A story of accidental traditionalism . . .
Just last week I wrote a how this year we decided to play down Christmas, partly because we live in a country where it’s not celebrated by most of our friends, and also because it has become more and more commercialized and this leads to public exploitation.
But Life has a way of playing tricks, and on Boxing Day, which for some families is the one when Christmas is celebrated, (Christmas Day being for the servants), we hosted a party of friends for what might have been Boxing Day lunch.
The story of how this came to pass is complex, but all the guests were employed at a certain establishment we have patronized over the years. Due to circumstances largely outside of their control each was forced to move on. When ever this happened our family felt a sense of loss, and since many of the people involved had been traumatized by their experiences of working at this place it seemed a good idea to bring them together.
We cooked some meat that was left in the freezer following the Eid al-Adha festival. It had been given to us by neighbors and at the time we didn’t really know what to do with it. In the event it spiced up rather well and with some roasted potatoes, sage and onion stuffing, carrots, and greens it contributed to an event that might well have been Christmas.
A few years back a friend cooked Christmas dinner for us, but then her daughter insisted on playing Ottoman court music as the background ambiance, which rather diminished the pleasure of pulling Christmas crackers.
To my mind, yesterday’s meal was far more what Christmas could, and should, be about. Celebrating Life with friends, healing, joy, laughter, and moving on toward a new year. But then, I’ve always preferred Boxing Day, because it is when you do what you want, rather than what you ‘must’.
My namesake St. Stephen achieved eternal fame by being the first Christian to be martyred for his faith by being stoned to death shortly after Christ’s crucifixion. His day was probably designated as 26th, because it makes a kind of symbolic sense that if Christ was born on 25th, then the first Christian martyr should be accorded the first available date to follow.
When Good King Wenceslas Looked Out On The Feast Of Stephen, he was looking out on Boxing Day. The feast being the left overs from the Christmas lunch. In the Middle Ages the church collecting boxes were opened on Boxing Day, and alms given to the poor.
St. Stephen died for doing what he considered to be right, rather than the social norm of his day. It’s appropriate that his day is also one of celebration. Certainly I’m glad to have shared the day this year with friends, because much healing came out of it, and it also was the right thing to do.