What is Boxing Day? Boxing Day dates back to past centuries when it was the custom for the wealthy to give gifts to employees or to people in a lower social class, most especially to household servants and other service personnel. The name has numerous folk etymologies.
As with Christmas itself, some elements of Boxing Day are also likely related to, and ultimately derived from, the ancient Roman Saturnalia, which also had elements of gift giving and social role reversal.
Boxing Day is a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and countries in the Commonwealth of Nations with a mainly Christian population. In South Africa, this public holiday is now known as the Day of Goodwill. It is based on the tradition of giving gifts to the less fortunate members of society. Contemporary Boxing Day in many countries is now a “shopping holiday” associated with after-Christmas sales.
This day is historically England’s name for St. Stephen’s Day. Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr, being stoned to death in Jerusalem around A.D. 34-35 – 26 December, which is a public holiday in most countries in Europe and many countries around the world with predominantly Christian populations. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St Stephen’s Day is celebrated on the 27th of December, although in Greece the Greek Boxing Day is also celebrated as a public holiday on the 26th of December and is not related to the English version.
In Ireland the Bank Holidays Act 1871 established the feast day of St. Stephen’s Day as a non-moveable public holiday on December the 26th, although since partition the name “Boxing Day” is used by the authorities in Northern Ireland and it has become a moveable public holiday in line with the rest of the UK. The Banking and Financial Dealings Act of 1971 established “Boxing Day” as a public holiday in Scotland. In the Australian state of South Australia, December the 26th is a public holiday known as Proclamation Day.
It is usually celebrated on the 26th of December, the day after Christmas Day however, unlike St. Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day is not always on the 26th of December, its associated public holiday can be moved to the next weekday if the 26th of December is a Saturday or Sunday. The movement of Boxing Day varies between countries.
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