The United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries typically celebrate Boxing Day every December 26. The tradition of giving servants and tradespeople a "Christmas box" of food and gifts from their employers dates back to the Middle Ages.
In South Africa, the holiday was officially renamed the Day of Goodwill in 1994. But in other European countries, December 26 is celebrated as "Second Christmas Day" - an entirely different holiday.
"On the second day it's a time for personal reflection to think about where you are in life, where you're going, to think about family and what's important," says Rebecca Cruise, a contributor to KGOU's global affairs program World Views and the assistant dean of the University of Oklahoma's College of International Studies. "But Boxing Day is something really quite different. It's a huge shopping day, so perhaps we can think of our custom of Black Friday and Thanksgiving. It's also a huge sporting day, like on New Year's Day here, when we watch a great deal of football, or again on Thanksgiving."
And much like Black Friday in the United States, Boxing Day is one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and vitally important to British and Commonwealth economies.
"For December 26, 2013, £2.2 billion were spent in stores in Great Britain, and about £300 million spent online during that day. And that was just the 26th. This tends to be a three- or four-day period of time," Cruise says. "The biggest consumers are actually people that fly in specifically to buy goods, and these people tend to come overwhelmingly from China, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf countries."
Cruise also says U.S. retailer Amazon has spearheaded an effort to encourage UK consumers to celebrate Black Friday on the day after American Thanksgiving.
"You're starting to see a lot more pre-sales, so people are starting to buy a little bit earlier," Cruise says. "There is some concern that in years to come we might see less purchases on Boxing Day, because people will be a little burnt out with all the earlier purchases that they've made."
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