What the Heck is Boxing Day?

Happy Boxing Day, everyone! This is Kate Loveton from Odyssey of a Novice Writer filling in for the lovely Heather B. Costa, who is still celebrating Christmas.

Heather, good pal that she is, asked if I might consider guest blogging on her site today. Being a shy, retiring personality who always tries to avoid the spotlight, I answered: “YOU BETCHA!” (That’s Sarah Palin-speak for “Sure, I’d love to!”)

When I asked her why she wanted to temporarily hand over the keys to the kingdom to yours truly, she replied, “Because Friday is Boxing Day and I’ll be too busy celebrating to update my weekly ‘Friday Thoughts’ feature.”

Boxing Day? Okay, as a Yank, I just gotta ask: what the heck is Boxing Day?

I’d be lying to you if I didn’t admit that when Heather uttered those words, I immediately imagined Muhammad Ali duking it out with a foe in Madison Square Garden. It got me to wondering about Heather’s family… were their celebrations more rambunctious than I’d originally assumed?

In spite of her tales of rods and balls and female plastic dolls afflicted with nymphomania, I never figured Heather as a devotee of pugilistic pursuits. When I asked her about this, she assured me she hadn’t developed a sudden interest in watching sweaty men in satin shorts settling matters with their fists.


So what gives? In the United States, we don’t celebrate Boxing Day. The dayKing-George-III after Christmas, if it falls on a weekday, is one in which we reluctantly return to work (hung over and brimming with less than good cheer). But in Britain, December 26th is a national holiday. The idea of an extra day off makes me jealous. I tried to tell Tom Jefferson that fighting that war against King George III would bite us in the butt one day. But did he listen? Nah! And this is why I have to go to work on December 26th and Heather gets to celebrate.

Aside from the good sense of the British people to grant themselves an extra day for celebration after Christmas, just what is the purpose of Boxing Day? Is it similar to the day after Christmas in America? That’s the day when all self-respecting Americans assemble at the crack of dawn to break down the doors of Macy’s and other well-known department stores in a quest to unload (um… exchange) Christmas gifts that no one in their right mind would want. We gather up the boxes from Aunt Mary and Uncle James, not to mention those from friends who should know better, and head for the exchange counters. Forgive me if this sounds crass. After all, it’s the thought that counts… not the actual gift. Right?

Well, maybe if you’re a character out of a Hallmark Movie! The rest of usalt-am482 know better. Seriously, how many pairs of mittens does one woman need? How many sweatshirts with sequined red-nosed reindeers? And – Lord have mercy! – how many cute headbands with antlers that flash bright red and green? (Guess I’ve just given away that my family is Red Neck Proud – you ought to see our trailer! It features a bare-assed Santa trying to shimmy down a fake chimney. What we lack in class, we make up for in creativity.)

Anyway, during our last Skype session, I asked my very proper British friend if Boxing Day was possibly just a ‘dump the junk’ holiday. Heather frowned and shook her head.

In spite of my pleas, she refused to enlighten me, telling me to “do your Mean teacherhomework and figure it out yourself!” There are times when Heather reminds me of my 5th grade teacher, Elsie Gudenhoeffer. “If you don’t know something, Katie, look it up! That’s what the Good Lord gave you a brain for.” I never did like Elsie Gudenhoeffer.

But I do like Heather, and so I got down on bended knee and called upon the God of All Earthly Knowledge.


He (it?) did not let me down.

What I learned is that Boxing Day is a holiday that in one form or another440px-Good_King_Wenceslas_10a has been observed since the Middle Ages. I also learned that December 26th was the day that the Feast of Saint Stephen was observed by the pious. Remember the old carol about Good King Wenceslas? According to the carol, Wenceslas went out into the harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant during the feast of Saint Stephen. I guess that’s what made him ‘good.’ Unlike me, he didn’t sit around after a huge feast, have a beer and watch some football (that’s soccer to you Brits). Nope, he went out in a blizzard to give aid and comfort to the poor. And now he has a dandy carol in his honor. Well done on him, I say!

If you’re wondering who Saint Stephen was, he was one of the early Christian martyrs. Charged by the early Church fathers with caring for widows and orphans, Stephen was stoned to death for his devotion to Christ.

