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Does Boxing Day Have Anything to Do with Boxing?

Boxing Day, boxes

In the US, the word boxing usually refers to two athletes stepping into a padded ring, each having the intention of knocking the other off his feet.

Also in the US, the holiday known as Boxing Day is generally obscure. In Britain, the celebration is ubiquitous. Let’s spend a minute with the origin of the box in the pugilistic sense of boxing. The brutal sport most likely gets its name from the Germanic word boke, “a blow.” Rest assured that the day after Christmas has nothing to do with bopping friends and family on the head.

Dating back to the Middle Ages, Boxing Day has been associated with the tradition of bestowing gifts upon employees or those in need.

There are different folk etymologies regarding how Boxing Day got its name. A common version centers on the Christmas box, or a clay box that was once commonly found in artisan shops in England. Donations to workers would be placed inside. After Christmas, the box would be broken. The workers in the shop would divvy up the contents.

In a similar tradition, churches would collect donations in a designated box. The charity would then be distributed to the less fortunate.

In modern times, Boxing Day in some places has actually become associated with sporting events. For example, in some of the African Commonwealth nations, prize-fighting contests are held on Boxing Day. The day has gained commercial associations, similar to Black Friday.

66 Comments

  1. Me-or-I -  January 14, 2016 - 5:52 am

    As a child being brought up in England in the 60′s, we were taught it was called Boxing Day as in the times of Dickens as in The Christmas Carol, most people went out walking on the day after Christmas and Students would catty samll boxes with a slot in on a short pole which they would hold out to the walkers who would put a few coins in. The money would be given as alms to the poor.
    So now you all know.
    Have a good year

    Reply
    • devon -  January 21, 2016 - 8:17 am

      that touched my heart

      Reply
  2. Abigail Wilson -  December 28, 2015 - 12:19 am

    I was taught that Boxing Day was, in the olden days, when the masters of the houses would give their servants the boxes in which their presents from the previous day came.

    Reply
  3. Vincent Pisani -  December 26, 2015 - 2:51 am

    I believe that the original name is Box-In day, and some idiots say boxing instead of box-in!!!!

    Reply
    • Jeff -  January 5, 2016 - 5:36 am

      Yeah … those idiots … seems to be a lot of that going around. Lighten-up moron.

      Reply
    • kakai valeria -  January 22, 2016 - 11:56 pm

      no one has changed anything,it is what every nation believes in n it is not right to abuse other peoples opinion. u didnt know its existence either not until to date that u found just like we did. please style up

      Reply
  4. DeGriffe -  January 4, 2015 - 11:26 am

    The day is for boxing up Christmas; restoring the household to pre-holiday utility, then back to work.

    Reply
    • Jack -  December 29, 2015 - 1:27 pm

      Boxing is brutal? How about the author refrain from interjecting his or her opinion and stick to explaining the origin of the holiday?

      Reply
      • K. Jaye -  December 31, 2015 - 5:28 pm

        Yes boxing is brutal. When it is done with no protection for the head, and blows to the head are allowed, it can cause permanent brain injuries. The whole point of the game is to get a “knock out” which means the other man is unconscious. What is not brutal about that? Any smart person should save their brain and enjoy other sports. Not football, either.

        Reply
  5. DeGriffe -  January 2, 2015 - 5:51 am

    Nothing to do with gifts, mates: there is a great volume of decorations and serving dishes, often somewhat fragile, and often also heirlooms of some value, which are used or displayed at no other time of the year. The day after the fête finds their use and display emotionally unwelcome, and promptness is wanted in securing them. Boxing them up for safekeeping until the holiday rolls round next year is no small task; it is generally understood and agreed that the next day will find each household being assiduously restored to pre-holiday order, and the resumption of regular business delayed so to do. The easy frivolity of modern times has allowed us to forget the press to get back to the six or six-and-a-half day work week and the reality that the post holiday clean-up required a plan to get it accomplished.

    Reply
  6. Thompson -  December 28, 2014 - 10:04 am

    checked goggle….u wll find out more interesting stuff abt boxing day…

    Reply
    • zdh -  January 5, 2015 - 8:00 pm

      I agree with u.

      Reply
      • higklmnop -  December 26, 2015 - 4:03 pm

        Like they always say; “Google is the best policy!”

        Reply
  7. Marienne Litolff -  February 7, 2014 - 10:28 pm

    I like to think that Boxing Day is when, on the day after Christmas, servants were given that day off to spend with their own families and that the master of the house would give his servants gifts in boxes to be opened on their day off.
    What this indicates is that such masters, who were only lucky to be so, had some respect and concern for their servants.

