Boxing Day traditions

Merry Christmas, everyone! Today, we have a real treat. We have an article about the traditions of Boxing Day – the day after Christmas Day – by a guest blogger, Jeanne Rive’s talented daughter, Marie Pruett. Thank you, Marie! I have always loved Boxing Day. The children have new toys, the Christmas Craziness is done, the house looks festive, and there is plenty of leftover food.

Of course, traditionally the twelve days of Christmas end with Epiphany, January 6th, when legend tells that the Three Wise Men arrived bearing gifts. My superstitious grandmother always took down the tree and made sure every scrap of decoration was taken down on that day, as another superstition says that anything anything still up beyond that date has to remain there until Shrove Tuesday, or Bad Luck is sure to strike!


Exploring the History and Traditions of Boxing Day

From a guest writer, Marie Pruett

Daughter of member Jeanne C. Rives

What exactly is Boxing Day?

Yes, this is a question my friend asked me at a recent lunch. She knows that my grandmother grew up in Wales, and my mom visited there often as a child. I tried to explain exactly what Boxing Day was, but in the end, she ended up saying: So it’s kind of like the UK’s version of Black Friday.

Yikes! My Welsh ancestors must be rolling in their graves. I vowed right then and there to find out more about this traditional British holiday.

Basic Facts

Okay, down to the nitty gritty. Boxing Day is December 26th, and it’s celebrated primarily in the United Kingdom and its former territories, such as New Zealand and Australia. Other European countries also celebrate Boxing Day with varying traditions. December 26th is also St. Stephen’s Day. It was Queen Victoria who passed the Bank Holidays Act in 1876 that made Boxing Day a bank holiday.

History of Boxing Day 1

There are a couple of possible origins of Boxing Day. The first explanation dates to the middle Ages. During this period of history, the churches collected for the poor in alms boxes. It was the day after Christmas when the churches opened the boxes and distributed the goods, money, and food to the poor.

History of Boxing Day 2

The second explanation dates to the middle of the 1800s. On the day after Christmas, workers and tradespeople received their Christmas gift or boxes with money from their employers for a year of faithful and reliable service. Also, servants and workers celebrated their Christmas with family on this day.

The Wren Boys: An Irish Tradition for Boxing Day

Now, let’s talk about those wild Irishmen. In Ireland, they celebrate Boxing Day as St. Stephen’s Day. In Ireland there is the tradition of the Wren Boys of Ireland. There is a wives’ tale that it’s unlucky to kill a wren on any day other than St. Stephen’s Day.

Since St. Stephen perished by stoning, long ago, the Wren Boys covered their faces in black ash and went out and stoned wrens. They tied the dead birds to poles and went around town, knocking on doors asking for charity. When they received food or money, they gifted the person a feather.

In modern times, people don’t actually carry around dead birds on poles in Ireland. However, they do cover their faces, dress like women, and carry stuffed birds in cages while collecting money for charity and singing songs about St. Stephen.

Boxing Day Tradition across the United Kingdom

Tradesmen and service industry people no longer collect tips on Boxing Day. For the most part, people enjoy a day of relaxing around the house or enjoying the Boxing Day sales (Yes, they are similar to the Black Friday deals). On television, there are mainly football games (soccer to us Yanks) and horseracing.

If you’re interested in learning more about traditions from the United Kingdom, come join us for a meeting of the Daughters of the British Empire (DBE) with two chapters (House of Raleigh Chapter in the Raleigh area and Lady Jane Grey Chapter in the Cary area) in North Carolina. Yes, we enjoy our afternoon tea, but we are so much more than that. So this year, keep calm and enjoy Boxing Day.