Boxing Day

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(in Britain) the first weekday after Christmas, when Christmas gifts or boxes are given to employees, letter carriers, etc.
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Origin of Boxing Day

First recorded in 1825–35
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is a post-Christmas holiday celebrated in the U.K. and other Commonwealth countries.

It traditionally involves giving gifts to people like employees, letter carriers, and others, but for many people it’s just part of the broader celebration of Christmas or the holiday season. For example, some people may hold a Christmas gathering on Boxing Day, rather than Christmas Day, or some might celebrate with one group of people on Christmas Day and another group of people on Boxing Day.

The word boxing in Boxing Day does not refer to the sport. The origin of the name is uncertain, but it may be a reference to boxes containing gifts or donations.

In the U.K., Boxing Day is a bank holiday, and it is a public holiday in some others.

It’s a common custom to eat Christmas Day leftovers on Boxing Day. Sports events are often held on the day, especially football (soccer) matches. The holiday is now also often used as a time for retailers to promote sales.

When is Boxing Day?

Boxing Day is traditionally celebrated on the day after Christmas Day—December 26. Its observance as a bank holiday, though, means that it’s sometimes officially observed on a weekday after Christmas. In 2023, Boxing Day will officially be observed on Tuesday, December 26. In 2024, Boxing Day will be observed on Thursday, December 26. 

More information and context on Boxing Day

The name Boxing Day has been used since at least the 1700s. The ultimate origin of the name isn’t certain, but it likely derives from the custom of giving service workers (such as letter carriers and shop workers) Christmas boxes—tips or small gifts, often presented in small boxes. It may have also been influenced by the Christmastime tradition of placing tips for shop workers into a small clay “box” that would then be opened after the holiday to divide the money among the workers.

The tradition of giving small presents to service workers on Boxing Day continues, especially for mail carriers and other workers that people commonly encounter (though not everyone follows this tradition).

What are some terms that often get used in discussing Boxing Day?

How is Boxing Day discussed in real life?

Boxing Day is primarily observed in the U.K. and other Commonwealth countries. Many traditions are associated with it, and it’s often observed as part of the Christmas season.

Try using Boxing Day!

True or False?

Boxing Day is always officially observed on December 26.

How to use Boxing Day in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for Boxing Day

Boxing Day

British the first day (traditionally and strictly, the first weekday) after Christmas, observed as a holiday

Word Origin for Boxing Day

C19: from the custom of giving Christmas boxes to tradesmen and staff on this day
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012