What is Boxing Day? It is an official holiday in England, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Scotland. Boxing Day falls on St. Stephen's Day, i.e. on December 26th. Boxing Day arose from the desire by members of the upper class to preserve their status in society. In an earlier time the members of the upper class felt that one way to guarantee the preservation of their status was this: To have a tradition whereby those at the higher social levels participate in a one-way giving to those at the lower levels
What is Boxing Day? That is a question with a simple answer. Why do people continue to celebrate Boxing Day? That is a question that has many possible answers. A search for the answer (or answers) would need to start with the origin of Boxing Day. Yet no firm data exist about the actual date for the first Boxing Day. No one can be sure when it became logical to ask the question "What is Boxing Day?"
Studies of the practices during the Middle Ages suggest that the lords of the different estates called all members of the estate to meet at one spot on Christmas Day. Then before sending the serfs back to their tiny cottages, the lord would give each of them a box of necessities. This usually took place on the day after Christmas. So then was that practice what caused the Boxing Day?
Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn't. As more and more people moved to the cities it became fashionable for members of the upper class to give boxes of food and fruit to trades people and to servants. Those boxes represented a show of gratitude, a bit like the gifts that people today might give to the mailman or the paperboy. That practice of box giving may have established a tradition, a tradition that led people to ask, "What is Boxing Day?"
So many changes took place during that same period that the prevailing cause for the creation of Boxing Day remains unclear. For example, while the towns and cities were growing, the influence of the Church also increased. Most churches encouraged the practice of giving to the poor. They placed locked boxes at the church, boxes into which extra coins could be placed. On the day after Christmas the churches would open those boxes and give the money to the poor. That practice appears to have been one of the things that caused Boxing Day.
So Boxing Day appears to have multiple causes. The question then becomes "What is Boxing Day now in 2005?" Boxing Day has ceased to be a holiday that is celebrated in order to preserve class lines. Boxing Day, being associated with St. Stephen, is also a day to remember horses. Thus Boxing Day has become a day for hunting and horse racing. With individuals eager to associate two sports with Boxing Day it did not take long for sports fans to use Boxing Day as a time to watch football and rugby.
If the reader still seeks an answer to the question "What is Boxing Day?" then perhaps that reader should concentrate on learning what Boxing Day is not. It is not a day for a boxing match. It is not a day when people collect all of their empty Christmas boxes. It is a day of giving to others, even to those who have nothing to offer in return.