In Ireland, 26 December is St. Stephen’s Day, probably the best day of the Christmas season because the focus is on being with your dearest friends.
In the weeks leading up to Christmas in Ireland, the focus of celebration is ‘associates’ –– coworkers, business associations, social groups, etc. Though events start in early November, the pace quickens in December and does not end until late Christmas Eve with ‘Christmas drinks’ with your office mates.
The focus of Christmas day itself is family. Having no family in Ireland, we spent our four Dublin Christmases at the homes of dear friends Tat and Eoin McVey or Fiona and Owen Murphy. Though we were not family members, their Irish hospitality made us feel as though we were. We will be forever grateful for these dear friends.
Stephen’s Day (the ‘Saint’ is usually dropped) is great because……the focus is on being with your best friends. With all your ‘business’ and ‘group’ and ‘family’ obligations behind you, you can spend this extra holiday with just people you want to spend it with. You’ll receive so many invitations to ‘drop by for a drink’ that it’s easy to blow off all but the few from those friends you really want to spend time with on the day.
Britain has their Boxing Day, the origins of which are much in dispute, though it seems to be based on giving gifts to servants in boxes. Being controlled by the Brits for 800 years, the Irish saw first-hand the benefit of this extra day of celebration after Christmas but –– not having any servants and not wanting to simply change things to be the same as the Brits –– the Irish copped-on to the fact that every day is a saint’s day and honoring St. Stephen was as good an excuse as any for another day off work. (That said, there is one possible link between Boxing Day and Stephen’s day, an obscure reference to the wren.)
Though working today –– someone has to be here to answer the phones –– I plan to escape around three to spend time with neighbors having a Boxing Day open house. I accepted their invitation on the condition that they let me change the name to a Stephen’s Day open house to which they readily agreed.
Happy Stephen’s Day.