Main Listening Report: Boxing Day Tradition

On this week’s main report we look at the tradition of playing football on the 26th of December – Boxing Day. For this audio report there is a transcript which is great for learners and teachers of English. If you have questions or comments about this, or any other football phrase, you can email us at:

Boxing Day Tradition

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Next week is Christmas and many of the European leagues will take their yearly winter break. Spain’s La Liga will take a couple of weeks off and hang up their boots until the 5th of January. In Serie A, like Spain, has the last round of games this weekend and won’t kick a ball again until the 6th of January, and players in the Bundesliga in Germany can put their feet up until the next round of games in one month, the 19th of January.

In the UK and Ireland, however, there is a tradition of playing on through the winter and Christmas season. In fact, it is the busiest time of the year for most football teams playing in Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland, and is centered on the Boxing Day fixtures, also known as St. Stephen’s Day in Ireland.

Boxing Day is on the 26th of December, the day after Christmas Day, and  is a traditional day for football and rugby league action. There are two main explanations for the name Boxing Day: one is that the Church collected money on boxes hung outside the church building to distribute to the poor in the neighborhood, the other is that on this day, servants and workmen and women received a box of gifts from their employers to thank them for the work they did in the year.  Whatever the origins of the name, Christmas and Boxing Day wouldn’t feel right without football.

It used to be common for Boxing Day games to be between local rivals. This was because people didn’t want to travel far with their families during the Christmas holidays and also perhaps and echo of the folk football tradition, the roots of football, where local rivals would hold folk football events on special days in the calendar. However, now, this tradition, in the top leagues is not observed.

This winter, teams in the Premier League will play five games while there counterparts in Spain and Italy will be relaxing at home with their families. It may be a busy time for British and Irish clubs, but most fans wouldn’t want the Boxing Day tradition to end.

Vocabulary support

  • hang up their boots: usually this means to retire, to stop playing, but in this context means to take a break
  • put their feet up: relax; take a break
  • folk football: the origins of the modern game; a festival where two sides try to move a ball from one side of a village or town to the other (see languagecaster’s folk football article)

Don’t forget there is also a transcript for this report which can be accessed for free at Check out our glossary of footballing phrases here. If you have any suggestions, contact us at

Learn English Through Football
Learn English Through Football

Free football language podcast for learners of English brought to you by Damian and Damon. Interviews, match reviews, predictions all with full language support for football fans around the world who wish to improve their English language skills.

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I was born and brought up near Chester in the north west of England. I have always loved playing and talking about sport, especially football!
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BEpisode 321