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article imageBoxing Day's origins for the uninformed

By Karen Graham     Dec 26, 2015 in World
Being American, Boxing Day was something marked on the calendar simply as "Boxing Day - Canada." So I, like most other people I knew assumed it was some kind of special day celebrated by Canadians.
Like many holidays around the world, there is often a long history behind the reason they are celebrated and Boxing Day is one such day.
More than just a day to go shopping for after-Christmas sales, it is also a day spent in the closeness and warmth of family and friends, nibbling on leftovers from that Christmas meal. But there is another, more serious side to Boxing Day, and that is what's unusual about this holiday.
What is Boxing Day?
"Boxing Day" gets its name from the tradition of giving out "Christmas Boxes," gifts of money or goods given to tradespeople and servants for good and reliable service provided through the year. On this day, after taking care of a family's needs on Christmas day, the servants were given the day off to celebrate with their own families, and a box with gifts, a bonus and sometimes, leftover food to take home.
Boxing Day is also St. Stephen's Day. St. Stephen is a little-known saint who gained fame by being the first Christian martyred for his faith. He was stoned to death shortly after Christ's crucifixion. Remember the Christmas song Good King Wenceslas? St. Stephen is mentioned in the song.
Boxing Day or St. Stephen's Day is a secular and religious holiday, and is celebrated in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and other Commonwealth countries around the world. In England, Boxing Day is a bank holiday, so with Boxing Day being on Saturday, Monday is the substitute bank holiday.
Boxing Day crowds shopping at the Toronto Eaton Centre in Canada  2007.
Boxing Day crowds shopping at the Toronto Eaton Centre in Canada, 2007.
Just like "Black Friday" in the U.S., Boxing Day is a huge shopping day for retailers, not only for holding sales with drastic reductions available but for people returning gifts. Some sales are held for a whole week, often starting a few days before Christmas.
Where did the Boxing Day Tradition come from?
Boxing Day wasn't recognized in popular culture until the 1830s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It is definitely considered to be of British origin, and a day to give to the less fortunate, but when it comes to the day's earlier origins, heated debates still go on.
Wrenboys on St. Stephen s Day in Dingle  Ireland.
Wrenboys on St. Stephen's Day in Dingle, Ireland.
National Library of Ireland on The Commons
If we look at the European tradition associated with Boxing Day, we can go further back in history to at least the Middle Ages, when giving money or other goods to the needy was customary. So you see, as a charitable holiday tradition, all of us celebrate our own Boxing Day, even though we may not call it that.
It is suggested that the Boxing Day tradition actually started during the early Christian era when churches placed metal boxes outside the church to collect money for the needy. The Alms boxes were opened on St. Stephen's Day. This suggested reason behind Boxing Day is the best one and is in line with what most of us do today, wherever we live. We all, in our own way, remember those who are less fortunate, and that's the way it should be on Boxing Day.
More about Boxing day, day after christmas, christmas boxes, st stephens day, money for the poor
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