What Is Boxing Day? How to Celebrate This Perfectly Sensible British Holiday.

updated Dec 17, 2019
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(Image credit: PBS)

Christmas falls on a Monday this year, which means we get it off from work. Hooray!

But across the pond, the day after Christmas — or more accurately, the weekday after Christmas — is always an actual holiday. It’s call Boxing Day and it has nothing to do with pugilism (or the “unboxing” phenomenon, which I admit to not understanding one bit).

Why Is It Called Boxing Day?

There are many theories as to how Boxing Day got its name. Some posit the name comes from church donation boxes. It’s also true that servants in wealthy families got the day after Christmas off to visit their families and were often sent home with a box full of presents and goodies. And the day was also a day for gifting your cobbler or tailor a Christmas “box” or money as a thank you for their services.

Why (and How) You Should Embrace Boxing Day

The holiday, which is also the fast of Saint Stephen, the patron saint of horses, is a day when some choose to engage in horse-related things, like hunting and going to the races. It’s also a day for shopping (much like Black Friday), sports of all kinds (particularly football), and general revelry.

In other words, Boxing Day is just another way to extend the holiday, which, I think, we can all get behind. Christmas Day leaves you with new toys to play with, travel to recover from, and family to enjoy. (Not to mention candy canes to consume.) It’s exceedingly sensible to take an extra day off after Christmas.

Sleeping in, eating leftovers, playing with your toys — these are all perfectly acceptable ways to celebrate this bonus holiday. But perhaps you’d like to do something with a slightly more British bent? Here, then, are a few ideas.

1. Watch The Great British Baking Show.

Also known as The Great British Bake-Off (that’s the U.K. version), you can catch some episodes on PBS (or online at PBS.org) or buy three seasons on Amazon.

2. Ready, set, bake!

Or, instead of watching British people bake, you could do some British baking of your own. Here are a few recipes to try.

3. Take tea.

This might mean getting out of those sweats and going to a fancy hotel for proper tea, or it might mean making a perfect cuppa in the comfort of your coziest pants.

4. Make a proper(ish) English breakfast.

Holidays are exhausting. You’ll need something substantial on Boxing Day to refuel. Our version of the English breakfast doesn’t have beans or blood sausage, but it’s hearty and, even better, it can all be made on a single pan.

5. Practice your British kitchen words.

If you just want to get into the proper spirit without actually doing much of anything at all, why not try out some of our favorite British kitchen words?

Now you: How are you celebrating Boxing Day?