Sunday, December 26, 2010
It is the Feast of St. Stephen, first martyr of the Church, and those of us who have visited England will recall that it is also called Boxing Day, when the leftover food and clothing is boxed up for the poor. There are many explanations about the origin of Boxing Day but I like the reference in the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas". Wenceslas was the Duke of Bohemia in the early 10th century, and he was out surveying his land on St. Stephen's Day, when he saw a poor man gathering wood. Moved with compassion, the King gathered up surplus food and wine and carried them through the blizzard to the peasant's door. In the United Kingdom, it is a custom to give "Christmas boxes" of money or presents on the day after Christmas as thank you gifts for good service received throughout the year. In addition, churches open their alms boxes on St. Stephen's Day and distribute the contents to the poor.