Although the festival’s name suggests it might be related to boxing, the actual essence of the festival is to distribute gifts and money to impoverished people. This day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day, especially in Ireland. Stephen was a Christian martyr who died in 34 AD and was known for his charity work.
The early traditions involved distributing gifts, food items, and money to the ones in need but now, the festival has taken a new form. Now, people see Boxing Day as less of a charitable event and more of a shopping gala.
Mark Connelly, a modern history professor at the University of Kent said, “There was a debate about whether inmates should get beer and beef on Christmas Day, for example. Whether they got this depended upon the attitude of local guardians. And by this point, there were enough poor people to be thought of as an entity. Provision for the poor turned into a local government issue, as opposed to something individuals organised.”
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Now, people spend this day shopping in malls as all the brands offer heavy discounts and sales. Apart from that, many sports events are also organized especially for football fans. So, people get out of their homes on Boxing Day and celebrate this festival outdoors.
Mark Connelly, on the new way of celebrating Boxing Day, said, “People can only be cooped up for so long!” says Connelly. “There’s always been a need to exorcise – and exercise – all of that.”
Many reports say that this festival drew its existence from the English tradition of rich families who used to provide gifts to the poor, mostly their servants. These English people used to shower their servants with gifts in the form of a holiday bonus as the servants used to work for them during Christmas. Many people suggest that earlier, on December 26, members of the church used to distribute the money collected by them as donations in the alms boxes. This was done to honor St Stephen.
Boxing Day is now seen as a shopping spree just like the Black Friday gala is celebrated in the United States. Although the festival is massively celebrated in the UK, but Australia, Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand also observe this day as a holiday.