Boxing Day is celebrated on December 26 in Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. When December 26 falls on a weekend, the following Monday is observed as the public holiday.
Traditionally, Boxing Day was a holiday on which servants, apprentices and the poor were presented with gifts. The origin of the name is not known for certain, but it may derive from the opening of alms boxes that had been placed in churches over the holidays for distribution to the poor.
Another explanation is it is named for the gift boxes that service employees opened on the day after Christmas, since they had to work on Christmas Day to enable their employers to observe the holiday. The origin of the holiday is unknown, but was probably first observed in the Middle Ages.
Today, the tradition of giving bonuses to service employees at Christmas time continues, though it is now usually done before Christmas. As December 26 is also the feast day of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and patron saint of horses, Boxing Day has become a day for sporting events like horse racing, fox hunting and rugby.
- - "Boxing Day." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.