Boxing Day Tradition
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 4th of January. In Serie A, like Spain, had the last round of games last week 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 31st 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.
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)
See also: Christmas and football traditions