St. Stephen’s Day

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 Julian calendar used in secular contexts. It commemorates St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr. It is an official public holiday in Alsace, Austria, Balearic Islands, Catalonia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Montenegro, Moselle, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Sweden. The date is also a Public Holiday in those countries that celebrate Boxing Day on the day instead/as well.

St Stephen was the protomartyr of Christianity, is venerated as a saint in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox Churches.Stephen’s name is derived from the Greek language Stephanos, meaning “crown”. Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; he is often depicted in art with three stones and the martyrs’ palm. In Eastern Christian iconography, he is shown as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon’s vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer. Rembrandt depicted his martyrdom in his work The Stoning of Saint Stephen.

History approximates Stephen’s story around A.D. 34-35, shortly after Jesus’ crucifixion. According to Chapter 6 of The Acts of the Apostles, Stephen was among seven men of the early church at Jerusalem appointed to serve as deacon. However, after a dispute with the members of a synagogue of “Roman Freedmen,” he is denounced for blasphemy against God and Moses (Acts 6:11) and speaking against the Temple and the Law. Stephen is tried before the Sanhedrin. His defense is presented as accusing the Jews of persecuting the prophets who had spoken outagainst the sins of the nation.While on trial, he experienced a theophany in which he saw both God the Father and God the Son. This vision of Christ standing differs from other Scripture which indicates Jesus sits at the right hand of God – perhaps implying that Christ stood in honor of Stephen whose martyrdom was near.He was condemned and stoned to death by an infuriated mob, which was encouraged by Saul of Tarsus, later to be known as Saint Paul the Apostle. After his own conversion to Christianity, Paul makes reference to witnessing Stephen’s martyrdom in his writings.

Boxing Day

Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts from their superiors.The exact etymology of the term “boxing” is unclear. There are several competing theories, none of which is definitive. The European tradition, which has long included giving money and other gifts to those who were needy and in service positions, has been dated to the Middle Ages, but the exact origin is unknown. It may come from a custom in the late Roman/early Christian era, wherein metal boxes placed outside churches were used to collect special offerings tied to the Feast of Saint Stephen, which in the Western Church falls on the same day as Boxing Day.In Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This is mentioned in Samuel Pepys’ diary entry for 19 December 1663. This custom is linked to an older English tradition: Since they would have to wait on their masters on Christmas Day, the servants of the wealthy were allowed the next day to visit their families. The employers would give each servant a box to take home containing gifts and bonuses, and sometimes leftover food.

Boxing Day is a secular holiday that is traditionally celebrated on 26 December, the day after Christmas Day, which is also St. Stephen’s Day, a religious holiday.In Scotland, Boxing Day has been specified as an additional bank holiday since 1974, by Royal Proclamation under the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971.In Ireland – when it was part of the UK – the Bank Holidays Act 1871 established the feast day of St. Stephen as a non-movable public holiday on 26 December. In the Australian state of South Australia, 28 December is a public holiday known as Proclamation Day and Boxing Day is not normally a public holiday. The holiday for Proclamation Day is observed on the first weekday after Christmas Day or the Christmas Day holiday.

SPORT

In England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, it is traditional for the Premier League, Scottish Premier League and Irish Premier League respectively, as well as  rugby leagues, to hold a full programme of football and Rugby League matches on Boxing Day.In Australia and South Africa, much anticipated test cricket matches are played on Boxing Day. In horse racing, there is the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park Racecourse in Surrey. It is the second most prestigious chase in England, after the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Boxing Day is a popular day in the UK and U.S. for mounted fox hunters. Despite fox hunting being banned by the Hunting Act in 2004, Boxing Day remains the biggest hunt of the year for most hunts in the UK by use of scent drag trails instead of live quarry. Australia holds the first day of the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and the start to the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.The  IIHF World  ice hockey U20 Championship typically begins on 26 December, while the Spengler Cup also begins on 26 December in Davos, Switzerland; the Spengler Cup competition includes HC Davos, Team Canada, and other top European Hockey teams. Some American colleges play their last non-conference college basketball games on the 26th, while others participate in regular season tournaments on this day. A number of college football bowl games are also played on the day after Christmas, In some African Commonwealth nations, particularly Ghana, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania, prize fighting contests are held on Boxing Day. This practice has also been followed for decades in Guyana and Italy.Australia and South Africa also have longstanding traditions of playing a cricket match on the 26th.

SHOPPING

In Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, Boxing Day is Also known as a shopping holiday, much like the day after Thanksgiving in the United States. It is a time where shops have sales, often with dramatic price reductions. For many merchants, Boxing Day has become the day of the year with the greatest amount of returns.Many retailers open very early and offer doorbuster deals and loss leaders to draw people to their stores. It is not uncommon for long queues to form early in the morning of 26 December, hours before the opening of shops holding the big sales, especially at big-box consumer electronics retailers. Many stores have a limited quantity of big draw or deeply discounted items.