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Boxing Day in the United Kingdom

Boxing Day in the United Kingdom is the day after Christmas Day and falls on December 26. Traditionally, it was a day when employers distributed money, food, cloth (material) or other valuable goods to their employees. In modern times, it is an important day for sporting events and the start of the post-Christmas sales.

Is Boxing Day a Public Holiday?

Boxing Day is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.

Boxing Day
Boxing Day is traditionally day for sporting events such as fox hunting with dogs (which is now outlawed).
Boxing Day is traditionally day for sporting events such as fox hunting with dogs (which is now outlawed).
©iStockphoto.com/RUDI TAPPER

What Do People Do?

For many people Boxing Day is a time to recover from the excesses of Christmas Day and an opportunity to spend time with family, friends, and neighbors. Some people choose to go for a walk in the countryside, while others flock to the post-Christmas sales that often begin on Boxing Day. Some people even spend part of the night and early morning queuing to get into the stores when the best bargains are still available.

Boxing Day is also an important day for sporting events. Traditionally, fox hunting was a popular sport in the upper class. Pictures of hunters on horseback dressed in red coats and surrounded by hunting dogs are often seen as symbolic of Boxing Day. Nowadays, fox hunting is outlawed. Horse racing and football (soccer) are now popular sports.

Public Life

Boxing Day is a bank holiday. If Boxing Day falls on a Saturday, the following Monday is a bank holiday. If Christmas Day falls on a Saturday, the following Monday and Tuesday are bank holidays. All schools and many organizations are closed in this period. Some may close for the whole week between Christmas and New Year.

Many stores are open and start their post-Christmas sales on Boxing Day. Public transport services may run on special timetables. Many people travel to visit family or friends in this period, so bus, plane and train services can be very busy.

Background and symbols

There are a number of stories behind the origin of the term “Boxing Day”. It used to be customary for employers to give their employees or servants a gift of money or food in a small box on this day. This is still customary for people who deliver letters or newspapers, although the gift may be given before Christmas Day. In feudal times, the lord of the manor would gather all those who worked on his land together on this day and distribute boxes of practical goods, such as agricultural tools, food, and cloth. This was payment for the work that they had done throughout the year.

Other stories relate to servants being allowed to take a portion of the food left over from the Christmas celebrations in a box to their families and the distribution of alms from the Church collection box to poor parishioners. These traditions have evolved into the Christmas hampers that many large employers distribute, although these are now often distributed in the week before Christmas.

Boxing Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday TypeArea
2010MonDec 27Boxing DayBank holiday 
2011MonDec 26Boxing DayBank holiday 
2012WedDec 26Boxing DayBank holiday 
2013ThuDec 26Boxing DayBank holiday 
2014FriDec 26Boxing DayBank holiday 
2015MonDec 28Boxing DayBank holiday 
2016MonDec 26Boxing DayBank holiday 
2017TueDec 26Boxing DayBank holiday 
2018WedDec 26Boxing DayBank holiday 
2019ThuDec 26Boxing DayBank holiday 
2020MonDec 28Boxing DayBank holiday 

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