Why is 26 December called Boxing Day?

Boxing Day takes place on December 26th and is only celebrated in a few countries; mainly ones historically connected to the UK (such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand) and in many European countries.

It was started in the UK about 800 years ago, during the Middle Ages. It was the day when the alms box, collection boxes for the poor often kept in churches, were traditionally opened so that the contents could be distributed to poor people. Some churches still open these boxes on Boxing Day

Alms box in West Markham All Saints church, Nottinghamshire
Alms box in West Markham All Saints church, Nottinghamshire

It is also St. Stephen’s Day (or ‘the feast of Stephen’) and is when the Carol ‘Good King Wenceslas’ is set. It’s about helping the poor, so it has a strong connection to Boxing Day.


Boxing Day has now become another public holiday in countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It is also the traditional day that Pantomimes started to play.

Aladdin at Beacon Arts Centre
Aladdin at Beacon Arts Centre

There are also often sports played on Boxing Day in the UK, especially horse racing and football matches! It’s also when shops traditionally start big sales after Christmas in the UK.