ALL ABOUT BOXING DAY, THE FEAST OF ST. STEPHEN DECEMBER 26 - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
The Feast of St. Stephen honoring the first Christian martyr is celebrated on December 26th (December 27th in Orthodox Churches). However, the date is also called Boxing Day in many Anglican countries. On Boxing Day, a legal holiday in the former British Commonwealth, workers traditionally receive gifts from their employers. From a British shopper’s viewpoint, it mimics in almost every aspect America’s Black Friday on the day following Thanksgiving. In pre-Christian Rome, slave owners and slaves changed positions, and boxed gifts were presented to the slaves and persons of lesser status on Saturnalia. Another possible origin is that in early Christian Rome, metal boxes were placed outside churches for offerings linked to the Feast of St. Stephen. On Christmas Day, the servants were required to wait on their masters. However, Samuel Pepys’ diary notes that on the following day, the servants of the wealthy were given boxes of gifts and food as they left to visit their families. Pies made from the masters’ leftover turkey were often consumed. On this day, officers and enlisted personnel of the British Army switch places. On one episode of M*A*S*H, Colonel Potter attempted this with mixed results.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church