Seeing as though today’s Boxing Day, I thought I’d offer up an explanation as to the meaning of Boxing Day. Growing up in Canada, I grew to know Boxing Day as the day when all the good sales would happen at stores. For many Americans, this may sound strange. Although, think of it like Black Friday — Boxing Day is much the same — in that stores increasingly compete with each other to open sooner and sooner to have better sales.
So, when I was younger, my thought that Boxing Day got its name because of all the boxes. To a young person, that makes sense. With all the day after Christmas shopping, there’s bound to be lots of boxes! Somewhere along the way, I remember someone telling me, ‘oh no, that’s not it. It’s because there was a big boxing match back in the day.’ Well that sounds plausible, too. Although, after having searched the internet, I don’t seem to find any solid references to a boxing match on “Boxing Day,” leading to the day getting its name.
Regardless of the etymology, Boxing Day is most certainly a holiday in Canada (and some other Commonwealth countries) and that’s because it derives from European tradition. It does seem, though, that there isn’t any one definitive answer. According to Wikipedia (and many other places I found in researching for this post):
The exact etymology of the term “boxing” is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive.
One of those competing theories has it that the lord of the manor would “pay” its servants with boxes of practical goods (food, clothes, etc.). This starts to make more sense when we realize that a “Christmas Box” is like saying “Christmas Present.” So, it’s almost as if “Boxing Day” was the day that the bourgeoisie would “exchange” gifts with the proletariat. That may be taking a bit too far, but it certainly seems like it.
So… while I can’t give you a definitive answer, some of the things out there on the internet certainly seem plausible as to why it’s called “Boxing Day.” One thing it seems we can say for sure — it wasn’t because of a big “boxing match.”