Boxing Day is one of the most sacred days in the Premier League calendar.
It is my favorite.
[ STREAM: Every Boxing Day game live ]
There’s a special buzz around the stadiums, towns and in homes across the UK as the entire festive schedule centers around December 26 each year.
When I speak to most Americans about the Premier League, one of the topics which often comes up is “hey, how crazy is Boxing Day?” It is crazy, especially with so many matchdays bunched together around Christmas and New Year’s.
But Brits wouldn’t have it any other way as eight games take place on Dec. 26 and you can sit back and watch them all via NBC Sports by clicking on the link above.
Boxing Day is, of course, a national holiday in the UK and in case you didn’t know the history behind the day, it dates back centuries with the etymology being linked to a day where Christmas boxes were given to trade workers in the week after Christmas to thank them for their work all year.
It is also a day where the sporting calendar thrives as cricket, horse racing and rugby all compete with soccer to be the sport to watch on Dec. 26. When it comes down to it, it’s all about soccer with a full day of games across the professional, semi-professional and often amateur leagues across the UK. Across the rest of Europe, they’re on a break and enjoying the holidays with their families and friends.
In the UK soccer takes center stage on Boxing Day.
With some calling for a winter break in England to give the English national team a better chance of advancing to the latter stages of a World Cup or European Championship, many soccer fans in the UK would rather have the Boxing Day schedule such is the connection to the day. They’d rather have that warm moment around the holidays to connect with their team than see England get to the semifinals of a tournament and then get knocked out on penalty kicks…
Coming the day after Christmas Day, it is also the perfect time to head out of the house after a few days of feasting and sharing gifts with the family. It’s a chance to get some fresh air, catch up with friends over a pint or at the bookies about their holiday stories and then cheer on your team while you wear your new scarf of jacket.
There’s no other day like it.
In the past teams used to play back-to-back games on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (the last time they did this was 1957) and that seems a little too much. Boxing Day has survived the test of time and with stadiums packed due to everyone heading home for the holidays, it’s a special time to watch a game and usually special games spring up with goals galore. Due to squad rotation and some teams adapting to the festive schedule better than others, you never quite know what will happen.
Opposition fans are friendlier (minutely) with their chants, stadium staff and supporters get along and even the players seem to be enjoying themselves a little more despite having a game to play.
The energy and vibe is different and, much like opening day, it is one of the best days in the Premier League season. Plus, you’re approaching the midway point of the campaign so plenty of teams are still optimistic about what lies ahead and even if your team is struggling, there’s still time to turn things around.
Full of festive cheer, crazy games and history, Boxing Day is ingrained in the British soccer psyche.
Like opening day in MLB, Thanksgiving games in the NFL and the Sunday of a Masters week at Augusta, it is a sacred day in the sporting calendar where the action often encapsulates the overall mood.