You ask the average person in London what Boxing Day is and you get a variety of answers. It is the day you get drunk with the people you like, or it is the day you recover from family. Or is it a holiday where you can rest after Christmas? What is Boxing Day and how did it start? It is definitely more than another holiday shopping day. But why did come about and do only the Brits get to enjoy it?
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For Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries it is public holiday. Most offices are closed on this day if it is a weekday and adds to the nice long Christmas break.
In parts of Europe, such as several regions of Spain, the Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Romania, Hungary, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Norway, and in the Republic of Ireland, 26 December is Saint Stephen’s Day, which is considered the second day of Christmas. But is is a different holiday and background than Boxing Day.
During the Victorian era, the upper class and aristocracy would box up leftover food, money, gifts and goods and give them to their tradesmen, servants and others who provided reliable service all year.
It is a wonderful sentiment which has been a bit forgotten. Today, Boxing Day in the UK and Commonwealth is more known for leftovers, relaxing and the Boxing Day Sales.
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It was more philanthropic and family oriented up until WWII. A gradual shift occurred during the economic boom after the second world war as the British slowly got back on their feet. Retailers realized it was a chance to drive traffic and sales. By the mid-1950, consumer expenditure increased and the competition between retailers intensified. Now it is similar to Black Friday in the US with stores opening early, big markdowns on a few products and big crowds.
So today is a day to either kick back and join the throngs of shoppers. Either way – have fun!