BOOK OF CHRISTMAS - online book

The Customs, Ceremonies, Traditions, Superstitions, Fun, Feeling,
And Festivities Of The Christmas Season.

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ST. STEPHEN'S DAY.
183
ST. STEPHEN'S DAY.
26TH DECEMBER.
This day—which, in our calendar, is still dedicated to the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen (for John the Baptist perished in the same cause, before the consummation of the old law, and the full introduction of the Christian dispensation),—is more popularly known by the title of Boxing-day; and its importance, amongst the Christmas festivities, is derived from the practice whence that title comes.
We have already mentioned that the custom of bestowing gifts, at seasons of joyous commemoration, has been a form of thankful­ness at most periods ;—and that it may have been directly bor­rowed, by the Christian worshippers, from the Polytheists of Rome, along with those other modes of celebration which descend­ed to the Christmas festival, from that source,—introduced, how­ever, amongst our own observances, under scripture sanctions, drawn both from the Old and New Testaments. The particular form of that practice, whose donations are known by the title of Christmas-boxes (and which appear to differ from New-year's gifts in this,—that the former, passing from the rich to the poor, and from the master to his dependants, are not reciprocal in their distribution,—whereas the latter are those gifts, for the mutual expression of good-will and congratulation, which are exchanged between friends and acquaintances), was, perhaps, originally one of the observances of Christmas-day, and made a portion of its charities. The multiplied business of that festival, however, probably caused it to be postponed till the day following,—and thereby placed the Christmas-boxes under the patronage of St. Stephen. The title itself has been derived, by some, from the
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