The day after Christmas is historically known in parts of the world as “Boxing Day,” but why is that?
Mark Connelly, a professor of modern British history at the University of Kent, told Inside Edition Digital, “It's part of the ancient Christian calendar, marking the first great martyr of Christianity, St. Stephen.”
St. Stephen was stoned to death in 34 AD.
“I think it was in the 820s that the popes brought in St. Stephen's Day as a church feast. It's pretty venerable,” Connelly described.
His feast day in late December became a time of charitable giving -- particularly from the rich to the poor.
“Traditionally, in England, it became by the Middle Ages the day on which the nobility would hand out charity, often for people on their estate or to poorer workers,” Connelly explained. “So the 26th of December, St. Stephen's Day, rapidly became known as Boxing Day in England and across Britain because it was quite literally the day of boxes. Little boxes of alms, church doles, little boxes of coins would usually be given out often at the lich gate or the church door. So the term stuck. The day of giving out these small boxes it became Boxing Day and has lived, certainly in British culture, ever since.”
Boxing Day continued to evolve over the centuries. In 1871, the Bank Holidays Act recognized the 26th as an official holiday and the holiday soon involved more free time for folks, Connelly said.
"So professional soccer quickly put its claws into Boxing Day. It's a day where you can have a game and you're guaranteed an audience,” he said.
Shopping, horse-racing, fox-hunting and other outdoor activities are also popular on the 26th. Much like Christmas itself, Boxing Day has mutated into something very different from its original intent.
Connelly says it’s still a good reminder to be a kind member of your community.
“The bit I really like about the original spirit of Boxing Day is that sense of bonhomie, of Dickensian, genuine fraternity,” Connelly said. “It's genuinely about a wider community. Or at least that was the original spirit of it.”