I’m not sure if they actually refer to Boxing Day as a holiday in England. I had heard of it, but before I actually started going over and had friends I could discuss these things with, I thought Boxing Day was the day you boxed up your Christmas decorations. It has a far loftier history than that.
Boxing day was traditionally a day when servants and tradesmen would receive boxes of gifts from their employers. The gifts were known as a “Christmas Box”. From Wikipedia I learned that, “The Oxford English Dictionary gives the earliest attestations of the term as being from England in the 1830s, defining it as ‘the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box’.”
This custom was started as a tradition because in older days the servants were expected to work on Christmas serving their masters. In consequence, a good master would give the servants the day after Christmas to be with their families. Today, at least here in America if you work any national holiday, you expect to be paid a lot extra, time and a half is the standard.
Thinking about the tradesmen who are given small gifts for a job well done all year, what if you are say the postman? If you had a hundred houses that you delivered to, the take would be huge. Even if only half of the customers gave you a gift, you’d be carting home fifty small gifts, nice!
From IrishFestivals.net : Celtic myth had it that the robin that was suppose to represent the New Year, killed the wren which represented the Old Year during this time. Wren Boys blacken their faces and go from house to house asking for money to bury the wren. The money they collect is used to buy food and drink for the “wren dance” held on this night.
Sometimes called St Stephen’s Day or the Feast of St Stephen, a Catholic holiday, which honors the first Christian martyr who was stoned to death! I couldn’t really find any reference to an actual feast, so I’m not sure what that’s about.
These days, Boxing Day has become a huge sale day for retailers, much like America’s Black Friday. It’s also become a big day for sports, with a full program of football and rugby matches. Sounds like the perfect day for married couples!