December 26th: It’s historic origins in England and Ireland

The day after Christmas Day is celebrated in many different ways around the world, and has many different names with distinct historical origins…

Boxing Day (Britain, Australia, Canada)

In 17th century Britain, it was a custom for tradesmen to collect “Christmas boxes” of money or presents on the first weekday after Christmas as thanks for good service throughout the year. This was later to become Boxing Day.

The Demidoff Altarpiece: Saint Stephen

St.Stephen’s Day (Republic of Ireland, and various other European countries)

The Feast of St.Stephen is believed to be the first Christian martyr, stoned to death sometime around the year 33 CE having been accused of blasphemy. It is claimed that his relics were recovered on Dec. 26, 416 CE, and that is why we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen on Dec. 26.

Wren Day (Ireland)

The Republic of Ireland actually celebrates St. Stephen’s Day in another context – Lá an Dreoilín, meaning ‘Wren Day’ (pronounced as “ran” day). Wren Day is linked to St.Stephen in a variety of ways, namely the claim that he was betrayed by a wren while hiding form his enemies.  Although now a dying-out tradition, for many years it was customary for people to dress up in very old clothes, wear straw hats and travel from door to door with fake (previously: dead) wrens. 

Wren Day
Wren Day in Ireland

 

 

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