What is the “Boxing Day” football tradition?

Fans from England travel in significant numbers on the 26th of December to watch matches in the Premier League and other tournaments. What precisely is Boxing Day, and how does the game of football have any relation to the history of the holiday? Here is the insight:

Saint Stephen’s Day is a celebration that occurs on December 26th and adds an extra day to the holiday season in countries and regions that have a significant Catholic population. Nevertheless, it is a highly significant day in the countries that are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, and it also has some effect on the world of sports. In this part of the article, we are going to study the roots of Boxing Day as well as its history, both of which may be traced back to the sport of football that is played in England in some way.

What is Boxing Day, and what does football have to do with it?

Boxing Day is a public holiday that is celebrated on December 26, the day after Christmas, in Canada, the United Kingdom, Guatemala, Australia, and New Zealand. In Canada, the event is known as “Family Day.” This day was given its name because, during the 19th century in these nations, on the day of Santo Stefano, it was a habit to give gifts to those who belonged to the lowest social classes. These gifts were often arranged in special boxes (hence the English term “box,” which gives the day its name).

On the other hand, many people believe that Boxing Day derives from the Christian tradition and custom of keeping a donation box open in churches throughout the year. This box was opened precisely on December 26, and all the proceeds were shared with the neediest who lived in the parish area. Today, however, is Boxing Day, which is especially the day when the sales start in England and a lot of football matches are played. To be precise, all of them.

In fact, December 26 is a special day for English fans, who flock to the stadiums to watch their favorite teams. On Boxing Day, the Premier League takes the field all together to give away an entire championship round in the space of 24 hours. Every year, on whichever day of the week December 26 falls, the Premier League is played. Football, however, is not the only sport to be active on Boxing Day, because rugby matches and horse races are also usually played, such as the King George VI Chase at the Kempton Park racecourse, a race over hurdles over a distance of about 3 miles.

The history of Boxing Day and football: the origins

The history of Boxing Day and its connection with football starts towards the end of the nineteenth century. Being a public holiday, many of the English decided to use it to play football. This custom remained active even when the first professional matches began to be played and, consequently, when the First Division was born (in 1888). Not surprisingly, the first official match in the history of football was played on Boxing Day, when the two oldest football clubs in the world faced each other: Sheffield FC and Hallam FC.

It was originally planned that the matches would take place in a double round, two-way, between the 25th and 26th of December. However, after some time, in 1958, the rule was changed to allow all the people who worked in the sector (footballers and coaches included) to be able to spend Christmas day with their loved ones and families.