What is Boxing Day? How it became an English Premier League tradition
For a lot of football fans, Boxing Day means one thing: Premier League games.
The day has been marked on the competition’s calendar for so many years now it’s become an unshiftable tradition.
Other leagues around Europe take a two-week break around the Christmas and New Years, but the UK piles on the fixtures. U.S. fans can equate the day to how the NFL is synonymous with Thanksgiving, or (to a lesser extent) how Christmas Day is for the NBA. Premier League games rack up ratings as fans plan to be home planted on the couch, feasting on Christmas Day leftovers and enjoying Premier League action.
So what is Boxing Day and how did it come to such prominence? Here’s a brief run-through of the history and tradition surrounding Boxing Day in the UK.
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What day is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day falls on December 26 every year.
Always the day after Christmas, it’s a vital 24 hours for many after the chaos of Christmas.
Why is it called Boxing Day? Explaining meaning
Boxing Day is an annual holiday in England that falls on December 26, or the day after Christmas.
It is a “bank holiday” — essentially what Americans would refer to as a federal holiday — meaning most businesses are closed and most employees have the day off.
The term “Boxing Day” has been traced back to Charles Dickens who coined the term in 1833, and Boxing Day has been an established holiday since 1871, although the holiday itself is thought to date all the way back to Victorian times.
It is named for the tradition of employers handing out boxes of Christmas gifts to employees, especially to servants and other household employees who were required to work on Christmas.
Today, while the original intent of the holiday has all but disappeared (most holiday charity events now take place in the run-up to Christmas instead), the day has become known for two things: sports and shopping.
Enjoy these @budfootball Boxing Day treats 🍬 pic.twitter.com/nlpajKOeZ9
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 26, 2021
Who has the best record on Boxing Day?
In the first year of the Football League in 1888, Derby County played Bolton Wanderers and West Brom hosted Preston North End on Boxing Day. Since, there have been 3,730 matches in the English Football League played on Boxing Day according to the Association of Football Statisticians.
West Brom has played the most Boxing Day matches in league history, with 105 games played to a 44W-39L-22D record. Manchester United has gained the most points on Boxing Day, with 171 points gathered on a 51W-27L-18D record across 96 Boxing Day matches.
Robbie Fowler and Harry Kane are tied for scoring the most goals on Boxing Day with nine each – a record Kane could break in 2022.
The highest-scoring Boxing Day fixture in Premier League history was Manchester City’s 6-3 win over Leicester City in 2021.
The highest-scoring Boxing Day in English top flight history happened in 1963, when an outlandish 66 goals were scored across 10 matches, marked by a bonkers 10-1 win for Fulham over Ipswich Town and an 8-2 drubbing by Blackburn over West Ham.
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Boxing Day’s importance in sports
Boxing Day is a massive event on the sporting calendar in the UK.
For football fans, they will see the Premier League load up on games throughout the day. This year, there are seven matches on Boxing Day spanning seven total hours of gameplay starting at 10 a.m. ET and lasting through 5:00 p.m. ET, with slight half-hour breaks between slates.
Adding up all the games, there will be 14 hours of soccer played in the Premier League on December 26 this year (plus stoppage time, of course).
However, soccer isn’t the only sport which celebrates Boxing Day with a showcase event. Test cricket — the longest, oldest, and “most pure” format of the sport — also often has a major event on Boxing Day, usually the first day of the five scheduled days for a test match.
Australia has hosted a Boxing Day Test every year since 1990, usually at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. If the Ashes are played in Australia that December, as they are this year, one of the tests will inevitably begin on Boxing Day.
Horse racing in England also usually loads up the schedule on Boxing Day, punctuated by the King George VI Chase, the second-most popular horse race in the sport’s calendar behind the Cheltenham Gold Cup which takes place in March.
🥊 Boxing Day bangers! 💥 pic.twitter.com/3uMwD21rN4
— Premier League (@premierleague) December 26, 2021
Premier League Boxing Day schedule in 2022
Boxing Day in 2022 is particularly significant for the Premier League as the competition makes its return after the World Cup break.
Seven games are scheduled to take place across December 26 this year with Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham all in action.
|Brentford vs Tottenham||12:30||07:30|
|Southampton vs Brighton||15:00||10:00|
|Leicester City vs. Newcastle||15:00||10:00|
|Crystal Palace vs. Fulham||15:00||10:00|
|Everton vs. Wolves||15:00||10:00|
|Aston Villa vs Liverpool||17:30||12:30|
|Arsenal vs West Ham||17:30||12:30|
Premier League 2022/23 TV channels, live streams
|Hong Kong||—||Now TV|
|India||Star Sports||Disney+, Hotstar, JioTV|
|Malaysia||Astro SuperSport||Astro Go|
|New Zealand||Sky Sport||Sky Sport Now, Sky Go|
|UK||Sky Sports, BT Sport||NOW TV, Sky Go, Amazon Prime|
|USA||USA Network, Telemundo, Universo||fuboTV, Peacock|
UK: Matches are carried across Sky Sports and BT Sport streaming and TV platforms, with select matches on Amazon Prime.
USA: Select matches are televised on USA Network (English) and Telemundo or Universo (Spanish), and all three channels can be streamed on fuboTV. The rest of the matches are streamed on NBC platform Peacock for subscribers.
Canada: Every Premier League game this season is live streaming exclusively via fuboTV in Canada.
Australia: Fans in Australia can stream every match live and on demand on Optus Sport.
India: Star Sports network has the rights to show Premier League matches in India. As well as an English broadcast on Star Sports Select, select matches will be available via regional feeds on Star Sports 3 (in Bengali, English, Kannada, Malayalam), Star Sports 1 (Bangla) and Star Sports 1 (Tamil).