Boxing Day的来源与庆祝活动

A Family enjoying the festive season (19th Century Engraving) Photo: Alamy

By Cameron Macphail,2 April 2012

When is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day occurs every year on December 26th. It's a national holiday in the UK and Ireland. If the day after Christmas falls on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday is designated as the official public holiday.

December 26th is also the feast day of Saint Stephen, the patron saint of horses, which is why Boxing Day has come to be associated with horse racing and fox hunting.

Why is it called Boxing Day?

According to some Boxing Day can be traced back to the Victorian era when churches often displayed a box into which their parishioners put donations.

Also in Britain, on the day after Christmas Day, servants of the wealthy were given time off to visit their families because their services were required for the Christmas Day celebrations of their employers.

They were therefore allowed the following day for their own observance of the holiday and each servant would be handed a box to take home, containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food.

It was also customary for tradespeople to collect 'Christmas boxes' of presents or money on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.

Samuel Pepys mentions the 'Christmas box' in his diarySamuel Pepys mentions the 'Christmas box' in his diary

Samuel Pepys' mentions the practise in a diary entry from December 19th 1663:

"Thence by coach to my shoemaker’s and paid all there, and gave something to the boys’ box against Christmas."

Five years later Pepys was not feling so generous complaining in a December 28th entry from 1668:

"Called up by drums & trumpets; these things & boxes having cost me much money this Christmas."

Where else is the day celebrated?

Boxing Day is observed only in is observed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and some other Commonwealth nations.

The holiday was not perpetuated by the English in the American colonies.

Irish Boxing Day

In Ireland, Boxing Day is really 'St Stephen's Day', dedicated to a saint who was stoned to death for believing in Jesus.

In Ireland 'Wren Boys' were notorious for blackening their faces stoning wrens to death. They would then carry their catch around the town knocking on doors and asking for money.

This distasteful act has now stopped, but the Wrens Boys still dress up and parade around town but collecting money for charity.

Fox Hunting used to be a Boxing Day thing...

Hunts were a Boxing Day tradition but the 2004 ban on foxhunting put an end to all that. Despite this, 10 years later 250,000 people still turned out to support hunting.

The hounds of the Heythrop Hunt in Chipping Norton town square in Oxfordshire (Getty) Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Shopping the new blood sport

What was once a day of relaxation and family time has now become a holy day of consumerism. The sales used to start in January post-New Year, but the desire to grab a bargain and for shops to off-load stock means many now start on Boxing Day.

Activities on Boxing Day

Boxing Day was a day on which families continued their Christmas celebrations by venturing out of their homes to enjoy entertainments including pantomimes, plays, variety shows, exhibitions, and sporting events such as football matches and hunts.

An illustration from 1885 titled ‘Boxing Night - Our National Theatre’ showing a debutante performer being introduced to a theatre audience full of elite members of society including Queen Victoria, the Prince and Princess of Wales, the actor Henry Irving, and Oscar Wilde. An illustration from 1885 titled ?Boxing Night - Our National Theatre? shows a debutante performer being introduced to a theatre audience full of elite members of society including Queen Victoria, the Prince and Princess of Wales, the actor Henry Irving, and Oscar Wilde Photo: victorianfanguide

In recent times, the day has become synonymous with many sports. Horse racing is particularly popular with meets all over the country. A full programme of football fixtures is also played on Boxing Day.

Boxing Day is also a time when the British show their eccentricity by taking part in all kinds of silly activities.

These include bizarre traditions including swimming the icy cold English Channel, fun runs and charity events.