“In olden days church alms-boxes were opened and the contents given to the poor,” explains the British government website UK in USA. “This custom turned into the giving of Christmas boxes, which were gifts of food, money or other items to household servants and then to public tradesmen, such as postmen and dustmen (garbage collectors).”
The holiday in areas like the United Kingdom, Canada and Ireland continues one day past Christmas to what is also known as the Feast of St. Stephen. Being a public holiday in Britain, government buildings and banks are closed on Boxing Day.
The tradition differs from Christmas gift giving, according to UK in USA, being that gifts aren’t typically given to loved ones, though they sometimes are. Instead, it is more common to give small gifts to the poor and other needy people.
Huffington Post Columnist Liz Smith notes that the holiday grew in popularity within these areas of the world because it was well liked by Queen Victoria.
"Once described as the perfect example of Victorian trickle-down magnanimity, Boxing Day has long been the day when gratitude is shown to those who have provided service throughout the year," reads an excerpt from the "Schott's Original Miscellany" according to Smith’s explanation of the holiday.
The meaning of Boxing Day has evolved in the United States, as well as throughout the areas that celebrate the day of giving to the needy. Shopping has become the fad in recent years, with sales going on to allow retail stores to clear their shelves of Christmas season overstock.
ABC News reports that even in the recession and after the Christmas buying sprees Americans go on in the holiday season, Boxing Day still draws major crowds for stores to profit from.