Where does the term come from and what is it celebrated?

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What is Boxing Day? Where does the term come from? What is its relationship to Christmas and football?

When we celebrate Boxing Day or St Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day is on the calendar in Great Britain and other countries. However, this has nothing to do with boxing.

Nowadays, many Englishmen go to football on Boxing Day. But originally this day had a different meaning.

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Celebrating Saint Stephen’s Day has a longer tradition than Christmas. Because even if we love talking about Boxing Day today, the holiday is actually dedicated to Stephen, who is considered the first Christian martyr.

It is very similar in those countries that celebrate Boxing Day, for example in Great Britain and many Commonwealth countries. Here, too, there is no direct connection to Christmas, but one to Stephen.

Various theories about the origin of the term

The origin of the term Boxing Day has not been fully elucidated, but there is certainly a connection between it and charitable causes. And from there, Saint Stephen, who is said to have participated in the distribution of alms to the poor in his office as a deacon, is not far away.

There are various theories for the exact interpretation of the word’s etymology:

  • One theory goes: In the 19th century, it was said that it was customary for the upper class to give domestic workers Christmas boxes with small gifts, cash, or leftovers from Christmas dinner on December 26. Boxing Day will then be something like the thirteenth day of the month wages.
  • A similar theory holds that the term dates back to a practice said to have originated in the 16th century: on December 26, workers made the rounds with their clients and, to some extent, collected tips.
  • Another theory relates not only to the charitable spirit, but also very directly to St. Stephen and alms. Church-goers’ donations were previously placed in an alms fund, which opened on December 26, and the contents of which were distributed to those in need.

Today it’s all about sports and shopping

Whatever the origin, the actual meaning has already weakened over the years. Today, Boxing Day is known for more casual activities. Today is a big day for shopping, when money gifts are given, coupons are redeemed, but many Christmas gifts are also exchanged on the spot.

The day is also a highlight of the sporting calendar, especially on the football-mad island. The English Premier League and other football leagues have become family outings and many tourists also make pilgrimages to the stadiums. In Switzerland, too, “boxing day” is becoming increasingly popular, for example in sports bars. Cricket is traditionally played on this day in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Boxing Day has been a public holiday in the UK since 1871. An interesting side note: if it falls on a weekend, like this year, the following Monday is also a so-called bank holiday and many Brits have a day off.

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