Before you read this great article by long-time Challenger employee Dan Miller, don’t miss out on our free pick ems competition! We are giving away a Boxing Day Bundle of gifts! Link to enter at the end of the article!
What does the holiday season mean to most parents? Family, presents, religion, food, last-minute Amazon deliveries?!
Ask that question of any soccer fan in or from the UK, and I’d bet all my kid’s chocolate Christmas coins that they’d also add “Boxing Day Footy” to the list!
That’s what came to my mind when I was asked to write a piece on what the holidays meant to a British soccer fan like me!
First things first, to clarify, Boxing Day refers to December 26th and refers to a time when the rich used to box up gifts to give to the poor. Boxing Day was traditionally a day off for any household help, and the day when they received a special Christmas box from the family. They would also be allowed to go home on Boxing Day to give Christmas boxes to their families. So quite the opposite to the sport where people put on gloves and punch each other, and if that was your assumption, then although I’d like you to keep reading, at least you’ve already learned something!
So what does it have to do with the #1 sport in the world? In the UK, quite simply, championship games or finals aside, it is THE biggest day in the domestic soccer calendar.
It’s a tradition that dates all the way back to 1860 when (according to most football historians anyway) the first-ever game between 2 clubs- Sheffield FC and Hallam FC- was played.
Don’t mention this to Jurgen Klopp or some of the other current EPL managers concerned with player burnout, but as club soccer grew in England, a tradition emerged where teams would play on BOTH Christmas Day AND Boxing Day.
It seems that soccer just HAD to be played over the festive period, and there is even a story that British and German soldiers on the front lines downed their weapons during World War I in 1914, emerged from the trenches, and had a friendly game. There are different versions of how organized this was and whether it happened on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, but it certainly helped cement the UK tradition. Indeed the English Football Association paid tribute on its 100th anniversary by organizing a tribute match between soldiers from Great Britain and Germany in 2014, calling it the “Game of Truce”.
Once public transport availability started to slow down on Christmas Day in the 1950s, Boxing Day emerged as THE big day in the month of December.
For most expats in the States who are married or built ties over here, it takes on an even more immense significance. Obviously, the chance to see your team play live is scarce, and typically you’ll look to head home for Christmas only every other year at best, so seeing your team play on Boxing Day is a massive part of the planning process! For 6 years, this worked out perfectly for me as ‘every other year’ coincided with the fixture gods scheduling a home game for my team on Boxing Day (and we won all 3!).
It is only recently that television has demanded that the games start to be spread over both Boxing Day and December 27th. Some see this as a bad thing and a break from the tradition- this is especially true of the match-going fan who has their Boxing Day tradition. Regardless though, due to the COVID restrictions in England this year, it is currently rare to have games being played simultaneously. Over the 26th/27th of this year, we will have 10 games played in 8 timeslots…..a real feast of football for the armchair viewer!
Sadly, unlike in previous years, when my American wife and I have experienced the joys of the English pub or bookies with old mates, where we saw “our” Manchester United beat “another” from elsewhere in the country 4-3 in the dark, wet and cold Mancunian conditions. This year, I will be one of those armchair fans in front of the box, ready to go for a 7.30am EST kick off with turkey butties, obviously with ketchup and stuffing in hand! My plan is to be sat in that armchair 4 games later and to repeat the next day too, I would encourage everyone to do the same!
To add to the experience here at Challenger Sports, we will be running a free pick ems competition with a Boxing Day Bundle of gifts available to win!
All you need to do is correctly pick the outcome of the 10 EPL games scheduled on the 26th and 27th of December. Anyone doing so will be entered into a raffle to win a Challenger Sports bundle of jerseys, shorts, a custom poster, and other soccer accessories!
Good Luck and Happy Holidays!