It’s December 26th, or in the United Kingdom, it is Boxing Day or a day known in more modern history as Return-The-Gift-I-Received-for-Something-I-Really-Want Day. It is also known as St. Stephen’s Day, named for the very first martyr of Christianity, a deacon who was stoned to death for espousing what was considered blasphemy against his Jewish brethren. And, as the old carol refers, we know that St. Stephen’s Day was when Good King Wenceslas went “round about” in the frigid night of 10th century Bohemia to bring alms to the poor.
Throughout the ages of translations and interpretations, Boxing Day was the day when those who were in service to the wealthy, received a “Christmas box” or present as a gift from their generous employers. Samuel Pepys even made a reference to the tradition of this gift-giving in his diary. But, as is sometimes the sad truth, Boxing Day, which simply coincides with Stephen’s Day in our Western calendar, became return-the-gift day and, for some, the concept of generosity trumping selfishness went flying out the window of time.
I’m with Good King Wenceslas. Let’s take this day, the one that followed the holidays of Christmas and Hanukah this year when so many of us had the simple privilege of being with family and friends to exchange gifts of love and delight, and remember those whose lives have been fraught with the pain of poverty and loneliness, fear and abandonment. Let’s try to channel our inner Wenceslas and forget the small inconveniences or petty disappointments that our lives sometimes have, and let’s make someone who has nothing a shy bit happier if we can. Let’s just simply try to do unto others.
In a perfect world, this holiday week abounding with love and compassion, would last year round. It’s not that hard to do. May this season of giving never become the season of just receiving. Here’s to a new year coming filled with compassion and caring, peace and hope for all.