One theory concerning the origins of Boxing Day has it that churches used to annually collect boxes of clothing and coin for the poor, and that the boxes were not to be distributed until the Feast of Saint Stephen.

As time passed, the custom changed, giving way to rewards of cash rendered to servants by their employers for good service throughout the year. I read that those of equal class exchanged presents on Christmas Day; but the lower classes received their presents from their employers the day after Christmas.

Interesting, huh? But here’s something else. After some time had passed, the holiday morphed from one of giving care to the poor into something called a Bank Holiday, meaning banks and most offices are officially closed.

And what do the Brits do on this holiday? Well, Heather would have me believe they drink tea, eat toast covered with marmite and celebrate the holiday with friends and family. Sounds pretty darned genteel, doesn’t it?

What Heather doesn’t know is that I found a photo that illustrates that the crafty Brits aren’t so different from their crazed American cousins on the day after Christmas.


Aw… this London photo almost looks like home.  If I didn’t’ know better, I might think this was the Super Wal-Mart about five miles up the road from our trailer park!  See, folks aren’t really all that different no matter where they live. The only difference between Brits and Americans is that Brits speak a lot prettier.  Okay, yes, they are better dressed – and  they are much more polite. But when it comes to duking it out in the department stores, I’d say our proper cousins from across the pond can give as good as they get!

Take that, Muhammad Ali!



Filed under Silly Stuff, Thoughts for Friday

48 responses to “What the Heck is Boxing Day?

  1. To me, Boxing day is a day of eating leftovers and going down to the shops to catch a bargain.

  2. I thought all my British friends carefully place their gifts back in the Boxes from which they came! Thank you for steering me right, Kate. We Americans …

    • Mark, you’re as bad as me! But now we know better, right? Hope you had a lovely Christmas. 🙂

    • Boxing Day is the day that our family, traditionally, take all of our gifts out of their display boxes and condense down the mountain of stuff that we got for Christmas so that we can transport it back home.

      The American tradition of heading to the post-Christmas sales seems to be growing in popularity here. You should have seen some of the people trying to clamber over little old ladies to grab themselves a bargain…. 🙂

      Hope you had a great Christmas, Mark ❤

  3. Boxing Day in Zambia used to be a day of resting from all the fun of the previous day. The drunks also slept out their hang overs. I am not sure how it is nowadays though.

    • I like the idea of a ‘resting day.’ 😀

    • Us Brits like to celebrate Christmas with quite a lot of alcohol and some use Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day as an excuse to have a three-day bender.

      Most folks use Boxing Day as a reason to visit the in-laws that you didn’t spend Christmas Day with, while others use it as a day to go shopping in the post-Christmas sales.

      Either way, it’s another public holiday, so we’re not complaining! 🙂

  4. Reblogged this on Odyssey of a Novice Writer and commented:

    The talented and gracious Heather B Costa invited me to guest blog on her site. Heather is English (I am not), and we have great fun together in figuring out just what the heck happened to the British language when the Pilgrims crossed the Atlantic so many hundreds of years ago. Anyway, Heather asked me to guest blog on her site because she was still caught up in Christmas holidays, particularly a holiday I had never heard of: Boxing Day. So, here is yours truly’s take on that lovely British holiday. I hope you enjoy.

    • Thank you so much for stepping in for me on Boxing Day and what a fabulous post you created! ❤

      When you come an visit in future years, I shall show you what our family traditionally does on Boxing Day. By the way, this also means that Connor and Molly would insist on using you as a climbing frame…. 🙂

  5. Bravo. Great post here Kate (and Heather). I did not know that Boxing Day wasn’t celebrated in the USA. Canada does. It’s seen as the after Christmas sales. Like getting rid of stock that didn’t sell before Christmas. Hope you both had a lovely one.
    🙂 ❤

    • Well, while Heather was rushing about looking for after Christmas bargains, yours truly has been watching football and engaging in… um… spirits to lift her spirits during the post Christmas season. Today I watched the Ravens extend their hopes into the post season playoffs… so that was a good and lovely thing. I hope you have a lovely Christmas, Staci!

