Many countries celebrate Boxing Day on Dec. 26, those outside of these countries may be unaware as to the meaning behind the holiday and how its traditions originated.
Boxing Day is celebrated by those in countries that were once part of the British empire, which includes Canada.
As a federal holiday, post offices and banks are closed, and schools also are closed as part of winter vacations.
Despite being a federal holiday, Boxing Day is not observed in the same way in all provinces and territories, and it is not an official holiday in Quebec.
Depending on the area, stores may be open or closed. Some people use the opportunity to take part in post-Christmas sales or make returns. Many stores run Boxing Week sales the full week through New Year's Day.
Some shoppers have been known to camp outside of stores to take advantage of these price cuts, much in the way Americans might wait in the wee hours of the morning for Black Friday deals.
The etymology of the name Boxing Day is unclear, but some historians surmise that it is tied to the European tradition of giving gifts to the needy and those in service positions, as was the case during the Middle Ages.
In the United Kingdom, it also became tradition that the day after Christmas employers would gift their servants with boxes of food leftovers from the holidays or present monetary gifts.
The servants were allowed to take the day off to spend it with their families after having worked Christmas.
Other ideas tie the tradition to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which also takes place on Dec. 26. Metal boxes, into which people could put donations for the needy, were left outside of churches.
Despite what the name may suggest, the sport of boxing has nothing to do with the holiday. However, with Canadians and others having the day off from work, they may be able to tune into a fight on television and establish a new tradition.
There are other ways people can create their own Boxing Day traditions.
Here are a few ideas:
- Collect food or clothing donations from neighbours and deliver them to a shelter or soup kitchen.
- Volunteer to help at a hospital, animal shelter or school when it reopens.
- Encourage children to invite their friends over and curl up with a good movie and some popcorn.
- If you are a business owner, call employees and personally thank them for their time of service.
- Have a fun, family game night.
- Decorate the house with boxes of all shapes and sizes.
- Gather holiday gift boxes and prepare them for the recycling bin.
- Make a charitable donation to your preferred organization.