Boxing tips

Today is Boxing Day in the UK, and there are a number of ideas about the origins of the name. The Oxford English Dictionary, for example, defines Boxing Day as:

“the first week-day after Christmas-day, observed as a holiday on which post-men, errand-boys, and servants of various kinds expect to receive a Christmas-box”

The earliest attested use of the term was the 1830s.

Samuel Pepys mentions in his diary of 19th December 1663 that there was a tradition of giving tradespeople Christmas boxes of money and gifts; that servants were given a day off the day after Christmas to visit their families, and were each given a box of presents and sometimes leftover food.

Boxing day box

The name Boxing Day may come from the Alms Boxes in churches which were used to collect donations to the poor, or to the Roman and early Christian custom of placing metal boxes outside churches to collect offerings to celebrate Saint Stephen’s day, which falls on 26th December.

On the QI Christmas Special they mention that the tradition of giving tips started in Europe, particularly in the UK, and spread to North America, where many people were reluctant to take it up at first.

In some languages words for tips show clearly what the money is for:

Trinkgeld (“drink money”) in German
drikkepenge (“drink money”) in Danish
pourboire (“for drinking”) in French
propina in Spanish – from Latin prōpīnō (I drink to someone’s health), from Ancient Greek προπίνω, from προ- ‎(before) &‎ πίνω ‎(I drink, carouse).

Sources: Wikipedia, Wiktionary

What about in other languages?

This entry was posted in Danish, Dutch, English, Etymology, French, German, Greek, Language, Latin, Spanish, Words and phrases.

2 Responses to Boxing tips

  1. Ned says:

    In the Egyptian Westcar papyrus (ca 1600 BC copy of original ca 1800 BC) a group of goddesses acting as midwives are given a sack of barley as a tip – ‘r swnt tnmw’ or ‘for the price of beer’. Nothing to do with boxing day mind.

  2. Kevin says:

    In Welsh a tip (gratuity) is a cildwrn — from cil (corner, angle, recess, etc.) + dwrn (fist, hand), i.e. “hollow of the hand”, in reference to the manner in which the sum is transferred.

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