Ask anyone about Boxing Day and no doubt they will tell you that although it is officially known as St Stephen’s Day, all they really know about it is that it is a day for huge discounts in the shops and watching the football. That hasn’t always been the case though – in fact the day only became a Bank Holiday in the 1970s! Here is the low down on Boxing Day – where it originated, why we celebrate it and what it means to us.

A brief history of Boxing Day

 As Christianity grew in popularity, the existing winter festivals were adapted to fit with the Christian message. These are the days we now know as Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. Boxing Day is believed to have started in the Middle Ages, which is when the Feast of St Stephen became more popular. It wasn’t just known as St Stephen’s Day either, it used to be considered unlucky to kill a wren on any day but St Stephen’s Day, making the day a popular one for wren hunting giving it the name the Day of the Wren.

Nothing to do with boxes…

As we said, Boxing Day’s actual name is St Stephen’s Day, it was named for Stephen who was the first Christian martyr – according to history, he was stoned to death in around 34AD for his beliefs. So, where did the boxes come from?

As a saints’ day, St Stephen’s Day was a day for charity, collections of money and other donations were originally handed out by churches to those in need. As times changed, the day became a time where gifts were given to people in the service industry. Gifts often come in boxes – hence, Boxing Day!

A day to get away from the family

While Christmas is all about spending time together as a family, Boxing Day has become a day to get away from home. In the 18th century, Boxing Day was a day for the aristocracy to enjoy sports like hunting and shooting. As the classes began to merge, football became the sport of choice and now it is one of the most important days in the Premier League calendar.

Today’s traditions are very modern…

Many of us know Boxing Day for being a day for hitting the shops or watching the football but did you know both those things have been introduced very recently? In fact, Boxing Day only officially became a Bank Holiday in 1974, apparently because so many people took the day off anyway to watch the football. It has been a de facto Bank Holiday since the 1870s. The tradition of Boxing Day sales didn’t come about until the 1990s when John Major’s government amended trading law allowing shops to open and trade on Boxing Day.




Comments are disabled for this post.