What’s Boxing Day in Canada

by CiCi
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Boxing Day, celebrated on December 26th, is a significant holiday in Canada that follows Christmas Day. While its origins lie in British tradition, Boxing Day has evolved to become a unique part of Canadian culture, marked by a blend of festive cheer, shopping, and community activities. This article will delve into the history, significance, and modern-day observance of Boxing Day in Canada, exploring how it has become a cherished tradition and a vital part of the holiday season.

The History of Boxing Day

Origins in the United Kingdom

The term “Boxing Day” dates back to the 19th century in the United Kingdom. It was traditionally the day when wealthy households would present gifts or “boxes” containing money, food, or other items to their servants, tradespeople, and the less fortunate. This act of giving was meant to express gratitude for services rendered throughout the year and to share the joy of the Christmas season.


The exact origins of the name “Boxing Day” are somewhat ambiguous, with several theories suggesting different roots. One theory is that it comes from the practice of churches opening their alms boxes on the day after Christmas to distribute donations to the poor. Another theory suggests it originated from the custom of giving boxes of leftover food to servants after Christmas feasts.


Adoption in Canada

As a former British colony, Canada inherited many of the UK’s traditions, including Boxing Day. The holiday was officially recognized in Canada and has since become an integral part of the country’s holiday season. While the original customs of gifting to servants and the poor have evolved, the spirit of giving and community remains at the heart of Boxing Day celebrations in Canada.

Significance of Boxing Day

A Day of Rest and Recovery

For many Canadians, Boxing Day serves as a day of rest and recovery following the festivities of Christmas Day. After the hustle and bustle of preparing and celebrating Christmas, Boxing Day provides an opportunity to unwind, relax, and spend time with family and friends. It is a day to enjoy the remnants of Christmas dinner, reflect on the past year, and recharge before the New Year celebrations.

Community and Charity

The charitable roots of Boxing Day continue to influence its observance in Canada. Many people use the day to participate in charitable activities, such as volunteering at shelters, donating to food banks, and supporting various community initiatives. This aspect of Boxing Day reinforces the importance of helping those in need and spreading goodwill during the holiday season.

Traditional and Modern Observances

Shopping Extravaganza

One of the most notable aspects of Boxing Day in modern Canada is the shopping frenzy that accompanies it. Boxing Day sales are a major event, drawing shoppers to malls and retail stores across the country. Retailers offer significant discounts and promotions, making it one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The tradition of Boxing Day shopping has parallels to Black Friday in the United States, and it marks the beginning of the post-Christmas sales season.

Online Shopping and E-commerce

In recent years, the rise of e-commerce has transformed Boxing Day shopping. Many Canadians now prefer to shop online, taking advantage of Boxing Day deals from the comfort of their homes. Online retailers offer exclusive discounts and promotions, contributing to the overall shopping frenzy. The convenience of online shopping has also led to the extension of Boxing Day sales, with many retailers offering deals throughout the week following Christmas.

Sporting Events

Boxing Day is also associated with various sporting events in Canada. Hockey, being a national pastime, features prominently on this day. The World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, an annual event that begins around Christmas, often has games scheduled on Boxing Day, drawing significant attention from Canadian sports fans. Additionally, many local and regional hockey leagues hold games and tournaments on Boxing Day, making it a day of excitement for sports enthusiasts.

Cultural and Community Events

In addition to shopping and sports, Boxing Day is marked by various cultural and community events across Canada. Cities and towns host parades, festivals, and other public celebrations, fostering a sense of community and togetherness. These events often include music, food, and entertainment, providing opportunities for families and friends to enjoy the holiday season together.

Boxing Day Traditions Across Canada

Regional Variations

While Boxing Day is celebrated nationwide, the traditions and activities associated with the holiday can vary by region. In larger cities like Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal, the focus tends to be on shopping and commercial activities, with major malls and shopping districts bustling with activity. In smaller towns and rural areas, community events and family gatherings are more prominent.

Indigenous Traditions

For Indigenous communities in Canada, Boxing Day can hold additional cultural significance. Many Indigenous peoples incorporate their own traditions and customs into the holiday, blending the celebration with practices that honor their heritage and community values. This may include feasts, drumming, dancing, and other cultural activities that strengthen community bonds and preserve traditional ways of life.

Multicultural Influences

Canada’s multicultural society also influences Boxing Day celebrations. Immigrant communities bring their own customs and traditions to the holiday, enriching the diversity of observances. For example, some families may celebrate with traditional foods and rituals from their countries of origin, creating a unique fusion of Canadian and international holiday traditions.

Economic Impact of Boxing Day

Boost to Retail Sales

Boxing Day is a significant driver of retail sales in Canada. The holiday season, culminating in Boxing Day, represents a crucial period for retailers, accounting for a substantial portion of their annual revenue. The deep discounts and promotions offered on Boxing Day attract a large number of consumers, leading to increased sales and economic activity.

Employment Opportunities

The surge in retail activity during Boxing Day also creates employment opportunities. Retailers often hire additional staff to handle the increased customer traffic, providing temporary jobs for many individuals. This seasonal employment can be particularly beneficial for students and those seeking part-time work during the holiday season.

Economic Challenges

While Boxing Day sales boost the economy, they also present challenges for retailers. The pressure to offer deep discounts can impact profit margins, and the competition among retailers can be intense. Additionally, the shift towards online shopping has forced many traditional brick-and-mortar stores to adapt their strategies to remain competitive in the evolving retail landscape.

The Future of Boxing Day in Canada

Changing Consumer Behavior

As consumer behavior continues to evolve, the future of Boxing Day in Canada may see further changes. The growth of online shopping and the increasing popularity of other sales events, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, could influence how Canadians approach Boxing Day. Retailers will need to adapt to these trends, finding new ways to engage consumers and maintain the holiday’s significance.

Environmental Considerations

The environmental impact of Boxing Day shopping is another factor that may shape the holiday’s future. The surge in consumerism and the associated waste generation have raised concerns among environmental advocates. There is a growing movement towards sustainable and ethical shopping practices, which could lead to changes in how Boxing Day sales are conducted, with a greater emphasis on eco-friendly products and practices.

Preserving Traditions

Despite the changes and challenges, the core traditions and values of Boxing Day are likely to endure. The holiday’s emphasis on rest, community, and charity continues to resonate with Canadians. As long as these values remain at the heart of Boxing Day, it will continue to be a cherished part of Canada’s holiday season.

See also: What’s the History of Canada Day


Boxing Day in Canada is a vibrant and multifaceted holiday that blends tradition, commerce, and community. From its origins in British customs to its modern-day observance, Boxing Day has evolved into a unique celebration that holds a special place in the hearts of Canadians. Whether through shopping, charitable activities, sporting events, or cultural celebrations, Boxing Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the past year, spend time with loved ones, and embrace the spirit of giving and togetherness. As Canada continues to grow and change, Boxing Day will undoubtedly adapt, but its fundamental values and traditions will remain a lasting part of the nation’s cultural fabric.


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