What is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day is a public holiday on the day after Christmas, 26 December, in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Europe and countries in the Commonwealth.
These days it is less a public holiday than an excuse for large retailers to hold massive sales and exploit people's materialism. It is a far cry from the olden days when boxes that collected alms for the poor were opened and the funds distributed.
Apparently, the holiday is so named because service workers would carry earthenware boxes to collect tips and end-of-year bonuses in on the day after Christmas. The gifts are now usually given before Christmas, and the boxes are no longer used, but the name has continued. :) Please see the related link for more information.
December 26 is called Boxing Day in England and other countries in the Commonwealth, but it is unknown exactly when it first began.
Boxing Day seems to have originated in the mid nineteenth century in England. Some historians believe the name 'Boxing Day' came about because the boxes placed in churches where parishioners deposited alms (coins) for the poor and needy were opened, and the contents were distributed on December 26, which is also the Feast of St Stephen. (St Stephen was the first Christian martyr.)
Others believe that the Boxing Day tradition originated as a holiday for members of the upper class to give boxes containing food, clothing or money to tradespeople and servants, in much the same way that many employers offer their employees bonuses today. These gifts were usually given in boxes; hence the name 'Boxing Day".
An extension of the above theory is that when Christmas holidays were much shorter than they are today certain services often only had Christmas Day as a holiday and returned to work the day after. These included services such as the mail, newspaper or milk delivery. Householders would give them a Christmas gift or, as it was commonly called, a Christmas box on this day to thank them for their service throughout the year.