No, Muhammad Ali wasn’t born on the 26th of December, neither did the fight of the century between Ali and Joe Frazier take place on this day – for the matter of fact, the day got to do anything with the pugilistic sport, yet, for some reason, the day is known as Boxing day in certain Commonwealth nations.
Have you ever felt infuriated because you had to go to work on a holiday? Or, do you know anyone who holds a position which needs to be exercised even on a public holiday?
If so, the history of Boxing Day is certainly going to please you to bits.
Here it is – In England, postmen, errand boys, and servants of various kinds – basically those who could not get a day off on Christmas, were gifted a Christmas Box out of gratitude for the services that these people have provided throughout the course of the year and they were allowed a leave, the day after Christmas. And hence, this gift – the Christmas ‘Box’ – contributed to the naming of the day to Boxing Day.
This practice of giving present to servants in a Christmas Box dates back to the seventeenth century if not before. One of the earliest evidence of such a tradition was found in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for 19 December 1663. However, the term ‘ Boxing Day ‘ was not in use until early nineteenth century.
Another theory suggests that the tradition stems from Roman times when money to pay for athletic games was collected in boxes. Amongst the ruins of Pompeii, boxes made out of earthenware with slits in the top full of coins have been found. Later the Romans brought the idea of collecting boxes to Britain, and monks and clergy soon used similar boxes to collect money for the poor at Christmas.
On the day after Christmas, the priests used to open the boxes and distribute the contents to the poor of the village. Thus this day came to be called Boxing Day.
Boxing Day is a public holiday in many of these Commonwealth nations. And as a result, another characteristic feature of Boxing Day is shopping. As the public offices are closed, the crowd is seeing shopping in large numbers.Retailers and merchants offer significant discounts. In the recent years, kids are seen spending their vouchers in malls.
Boxing Day also holds great significance in the sporting sphere. A number of test matches – known was Boxing Day Test – commence on this day. However, this tradition of Boxing Day Tests is seen as its best in the Australian cricket season.
Over the years, a Boxing Day Test is played at the renowned Melbourne Cricket Ground.
In England and Scotland, almost every football club is involved in a Boxing Day fixtures. The most notable Boxing Day in the history of English football was in 1963 – when the top flight of English football witnessed sixty-six goals and number of high scoring draws. In the years gone by, the administrators would try to set the fixtures in such a way that the travelling fans do not have to go on a long trip, right after Christmas.
Other sports like rugby and ice hockey also feature a number of fixtures listed on Boxing Day, over the years.
Another popular event that takes place on this day is the Boxing Day Dip. Such dips are held all over Europe, but the largest one is organised by the Lions Club of Sunderland. The dip takes place at Seaburn beach in Sunderland. It regularly attracts over 1,000 brave souls and over 5,000 spectators. Participants are expected to wear fancy dress and jump into the North Sea.
The oldest dip is the Tenby Boxing Day Swim in Pembrokeshire, Wales, which started in 1970. A roaring bonfire meets the swimmers coming out of the sea and all participants receive a medal for bravery.
However, the history of Boxing Day holds little to no significance anymore, and in its present scenario, is a day where people eat the leftovers from Christmas and stick to the couch to rehabilitate from the hangover of Christmas.