December 26th has been known as Boxing Day in the UK for hundreds of years, but have you ever stopped to consider why?

The name is generally attributed to the tradition, thought to have originated in the 1830s, of postmen, errand boys and the like, receiving a ‘Christmas box’ as a ‘thank you’ for their services.

However, the term ‘Christmas box’ dates back even further, as far as the 17th Century. Having worked for their masters all day on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were often allowed to visit their families on the day after.

Many employers would give each servant a box to take home with them, containing gifts, bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.

Although gifts these days are generally much more elaborate, cardboard boxes are very much still with us each Christmas.

Before having attractive wrapping paper, bows and labels applied, many of the gifts which we buy and receive will have come in a cardboard box.

Many of the boxes we use these days are made completely from recycled content – and as a minimum, more than 75% of the fibre that goes into a cardboard box made in the UK will already have been recycled, possibly more than once.

However, once their festive adornments have been torn off and the contents have been removed, what should we do with the boxes that are left over?

Instead of simply disposing of them, we’ve come up with a list of five creative ways in which you can reuse your cardboard boxes this festive season:

  • Childs’ play: It’s not always the most expensive gifts that get the most attention. Grab some scissors, cut some windows and battlements, and you have the perfect castle or fort for your young knights and princesses to enjoy.

  • Stylish storage: get your creative juices flowing and cover your box in your favourite material or design and you’ll have the perfect holder for books, magazines, or any other bits and bobs that need a home!

  • Fun for your pets: don’t forget our furry friends this festive season – a smaller box can be cut up to create a maze for your gerbil or hamster… larger boxes could make an ideal bed for your cat or dog.

  • Art for art’s sake: cut to the right size, cardboard boxes make perfect paint palettes or even canvases – ideal for the budding young artist in your life who may have received a new set of paints in their Christmas stocking. (But bear in mind that putting paint on cardboard means it may not be able to be recycled.)

  • A nod to history: we all know that times are tough for many, while others may be having to spend the festive period on their own.

So why not take a leaf out of the book of our predecessors from earlier generations – and use your box for its original purpose as a container.

You could fill it with gifts, food items or other essentials that can then be delivered to a local charity which supports the underprivileged and lonely – not just repurposing – but doing some good too!

And once you’ve finished with your cardboard boxes, please make sure that you recycle them. We all have access to kerbside collections, or your local Council’s recycling centre will have facilities for recycling cardboard.

Cardboard already has one of the highest recycling rates of any packaging material – around 80% of cardboard packaging is already recycled, but there’s still room to do more. Recycling makes a real difference, and it’s vital that everyone does their bit. Ultimately, we need old boxes to make new ones!