Boxing Day

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Boxing Day is a bank or public holiday that occurs on 26 December, or the first or second weekday after Christmas Day, depending on national or regional laws. It is observed in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and in some Commonwealth nations. In South Africa, the public holiday on 26 December is called Day of Goodwill, and in Ireland St Stephen's Day or the Day of the Wren (Irish: Lá an Dreoilín).

Although the same legislation – the Bank Holidays Act 1871 – originally established the bank holidays throughout the UK, the day after Christmas was defined as Boxing Day in England, Scotland and Wales, and the feast day of St Stephen in Ireland.[1] A 'substitute bank holiday in place of 26 December' is only possible in Northern Ireland, reflecting the legal difference in that St. Stephen's Day does not automatically shift to the Monday in the same way as Boxing Day.

In Canada, Boxing Day is listed in the Canada Labour Code as an optional holiday. Only the province of Ontario has made it a statutory holiday where all workers receive time off with pay.[2]



The exact etymology of the term "boxing" is unclear and there are several competing theories, none of which are definitive.[3] The tradition has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions. The European tradition has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown and there are some claims that it goes back to the late Roman/early Christian era; metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen.[4]

In the UK, it certainly became a custom of the nineteenth-century Victorians for tradesmen to collect their "Christmas boxes" or gifts on the day after Christmas in return for good and reliable service throughout the year.[5] Another possibility is that the name derives from an old English tradition: in exchange for ensuring that wealthy landowners' Christmases ran smoothly, their servants were allowed to take the 26th off to visit their families. The employers gave each servant a box containing gifts and bonuses (and sometimes leftover food). In addition, around the 1800s, churches opened their alms boxes (boxes where people place monetary donations) and distributed the contents to the poor.

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