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The Origins of Boxing Day

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Boxing Day is a British celebration held just after Christmas. The only problem is, nobody is certain why it’s called Boxing Day.

The Name

There is general, but not total, agreement that the name of ‘Boxing’ Day refers to Christmas Boxes given by well off families to poorer ones as presents on the day after Christmas; the problem is which boxes, and who have them. Some believe the name originated with collections made in churches on Christmas Day for distribution to the poor, while other prefer Christmas boxes given to servants when they took time off on the day following Christmas (they’d have been busy the day before serving the family). As we’re talking about Christmas in the nineteenth century, there is a Dickens reference: he wrote one of the earliest extant uses of the phrase in his Pickwick Papers. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the term Boxing Day to 1833, when the practice of giving Christmas boxes was fading.

The day has become associated with sport, although there is no connection with the name and the sport of boxing.

The Date

The vagueness of the derivation helps explain why there is a debate over when Boxing Day really is. Popular usage in Britain today puts Boxing day on the 26th of December, the day after Christmas, but there has been a debate about whether the name Boxing Day really should be applied to the 27th or 28th of December if the ‘day after Christmas’ public holiday has been held there because the 26th fell on a weekend.
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