Boxes would be open in a church for the Christmas season, and churchgoers would put monetary donations meant for the poor.
Then, on December 26, members of the clergy would go around gifting the money in the box to the less fortunate.
Another version of this story tells the tale of sailors who were fortunate enough to return from the sea and would make donations to the church as a way of expressing their gratitude.
These boxes with the donations, which were usually coins, were opened on Boxing Day and given to the poor.
But, regardless of how the day originated, the important thing to note is that it was rooted in charity.
In 1871, Queen Victoria declared Boxing Day a bank holiday.
In Ireland and the Catalonia region of Spain, Boxing Day is celebrated as Saint Stephen’s Day—a day of caring for the poor.
And, in other European countries such as Hungary, Poland, and Germany, Boxing Day is celebrated as a second Christmas Day.
When 26 December is a Saturday, the Boxing Day bank holiday is moved to the next Monday.
If 26 December falls on a Sunday, then the holiday is the following Tuesday.
Christmas Day is now a football-free zone, but this wasn’t always the case.
In the days before TV, there would be a full programme of matches on 25 December with fans popping on hats and gloves to watch football at grounds across the UK after eating.
But throughout the 1950s, attitudes towards playing sports on Christmas Day changed.
The final Christmas Day football match took place in 1957, leaving Boxing Day as the traditional festive fixture.
For many people Boxing Day actually only means one thing – leftovers!
Let’s face it, many people prepare way too much food for Christmas Day and end up eating it for the next week! Turkey curry, turkey pies and the famous turkey sandwich.
(Source BBC and Loop)