Friday, December 26, 2008
Boxing Day: The Truth
A comment on an earlier blog of mine by world famous blogger, Ms Ether, got me wondering just what the heck Boxing Day actually celebrated. I just didn't know if it had to do with boxing gloves or with making boxes or boxcars or what. So this is a quick sketch of what I've learned.
Stolen from Wikipedia with a grain of salt:
"Boxing Day is a public holiday in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Hong Kong and countries in the Commonwealth of Nations with a mainly Christian population. In South Africa, this public holiday is now known as the Day of Goodwill. It is based on the tradition of giving gifts to the less fortunate members of society. Contemporary Boxing Day in many countries is now a "shopping holiday" associated with after-Christmas sales.
This day is historically England's name for St. Stephen's Day. Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr, being stoned to death in Jerusalem around A.D. 34-35. St. Stephen's Day is usually celebrated on December 26, which is a public holiday in some countries or areas in Europe (UK, Germany, Alsace, northern part of Lorraine, Catalonia) and around the world with predominantly Christian populations. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, St Stephen's Day is celebrated on the 27th of December, although in Greece the Greek Boxing Day (Synaxis Theotokou, Σύναξις Θεοτόκου) is also celebrated as a public holiday on the 26th of December and is not related to the English version.
In Ireland the Bank Holidays Act 1871 established the feast day of St. Stephen's Day as a non-moveable public holiday on December the 26th, although since partition the name "Boxing Day" is used by the authorities in Northern Ireland and it has become a moveable public holiday in que with the rest of the UK. The Banking and Financial Dealings Act of 1971 established "Boxing Day" as a public holiday in Scotland. In the Australian state of South Australia, December the 26th is a public holiday known as Proclamation Day.
It is usually celebrated on the 26th of December, the day after Christmas Day; however, unlike St. Stephen's Day, Boxing Day is not always on the 26th of December, its associated public holiday can be moved to the next weekday if the 26th of December is a Saturday or Sunday. The movement of Boxing Day varies between countries."
I have to wonder what St Stephen would have thought about folks going shopping in his honor. Perhaps they are buying Pet Rocks? It's good to know he was the first Christian martyr. I have been curious about this for a long time. When and where did the first martyrdom occur? Were Christians the first to have martyrs? Or did they coopt this idea, too? But in all seriousness, I will have to look into this....