    Reply
    • Len Rosendahl -  December 26, 2014 - 7:35 pm

      Boxing Day is the day after Christmas when you place your gifts back in their boxes so that they can be returned

      Reply
    • Stephen -  December 26, 2014 - 10:16 pm

      I love your idea of what Boxing Day is all about Marienne!! I know you said “I like to think…”, but honestly I’ve never heard a better meaning of Boxing Day described any better or with a better idea!! Your statement is stated in such a way that it makes this holiday clearly understood, as well as adding honor, respect, & a ton of emotions!! Great Explanation, even if it’s not the ‘official’ meaning!!!

      Reply
    • Adam Gunn -  January 2, 2015 - 9:24 am

      Back in the “olden” days, I doubt the servants were given the day off. Work was expected, at least six days a week, often twelve hours or more. It would not have occurred to the aristocracy to give those less better born time off for anything. Sometimes, not even Christmas day. For examples, see all of Dickens, especially A Christmas Carol.

      Reply
      • Daniel Elkington -  January 5, 2015 - 5:19 am

        Why do people always assume the ‘aristocracy’ were all evil. For goodness sakes man, the first socialists were aristocrats. The guy who invented the NHS was a landowner. The chap on the cabinet that forced the Beveridge report was George Orwell’s Boss, fondly known as BB in the office!

        William Beveridge, 1st Baron Beveridge (a hereditary peer) was the chap that came up with the welfare state.

        Read some history and get over yourself!

        Reply
        • SocialismIsSlavery -  December 26, 2015 - 10:33 am

          Pointing out that they were socialists who created the welfare state hardly refutes their being evil, in as much as socialism and the welfare state are Evil concepts, both in theory and even more so in practice.

          Reply
          • elissaf -  January 3, 2016 - 6:20 pm

            *yawn* The way modern currency and interest works, money earns money. Taxation on wealth simply redistributes some of the unearned “profit” that gushes upwards, and trickles it back down to those in need.

            Calling we who think the needy should not be forgotten “evil”, while applauding those who “earn” billions while sleeping or on the crapper, is backwards thinking.

            There IS reason why the poor hate the greedy.

          • James -  January 6, 2016 - 1:52 am

            Right you are about socialism. And therefore you will be wanting to repay us for your socialized schooling (or did your parents refrain and send you to private school from the start?). If you are robbed you will not want to avail yourselves of the socialized security crew (police) and if your house burns, you will not be using the socialized fire suppression service.

            Socialism does not harm the wealthy and powerful. In fact they could not thrive so well if the poor were homeless and starving. Homeless people make terrible employees! Indeed there may be evils in the application of it, people in the mid range may be unfairly harmed at times. Nevertheless, anybody who is doing well would be doing as well without an equitable system for keeping the lower class at subsistence or above.

        • car -  January 2, 2016 - 3:48 am

          Reminder to self don’t get in argument with daniel.

          Reply
  8. MINECRAFT STINKS -  January 17, 2014 - 6:44 pm

    LOL! its more like mineCRAP :/

    Reply
    • Majella -  December 26, 2014 - 3:37 am

      minecraft is awesome!!!

      Reply
      • Saber -  January 5, 2015 - 8:01 pm

        I don’t really like minecraft

        Reply
  9. Lavosse -  January 13, 2014 - 6:08 pm

    @Leoperidot
    Yes! I get that too. Write “Favourite” and everyone looks at you weirdly…. I will, at one point in my life, live in Britain so that finally when I walk outside speaking with a Londoner accent my friends don’t think that I’m crazy.

    Reply
  10. An Awesome Minecrafter -  January 11, 2014 - 5:40 am

    “Jarod – January 7, 2014 – 11:23 am

    I dont like boxing I like minecraft >:3″

    Ha ha! Me too.

    If anyone needs help with animal taming and/or breeding in Minecraft, I can help you.

    Reply
  11. Adex -  January 11, 2014 - 12:21 am

    am Nigerian. good to learn this, though it is known before, but for some its odd. thanks for enlightenment.

