Yes, today is Boxing Day, celebrated around the world. so here’s my boxing day greeting card — a photo taken at lovely Bear Creek Camp during a three-dog run (Daisy visiting from Carolina).
Christmas has come and gone, but in some countries, the celebration is far from over. Yes, gentle readers, December 26 is Boxing Day, which for Americans is the day we recover from our eggnog and gift-exchange hangovers but for other parts of the world is a holiday in its own right.
What is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day, which always falls on December 26, is observed as an official public holiday in the UK and many European countries, as well as in former British colonies such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, among others. America has decided that, much like the metric system and extra U’s in certain words, we will not embrace this particular tradition. When Boxing Day falls on a weekend, countries that observe it designate the subsequent Monday as a holiday.
Origin stories of the holiday are mixed: Some say the name comes from the British aristocracy’s habit of presenting their servants with gifts on the day after Christmas, once their own celebration was over and lowly employees could finally get some time off. Another popular suggestion is that it arose from the tradition of making charitable donations during the Christmas season, wherein people would give boxes of food and other supplies to the less fortunate and churches would set out donation boxes to collect for the poor.
Still another theory centers on the 10th-century duke of Bohemia: As the story goes, the duke was out surveying his land the day after Christmas when he noticed a poor man trying to gather firewood in a blizzard. Moved, the duke went to the man’s house with a box of food, wine, and other items — a deed so noble, it was immortalized in the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas.”
But Boxing Day isn’t the only name for December 26. Some countries call it St. Stephen’s Day, in honor of a deacon who became the first Christian martyr when he was stoned to death in AD 36. In Ireland, it’s sometimes called Wren Day, which used to be marked by the heartwarming tradition of hunting down and murdering a small bird, tying it to a pole, and then going door to door singing the “Wren Song.” (Thankfully, this is no longer a thing people do.) South Africa renamed the holiday “Goodwill Day” in 1994 to “sever ties to a colonial past,” according to Cape Town Magazine. And some countries, including Poland and the Netherlands, eschew the fuss and just call it “Second Christmas Day.”
How Boxing Day is celebrated
Just like the countries that observe the holiday, the ways people celebrate Boxing Day are rich and varied, as this extremely formal and scientific Facebook poll shows: