December 26 – St. Stephen's Day

Posted on December 26, 2015

I have always thought of Good King Wenceslas as a Christmas carol, but the very first lines—

Good King Wenceslas looked out / on the feast of Stephen,

tell us that it is actually a St. Stephen's Day carol!

St. Stephen's Day, also known as The Feast of Stephen, is December 26. At least, that's the date of St. Stephen's Day in the Western Church. The Eastern Church celebrates this feast day on December 27 or even – using the Julian calendar date – January 9!

A lot of nations and regions celebrate St. Stephen's Day as an official public holiday. The list includes Alsace (in France), Austria, Balearic Islands (in Spain), Catalonia (in Spain), Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Moselle (in France), Norway, Philippines, and Sweden.

The Eastern nations who celebrate St. Stephen on January 9 include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

Let's check out a few of the St. Stephen's Day customs:

  • There are ceremonial horseback rides in Austria, plus a blessing of the horses.
  • In Catalonia, people gather to feast and to use up some of the Christmas leftovers; leftover meat is ground up and stuffed in canelons, which are tubular pastas.

  • In Ireland, people dress up in straw hats and capes; they go from door to door and dance and sing.

  • Finns take horse-drawn sleigh rides, complete with bells, and in this way visit relatives and friends. Some Finnish people hold parades and dances. Some, called Star boys or Star singers, do a door-to-door event, singing carols and enacting a play about the Three Wise Men.

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