The exact meaning of the term “boxing” in Boxing Day is uncertain.
There are several competing theories, none of which is authoritative.
The Boxing Day tradition has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions.
The European tradition dates back to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown and there are some claims that it goes back to the late Roman/early Christian era, when metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen.
In the UK, it is a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year.
This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for 19th December 1663.
This custom is linked to an older English tradition: in exchange for ensuring that wealthy landowners’ had a trouble free Christmas,
their servants were allowed to take the 26th December off to visit their families.
The employers gave each servant a box containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food.
In Ireland, it is recognized as St Stephen’s Day or the Day of the Wren (Irish: Lá an Dreoilín)
In South Africa, Boxing Day was renamed Day of Goodwill in 1994.