December 26 – Celebrated as Boxing Day

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If I am not wrong, most of you would have thought, boxing day would be a day to celebrate something related to boxing sport. But you guessed it wrong! Even I misinterpreted it. Boxing day doesn’t literally mean that and it has nothing to do with boxing.

It is the day which is celebrated on the very next day of Christmas on 26 December,  only celebrated in a few countries, mainly the United Kingdom and in some European countries. Origin of this day can be traced back about 800 years ago in the UK. In Germany, it is known as “Zweite Feiertag” (which means ‘second celebration’) and also “Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag” which translates as Boxing Day. Boxing Day is observed as a  public holiday in countries such as the  UK,  Canada,  Australia and New Zealand.

It is the day of giving alms boxes or gifts to socially deprived poor people. These collection boxes are often placed in churches.

In The Netherlands, some collection boxes were made out of rough pottery called ‘earthenware’ and were shaped like pigs – ‘Piggy Bank’!

On this day, Servants get the day off to celebrate Christmas with their families. Prior to World War II, it was common for working people (such as milkmen and butchers) to travel around their delivery places and collect their Christmas box or tip. This tradition has now mostly stopped and any Christmas tips, given to people such as postal workers and newspaper delivery children, are not normally given or collected on Boxing Day.

It is also the traditional day that Pantomimes started to play.  Pantomime (or ‘Panto’ for short!) is a traditional British Christmas play and a chance for people to go to the theatre.

There are also often sports played on Boxing Day in the UK, especially horse racing and football matches! It’s also when shops traditionally had big sales after Christmas in the UK, like Black Friday in the USA which is Black an informal name for the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November.

In Ireland, Boxing Day is also known as “St. Stephen’s Day”. Just to confuse things, there are two St. Stephens in history!

The first St. Stephen, an early follower of Jesus and the first Christian Martyr who laid his life for religious beliefs. As per Bible, Stephen was a jew and was stoned to death by some other Jews.

The second St. Stephen was a Missionary, in Sweden, in the 800s. He had great love was for animals, particularly horses. He was also a martyr and was killed by pagans in Sweden. In Germany, there was a tradition that horses would be ridden around the inside of the church during the St. Stephen’s Day service!

St. Stephen’s Day (or ‘the feast of Stephen’) is when the Carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is set. It’s about helping the poor – so it has a strong connection to Boxing Day.

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