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 football.

The day has been marked on the competition’s calendar for so many years now it’s become an firm tradition. 

Other leagues around Europe take a two-week break over Christmas and New Year, 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 Day, 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 the UK, that falls on December 26, or the day after Christmas.

It is a “bank holiday” — essentially what Americans 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.

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It is named after 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.

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 over 4,000 matches in the English Football League played on Boxing Day.

West Brom has played the most Boxing Day matches in league history, with 106 games played to a 45W-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.

Harry Kane holds the record for the most goals scored on Boxing Day with 10 – but he will be a festive absentee for the first time in his career in 2023 after joining Bayern Munich. 

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 Rover over West Ham.

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MORE: Watch Premier League matches live with Fubo in USA | Watch EPL in Canada

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 five matches on Boxing Day spanning nine total hours of gameplay starting at 7:30 a.m. ET and lasting through to at least 4:30 p.m. ET.

Horse racing in England also usually loads up the schedule on Boxing Day, including the King George VI Chase, the second-most popular horse race in the sport’s calendar behind the Cheltenham Gold Cup, set for Kempton Park.

Premier League Boxing Day schedule in 2023

Five games are scheduled to take place across December 26 this year with Liverpool and Manchester United both in action. 

Match Time
(GMT)
Time
(ET)
Newcastle United vs Nottm. Forest 12:30 07:30
Bournemouth vs Fulham 15:00 10:00
Sheffield United vs. Luton Town 15:00 10:00
Burnley vs. Liverpool 17:30 12:30
Man United vs. Aston Villa 20:00 15:00

Premier League 2023/24 TV channels, live streams

Region TV Streaming
Australia Optus Sport
Canada

Fubo Canada

India Star Sports Disney+, Hotstar,
JioTV
UK Sky Sports, TNT Sports NOW TV, Sky Go,
Amazon Prime
USA USA Network,
Telemundo, Universo
Fubo, Peacock

UK: Matches are carried across Sky Sports and TNT Sports 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 Fubo. The rest of the matches are streamed on NBC platform Peacock for subscribers.

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Canada: Every Premier League game this season is live streaming exclusively via Fubo in Canada, with discounts currently at more than 9% for annual plans and more than 20% for quarterly and monthly plans. 

Australia: Fans in Australia can stream every match live and on demand on Optus Sport.

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