There is a song, commonly sung at Christmas time in the Christian world entitled “Good King Wenceslas.” King Wenceslas, according to the hymn, was surveying his land when he noticed someone gathering up wood. This so moved the monarch that he arranged to have the man fed royally. This is the basis of the tradition for alms-giving, which basically means helping the poor, and is common to most or all religions.
Another king also contributed to the origins of Boxing Day. The Church of England (or Anglican Church) was the church created by King Henry VIII in the 16th century, because he was not able to secure a divorce through the Catholic church. So in other words, the Anglican church has nothing to do with God; it is a church of convenience because a monarch wanted to satisfy his selfish desires.
Okay, back to Boxing Day! Anglicans would put their money into a box to be dispensed among the poor. In a slight variation of this possible origin of the holiday, another scenario has it where the aristocracy gave extra presents to the people who worked for them, and again, the presents were in boxes, hence the name Boxing Day.
Unfortunately, mirroring society as a whole, Boxing Day has become a lot more secular over the years, since 1871, when it first began being celebrated in the Commonwealth. It is now less about sharing with the poor, than it is about having a day off from work, socializing with friends, drinking, partying, etc.
What will you find people from different cultures doing on Boxing Day? Many Canadians will be drinking. Many British people will be engaged in a fox hunt (with dogs now only being able to chase the foxes, not actually harm them), and Bahamians celebrate this holiday with what is known as Junkanoo, a festival. Instead of hunting foxes, the Irish hunt wrens on Boxing Day, or as they refer to it, St. Stephen’s Day. Americans don’t celebrate Boxing Day, which surprised me. In Canada, the stores aren’t open today but tomorrow they will be and the sales designed to attract consumers to bump up the economy are known as “Boxing Day” sales, even though it won’t be Boxing Day tomorrow.