St. Stephen's Day


Saturday Reflection


26th December 2020


'What now?'

3 "Brothers and sisters,
   choose seven men from among you
   who are known to be full
   of the Spirit and wisdom.
   We will turn this responsibility
   over to them
4 and will give our attention to prayer
   and the ministry of the word."
5 This proposal pleased the whole group.
   They chose Stephen,
   a man full of faith
   and of the Holy Spirit'

.... Acts 6:3-5a

Boxing Day -
the presents are unwrapped,
everyone's stuffed,
and Christmas is over.
What now?

In many countries Christmas
doesn't end on December 25.
The day after Christmas
is known as Boxing Day,
and the relaxed holiday
is a chance to extend
the celebration for
one more restful day.

But its name has nothing to do
with the sport of boxing,
and contrary to popular belief,
did not arise from a need
to return unwanted gifts
or clear up the rubbish
generated by Christmas presents.

Though historians disagree
on the exact origin
of Boxing Day,
it is thought to have
grown out of longstanding
British traditions of
charitable giving
and goodwill-practices
especially associated with
the Christian festival
of Saint Stephen's Day,
which is celebrated
on December 26.

One of the first deacons
of the Christian church,
St Stephen who was killed
for his beliefs, around A.D 36,
and is considered
Christianity's first martyr.

Known for serving the poor,
Saint Stephen is traditionally
celebrated with charity
and the distribution of alms.

In the carol
"Good King Wenceslas,"
you may recall that the king
tramps through deep snow
in a bid to give alms
to a poor peasant.

The king was a real figure:
Saint Wenceslas,
a 10th-century
Bohemian duke who,
according to legend,
did noble deeds
"on the feast of Stephen"-
December 26.

There are several theories
as to how that charitable
tradition became known as "boxing."
Some historians tie
the use of the term
to boxes of donations
that were installed in churches
during the pre-Christmas
season of Advent in the
early days of Christianity
during the second and
third centuries A.D.

The day after Christmas,
the boxes were opened
and the money distributed
to the poor.

In the 16th century,
working-class people
would spend December 26
seeking our Christmas "boxes,"
or tips, from the people
they had served
throughout the year.

Another possible origin
story for Boxing Day
has to do with a tradition
that evolved in socially
stratified 19th century
Victorian England,
where servants sacrificed
time with their own families
to cater to their aristocratic
employers on Christmas.

On the day after Christmas,
employers would give the
servants a rare day off
and send them home with
leftovers from the family's
Christmas feast, plus gifts and tips.

December 26 is also a big
shopping day throughout the U.K.

The holiday kicks off what is
known as "Boxing Week,"
during which retailers
attempt to move old stock
and shoppers vie for one
last bargain of the year.

Boxing Day may be steeped
in tradition,
but the COVID-19 pandemic
will change the way it's celebrated.

Many stores throughout the U.K.
and the Commonwealth
will simply close on Boxing Day
this year,
and fun traditions like
"Boxing Day Dips,"
during which people run into
cold water and
raise money for charity,
have been cancelled.

This year,
Boxing Day will go back
to the basics as a day
for relaxation and
eating leftover
Christmas food-
traditions that
no pandemic can extinguish.

However, you celebrate it -
have a peaceful and enjoyable day!