Do you know what Boxing Day is?
Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth the day after Christmas Day, that is, December 26.
Nowadays, Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday, filled with promotions and price cuts, just like Black Friday. Since it's the day after Christmas, people take the opportunity to return unwanted gifts and redeem gift cards.
In the United Kingdom, Boxing Day is also a religious holiday, associated with St. Stephen's Day, a very popular saint in the Catholic Church.
But of interest for us is the fact that Boxing Day is also a celebration of sports, namely football and rugby, at least in the UK: a complete round of all football and rugby leagues takes place on this day.
The historical origin of Boxing Day
There are competing theories for the origin of Boxing Day, none of which is definitive.
One such theory says that it's a reference to the Alms Box place in Christian churches to collect donations for the poor. Another version, going back to the Victorian period, posits that this was a day off for servants that, having worked the previous day, got a box with offers and leftovers from their masters. One more story tells us of a small safe-like box that sailors took with them out to sea as a lucky charm: if their perilous voyage was uneventful, the box would be opened upon return and its content handed to the poor.
In more recent times, Boxing Day became regarded as a time to go over the Christmas meal leftovers, exchange gifts with more distant relatives, and hunt foxes - a practice later prohibited. There were also sporting events, such as rugby, horseback riding and football.
Football and Boxing Day
December 26 is also the date when the first competitive match between clubs took place. In 1860, Sheffield FC - the oldest club on the planet, founded in 1857, now relegated to the lower English football divisions - played and won 2-0 over Hallam FC. Some eleven years later, the tradition of Boxing Day football began: all English, Scottish and Welsh football leagues, as well as leagues from the former British colonies, took to the pitches to play the beautiful game for fans to watch and cheer.
This Saturday, once again, fans will come to stadiums across the UK to celebrate yet another Boxing Day. Contrary to what happens in other countries, the top sports competitions don't stop, particularly the football league and the rugby league.
These are the Premier League matches scheduled to take place on December 26 (this year, given the COVID-19 outbreak, there may be changes, so check the same day):
- 12:30 - Leicester City vs Manchester United
- 15:00 - Aston Villa x Crystal Palace
- 15:00 - Fulham vs Southampton
- 17:30 - Arsenal v Chelsea
- 20:00 - Manchester City vs Newcastle United
- 20:00 - Sheffield United vs Everton