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What is Boxing Day? And why is it on the day after Christmas?

Boxing Day doesn't have anything to do with the sport of boxing or returning Christmas gifts in boxes.
Credit: Gajus - stock.adobe.com
Retro image of shiny red Christmas bauble hanging on decorated holiday tree with lights.

WASHINGTON — With Christmas Day all wrapped up for another year, the United Kingdom and other British Commonwealth countries are now ushering in Boxing Day. 

Boxing Day is celebrated on Dec. 26, the day after Christmas, in the U.K. 

The exact origin of the holiday's name is a bit unclear, but the name has been used since at least the 1700s, according to Dictionary.com

History.com explains that one theory of the holiday's origin is that the day after Christmas was when boxes filled with small gifts and money would be given to household servants and employees who had to work on Dec. 25. The gifts were meant as a thank you for their service throughout the year.  

Through the years, the holiday has transformed into an extension of Christmas celebrations, with friends and family gathering together. In the U.K. and other British Commonwealth countries, Boxing Day has also become one of the biggest shopping days of the season, similar to Black Friday. 

To be clear though, Boxing Day doesn't have anything to do with the sport of boxing or returning Christmas gifts in boxes. But the holiday has become synonymous with soccer (football) in the United Kingdom. 

Former soccer player and current TV analyst Robbie Earle described in a 2019 video that when he thinks of Boxing Day, he thinks of "the biggest game of the Premier League season." 

While the Premier League had nine Boxing Day matches scheduled for Sunday, three had to be postponed due to coronavirus outbreaks among the teams.  

Members of the British Royal family traditionally celebrate Boxing Day together, which for them typically includes a number of outdoor activities, like horseback riding and a pheasant shoot. However, given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it will be a scaled-back celebration again this year for the family. 

Queen Elizabeth II is spending the Christmas holidays at Windsor Castle, where she has remained throughout most of the pandemic. She traditionally would spend the festive season with family at Sandringham, the royal estate in eastern England. She will be joined by some members of her family, including Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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