What Is Boxing Day? Everything You Need to Know

Youth gathering donations for Boxing Day.

Every year on December 26, the day after Christmas, holiday celebrations continue with Boxing Day. Boxing Day originates from the United Kingdom, but people around the world join in the celebrations as well. What is Boxing Day, and how can you celebrate it?

What Is Boxing Day, and How Is It Celebrated?

Boxing Day is traditionally a holiday dedicated to giving gifts to the poor or serving those in need. For many, it’s a day to give back and consider the needs of others. It also offers a chance to show appreciation for the service you receive from others—from your mail carrier, your garbage collector, or even your neighbor.

The tradition has been around for centuries—often as a day off for servants who worked on Christmas Day. It also coincides with the celebration of St. Stephen’s Day, which falls on the same day.

A couple takes advantage of shopping deals on Boxing Day.

Today Boxing Day is also widely known for shopping and post-Christmas sales, similar to the U.S. holiday Black Friday. It’s also a big day for sports fans, as many sports—such as football, rugby, and horse racing—feature Boxing Day events.

Why Is It Called Boxing Day?

No one knows for sure why the holiday is called “Boxing Day.” There are several theories floating around, but the holiday has been celebrated long enough that it’s difficult to say for sure. The name could be related to the alms boxes passed around in churches for donations to the poor. It’s also possible that the holiday is named after the “Christmas boxes” given in Great Britain, boxes that contain gratuities and are offered as thanks to service workers.

A girl gives her mother a gift on Boxing Day.

Which Countries Celebrate Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is officially recognized as a public or bank holiday in several countries around the world, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, Nigeria, Scotland, Singapore, South Africa, Trinidad, Tobago, and Bermuda. Because the holiday originated in the United Kingdom, other countries that were part of the British Empire, or Commonwealth countries, often celebrate Boxing Day as well. The day after Christmas is also known as Second Christmas in many European countries.

What Do They Eat on Boxing Day?

Because Boxing Day was traditionally a holiday honoring service workers, it was a day of rest for cooks and chefs. Many homes today still celebrate Boxing Day by eating dishes made with Christmas leftovers. Repurpose and enjoy the leftover holiday meats in sandwiches, meat platters, meat pies, sausage rolls, or leftovers roasted in the oven!

A girl volunteers at her local soup kitchen for Boxing Day.

How Can You Celebrate Boxing Day?

Whether or not Boxing Day is officially recognized as a holiday where you live, you can join in the celebration! These ideas can get you started:

  1. Volunteer and donate. Boxing Day traditionally focuses on service and donations. Find a way to volunteer or donate money and help someone in need to keep the spirit of the holiday alive. 
  2. Learn about your Commonwealth ancestors. If you have ancestors from Commonwealth countries, they likely celebrated Boxing Day. You can find out where your ancestors are from for free in the Where Am I From? experience here on FamilySearch
  3. Give gifts to show thanks. Take time to think about the service you’ve received from others and offer a gift to show thanks. 
  4. Relax with friends and family. Christmas is an amazing holiday filled with love, service, and family, but it can be tiring! Rest for a day, and build memories with your closest friends and family. 
  5. Share your holiday memories. Record your favorite Christmas memories, traditions, and photos with FamilySearch Memories to preserve them. With your free FamilySearch account, you can save your memories for future generations to enjoy. 
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