Today is Boxing Day.
While I’ve never celebrated the day itself (it was always known as the day after Christmas in our house), I decided to look into it a little more. After all, it has its name penned on all calendars.
Boxing Day is an instance where a secular holiday grew out of a religious one. In most English speaking countries, Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas (today), when servants and tradesmen (employees) would receive gifts, known as a “Christmas box,” from their bosses and employers. This is peculiar to me since I get these gifts before Christmas at my office.
It’s also similar to Black Friday. People hit the malls and stores to either a)return gifts they received and didn’t like (or they didn’t work) or b)hit up all of those post-Christmas sales. I know I’ll be checking out a few post New Year’s (next week)…hey, a girl’s got to restock on her favorite Bath and Body scent items if she doesn’t get them for Christmas.
That’s what it currently is…but, believe it or not (and I personally found this fascinating), Boxing Day grew out of St. Stephen’s day, a Christian holiday that commemorates Stephen, the first Christian martyr recording in the Bible.
No Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called) – Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia – who began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.
Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”
So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized upon Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never sops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”
All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Acts 6.8-15, read also Acts 7
Stephen was a deacon of the early church in Jerusalem. And as you can see if you read the above passage, he was accused of blasphemy after an argument with the members of the synagogue. And while he awaited trial, he said he had seen God the Father and the Son. He was stoned and, as he lay dying, he prayed that his executioners be forgiven (just as Jesus did when he was held at trial: “Father forgive them for they do know not what they are doing” (Luke 23.34)).