Boxing Day

"Christmas box" redirects here. For the genus of shrubs, see Sarcococca. For other uses, see Boxing Day (disambiguation).
Boxing Day
Observed by Commonwealth nations
Type Bank holiday, public holiday
Date 26 December, 27 December
Frequency Annual
Related to St. Stephen's Day
Day of Goodwill
Second Day of Christmastide

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated on the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would traditionally receive gifts known as a "Christmas box" from their masters, employers or customers,[1] in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth nations. Boxing Day occurs on 26 December, although the attached bank holiday or public holiday may take place either on that day or a day later.

In the liturgical calendar of Western Christianity, Boxing Day is the second day of Christmastide,[2] and also St. Stephen's Day.[3] In some European countries, notably Germany, Poland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, 26 December is celebrated as a Second Christmas Day.[4]

Various competing theories for the origins of the term circulate in popular culture, none of which are definitive.[5] The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations 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".[6]

The term "Christmas-box" dates back to the 17th century, and among 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.[7]

In Britain, it was a custom for tradespeople to collect "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.[8] This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys' diary entry for 19 December 1663.[9] This custom is linked to an older English tradition: since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food.

The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It is believed to be in reference to the Alms Box placed in areas of worship to collect donations to the poor. Also, it may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen,[10] which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.


Boxing Day is a secular holiday that is traditionally celebrated on 26 December, the day after Christmas, or the following day should the 26th be a Sunday. 26 December is also St. Stephen's Day, a religious holiday.[11][12][13] When 26 December falls on the weekend (Saturday or Sunday), the Boxing Day public holiday is moved to the following day (27 December). In the UK, Boxing Day is a bank holiday. On the occasion when Christmas Day is on a Saturday, the following Monday is Boxing Day and Tuesday the substitute bank holiday for Christmas Day.

In Scotland, Boxing Day has been specified as an additional bank holiday since 1974,[14] by Royal Proclamation under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971.[15]

In Ireland – when the island as a whole was part of the United Kingdom – the Bank Holidays Act 1871 established the feast day of St. Stephen as a non-movable public holiday on 26 December. Following partition in 1920, Northern Ireland reverted to the British name, Boxing Day.

In Australia, Boxing Day is a federal public holiday. The Australian state of South Australia instead observes a public holiday known as Proclamation Day on the first weekday after Christmas Day or the Christmas Day holiday.[16]

In New Zealand, Boxing Day is a statutory holiday; penalty rates and lieu time are provided to employees who work on Boxing Day.

In Canada, Boxing Day is a federal statutory holiday. Government offices, banks and post offices/delivery are closed. In some Canadian provinces, Boxing Day is a statutory holiday[17] that is always celebrated on 26 December. In Canadian provinces where Boxing Day was a statutory holiday, and it falls on a Saturday or Sunday, compensation days are given in the following week.[17]

In the United States, 26 December is given as a holiday to state employees in some, mainly southern, states: Kansas,[18] Kentucky,[19] North Carolina,[20] South Carolina,[21][22] and Texas[23] but it is not known as Boxing Day. On December 5, 1996, Massachusetts Gov. William F. Weld declared 26 December as Boxing Day in Massachusetts, in response to the efforts of a local coalition of British citizens to "transport the English tradition to the United States",[24] but not as an employee holiday.


Boxing Day crowds shopping at the Toronto Eaton Centre in Canada, 2007

In the UK,[25] Canada,[26] Australia,[27] and New Zealand,[28] Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, much like Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) in the United States. Boxing Day sales are common in Canada. It is a time when shops hold sales often with dramatic price reductions. For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest revenue. In the UK in 2009 it was estimated that up to 12 million shoppers appeared at the sales (a rise of almost 20% compared to 2008, although this was also affected by the fact that the VAT was about to revert to 17.5% from 1 January, following the temporary reduction to 15%).[29]

