Boxing Day: why is it called like that?

Zorica Lončar

Ever wondered how Boxing Day in the UK got its name? The day after Christmas Day has an interesting name, and not everyone knows where it comes from. In fact, there are a number of misconceptions around the origins of the name.

If you’re curious and want to get to the bottom of it, read on. We’ve put together some fascinating information on this festive bank holiday, including when Boxing Day is and how it’s traditionally celebrated in the UK.

So, let’s get started, looking first at the date Boxing Day falls on each year.

When is Boxing Day?

In the UK, Boxing Day is held on the 26th of December every year. It’s the day after Christmas Day and is a public bank holiday. Although of course, it falls on a different day of the week each year.

Here are the upcoming Boxing Day dates for the next five years:

YearDay of the week
2023Tuesday 26th December 2023
2024Thursday 26th December 2024
2025Friday 26th December 2025
2026Saturday 26th December 2026
2027Sunday 26th December 2027

What is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is a public holiday celebrated in the UK, where the tradition originated.

It’s also marked in other countries that previously formed part of the British Empire, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa and some European countries too. In countries like Hungary and Poland, it’s treated like a second Christmas Day.¹

Like Christmas Day, Boxing Day is known as a day to be spent with friends and family. It’s generally considered to be a laid-back, relaxing day, although some celebrations and traditions are observed. We’ll look at these more later.

Why is it called Boxing Day?²

Contrary to popular belief, Boxing Day doesn’t actually have anything to do with the sport of boxing.

Its name is believed to come from Victorian times (the 1800s) when the rich used to box up presents to give to the poor, on the day after Christmas Day. It was also a day off for household servants, who would be given a Christmas box from their employers. They’d also go home to their own families on Boxing Day and give out Christmas boxes there too.

There’s also a connection with the church. Throughout the year, churches would collect money from churchgoers. It was stored in a box, opened on Christmas Day and distributed to those in need on Boxing Day.

How is Boxing Day celebrated in the UK?

While some people use Boxing Day as a day of rest, relaxation and recovery from the revels of Christmas Day, the UK does have some time-honoured Boxing Day traditions.

This includes eating turkey sandwiches, going to Boxing Day football matches, watching horse racing and throwing parties with family and friends.

Some people like to honour the original spirit of Boxing Day by taking part in activities to raise money for charity, such as sponsored runs or other fundraising events.

And then of course, there are the Boxing Day sales. Many shops and online retailers launch their seasonal sales the day after Christmas, so many people choose to head out shopping on Boxing Day. For some popular shops or particularly irresistible deals, there are even queues outside the front doors on Boxing Day morning.

Planning on visiting the UK at Christmas? Some of the most popular areas for shopping include major cities like London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh. For more independent shops, try the likes of Brighton, York, Wells and Cambridge.

And if you’d like to make the most of Boxing Day deals, you can shop in GBP for low fees and great exchange rates using the Wise card. It works in 175 countries, including the UK, and it can be used both online and in physical stores. It’s a handy way to shop if you travel regularly, and don’t want to be caught out by poor exchange rates.

Join Wise today

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

And that’s it - everything you wanted to know about Boxing Day, including how it got its name. We’ve also looked at how Boxing Day is celebrated in the UK, which should give you a few ideas if you’re planning to visit around Christmas time.

Sources used:

  1. House Beautiful - Why is it called Boxing Day?
  2. BBC - Why is it called Boxing Day?

Sources last checked on date: 06-Apr-2023

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