    Reply
  12. Jarod -  January 7, 2014 - 11:23 am

    I dont like boxing I like minecraft >:3

    Reply
    • abbykimchi -  January 11, 2016 - 3:15 pm

      minecraft enslaves you man

      Reply
  13. Mary -  January 2, 2014 - 11:39 am

    I am so excited to have learned the true meaningng of boxing day since it took over 50 yes to even hear of it. Probably through Dictionary.com. but I’m surely going to teach my 9 ur old granddaughter/best friend all that I’ve learned about it. And many other things off this site. I’ve been using this site for yrs I’m one to sit and read a dictionary lol so finally I’ve delvedcdeeoer and the payoff to dictionary.com ius tremendous thank you for all the enlightenment! Mary

    Reply
    • maryannjones -  December 27, 2014 - 8:30 pm

      Mary..
      I know..me too! I like to read dictionaries and learn new words. I always use dictionary.com for thesaurus and dictionary purposes. I write all the time when im using my smartphone, and I need access to thesaurus/dictionary. Of course, I prefer my hard cover dictionary along with my hard cover Roget’s expanded thesaurus because they have way more entries, but still..Dictionary.com suffices.

      Reply
    • car -  January 2, 2016 - 3:57 am

      Mary Mary Mary.
      Love your warmth and energy.
      I get the feeling your granddaughter is very lucky girl.

      Reply
  14. leoperidot -  December 30, 2013 - 6:06 pm

    I’m American, but I really don’t like to think of myself as American. I read about many other cultures, and sometimes even wish I was part of them, because a lot of times they seem a lot better than my country. (I sometimes use UK spelling and grammar—and get dinged by my teachers for spelling things ‘incorrectly’. I desperately wish I was from England instead of America!) I could rant forever about the things that make me angry about America (‘melting pot’ for one, which is disrespect labelling itself as respect), but one thing that always makes me cringe is when people say ‘Boxing Day is for boxing up presents you don’t want to return to the stores.’ or ‘Boxing Day is for boxing up presents to put in the attic/basement/closet/cellar/shed/garage to regift next year.’ UGH! I always want to tell them that that is a travesty and Boxing Day is for a much nobler purpose (giving gifts to the poor) than boxing up things you don’t want. It is selfish to think of Boxing Day like that.

    Reply
    • maryannjones -  December 27, 2014 - 8:32 pm

      Lol.

      Reply
    • Paula -  January 1, 2015 - 2:55 pm

      I think the answers about Boxing Day being the day to return gifts were in jest.

      Reply
    • Roberto -  December 31, 2015 - 9:13 am

      @leoperidot–One thing you do have in America is personal freedom. If you are so disillusioned with the U.S. then put shoe leather on your convictions and move to the UK. I say this with no malice or anger, but bewilderment. If you are unhappy, make a change. America embraces change and everyone is free to reinvent themselves at any time. Make your move, mate!

      Reply
      • James -  January 6, 2016 - 2:04 am

        That is the greatest thing about America. In our ‘great’ nation – we have much wrong with us but you could even have a communist mini-society. Build either a church or a corporation, set by-laws and buy up some land to incorporate your own town. If that’s what you want! You can’t legally do a capitalist society inside of a communist, not without special dispensation!

        But being disaffected, I understand. Moved to Arizona, in a bad mood (grief) and met a lot of people who were good at intimidation, so they obligingly reflected my negativity “squared and cubed.” They were also pretty good with being scofflaws, hoods, etc. Made for a bad string of years, until I calmed down and we experienced detente.

        The boy should move. Maybe not to Britain, move anywhere and get a new start. If he goes to Britain he may be disappointed. Better to move somewhere that he thinks might or might not be better.

        Reply
    • abbykimchi -  January 11, 2016 - 3:16 pm

      why don’t you just move to England when you grow up?

      Reply
  15. Bcroix -  December 28, 2013 - 9:51 am

    In Canada, because of our connection to Britain, boxing day is an official holiday. Boxing day sales are where Canadians get the best prices of the year on many items, especially on electronics. Most Canadians don’t have a clue of the holiday’s origins. Thanks for enlightening us!

    Reply
    • J Miller -  December 30, 2014 - 3:56 pm

      Boxing Day is only a statutory holiday in Ontario (and, apparently, also for federally regulated workers across Canada), not in the other provinces.

      That said, many employers give their employees the day off, and Boxing Day is enshrined as a holiday in many labour agreements.

      Reply
  16. Laurie -  December 27, 2013 - 12:06 pm

    on further historical study, we find Christmas is a pagan holiday, totally commercialized now, and the Christmas tree was originally a phallic symbol. Oy, what ridiculous traditions we have buried ourselves in to take our eyes off the Lord! (and make fortunes for the greedy)

    Reply
    • Grinzalot2 -  December 26, 2014 - 1:17 pm

      You choose to believe myths about Christmas in general and the Christmas tree in particular. Applied to the symbolism of the cross – you’d reject that, too, as based in the Roman execution. Minimal research reveals that greenery was brought indoors for the winter solstice to adorn pyramid shapes in Egypt AND in Europe. Using an evergreen tree to celebrate the day chosen as Jesus’ birthday is a rational way of expressing gratitude for Him who died upon THE tree for us – especially in the pine forests of Germany.

