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THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS


Saint Stephan's Day

St Stephen's Day, or the Feast of St Stephen, is a Christian saint's day celebrated on 26 December in the Western Church and 27 December in the Eastern Church. Churches which adhere to the Julian calendar mark St Stephen's Day in January, although from their perspective they are celebrating it in December. It commemorates St Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr.

The day is a public holiday in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Catalonia, Croatia, Republika Srpska, and Romania. St. Stephen's Day is also the "feast of Stephen" referred to in the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas. In Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, Boxing Day is celebrated instead, which in most years falls on the same day (Boxing Day falls on the first non-Sunday after Christmas, either 26 or 27 December).

The day is a public holiday in Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Catalonia, Croatia, Republika Srpska, and Romania. St. Stephen's Day is also the "feast of Stephen" referred to in the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas. In Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, Boxing Day is celebrated instead, which in most years falls on the same day (Boxing Day falls on the first non-Sunday after Christmas, either 26 or 27 December).

In Irish it is called L? Fh?ile Stiof?n or L? an Dreoil?n ? the latter translates literally as another English name used, the Day of the Wren or Wren's Day. When used in this context, 'wren' is oftened pronounced 'ran'. This name alludes to several legends, including those found in Ireland linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. In parts of Ireland persons carrying either an effigy of a wren, or an actual caged wren, travel from house to house playing music, singing and dancing. Depending on which region of the country, they are called Wrenboys, Mummers or Strawboys. A Mummer's Festival is held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, Co. Galway. St Stephen's Day is also a popular day for visiting family members. A popular rhyme, known to many Irish children and sung at each house visited by the mummers goes as follows:

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
On St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Up with the penny and down with the pan,
Give us a penny to bury the wren.



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