I first heard that the day after Christmas was called “Boxing Day” when we were living in London. Thoroughly confused, I wondered about a holiday dedicated to pugilism! Were they going to have a National Slugfest? Boxing rings from Nottingham to Bournemouth?
I guess if I’d grown up closer to the Canadian border I would have already been familiar with the holiday. It’s linked to an old English tradition: in exchange for ensuring that Christmas ran smoothly at the wealthy Manor Houses, the Lords of the Manors gave their servants the 26th off to visit their families. The employers also gave each servant a box containing gifts and bonuses.
Today the tradition has continued throughout the Commonwealth and other countries influenced by the UK. Although few people have servants, the custom of giving gifts or money to those who provide service continues. And for many employees that amounts to a day off!
In the UK it’s also the equivalent of Black Friday in the U.S. Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping bonanza, much like the day after Thanksgiving in the USA. Stores have huge sales, and for many retailers, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest revenue. The online version is referred to as “Cyber Boxing Day”.
In the rest of Europe, Boxing Day is a continuation of the Christmas holiday and is often referred to as the Second Day of Christmas. That’s the case here in Greece. Any way you look at it, it’s a bonus, a gimme, a baker’s dozen, a BOGO, or as we said when we lived in New Orleans, “lagniappe” – a little something extra!