Word of the Day

Boxing Day

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the first day after Christmas Day, which is a public holiday in the UK and Canada

Origins and usage

Boxing Day is generally believed to have its origins in the mid-19th century, when it was customary to give servants, tradespeople and other workers a Christmas box containing food, money and small gifts as thanks for their loyal service throughout the year.


The term Boxing Day typically refers to the secular holiday celebrated on 26 December, the day after Christmas Day. This bank holiday is observed throughout Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, and the day is set aside as an extension of the Christmas season. It’s a popular shopping holiday, with many high street retailers offering Boxing Day sales and special discounts. People also tend to observe the holiday by going to the cinema or taking in a football match, among other sporting events.

Apart from these Boxing Day traditions, there are plenty of decidedly odd ways people all over the UK celebrate the day.

In Aberdeen, dozens of swimmers in fancy dress brave an icy water dip at the annual Nippy Dipper Boxing Day Dip.

The village of Grantchester, Cambridgeshire holds a yearly Boxing Day barrel rolling contest.

Since the early 19th century, the Keynsham Mummers play has been performed in the town of Keynsham on Boxing Day.

In Haslemere, Surrey, participants in the town’s fun run are treated to a pint of winter ale at the race’s halfway mark.

And in a Boxing Day tradition dating back to the 19th century, the Scarborough Beach charity football game features players in fancy dress and a raft race on the harbour.


“No man ever talked in poetry ‘cept a beadle on boxin’ day.”
(Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers)
View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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