Many retailers open very early (typically 5 am or even earlier) and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. It is not uncommon for long queues to form early in the morning of 26 December, hours before the opening of shops holding the big sales, especially at big-box consumer electronics retailers.[26] Many stores have a limited quantity of big draw or deeply discounted items.[30] Because of the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, many choose to stay at home and avoid the hectic shopping experience. The local media often cover the event, mentioning how early the shoppers began queuing up, and showing video of shoppers queuing and later leaving with their purchased items.[31] Many retailers have implemented practices aimed at managing large numbers of shoppers. They may limit entrances, restrict the number of patrons in a store at a time, provide tickets to people at the head of the queue to guarantee them a hot ticket item or canvass queued-up shoppers to inform them of inventory limitations.[30]

In recent years, retailers have expanded deals to "Boxing Week". While Boxing Day is 26 December, many retailers will run the sales for several days before or after 26 December, often up to New Year's Eve. Notably, in the recession of late 2008, a record number of retailers were holding early promotions due to a weak economy.[32] Canada's Boxing Day has often been compared with the American Super Saturday (the Saturday before Christmas) and Black Friday. From 2009 onward Black Friday deals become more prominent among Canadian retailers to discourage shoppers from crossing the border to the USA when the Canadian and USA dollars was close to parity, and this has lessened the appeal of Boxing Day in Canada somewhat as it was overtaken by Black Friday in terms of sales in 2013.[33] Boxing Day is not and has never been a shopping holiday in the USA.

In some areas of Canada, particularly in Atlantic Canada and parts of Northern Ontario, most retailers are prohibited from opening on Boxing Day, either by provincial law or by municipal bylaw, or instead by informal agreement among major retailers to provide a day of relaxation following Christmas Day. In these areas, sales otherwise scheduled for 26 December are moved to the 27th.[34][35] The city council of Greater Sudbury, Ontario, which was the largest city in Canada to maintain this restriction as of the early 2010s, formally repealed its store hours bylaw on 9 December 2014.[36]

In 2009, many retailers with both online and High Street stores launched their online sales on Christmas Eve and their High Street sales on Boxing Day.[37][38]


Boxing Day Meet of the Blencathra Foxhounds in Keswick, 1962

In the United Kingdom, it is traditional for both top-tier football leagues in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the lower ones, as well as the rugby leagues, to hold a full programme of football and rugby union matches on Boxing Day. Originally, matches on Boxing Day were played against local rivals to avoid teams and their fans having to travel a long distance to an away game on the day after Christmas Day. Prior to the formation of leagues, a number of rugby fixtures took place on Boxing Day each year, notably Llanelli v London Welsh and Leicester v The Barbarians.

In Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, Test cricket matches are played on Boxing Day.

In Australia, the first day of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race are on Boxing Day.

In horse racing, there is the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey, England. It is the second most prestigious chase in Britain, after the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Boxing Day is one of the main days in the hunting calendar for hunts in the UK and US, with most hunts (both mounted foxhound or harrier packs and foot packs of beagles or bassets) holding meets, often in town or village centres.[39]

Several ice hockey contests are associated with the day. The IIHF World U20 Championship typically begins on 26 December, while the Spengler Cup also begins on 26 December in Davos, Switzerland; the Spengler Cup competition includes HC Davos, Team Canada, and other top European Hockey teams. The National Hockey League traditionally had close to a full slate of games (10 were played in 2011[40]), following the league-wide days off given for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. However, the 2013 collective bargaining agreement (which followed a lock-out) extended the league mandate of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off to include Boxing Day, except when it falls on a Saturday, in which case the league can choose to make 23 December a league-wide off day instead for that year.[41] In some African Commonwealth nations, particularly Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania, prize fighting contests are held on Boxing Day. This practice has also been followed for decades in Guyana and Italy.[42]

A notable tradition in Sweden is Annandagsbandy, which formerly marked the start of the bandy season and always draws large crowds. Games traditionally begin at 1:15 pm.[43]


