What Does Boxing Day Have to Do with Christmas?

Many people around the world hear of the holiday Boxing Day or they see it on their calendars wondering how the day is celebrated. Living in America, I have personally never celebrated Boxing Day. However, this does not mean that I can never join in on the generosity and heart that is behind this holiday. Today we are going to explore, what is boxing day?

Britannica shares, “Boxing Day, in Great Britain and some Commonwealth countries, particularly Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, is a holiday (December 26) on which servants, tradespeople, and the poor traditionally were presented with gifts. By the 21st century it had become a day associated with shopping and sporting events. Boxing Day is celebrated on Sunday, December 26, 2021.”

Some have the theory that provisions for the poor given to churches at Christmas were opened on the 26th. It is also said that many of the lower class employees had to work on Christmas Day and so they celebrated on December 26th. 

National Today shares, “Some historians attribute Boxing Day to the small boxes of alms placed near the church doors requesting donations to help the poor during Advent. On the day after Christmas, members of the church clergy would distribute the donations to needy citizens throughout the community.”

How Is St. Stephen’s Day Connected to Boxing Day?

This date is also the celebration of St. Stephen’s Day. Stephen was a Christian deacon in Scripture and was the very first Christian martyr. He was stoned and his story can be read in Acts 7:54-60. What many scholars notice about the significance of the martyr of Stephen is that Jesus is said to be standing at the right hand of God. “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”

Other than this instance, Jesus is normally mentioned as seated at the right hand of the Father. (Luke 22:69, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1) Jesus gave Stephen a standing ovation for his faith and dedication to Him. When we think about how St. Stephen’s Day is the same day as Boxing Day, the common theme is dedication and selflessness. Stephen gave His life for the sake of the gospel and the spiritually poor. Today, people give gifts and love others generously who are physically poor. We can strategically take this opportunity to segue from the physical poverty to the spiritual. Then, we like Stephen, can stand strong and share the truth of salvation through Christ with a tender heart.

What Is Boxing Day’s Connection to Christmas?

The major holiday that most of us are looking forward to is Christmas. The original meaning and focus of Christmas is that Jesus came to the earth and was born in a manger, and lived the perfect life in our place so that we could be saved. In the 1800s, the concept of giving gifts and Santa Clause came to be in the United States. The fun of taking time off and making memories with family around a Christmas tree began.

Boxing Day connects to Christmas because it was the day of Christmas for many poor families. Most of them would receive a gift on the day after Christmas. It causes me to think about Luke 12:48b “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Those who were physically given more were provided with the option to give to those who had less. This poses the question to us today, am I willing to give to others this holiday season, or am I only concerned about me and my family?

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus and enjoy the holiday tradition, may we not forget the poor. Boxing Day is a wonderful reminder that we need to keep our eyes out for those less fortunate than ourselves. Having a heart of generosity is having the heart of Christ. Jesus was in Heaven, the most amazing place to live with everything He could ever want, but He left all of the comforts and the perfection to come down into our messy and ugly world as a baby to live and conquer death for us. He was generous in every way.

Perhaps you do not feel like you have much to offer or give to others this holiday season. Do not allow the enemy to get you discouraged. Everyone has something to give. It might be your time and companionship, it could be financial, it might be cooking a meal, or you could meet a need in your community. As the middle and upper class would receive gifts, they then turned around on Boxing Day and gave to those who had to work on Christmas or who had fewer resources. This is the best attitude to have at Christmastime, being selfless, grateful, and giving.

Is Boxing Day Still Celebrated Today?

National Today explains that Boxing Day is still celebrated to this day in the United Kingdom, Canada, Jamaica, South Africa, and New Zealand. People spend the day giving their time in service to others, hiking or playing sports, or having a re-gifting party. People also perform Pantomimes with Christmas stories including fairy tale characters. In Jamaica, they have beach parties and participate in the sport of boxing on Boxing Day. And of course, there are amazing holiday discounts at stores that draw the masses to shop. National Today even mentions that Charles Dickens himself included Boxing Day in his first novel, “The Pickwick Papers.”

Little Passports shares that various places that observe Boxing Day honor it differently. They tell us that England, Hong Kong, and Canada do a lot of shopping, making December 26th one of the busiest retail days of the year. The Bahamas created Junkanoo and have a parade with music and dancing. It is summertime in New Zealand and they have the Ellerslie Boxing Day Races for horses which have been taking place for over 150 years. Australia spends the day with athletic competition. The Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race happens every year.

It is really beautiful to think about how one day can be a time of celebration around the entire world. It reminds me of the fact that Revelation 7 tells us about people from every nation coming together worshipping Jesus. Boxing Day can encourage us as believers in Christ to not let the generosity and gospel message of Christmas to end on December 26th but to continue into a celebration and a lifestyle of sacrifice and hope. The fun events and traditions are enjoyable for Boxing Day, but the original meaning, just like Christmas is more powerful.

Thinking of others and loving our neighbors well, should be the daily life of believers. Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” If you are celebrating Boxing Day, consider the ways in which God might be moving in your heart to give. Pray about the opportunities in your town and take action on December 26th.

Acts 20:35 says, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Anastasiia Krivenok

Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life is to inspire young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. Emma is a North Carolina resident and green tea enthusiast! She is married to her husband Drew and they serve international college students. She enjoys singing, dancing, trying new recipes, and watching home makeover shows. During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Currently, she is in the editing stages of her first two writing projects: a Bible study on womanhood and a non-fiction book on singleness. You can visit her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com


This article is part of our larger Christmas and Advent resource library centered around the events leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ. We hope these articles help you understand the meaning and story behind important Christian holidays and dates and encourage you as you take time to reflect on all that God has done for us through his son Jesus Christ!

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