Why is the day after Christmas called Boxing Day?
It doesn’t have anything to do with the sport of boxing. Nor does it have anything to do with the tradition of regifting unwanted Christmas presents still in the boxes they came in. But it does have something to do with boxes.
Boxing Day is a big deal in Canada, the UK, Australia, and most of the former British colonies that didn’t have a violent rebellion. It’s always the day after Christmas (December 26th) and it’s usually a mandatory holiday in the countries where it’s celebrated. In certain European countries, such as Hungary, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia, Boxing Day is celebrated as a Second Christmas Day.
But why the name? Well, to understand where the term “Boxing Day” comes from, we need a bit of a history lesson.
The day originates in Britain during the Victorian-era (17th century or so). According to the BBC, "Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for servants, and the day when they received a special Christmas box from their masters."
That Christmas Box is sort of like a gift basket today. It was typically filled with money and/or gifts and given as an acknowledgment of a job well done throughout the year.
Although mostly a secular holiday, the church also got involved by giving out money to the poor. Tithes collected throughout the year were placed in a box, and then the money in that box was distributed to the homeless and destitute on Boxing Day.
Today, nobody gives out Christmas boxes anymore. Instead, Boxing Day has become the unofficial shopping day in nearly every country that celebrates it. Think of it like Black Friday, only you’re not shopping for Christmas gifts--you’re shopping for DEALS.
Besides the mindless capitalistic frenzy, Boxing Day also traditionally has sports games scheduled for play. In Britain it's a soccer match, while in Canada it’s a game of Canadian football, and in Australia it's a cricket match.
But the biggest Boxing Day tradition is eating the leftover turkey from yesterday’s Christmas feast. Turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, and turkey stir fries are on the menu for days or even weeks afterward, starting on Boxing Day.