Getting to know what Boxing Day really is

Updated: 25 December 2011 23:42 IST

India take on Australia in the Boxing Day Test from Monday. While most would be familiar with this piece of information, what cricket fans may not have wondered about is the origin of the term 'Boxing Day' itself. With no relation to the punching sport, December 26 in fact is a holiday celebrated in Australia, New Zealand and some other Commonwealth countries.

New Delhi:

India take on Australia in the Boxing Day Test from Monday. While most would be familiar with this piece of information, what cricket fans may not have wondered about is the origin of the term 'Boxing Day' itself. With no relation to the punching sport, December 26 in fact is a holiday celebrated in Australia, New Zealand and some other Commonwealth countries.

While there are several theories that describe how the term 'Boxing Day' came into common usage, the most popular dates back to the Middle Ages when churches kept metal boxes during Christmas for alms for the poor. Some reckon that the boxes were kept as far back as in the Roman era when offerings were collected as religious contributions.

December 26 is also celebrated as a secular holiday and is called St Stephen's Day. It was mostly celebrated in UK and from there, caught on to other commonwealth countries including Australia.

The holiday terminology was brought in connection with cricket when the Victoria-New South Wales Sheffield Shield match began to be played on this day. While former players of New South Wales reportedly never liked the schedule as it kept them away from their families, the tradition and the term both, prevailed.

For most parts of the 1950s, there were international Boxing Day as part of a Test but no Boxing Tests. In 1950-51 for instance, the Melbourne Test began  from December 22. It was in the Ashes series of 1974-75 in which six Tests had to be packed into the schedule and therefore, the Melbourne Test was scheduled to begin from December 26. The scheduling stayed on and soon became a tradition in Australia which continues to date.

In 1980, the Australian cricket team and Melbourne Cricket Team secured the rights to play the match annually which is why the Boxing Day Test is always scheduled to be played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and no other venue in Australia.

It is also understood that Boxing Day Test will be played from December 26 but in 1989, Australia and Sri Lanka played a Boxing Day ODI which was won by the hosts.

A holiday season, players have also moved from missing spending time with family to earnestly waiting for a call to figure in the playing XI in this match. Boxing Day Test has and continues to be a prestigious event and the MCG has seen packed attendance year after year.

Close to 75,000 cricket enthusiasts are expected to attend the opening Test between MS Dhoni's team and Michael Clarke's side, on Monday.

Topics : Cricket Michael Clarke India Australia India in Australia, 2011-12
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