  1. Parley, Peter (pseud.) (1838). Tales about Christmas. pp. 323–8. Retrieved 26 December 2011.
  2. "Meghalaya celebrates Boxing Day". The Statesman. 26 December 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2015. Boxing Day - December 26 - is the feast day of Saint Stephen and is also called St. Stephen's Day. Boxing Day got its name because it was the tradition for employers to give a Christmas gift to their staff on that day -- a Christmas box. Boxing Day is also part of the 12 days of Christmas tradition and is officially classed as the second day of Christmastide.
  3. Senn, Frank C. (2012). Introduction to Christian Liturgy. Fortress Press. p. 103. ISBN 9781451424331.
  4. Brown, Cameron (28 August 2006). Christmas Facts, Figures & Fun: Facts, Figures and Fun. p. 21. ISBN 9781904332275.
  5. " Boxing Day Origins".
  6. "Boxing-day, n.", OED Online, 1st ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1887).
  7. "Christmas-box, n.", OED Online, 1st edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1889), sense 3.
  8. Encyclopædia Britannica, 1953 "Boxing day"
  9. "Saturday 19 December 1663 (Pepys' Diary)". Retrieved 26 December 2010.
  10. Collins, 2003, p. 38.
  11. American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition – 'Boxing Day'
  12. Oxford English
  13. "BBC Radio 4 schedule, 3 December 2004". 17 November 2004. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  14. "London Gazette, 18 October 1974". 18 October 1974. Retrieved 26 December 2010.
  15. "Bank Holidays in Scotland - Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  16. Public Holidays
  17. 1 2 Manitoba Employment Standards Branch (27 November 2009). "Fact Sheet". Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  18. "Holidays for State of Kansas Executive Branch Employees". Department of Administration. Topeka, KA: State of Kansas. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  19. "State Holidays". Kentucky Personnel Cabinet. Commonwealth of Kentucky. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  20. "2014 Holiday Schedule" (PDF). Office of State Human Resources. Raleigh, NC: State of North Carolina. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2 April 2014. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  21. "South Carolina Code of Laws - Title 53 - Sundays, Holidays and Other Special Days". Legislative Services Agency. Columbia, SC: State of South Carolina. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  22. "South Carolina Legal Holiday Laws".
  23. "Official Texas State Holidays". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Austin TX. Retrieved 8 October 2014.
  24. "Massachusetts celebrates Boxing Day", Associated Press, Sun-Journal, Lewiston, Maine, December 26, 1996.
  25. Terry Kirby (27 December 2006). "Boxing Day sales soar as shoppers flock to malls". The Independent. London. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  26. 1 2 News Staff (26 December 2005). "Boxing Day expected to rake in $1.8 billion". Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  27. "Boxing Day sales to top $2bn: retailers". Special Broadcasting Service. 26 December 2014. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  28. "Boxing Day still big for bargain hunters despite pre-christmas retail sales". Stuff. 21 December 2015. Retrieved 22 December 2015.
  29. "Boxing Day sales attract 'record' number of shoppers". BBC News. 28 December 2009. Retrieved 26 December 2010.
  30. 1 2 Ashleigh Patterson (25 December 2007). "How to become a Boxing Day shopping pro". Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  31. (26 December 2007). "Boxing Day begins with early rush of bargain hunters". Archived from the original on 6 January 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  32. News Staff (21 December 2008). "Boxing Day comes early as shoppers search for deals". Archived from the original on 6 January 2012. Retrieved 17 December 2009.
  33. (22 December 2007). "Boxing Day, The Debate Continues". Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  34. The Canadian Press (26 December 2009). "Boxing Day madness: shoppers descend on stores looking for deals". Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  35. "Council repeals Sudbury's store hours bylaw". Sudbury Star, 10 December 2014.
  36. IMRG (22 December 2009). "Many retailers' sales to start on Christmas Eve". Retrieved 22 December 2009.
  37. Telegraph (22 December 2009). "Boxing Day sales start on Christmas Eve". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
  38. "Hundreds of thousands turn out for Boxing Day hunts". The Daily Telegraph. London. 26 December 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2014.
  39. "NHL Hockey Schedule for December 26, 2011". Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  40. "National Hockey League CBA" (PDF). National Hockey League. p. 101—not digital page 101 but the printed 101. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  41. Millman, Joel (28 December 2009). "Season's Beatings: 'Boxing Day' Takes a Pugilistic Turn". The Wall Street Journal (Asia ed.). Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  42. Rosqvist, Berndt (22 December 2003). "Festligt och fullsatt på stora bandydagen" [Festive and packed with great bandy day]. Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 4 February 2010.

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