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What Is Boxing Day? Details About The Post-Christmas Celebration

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What Is Boxing Day? Details About The U.K. Holiday And How To Celebrate
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There's a lot of talk about how the royals celebrate Boxing Day.

Despite what it may sound like, Boxing Day is not a day dedicated to airing your post-holiday frustrations in the ring. And while Americans don't typically celebrate Boxing Day, it is celebrated by the United States’ parent country, Great Britain, along with other countries in the British Commonwealth.

This year, Meghan Markle is celebrating her first holiday season as the Duchess of Sussex. She will encounter the way England celebrates Christmas and Boxing Day. Of course, the royal family has their own particular traditions during this time.

Markle is already disrupting one of them: per her request, Prince Harry will not participate in the family’s Boxing Day tradition: a pheasant hunt. She is against hunting and wearing furs. Markle is a “principled animal lover” and, according to the Telegraph, once said she is vegan during the week.

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While Prince Harry may be in solidarity with his wife and her dedication to animal rights, others are not so sympathetic to her cause. The Sunday Mirror reported on Prince William’s concern with his brother electing not to participate in their family tradition at Sandringham.

“In his mind, William sees this as another concerning example of his younger brother being pulled away from his family by his new wife,” a source said. “Harry’s always loved hunting and it has provided them with a great chance to bond as brothers. But now it looks like Harry’s shooting days are over. It’s the latest point of contention between the Princes after a testing time in their relationship.”

Boxing Day, however, is not a holiday centered on royalty and their hunts. The day has an interesting history, perhaps dating back hundreds of years, and has transformed to fit the modern day.

1. It was Christmas Day for servants and the working class.

The large working-class population often had to spend December 25th serving their lords and ladies. On December 26th, however, the servants would receive Christmas boxes from the families they worked for, then would return home to spend the day with their actual families. The boxes would contain gifts such as bonus money, goods, and maybe leftover food.

Historians also think Boxing Day was given its name from the church. Members of the clergy would give the poor money from alms boxes after Christmas. British aristocracy often followed the church’s example, and so Boxing Day became a standard.

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2. Though it may have a much longer history, it has been an official holiday since Queen Victoria’s rule.

Boxing Day became a national holiday in 1871, but only in England and Wales. Scotland adopted the day as a bank holiday over a hundred years later in 1974.

Ireland, with its deep Catholic roots, had already officially dedicated the day to Saint Stephen. When the Republic of Ireland split from the U.K. in the 1920s, Northern Ireland joined England in calling December 26 Boxing Day.

Other former and current British colonies, including Canada, have adopted the holiday. The day is named in a diary entry by Samuel Pepys in 1663, so while the holiday is officially about 150 years old, it may be much, much older.

If the 26th lands on a Saturday or Sunday, the following Monday or Tuesday is honored as a day off.

3. In the modern day, Boxing Day should be called Shopping Day.

After Thanksgiving, Americans have Black Friday; after Christmas, Brits have Boxing Day. Black Friday has spread across the pond in recent years, but Boxing Day is still a major day to hit the shops. People still use their day off to go shopping, and perhaps return gifts. Sometimes shoppers will buy gifts on Boxing Day for the discounted price.

Otherwise, some people out in the country will celebrate the day with hunting, following the royal family’s suit.

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Alison Cerri is an editorial intern at YourTango. When she's not writing, she can be found on a run or at rugby practice. Follow her on Instagram.

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