Today is the Feast of Saint Stephen, celebrated each year on the first day after Christmas because Stephen is recognized by the Christian church as its first martyr.
The New Testament Book of Acts provides an account of Stephen being brought before Jewish authorities and accused of blasphemy. After giving an impassioned speech to the assembly of judges, in which he denounces his audience for its long history of persecuting the prophets, Stephen was dragged from the city and stoned to death.
Saint Stephen’s Day is a traditional day for giving food or money to the poor. The lyrics of the Christmas carol “Good King Wenceslas” reflect this tradition:
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even (1)
The carol tells the story of Wenceslas, the 10th century Duke of Bohemia. Seeing a peasant gathering wood in the snow, the King is moved to help him and puts together a parcel of food, wine, and pine logs. Accompanied by his page, the King then trudges through the blinding snow and the dark night to deliver his gift to the peasant’s door.
Boxing Day, an English holiday celebrated on December 26th, reflects the example of giving we see in the Christmas carol. Traditionally on this day, household servants were given a box of presents to take home and share with their families, an early version of what we know today as the “Christmas bonus” (2).
Today’s Challenge: Boxes Within Boxes
What is a subject or topic that you could divide or classify into 12 different parts? Boxing Day is the perfect day for planning a calendar — after all isn’t a calendar made up of boxes within boxes? As you prepare for the beginning of a new year, instead of buying a calendar, brainstorm ideas for making one of your own. Below are twelve possible topics:
12 Labors of Hercules
12 Books that Everyone Should Read
12 Olympian Gods
12 Signs of the Zodiac
12 Precious Stones
12 Great Science Fiction Films
12 Greatest Rock Songs
12 Reasons that ‘12 Angry Men’ Is the Greatest Movie of All Time
12 Most Important Years in History
12 Holidays to Celebrate
12 Ways to Save Energy
12 Greatest Great Annual Events That Everyone Should Attend
Once you have selected the theme for your calendar, create an outline of the content of each month, including notes about what specific textual content you will include, what artwork you will include, and what other features you might include to make your calendar unique. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
1- Neale, John Mason Neale. Good King Wenceslas 1853. Public Domain.
2-Rufus, Anneli. The World Holiday Book. New York: HarperCollins, 1994.