Boxing Day was not a public holiday until the 1870s when the Bank Holidays Act extended the Christmas break to 26 December. The two day holiday gave people working in Britain’s growing towns and cities time to travel home and enjoy a family re-union before travelling back to begin work again on 27 December.
While the Bank Holiday is only around 140 years old, Boxing Day has a much older history. For centuries masters of estates gave Christmas boxes to servants, often containing money. Tradesmen also gave free goods to their most loyal customers. Some people travelled from house to house carrying boxes to collect these gifts. This normally took place on 26 December and is believed to be the origin of Boxing Day.