Some readers (those not from Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand) may wonder why we celebrate fisticuffs on the day after Christmas … do we take a swing at those who gave us gifts we didn’t fancy? No, it’s not that, it’s an old British custom, dating from at least the early 19th century …
… Some say that December 26 was the day when aristocrats and the upper middle classes typically distributed “Christmas boxes” often filled with small gifts, money and leftovers from Christmas dinner to their household servants and employees, who were required to work on Christmas Day, in recognition of good service throughout the year. These boxes were, in essence, holiday bonuses. Another theory is that Boxing Day arose from the alms boxes that were placed in churches during the Advent season for collections from parishioners. Clergy members distributed the money from the boxes to the poor on December 26, which is also the feast of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr and a figure known for acts of charity.
The “Feast of Stephen” (Saint Stephen’s Day) you’ll recall is when “Good King Wenceslas” (Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia, (911-935) was later declared a “king” after being murdered by his brother, Boleslaus I the Cruel) went out on a cold, snowy St Stephen’s Day to deliver wine and food and fuel to the poor peasants.
So whatever tradition you keep, enjoy the day after Christmas.