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Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Shoppers at Deira City Centre. The Dubai Shopping Festival begins today. Image Credit:

Dubai: The day after Christmas is observed by many people as Boxing Day. The question, naturally, is, what is Boxing Day?

It has nothing to do with the sport. Boxing Day is a public holiday celebrated on the day straight after Christmas Day. It takes place on December 26 and its antecedents are in traditions from the United Kingdom.

You don’t need any boxing gloves

While no one seems to know for sure how it came to be called Boxing Day, it definitely has nothing to do with the sport of boxing. Perhaps the most widely held understanding of its origins comes from the tradition of wealthier members of society giving servants and tradesmen a so-called Christmas box containing money and gifts on the day after Christmas. This tradition started around 800 years ago.

It was seen as a reward for a year’s worth of service. Other believe it comes from the post-Christmas custom of churches placing boxes outside their doors to collect money for distribution to less-fortunate members of society in need of Christmas cheer. The Servants were then allowed to go home and spend the day with their loved ones. They would then bring their Christmas Boxes with them to give to their families

Some trace it to Britain’s proud naval tradition and the days when a sealed box of money was kept on board for lengthy voyages and then given to a priest for distribution to the poor if the voyage was successful.

There are other explanations, but it’s clear the designation has nothing to do with the modern habit of using the holiday for shopping at “big box” stores selling televisions, computers and the like.

It could also stem from church donation boxes. Often times on the day after Christmas, collection boxes for the poor were kept in churches, where people would donate money during Christmas mass, or throughout the season. They were then ‘un boxed’ on the 26 and money was distributed to the poor.

Others trace it back even earlier, to the Roman practice of collecting money in boxes — they say Roman invaders brought this practice to Britain, where it was taken up by the clergy to collect money in boxes for the disadvantaged.

How is Boxing Day celebrated?

The Boxing Day tradition gained popularity during the Victorian era and has flourished to this day. The British Empire may now be a thing of the past, but Boxing Day is still celebrated in some other parts of the Commonwealth, including Canada, Australia and Kenya.

Boxing Day is meant to be a time to spend with family or friends. Especially if you didn’t get the chance to see those people on Christmas Day.

People also celebrate by eating leftover turkey and watching sports. These days, it is filled with sporting events and it is often a day when people open their homes to family and friends who drop by for turkey.

What are Boxing Day sales?

Boxing Day has turned into a day where retailers slash prices on everything, from clothes to electronics, home ware and handbags. It is common in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the Christmas Day Trading Act, all large shops are banned from trading on Christmas Day in England and Wales, which causes them to see a drop in sales. Moreover, after everyone does their Christmas shopping, the demand goes down, as a result, capitalist countries wanted to rectify a lack of shopping by introducing sales and lowering their prices. For many stores, Boxing Day is one of the days of the year that brings in the greatest revenue.

Boxing Day in the UAE

Boxing Day is not a public holiday in the United Arab Emirates and there were generally no specific Boxing Day sales going on up until a few years ago. Towards the second half of the 2010s the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) strategically took place on December 26. It was a move that combined an annual Dubai event with the western idea of shopping post-Christmas day.

Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment has announced that the 25th edition of the Dubai Shopping Festival will kick off today, December 26. and and run until Saturday, February 1, 2020, featuring 38 days packed with shows, fireworks, immersive experiences, brand activations and family-friendly celebrations as well as highly discounted sales, of course.

The Dubai Shopping festival was inaugurated in1996 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. The first edition of Dubai Shopping Festival was a turning point for the retail sector in the region, as the idea of creating a mega shopping event became a reality, based on the vision to position Dubai as a year-round family tourism destination.

Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment commented on the massive festival saying, “Not only can visitors expect an incredible showcase of talent on the world stage of DSF – but also plenty of entertainment options including a variety of activities, experiences and games to engage residents and visitors of all ages, cultures and interests.”

This year, more than 1,000 brands will be participating across close to 4,000 outlets. Deal-hunters will find offers of up to 75 per cent off across Dubai, as well as the opportunity to engage and collaborate with tailor-made brand activations from global fashion, beauty, homeware and lifestyle retailers.