Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated on 26th December, the day after Christmas Day. In Australia, Boxing Day is a federal public holiday. However, the state of South Australia instead observes a public holiday known as Proclamation Day.
If Christmas Day and/or Boxing Day fall on a Saturday or a Sunday the following days (eg. Monday or Tuesday) are substituted as public holidays. So Christmas can sometimes be a 4 day holiday!
Boxing Day is a holiday in most English speaking countries. Nobody knows the exact origin of the holiday but most think it was traditionally a day for employers in England to give staff a day off and to give bonuses of money, leftover food or old clothing to their employees. These were presented in a box and it became known as a “Christmas Box” Gifts among equals were exchanged on or before Christmas Day, but those less fortunate received theirs the day after.
Although it is a public holiday, the Boxing Day Sales have become an institution. Sales begin in most Australian cities and large towns on Boxing Day. Many people take advantage of the sales to buy items at significantly lower prices. Large crowds of shoppers gather – sometimes hours in advance – waiting for shop doors to open and then charge in hoping to grab some bargains.
Sport is an important feature of Boxing Day. The Boxing Day Test in Melbourne and the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race start on Boxing Day. The media interest in these prominent sports mean the holiday television programmes are dominated by sport.
- The Boxing Day Test Match, which lasts for 5 days begins on the 26th at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Up to 160,000 spectators with millions more at home will watch the game between the Australian National cricket team and another national team touring Australia.
- The Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race in December is an icon of Australia’s summer sport, ranking in popularity with other national sporting events. No yearly yachting event in the world attracts such huge media coverage as this blue water classic. The race starts at noon on Boxing Day in Sydney and finishes in Hobart, Tasmania. The course covers a distance of 628 nautical miles from Sydney Harbour to Battery Point in Hobart, Tasmania.