      Reply
    • Attenuation -  December 27, 2014 - 12:45 am

      Cannot agree more with the writer.

      Reply
  17. bholland -  December 27, 2013 - 6:14 am

    What’s with all the screwy dates?

    Reply
  18. wolf tamer and tree puncher -  December 26, 2013 - 1:37 am

    Thanks! I’ve always wondered why it was called Boxing Day. Now I know! Happy Boxing Day! (Do you even say that, anyway?) I have a day off from school, too…to play with my Christmas presents. :)

    Reply
  19. Pete -  January 5, 2011 - 2:52 am

    Hi Jack, Im kevin Not Pete

    Reply
  20. Pete -  January 5, 2011 - 2:51 am

    Hi Jack, Im Pete

    Reply
  21. ESL -  January 4, 2011 - 10:23 pm

    What a great information! My idea of boxing was limited to people hitting each other.

    Reply
  22. sam -  January 2, 2011 - 2:56 pm

    i thought it was when you are done and used to all your new presents and now to find a place to put them

    Reply
  23. jazzieb -  January 1, 2011 - 8:40 pm

    i really don’t care about boxing and i think that having a boxing day isn’t okay cus if everyone knew about this we would have to umm be careful cus everyone would start fighting and i wouldent enjoy that and hiiiii jack im michelle

    Reply
  24. Lynx -  December 27, 2010 - 9:32 pm

    I was told when I was a child that the term Boxing Day referred to the day after Christmas, when the leftovers from the Christmas feast were divided out into boxes to be given to the servants since there was no refrigeration in which to store the food. It was an opportunity for the servants and staff to have a day off with a feast since most of them were working for the lord of the manor on Christmas day.
    In later years this practice was extended to take in the poor of the parrishes, and boxes would be dropped at their doors anonymously. It became more than just food, since old clothing and belongings that had been replaced with new could be passed on.

    Reply
  25. mark -  December 26, 2010 - 7:07 pm

    Hi I’m Jack

    Reply
  26. briana -  December 26, 2010 - 5:56 pm

    gasp! i always wanted to know what went on during Boxing Day, & now i know.. maybe my daughter & i will start celebrating it instead of Christmas- it’s gotten too corporal for my liking, anyways, & it’s always good to extend outwards to other cultures.

    Reply
  27. Cyberquill -  December 26, 2010 - 4:57 pm

    It’s called Boxing Day because people put their Christmas presents back into the boxes to be stored in the attic and given to someone else next year.

    Reply
  28. Martch -  December 26, 2010 - 2:53 pm

    Wait, Black Friday? What is Black Friday about actually?

    Reply
    • James -  January 6, 2016 - 2:07 am

      Black friday is the day after Thanksgiving when businesses have huge sales that push them out of loss and into profit for the year (out of the red, into the black, because they write losses in red, and profits in black.)

      Reply
    • James -  January 6, 2016 - 2:07 am

      Black friday is the day after Thanksgiving when businesses have huge sales that push them out of loss and into profit for the year (out of the red, into the black, because they write losses in red, and profits in black.)

      So, that’s really not a big thing, just a simple little sale day.

      Reply
  29. Sam -  December 26, 2010 - 2:51 pm

    Thx. It is always good to know….

    Reply
  30. Tom -  December 26, 2010 - 1:56 pm

    I have also heard that the day originated from the fact that servants in English households were expected to serve the family on Christmas Day. In return for working on Christmas they were given the following day off to spend with their own families. The master of the house would give his servants gifts in boxes to be opened on their day off. Thus, the term boxing day.

    Reply
    • Adam Gunn -  January 2, 2015 - 9:27 am

      Back in the “olden” days, I doubt the servants were given the day off. Work was expected, at least six days a week, often twelve hours or more. It would not have occurred to the aristocracy to give those less better born time off for anything. Sometimes, not even Christmas day. For examples, see all of Dickens, especially A Christmas Carol.

      Reply
  31. meerschaum -  December 26, 2010 - 11:52 am

    boxing day and see how it turns out…

    Reply
  32. cbgirl -  December 26, 2010 - 10:00 am

    Thank you, I have always wanted to know this!

    Reply

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