In some cultural traditions, the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day.
As a child growing up in the United States of America, I first heard this term when a childhood friend told me it meant the day people box up and put away all of their holiday decorations! This confused me, since the 12 days of Christmas end on Twelfth Night which is January 6 and we typically keep our Christmas decorations up until then. Some jokingly say that in America it’s the day when people relax and stare at all the empty boxes under their Christmas tree! For most Americans, it’s a day to recover from the frenzy of the days leading up to Christmas.
Boxing Day is well known within the British Commonwealth and in many countries, it’s an official holiday. My relatives in Australia will travel on Boxing Day to visit family and friends in other towns, share a meal together and exchange gifts. For many, it’s all about shopping and hitting the after Christmas sales. There are some who use the day to clear out goods they no longer need and box them up to give to charity.
There are many theories about the origins of Boxing Day. Some say it was the day when “alms boxes” (which held money collected for the poor) were opened and the money distributed. Others note it as a day when the wealthy would give their servants a day off and the gift of a “Christmas Box” filled with food and useful items for their families. This transpired over the years into the tradition of employers giving their employees a “Christmas Bonus” and/or “Christmas Box” of money, food, or other goods. The name centered on the idea of a “box” holding a gift.
Some Americans celebrate other holiday traditions on this day. For example, Hanukkah spanned over this day in 2019, but Hanukkah is celebrated according to a different calendar so it’s not at the same time every year. Kwanzaa starts on this day. Kwanzaa is an annual celebration of African-American culture held from December 26 to January 1, culminating in gift-giving and a feast of faith.
In my family, we call the days between Christmas (December 25) and New Year’s Day (January 1) Magic Week! It’s a time to reflect on the passing year and the year ahead. It was during Magic Week twenty-five years ago that my husband and I became engaged to marry, so the week has special meaning for us. In the American Indian tradition, this is a time to do a “winter count” which is a way to record history by noting significant events of the past year.
As you look back on the past year and cherish the memories, look forward to the year ahead and all the possibilities it holds!
We wish you and your family good health and prosperity!
Joyous Holidays and Happy New Year!
I'm with @Mike-And-Helen0. I was taught that Boxing Day was a day off for the servants who had to slave away on Christmas serving and cooking for the kings and queens. The day after Christmas they would "box up" all the leftovers and celebrate in their own quarters. My family owns a retail business so we shut down on boxing day to celebrate as well, since on Christmas Day we sleep the entire day recovering from the madness. Interesting to hear all the different theories!
A quick scan in Papers Past NZ which has New Zealand Papers with world history dating back to the 1830's has these stories which shed some light on the history of Boxing Day.
I'm sure other local papers that are in online archives will have other fascinating stories.
Sometimes we have to go backwards to go forwards and to really appreciate what we have today that those before us went through for our betterment.
About Boxing Day - History dating back to 1611
Boxing Day origins back to 1836 - Church Collection box
Boxing Day Customs