December 26

By Maeve Maddox

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The day after Christmas, December 26 (according to the Western tradition), has its own holiday associations.

St. Stephen’s Day, or the Feast of St. Stephen – Saint Stephen is the protomartyr (first martyr) of the Christian church. Tradition says that Saul, later to be known as Saint Paul, held the coats of the men who stoned Stephen to death in the first century. In the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas,” the “king” (he was a 10th century Duke of Bohemia) looks out of his window “on the Feast of Stephen” and sees a poor man “gathering winter fuel.” King Wenceslas and a servant follow the man with gifts of food.

Wren Day is observed on December 26 in Ireland, Wales, and on the Isle of Man. Also called Wren’s day, Hunt the Wren Day or The Hunting of the Wrens, the observation is believed to have originated with the Druids in pre-Christian times. It has become conflated with the Christian Feast of Stephen. For details, see the Wikipedia article.

Boxing Day is a public holiday in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Greece. Like many Americans, when I first saw “Boxing Day” on a calendar, I assumed that it had something to do with prize fighting. The “box” in Boxing Day, however, is a container, like a tip box or jar. On the day after Christmas, servants and other service providers received year-end tips and needed a box to put them in. Nowadays Boxing Day is a big shopping day for after-Christmas sales. Details here.

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration of African culture that begins on December 26 and ends on New Year’s Day. Created in 1966 by American Ron Everett Karenga, Kwanzaa is now observed around the world. You can learn more about the festival at the official Kwanzaa site.

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2 Responses to “December 26”

  • Joshua Anderson

    Does “tradition” teach that Saul held the men’s coats? Acts 7:58 says those who stoned Stephen laid their garments at Saul’s feet.

    If so, then the tradition and the biblical narrative seem to be at odds here (as they often are). This is why I thinks it’s best when discussing biblical themes to distinguish between what are tradition-stories and what the Bible actually records.

  • Mumbai

    I thought Boxing Day was the day after Christmas when you discarded the boxes of your Christmas gifts!

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