On this day in history : 26th December 1871 – Boxing Day is officially recognised in Britain as a Bank Holiday for the first time….

British in its origins – (but celebrated in other Commonwealth countries, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada) – there are numerous theories as to how it gets its name….but none are definitive….img_5037

Some believe it dates back to the Middle Ages, when serfs were given ‘Christmas boxes’ by their lords….

Certainly in the days of being ‘in service’ servants were expected to work on Christmas Day…. Boxing Day was traditionally their day off….and their masters would usually give them a Christmas box to take home to their families…. In recognition of their service throughout the year they would be given small gifts, possibly some money and leftovers of food from the Christmas meal…. It could be called their ‘Christmas bonus’….

Victorian depiction of early C19th Christmas celebration – “Christmas Comes But Once A Year” by Charles Green

It was also the customary day for tradespeople to collect their ‘Christmas box’…. On the first working day after Christmas they may have been given a gift of money, or similar, by their customers by way of showing appreciation for their services during the year…. Some of us still choose to thank our refuse collectors, milkmen and postmen in this way….

A customer asking for a Christmas box from a dentist that he regularly visits; the dentist retorts that he can have a tooth pulled for free… Wood engraving after [L.S.] – Image : The Wellcome Collection CC BY-4.0
Another theory as to why we call it ‘Boxing Day’ comes from when Alms boxes were placed in churches during the period of Advent…. Parishioners would donate what they could afford and the collections would have been distributed amongst those in need the day after Christmas…. December is also the feast day of St. Stephen ~ the first Christian martyr and known for his acts of charity….

St. Stephen by Carlo Crivelli – Public domain


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