What is Boxing Day and should you celebrate it?

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For many of us, December 26th is just the day after Christmas. In Canada, it is called Boxing Day.

What are we celebrating exactly?


Boxing Day is celebrated in Canada, the UK, and in Commonwealth countries (former British colonies or countries closely linked to Commonwealth member-states) around the world. As a religious holiday, December 26th is the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr. But secularly, the day after Christmas is when employers traditionally give gifts (or “boxes”) to their workers, or for the aristocracy, their servants. Around the 1600s, it was a common practice for servants to take a portion of the food left over from Christmas dinner, place them in a box, and bring it to their families.

Another possible origin is the custom of opening “poor boxes” (donation boxes) in Anglican churches that had been filled during the Advent season. On this day, alms are apportioned and given to poor parishioners (Canadian Encyclopedia).

In Manitoba, Boxing Day is not one of the eight general holidays observed in the province. However, some employers may declare it as a non-working day as a yearly tradition.

Modern Boxing Day

December 26th is an official holiday on the federal level. It is a statutory holiday in Ontario and for federally regulated workers across the country. In Manitoba, Boxing Day is not one of the eight general holidays observed in the province. However, some employers may declare it as a non-working day as a yearly tradition. If your employer is one of them, lucky you!

In terms of significance, the holiday’s spirit of gift and alms-giving has generally faded away from memory. It has become a commercial holiday. Many go out and take advantage of “Boxing Day” or “Boxing Week Sales” much like “Black Friday” in the United States. Stores open early and offer large discounts on most goods such as clothing, electronics and appliances. In contrast, stores are closed in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario. In these areas, post-Christmas sales begin on December 27th. In these pandemic times, there will probably be more online shopping than in-store sales.

Aside from shopping, another popular activity for Canadians is watching hockey on television on Boxing Day. The Ice Hockey Federation World junior hockey championships usually start on December 25 or 26. Likewise, the Spengler Cup Ice Hockey tournament played in Davos, Switzerland is also shown on major sports channels. It will run from December 26 to 31 this year.

Should you celebrate Boxing Day?

The short answer is “yes!” If you are fortunate enough to be granted a holiday on the 26th, you should celebrate Boxing Day either in the traditional Canadian way or your own way. You can shop ’til you drop, binge watch hockey games, or just lounge around the house and have your fill of Christmas dinner leftovers. If you come from Germany, Poland, Scandinavia and the Netherlands, you can observe your Second Christmas Day festivities. If you want to preserve the religious significance of the day, you can always attend mass and light a candle in commemoration of St. Stephen’s feast day. Take it as a special day to relax and enjoy the holidays with your family and friends!

A friendly reminder

Most banks, post offices, and private establishments adjust their schedules during the holidays. If you have urgent business to attend to on the week leading to Christmas, make sure to call first (or check online) to see if they are open. Better yet, finish your errands before Christmas (or do them online) as holiday schedules can extend up to the New Year.
Article updated November 23, 2023.
Sources: Boxing Day, The Canadian Encyclopedia; Boxing Day in Canada, Time and Date.com; Manitoba Statutory Holidays

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