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Woodlands Junior School is in the south-east corner of England
In Britain, Boxing Day is usually celebrated on the following day after Christmas Day, which is 26 December. However, strictly speaking, Boxing Day is the first weekday after Christmas (see definition in the Oxford English Dictionary).
Like Christmas Day, Boxing Day is a public holiday. This means it is typically a non working day in the whole of Britain. When Boxing Day falls on a Saturday or Sunday the following Monday is the public holiday. © copyright of projectbritain.com
Traditionally, 26 December was the day to open the Christmas Box to share the contents with the poor. copyright of projectbritain.com
What is a Christmas Box?
The Christmas box was a wooden or clay container where people placed gifts. © copyright of projectbritain.com
Through our research for this page, we have discovered that Christmas Boxes were used in different ways:
To protect ships
During the Age of Exploration, when great sailing ships were setting off to discover new land, A Christmas Box was used as a good luck device. It was a small container placed on each ship while it was still in port. It was put there by a priest, and those crewmen who wanted to ensure a safe return would drop money into the box. It was then sealed up and kept on board for the entire voyage. © copyright of projectbritain.com
If the ship came home safely, the box was handed over to the priest in the exchange for the saying of a Mass of thanks for the success of the voyage. The Priest would keep the box sealed until Christmas when he would open it to share the contents with the poor.
To help the poor
An ‘Alms Box’ was placed in every church on Christmas Day, into which worshippers placed a gift for the poor of the parish. These boxes were always opened the day after Christmas, which is why that day became know as Boxing Day.
A present for the workers
Many poorly paid workers were required to work on Christmas Day and took the following day off to visit their families. As they prepared to leave, their employers would present them with Christmas boxes. copyright of projectbritain.com
During the late 18th century, Lords and Ladies of the manor would “box up” their leftover food, or sometimes gifts and distribute them the day after Christmas to tenants who lived and worked on their lands.
And the tradition still continues today ……
The tradition of giving money to workers still continues today. It is customary for householders to give small gifts or monetary tips to regular visiting trades people (the milkman, dustman, coalman, paper boy etc.) and, in some work places, for employers to give a Christmas bonus to employees.
Schools across the country gather together gifts to be put in Christmas Boxes that are sent to poorer countries.
St Stephen’s Day
Boxing Day is also known as St. Stephen’s Day (when Good King Wenceslas looked out).
‘Good King Wenceslas looked out,
Who was St Stephen?
Stephen lived in Rome and was the first man to be killed for believing in the teachings of Jesus. His story is told in the Acts of the Apostles 6: 1 to 8: 2.
Some people claim that he shares this day with another St Stephen, who came from Sweden. St Stephen of Sweden is the patron saint of horses.
Boxing Day has long be associated with outdoor sports, especially horse racing and hunting.
Boxing Day Hunts
Traditionally Boxing Day was a day for fox hunting. Horse riders dressed in red and white riding gear, accompanied by a number of dogs called foxhounds, chased the fox through the countryside in the hope of tiring it out.
Eventually the hunters hope the fox will be so tired that the dogs will be able to catch it and kill it.
Fox Hunting Today
Many animal welfare campaigners object to fox hunting saying it is cruel to kill a fox in this way, while many participants view it as a crucial part of rural history in England, vital for conservation, and a method of pest control.
In November 2004, MPs voted to ban hunting with dogs in England and Wales. As from 18 February 2005 hunting with dogs became a criminal offence (although it is still legal to exercise hounds, chase a scent and flush out foxes to be shot).
It is still traditional to see horse riders dressed in red and white riding gear, accompanied by a number of dogs called foxhounds. However, today instead of chasing a fox they chase a human runner. No living thing is killed.
Traditionally, Boxing Day is the day when families get together. It is a day of watching sports and playing board games with the family.
Many families will go on walks in the countryside together on Boxing day.
In recent times, some shops have broken from tradition and started opening on Boxing Day to start the New Year sales. Hundreds of people now spend Boxing Day morning in queues outside shops, waiting to be the first to dive for the sales racks as the doors opened.
Hunting of the Wren
“The wren, the wren, the king of all birds
Those that gave money to the boys would receive a feather from the wren as thanks. The collected money was then used to host a village dance.
This odd ritual was not restricted to England. It was prevalent in some continental countries on Boxing Day as well as the Isle of Man, Wales and Ireland.