Yesterday was Boxing Day in a pile of Commonwealth countries, including Canada, of course, and here's a piece which claims the holiday has Roman origins!:

By what specialty this name indicates boxing? Literal sense it is in box, let me view how this meaning came into existence.

Boxing Day celebrated or takes place on December 26th or the following Monday if December 26th falls on a Saturday or Sunday. Boxing Day, also known as the feast of St. Stephen (first Christian Martyr), also know as St. Stephen Day, who achieved eternal fame by being the first Christian to be martyred for his faith, and he met his death by stoning. Boxing Day is so called because a way for the upper class to give gifts of cash or kind deeds to those of the lower class. It was the customary for tradesmen to collect their Christmas boxes or gifts in return for good service throughout the year. Also, it included giving money and other gifts to charitable institutions, and the needy. The gifts were an expression of gratitude much like when people receive bonuses, from their employer, for a job well done, today. These gifts given in boxes containing food and fruit, clothing, and/or money to people in cheerful and great full expressions. These gifts were given in boxes, and gave the holiday, called “Boxing Day”.

St. Stephen is the patron saint of horses, so Boxing Day became associated with horse-racing and hunting. Other sports are also held on this day like football and rugby.

Saint Nicholas of Myra, the fourth-century bishop known for his boundless kindness and generosity.

Also related to the origin of Boxing Day is the tradition of opening the alms boxes placed in the churches over the Christmas season. The contents of these boxes were distributed amongst the poor, by the clergy, the day after Christmas.

Some say the tradition stems from Roman times when money was collected in boxes to pay for the poor in general. Amongst the ruins of Pompeii, boxes made out of edge with two slits in the top full of coins have been found. Later the Romans brought collecting boxes to Britain, and monks and clergy soon used similar boxes with money for the poor at Christmas. On the day after Christmas, the priests open the boxes and distribute the contents to the poor of the village. Thus this act is called Boxing Day.


... something seems to have been lost in translation on this one, but has anyone ever the equivalent of 'alms boxes' from Pompeii?