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4 Family Traditions to Celebrate Boxing Day

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The Signatry

December 20, 2023

You may have heard that December 26 is called Boxing Day because it’s the day we throw out all the empty boxes left over from Christmas gifts.

However, Boxing Day really finds its origins in acts of generosity. It presents a unique opportunity to connect with Christian traditions from the past and dedicate time after Christmas to practice generosity, thankfulness to others, and service to those in need.

What is Boxing Day?

The true origin of Boxing Day is largely a mystery, but most people agree it is rooted in acts of generosity.

One theory is that Boxing Day began sometime during the Middle Ages as a day of rest for the servants of wealthy families. After serving their employers on Christmas day, household staff celebrated with their own families on December 26. Employers would often send their staff home with a “Christmas box” of gifts or money. Later, people also started bringing Christmas boxes as year-end gratuities to the tradesmen they worked with through the year.

Another theory traces Boxing Day to the collection boxes inside churches. Some sources say that churches opened their collection boxes on Christmas day and distributed the offerings to the poor on the day after Christmas.

Other sources say a special offering for the poor was collected on December 26 in celebration of St. Stephen’s Day. In Acts 6, Stephen was one of the seven men chosen to distribute food and care for the neglected, Greek-speaking widows in the church community. He is remembered as the first Christian martyr because of his subsequent execution and celebrated for his charity and generosity.

How to Celebrate Boxing Day in 2023

Even in countries where Boxing Day is a public holiday (including Canada, Ireland, Nigeria, Singapore, and more), it is no longer so strongly associated with traditions of generosity.

However, Boxing Day can be the perfect time for your family to step into some old Christian traditions. After the abundance of Christmas day, here are a few ways your family could extend that abundance and celebrate generosity on December 26:

Tip generously

If you go out to eat, order food or groceries, or do anything where you would usually leave a tip, join one longstanding Boxing Day tradition and give an extra thank-you to the people who serve you on December 26.

Volunteer with your family and friends

Your community likely has many ongoing volunteer opportunities that you can join with little notice. Organizations like food banks, food pantries, and soup kitchens often need volunteer help and have quick sign-up processes. Small acts of service like delivering groceries or organizing donated items can be a big help to your neighbors.

You can also use tools like Volunteer Match to search for volunteer opportunities in your zip code.

Get ahead on spring cleaning

Boxing day could be a good time to box up some of your own belongings to give to others. If decluttering the whole house is too big a project for one day, you and your family can pick a room in the house or a certain category of household item to pare down and pass along. Depending on the items, you can later donate them to a service organization, your church, or a thrift store. (Remember to be generous to the person who will sort through your donations, too, by giving away items in good condition!)

Create a family collection box

Like churches that emptied their collection boxes to distribute the funds to the poor, you and your family can identify a cause or a nonprofit to collect funds to support. Choosing a cause together, before you start giving, can serve as a great motivator to build up the funds in your “collection box” over time. Whether you use a physical box or a virtual tool—like a family donor advised fund—each family member can make donations in the coming weeks or months, then you can choose a day to empty the box and give the money to your chosen recipient.

Find the Cause You Can Support Together

Your family is designed to make a difference in the world. Centralizing your giving and volunteer efforts can unify your family and multiply the impact of your giving.

How can you pick a cause everyone cares about? Start with these 3 questions.

3 Steps to Choose a Family Cause

About The Signatry

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The Signatry seeks to inspire and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity across generations. Through donor advised funds and other innovative tools and resources, families are empowered to live generously, modeling biblical values for future generations and making a greater impact for causes that align with their passions. Since its founding in 2000, The Signatry has facilitated sending over $4 billion to organizations around the world that are dedicated to solving the world’s greatest problems.

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Together we’re redefining generosity.

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