Boxing Day Football: Why Football Matches Are Played?


Boxing Day which is celebrated after Christmas has become an important day for sports events. Traditionally, Horse Racing and a number of football matches including EPL matches are held on this day.

So, What is Boxing Day and why football matches are held on Boxing Day? Keep reading to know more.

What Is Boxing Day?

The Boxing Day is a holiday which is celebrated every year on 26th December (day after Christmas day). First thing first, it has nothing to do with the combat sports of Boxing and Boxing events and fights are not planned specifically for this day.

The term “Boxing day” is believed to be originated from the tradition of giving Christmas Box.

Why Is It Called Boxing Day?

In Britan, the Christmas presents, which can be money or other presents, are usually given in a box. So the term “Christmas Box” is used to identify Christmas presents.

The term “Boxing day” is believed to be originated from the tradition of giving Christmas Box. In Britan, a servant would receive Christmas box from his master as a token of appreciation for the work he has done throughout the year. Then the servant would take the Christmas box to his family on the Boxing Day.

One of the earliest versions of Oxford English Dictionary puts the definition of Boxing Day as follows:


When Is Boxing Day?

Initially, the Boxing Day was celebrated on the first weekday (Monday to Friday) following the Christmas day. So the date of the Boxing day was not particularly fixed. Previously, if the 26th December was a Saturday or Sunday, then the Boxing Day had to be moved to Monday or Tuesday respectively.

Nowadays the Boxing Day is celebrated on 26th December regardless of what day of the week it falls on.

Who Celebrates Boxing Day?

The Boxing Day is a national holiday in the United Kingdom. Several sports events are conducted on this day. In recent times it has also become a day of shopping.

In some parts of the world like Scotland and Catalonia (a region in Spain) the day is celebrated as Saint Stephen’s Day.

Boxing Day is also celebrated in many Commonwealth countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Nigeria, and Hong Kong.

The first football match on Boxing Day was held in 1860 between Sheffield and Hallam (Image was from a 1957 match)

Football Matches on Boxing Day

In recent times many sports are scheduled for Boxing Day making it the day of sports. The most popular events played on this day are Horse racing and football matches from popular football tournaments.

Each year, football matches from popular leagues like English Premier League, NIFL Premiership, and Scottish Premiership are conducted on the Boxing Day.

Until 1950s football matches were held on both the Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Usually, a bulk of matches would be played on Christmas with another round of matches scheduled for the next day.

This tradition was eventually phased out in favor of playing football matches only on Boxing Day. This makes Christmas a football-free day.

When Was the First Boxing Day Football Match Played?

The first football match on Boxing Day was held in 1860. On that day the oldest football club in the world Sheffield F.C. took on the second oldest football club in the world Hallam F.C.

Football games on Boxing Day have become a common theme after the introduction of the English Football League in 1888-89.

Why Football Matches Are Played on Boxing Day?

Every year by 26th December all other major football leagues from around the world are either over or on winter and Christmas breaks. This gives English Premier League a unique opportunity.

The Boxing Day is also a national holiday. So the tradition of playing football matches on Boxing Day provides lots of commercial opportunity for the English Premier League.

2018 Boxing Day EPL Matches

On 2018 Boxing Day Arsenal will try to avenge last seasons 2-1 loss against Brighton. Chelsea will travel to Watford where they failed last season.

Also, the Spurs will take on Bournemouth and Leicester City will travel to Manchester City. Fulham F.C. who are in desperate need for a victory will take on Wolverhampton.

The following English Premier League matches are scheduled to be held on 2018 Boxing Day.

[dsWrap attr-array=”style=’font-size: 14px;’”]Note: schedule was updated on Monday, 25 December 2018[/dsWrap]

26.12.201815:00Crystal PalaceCardiff
26.12.201815:00LeicesterManchester City
26.12.201815:00Manchester UtdHuddersfield
Horse Racing is another popular sporting event held on Boxing Day (IMG: Getty)

Other Sports on Boxing Day

Apart from football, many other sports are held on Boxing Day. Some of them are:

  • Horse Racings in England.
  • Boxing Day Test match (Test cricket match) in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
  • Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race also held every year on Boxing Day.
  • On Boxing Day, professional Boxing events would also be conducted in several African Common Wealth countries like Uganda, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia.


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