Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s, Day After Christmas, Junkanoo or Happy Birthday?

Junkanoo celebration in Nassau
Junkanoo celebration in Nassau (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

December 26, we all agree, is the day after Christmas. But how we celebrate the day mostly depends on where in the world you are and to some, what day you were born.

So for all those born on December 26, Happy Birthday!

Here in Canada, it’s Boxing Day. Of course, for some it is just the day after Christmas, to relax, eat leftovers or watch TV.

Stores across Canada typically have big Boxing Day sales, and as a child, I remember it was also the day where gifts could be returned to the stores, usually like a sweater that just didn’t fit.

The Irish still refer today as St. Stephen’s Day. December 26 there celebrate with the Feast of St. Stephen. Or so I’ve read. Who is St. Stephen? Well, he was one of seven original deacons of the Christian Church who were ordained by the Apostles to care for widows and the poor. “For the success of his preaching and his devotion to Christ, St. Stephen was stoned to death by a mob. As he died, he begged God not to punish his killers,” wrote Fact Monster‘s webpage.

The Bahamians celebrate December 26 with a parade. It’s called Junkanoo and features elaborate costumes and headdresses called gombeys.

But what about Boxing Day? Well, it’s been a national holiday since 1871. In some places part of the British Empire, they change the date depending on whether it falls on a weekend or not. But not in Canada.

Where did the term Boxing Day originate?  Well, that’s not an easy one to answer. I haven’t read a definitive answer anywhere yet. But there are theories. There are three major ones:

The first one is that during Advent, parishes would collect donations deposited in a box. On the day following Christmas Day, the box would be opened and the contents distributed among the poor.

The second is from the early days when slaves and staff would work hard for the aristocrats on Christmas, and, for their hard work and loyalty, would get December 26 off. They would also receive gifts (boxes).

Or you could believe the third theory, which I read on Time‘s webpage. The story related through the song, “good King Wenceslas.” Wenceslas was the Duke of Bohemia in the 10th century. The good King was surveying his land on December 26, when he happened on a peasant who was gathering wood in the middle of a snowstorm. The King was so moved that he in turn gathered surplus food and wine, and in the middle of that snowstorm, brought it all to the peasant’s door.

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