If you look at you calendar today, you may see a couple of holidays listed.
The calendar in my office has two listed: St. Stephen’s Day and Boxing Day
The two in my kitchen have only Boxing Day listed.
So, what are these holidays? They are not typically observed here in the United States.
I remember even as a kid seeing Boxing Day listed on our calendars. My vision of Boxing Day was that it was a day when they had Boxing matches. Of course, as I grew older and investigated I found out that it was a holiday celebrated mainly in countries with a UK influence such as Canada, Australia and the UK itself.
The origins of Boxing Day are shrouded in the mist of history. One theory is that this was the day servants were able to visit their families and they were provided with a box of presents by their masters. In any case, Boxing Day eventually evolved into a day when gifts were given to the poor or to servants. Of course the evolution of the day continues and today it is seen as a big shopping day full of sales and bargains. The day has also become a popular day for redeeming gift cards. Although not known as Boxing Day in the US. The day is pretty much the same. The day after Christmas is typically a day to return unwanted or duplicate gifts and redeem gift cards.
Now back to those Boxing matches that I had a vision of when I was a kid. Boxing Day is a big day for sports, but not Boxing. Instead, this is a big day for Football (the real kind played with the foot) and Rugby in the UK. Many big rivalry games are played on this day as treats to their fans and also a way to play close to home after Christmas. Australia and South Africa also play an annual Cricket match that starts on Boxing Day. I was following the match yesterday on Facebook. Australia is off to a good start.
Even if it isn’t called Boxing Day where you live, how do you celebrate the day?
St. Stephen’s Day
This day is the saint’s day for the martyr Stephen in the Catholic church calendar of saints. The Eastern Orthodox church observes either December 27 or January 9 as the date depending on whether they use the Gregorian or Julian calendar in a specific locale.
There are a few interesting customs associated with St. Stephen’s day depending on where you are. They include bleeding of cattle, carrying birds through the streets or eating special meals.
Since I know that this is a day observed in some religious traditions, I am thinking about Stephen today. I think of his great sermon in Acts 7 and also about his actions while he was stoned to death.
The picture here is of the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem. According to early tradition, it was outside this gate that Stephen was stoned to death. A later tradition gives the location as the Lion’s Gate, but there is little evidence to support this.
In the picture you see a small rounded gate to the right of the main gate. This smaller gate is part of the triple arch gate that was built by Hadrian in the 2nd century. The larger gate above was built during the 16th century by the Ottoman’s.
I took this picture on the last day that we were in Jerusalem during my vacation earlier this year. On the other side of this gate was a very interesting shopping area in the Old City of Jerusalem. You can even see the market spilling out through the gate. A great place for those last minute souvenirs.
I hope everyone is enjoying a peaceful day as you recover from your Holiday festivities from yesterday and look forward to the end of another year.