What Is Boxing Day? It’s Sort Of A Big Deal…

Illustrated by Michelle Lin.
After weeks of gift-shopping, tree-trimming, and feast-prepping, we wake up on the morning of December 26 to find that The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year is over — just. like. that. In order to augment our annual holiday comedown, we’re bringing the focus to a tradition from across the pond: Boxing Day. The post-Christmas holiday has been observed in the United Kingdom for centuries and is historically marked by leftover sandwiches, pub crawls, and other uniquely British stuff (like football matches and fancy fox hunts). And while all of this is just dandy, we’re here for another important aspect of this honorary December day: the sales. Below, we break down the ins and outs of Boxing Day — including what it is, where its name came from, and all the best deals you can expect to get out of it.

What is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is a holiday observed on December 26 by “Commonwealth” nations like Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, South Africa, and others. (In Ireland, it’s called St. Stephen’s Day.) While African nations that were once under British rule (Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania) do mark the day with actual boxing matches, it’s more common for observing countries to host sporting events like football (Great Britain) and cricket (Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa).

Why is it called Boxing Day?

I’ll quote the History Channel's web entry on the subject, which puts it succinctly: “The exact roots of the holiday name are unknown, but there are two leading theories, both of which are connected to charity...” One theory holds that in aristocratic England when household servants were expected to work on Christmas Day, the 26 was the day that they’d receive “Christmas boxes” filled with gifts and food from their landowners, and they’d be free to visit and celebrate the holiday with family. There’s also the English tradition of leaving donations for the poor in the “alms boxes” of the local church.

What are the best Boxing Day sales?

We’ll be answering this question in real-time with our coverage of the best Boxing Day sales across fashion, beauty, and home, but we can tell you that some reader favorite retailers like Brooklinen, Everlane, Nisolo, and Entireworld will be holding after-Christmas sales that fall on December 26 — some will even run a few days longer. Keep watching this space for strategic tips on how to use best put all those holiday gift cards to use.

Why are there sales on Boxing Day?

Good question. According to TIME, December 26 became a popular day for sales in the 1980s, and it’s now on par with Black Friday, with big-box retailers offering “doorbuster” deals on high-ticket items and shoppers congregating outside shops at 5 a.m. (This is changing in recent years with Black Friday sales becoming more common in the U.K.) All we know is that where there’s a surplus of spending money and free time, good deals are sure to follow — and this time-honored post-Christmas holiday is no exception.
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