    • Yep, Kate filled in for me with a great post while I went and grabbed myself some bargains in the sales! 🙂

      I also ate lots of leftover food from Christmas Day and am quite sick of the sight of cold turkey and ham now…. 🙂

      Hope you had a wonderful Christmas, Staci! ❤

  6. Bruce Goodman

    Not being British, nor American, nor Canadian, nor Australian – I would like to contradict you (politely of course) and say where I live it’s called Boxing Day and it simply means the day after Christmas. But that’s not what I want to contradict you about: “The only difference between Brits and Americans is that Brits speak a lot prettier. Okay, yes, they are better dressed – and they are much more polite.” I find Americans to be the politest, kindest people on the planet… so there!!!

    • Well, as an American, I say, VERY GOOD! 😀 I think most Americans are kind and generally polite, but we have a tendency to act like bulls in a china shop. We just rush in and think everyone wishes to be as outgoing and friendly as we are. Sometimes a little restraint is good. But, Bruce, thank you!

    • Hmmm, have you ever met Kate? 🙂

      I am joking of course, Kate is my dearest and closest friend and is the most wonderfully kind and caring person that I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. As for her dress sense, well…I wouldn’t know where to start on that one…. 🙂

      • Hey, girlfriend! As I recall, it was YOU during our last Skype session who was wearing that… um… interesting… sweater that lit up green and red and had some ridiculous animal on the front! And we won’t begin to discuss the… ah… tasteful Christmas gift you sent me! 😀 😀

      • You mean my reindeer sweater that lit up? That is the height of fashion, my dear!

        Admit it, you love the ‘tasteful’ Christmas present I sent you. I bet you’re wearing it now…. 🙂

  7. Good on you, Kate! We were invited to a Boxing Day party and I had no idea what it celebrated. Seems the UK and the US aren’t so far apart in terms of shopping but I’d like that extra holiday!

  8. Small point, Kate, but I know how you like to be accurate. Soccer is the name you Americans give to the game of football. What you call football, we British (I hate the word Brits) call American Football. Take off all the padding, and it’s rugby.

    • See, Heather – I will never master British \ Yank thing! 😄 Thanks, Keith!

      • Sigh, how many times have I explained these differences to you, Kate? Will you never learn? 🙂

        Keith is quite right, except that I call American Football ‘rugby for wusses’ 🙂

      • Can’t wait to introduce you to some Baltimore Ravens fans, Heather – and watch you explain about American Football being for ‘wusses.’ It’s bad enough I will have to defend your New York Yankee loving heart to Balto. Orioles fans… but to Ravens fans? It’s gonna get ugly! 😀 😀

      • Well to be fair, American Football is pretty much rugby with padding and helmets, so I think I actually have a fair point. Perhaps the Ravens fans might not appreciate that though…. 🙂

        And who would want to hurt a face as sweet and innocent as mine? You’ll protect me, won’t you? 🙂

  9. BOxing Day means the lady of the house has a day off from cooking, the cold turkey leftover, porkpie and salad is the order of the day and if a person has any sense they steer clear of the shops, and sales. Believe it or not, if we get snow in the Christmas period it most likely happens 26th December, it did this year!

  10. Adan Ramie

    Great post, Kate! It’s only 5AM, and I’ve already learned something. I have to confess: I thought it had something to do with the sport, too. Good to know that I was wrong.

  11. Kate and Heather, I think you two have to be two of my most favourite people i’ve met via blogging. I would LOVE to be a fly on the wall of some of your skype convos.

    My mum always told me it was when you gave poople like the Postman and the policeman etc a box of goodies for christmas. Wikipedia sort of agrees with me; it says the following.

    “Various competing theories for the origins of the term boxing day circulate in popular culture, none of which are definitive.[3] However, the Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations of the term as being from England in the 1830s, defining it as ‘the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box’.[4]

    The term Christmas-box, meanwhile, dates back to the seventeenth century, and amongst other things meant

    A present or gratuity given at Christmas: in Great Britain, usually confined to gratuities given to those who are supposed to have a vague claim upon the donor for services rendered to him as one of the general public by whom they are employed and paid, or as a customer of their legal employer; the undefined theory being that as they have done offices for this person, for which he has not directly paid them, some direct acknowledgement is becoming at Christmas.”

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