Stephen’s Day

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St Stephen’s Day (26 December)

***** Location: Christian communities worldwide
***** Season: Mid-Winter
***** Category: Observance


St. Stephen's Day, or the Feast of St. Stephen, is a Christian saint's day celebrated
on 26 December in the Western Church and
27 December in the Eastern Church. Many Eastern Orthodox churches adhere to the Julian calendar and mark St. Stephen's Day on 27 December according to that calendar, which places it on 9 January of the Gregorian calendar used in secular contexts.
more in the wikipedia


St Stephen was the first Martyr in Christian history. The manner of his death is recorded in the Bible (Acts of the Apostles, chapters 6 and 7 -- text see below). The fact that Christmas Day is immediately followed by St Stephen’s Day in the Christian calendar is significant, showing that, even after the birth, resurrection and ascension of Christ, the world remained a place of struggle, and Christianity would be continually challenged from both within and without.

St Stephen was a deacon, a servant and helper, not a priest. In many of the mainstream Christian denominations, ordinands are made deacons before they become priests, and they remain deacons throughout the rest of their lives. St. Stephen is the model of the servant in the church and of the people, and is revered for this quality as well as for his death by martyrdom.

Isabelle Prondzynski


[© http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:St-stephen.jpg]


The Arrest of Stephen

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’

They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.’ And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

The Stoning of Stephen

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’ But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he died.

Acts 6 : 8 - 15 and 7 : 54 - 60


© artunframed.com

Worldwide use

In many countries, St Stephen’s Day is not celebrated as such, but is a public holiday called “Second Christmas Day” or “Day after Christmas” or similar. It may be celebrated as a church holiday, with special services continuing the Christmas theme.

In Ireland, St. Stephen’s Day is the day for going out and visiting neighbours and friends, after the family-centred Christmas celebrations of the day before.

Isabelle Prondzynski


In Irish it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofán or Lá an Dreoilín --
the latter translates literally as another English name used, the Day of the Wren or Wren's Day. When used in this context, 'wren' is often pronounced 'ran'. This name alludes to several legends, including those found in Ireland linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. In parts of Ireland persons carrying either an effigy of a wren, or an actual caged wren, travel from house to house playing music, singing and dancing. Depending on which region of the country, they are called Wrenboys, Mummers or Strawboys. A Mummer's Festival is held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, Co. Galway. A popular rhyme, known to many Irish children and sung at each house visited by the mummers goes as follows:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Up with the penny and down with the pan,
Give us a penny to bury the wren.


In various parts of Ireland on St. Stephen's Day, December 26th, Wrenboys (Mummers) celebrate the Wren (also pronounced as the Wran) by dressing up in straw masks and colourful clothing and, accompanied by traditional céilí music bands, parade through the towns and villages. The tradition also exists (or existed) in various parts of Britain, especially Wales.

Some people theorise that the Wren celebration has descended from Celtic mythology. Sources suggest that Druids apparently studied the flight of the wren, amongst other birds, to derive predictions about the future. It may also have been introduced or influenced by Scandinavian settlers during the Viking invasions of the 8th-10th Centuries. Various associated legends exist, such as the Wren bird being responsible for betraying Irish soldiers who fought the Viking invaders in the late first and early second millennia, and for betraying the Christian martyr Saint Stephen, after whom the day is named.

This mythological association with treachery is a probable reason why in past times the bird was hunted by Wrenboys on St. Stephen's Day. A captured Wren was killed and tied to the Wrenboy leader's staff pole. Wrenboys no longer practice this aspect of the Wren, although the event is still referred to as Hunting The Wren. Devoted Wrenboys, with their colourful straw costumes and masks, and with the accompanying céilí bands, continue to ensure that the Gaelic tradition of celebrating the Wren continues to this day.
© http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrenboys


Very good school page on wren boys :

[© http://www.sligogrammarschool.org/halo/stephensday/wrenboys.jpg]


Great Britain

In Great Britain and many of the Commonwealth countries, St Stephen’s Day is known as “Boxing Day”, which has nothing to do with the sport of boxing. In England, the favourite sport for Boxing Day is in fact hunting or any other form of horse riding outdoors.

Isabelle Prondzynski.


Quote from the Wikipedia

There are disparate theories as to the origins of the term. The more common stories include:

It was the day when people would give a present or Christmas 'box' to those who have worked for them throughout the year. This is still done in Britain for postmen and paper-boys - though now the 'box' is usually given before Christmas, not after.

In feudal times, Christmas was a reason for a gathering of extended families. All the serfs would gather their families in the manor of their lord, which made it easier for the lord of the estate to hand out annual stipends to the serfs. After all the Christmas parties on 26 December, the lord of the estate would give practical goods such as cloth, grains, and tools to the serfs who lived on his land. Each family would get a box full of such goods the day after Christmas. Under this explanation, there was nothing voluntary about this transaction; the lord of the manor was obliged to supply these goods. Because of the boxes being given out, the day was called Boxing Day.

In England many years ago, it was common practice for the servants to carry boxes to their employers when they arrived for their day's work on the day after Christmas. Their employers would then put coins in the boxes as special end-of-year gifts. This can be compared with the modern day concept of Christmas bonuses. The servants carried boxes for the coins, hence the name Boxing Day.

In churches, it was traditional to open the church's donation box on Christmas Day, and the money in the donation box was to be distributed to the poorer or lower class citizens on the next day. In this case, the "box" in "Boxing Day" comes from that lockbox in which the donations were left.

Because the staff had to work on such an important day as Christmas Day by serving the master of the house and their family, they were given the following day off. Since being kept away from their own families to work on a traditional religious holiday and not being able to celebrate Christmas Dinner, the customary benefit was to "box" up the leftover food from Christmas Day and send it away with the servants and their families. Hence the "boxing" of food became "Boxing Day".

Things found on the way


wrens and sparrows
flock to the bird table --
St Stephen’s day

Isabelle Prondzynski, 2006


Related words

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1 comment:

Isabelle said...

Adelaide Luvandale writes...

Dear Isabelle,
Wow! This is great! I never knew how Boxing day came about! I never knew that it is also known as St. Stephen's Day. Thanx to Haiku, a world of communication.


Thank you, Adelaide! I am glad that you enjoyed some world kigo!