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In most countries, Christmas begins and ends on 25th December. But in England and other Commonwealth nations, the good times roll on into the next day, known as Boxing Day. Writer Cat Allen shares some traditions and memories from her childhood.
Text by: Cat Allen
Country: England

eing from England, I wrongly assumed that everyone celebrated Boxing Day, 26th December, and that it was as much a celebration as Christmas Day itself.

So you can imagine my surprise when I asked one of my American friends how he spent the day, and his reply was: “When’s Boxing Day?”

The name “Boxing Day” originates from England, referencing the days when workers would receive a Christmas box from their employers as a thanks for their services and hard work, like a bonus. There is also a theory that it refers to the fact that servants would work on 25th December, and so they would have to wait until the day after to celebrate Christmas with their families. On this day, workers would be given boxes containing money and presents and usually leftover food from their masters’ Christmas feasts.

Boxing Day in England is a bank holiday, when banks, schools and many shops, particularly smaller businesses, are closed. Nowadays larger department stores and shops are open on Boxing Day, and the date often marks the start of amazing sales with huge discounts. Some people even wait to do their Christmas shopping at the sales instead of paying the full prices. These sales also occur in the United States, and the 26th of December could be compared to “Black Friday”, the day after Thanksgiving when holiday sales start in the States.

A typical celebration

In England, Boxing Day is typically seen as an extension of Christmas Day. Even more food is eaten, new toys and gifts are played with, and the emphasis is again on enjoying family time. With the day off from work, people often visit extended family, grandparents, uncles and aunties.

Often foods such as turkey soup or curry are made with leftovers from the day before (roasted turkey is the most traditional meat to be eaten on the 25th December, although both ham and duck are also popular). Due to the large amount of food usually eaten the day before, meals on Boxing Day tend to be less formal, and more like a buffet style, often containing meats and cheeses, and leftover treats and goodies!

My family and I would traditionally have a nice, relaxed morning. It was my grandpa’s birthday, so we would either drive to my grandparents’ house or they would come to us. We would then have a lovely lunch of cold cut meats and delicious soup, and we would open any presents from people whom we hadn’t seen on the day before, which was always an exciting prospect as a child. We would all go on a nice winter walk on the beach or in the nearby countryside.

Fully aware of the cold temperatures, the television channels would all compete to play the best, most traditional, or best-loved Christmas films and programmes. Board games such as Monopoly and Cluedo (known as “Clue” in the United States) would also often make an appearance.

I asked some fellow English people for their thoughts on Boxing Day.

Kirsty from the south of England says: “I nearly love Boxing Day more than Christmas itself. The best bit is the leftover food — a Christmas buffet with fresh meats and salads and crisps — I’m salivating!”

Going out for drinks is also a popular trend at this time, especially amongst 20-somethings such as Tim from London.

“After lots of family time, it can also be fun to go out with mates for some drinks to the local pub. Everyone is still full of Christmas spirit, and it’s great fun.” says Tim from London.

Laura from Manchester, 29, has a slightly more traditional approach to the day. “My family and I usually wear our new Christmas woolly jumpers, snuggled up in front of the fire and watching the Christmas TV.”

Cold, cold, cold

Despite the cold weather, some people brave more activity than a nice leisurely walk on Boxing Day. The small seaside town of Tenby, in Wales, is home to the “Tenby Boxing Day Swim”. This year’s swim will be the 44th. Similar to the Polar Bear Swim on New Year’s Day, participants make a quick dash into the freezing cold ocean. Some swimmers strip to their underwear or change into costumes with a different theme each year.

Thousands of pounds are raised for charity, and it is a great event to raise community spirit, with many people enjoying the event as spectators without getting wet.

Warm Boxing Day Memories Down Under

Whilst in chilly England, the idea of jumping into the ocean doesn’t sound particularly inviting. But Joe, a 25-year-old Australian, tells a warmer, sunnier story about Boxing Day. December is one of the hottest summer months, and many people living on the coast will spend the day with their families at the country’s beautiful beaches. “The day is usually spent between the beach, the barbecue area, and the television to watch the various sporting events,” says Joe.

The food of choice is more likely to be a barbecue than leftover turkey soup, and the day also has a strong sporting theme. Fans of cricket are treated to the Boxing Day Test Match, held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The national team will play against whichever country is touring, such as England, India or South Africa. More than 10% of Australia’s 23 million people tuned in to watch the game last year, meaning it may be more of a tradition than England’s Christmas films. For water sport fans, there is also the Sydney to Hobart yacht race (Hobart is a small town on the island of Tasmania, at the southern tip of Australia). The race starts on Boxing Day and is hugely popular with contestants and spectators alike.

Whether you’re wrapped up in lots of clothes in the Northern Hemisphere or enjoying the beach Down Under, the emphasis of Boxing Day is to make the Christmas holiday last as long as possible, spending one more day with family and friends.

Info Box
In some religions, Boxing Day is also referred to as the Second Day of Christmas, part of the Twelve Days, an important time in the religious calendar.

It is celebrated most in the commonwealth countries of England, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Some other countries such as Hong Kong and Sweden also celebrate Boxing Day.

Boxing Day has been recognised as an official holiday since 1871.

In Ireland Boxing Day is known as St. Steven’s Day.

In America, children are still on holidays from school but it is not celebrated as such. Many people start back at work, and the date doesn’t have a specific name.


Boxing Day

Boxing Day is celebrated on the 26th of December in England and other Commonwealth nations. It originated in England but there are different theories as to how it began. Some people believe it is called boxing day because in the past workers received a Christmas box from their employers as a thanks for their service and hard work.
Another theory is that it came about for servants who had to work on the 25th of December, and so they had to wait to celebrate Christmas until the 26th. On this day they received boxes containing money and presents and usually leftover food from their masters’ Christmas feast.

In England, Boxing day is like an extension of Christmas Day. People eat food left over from Christmas, usually turkey soup, and play with new toys and gifts. The idea is to spend time with your family, and people also often visit their extended family. The television channels play traditional Christmas films and programmes and families gather around the table to play board games such as Monopoly or Cludo.

Every family celebrates it differently. Some people like to watch movies while others go for long walks on the beach or countryside. Some people take part in the “Tenby Boxing Day Swim”, where participants jump into freezing cold water in Tenby, Wales. And in Australia, where it is summertime, they usually celebrate it with a barbecue and watching a game of cricket.

No matter how you celebrate it, it is a great way to make the Christmas holiday last longer and an opportunity to spend more time with your family and friends.



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Boxing Day



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Boxing Day

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