Friday, December 26, 2008

So, There Was This Guy Named Stephen

December 26, 1987. Dr. B and I arrived early for what was going to be the longest shift of the season.

Puente Hills Mall was dimly lit and the retail cages were still closed. Small hordes of bleary-eyed haus fraus roamed the tastefully-plantered landscape looking for their first kill of the day.

I knew from past experience what was waiting for us at the end of the promenade.

As we grew closer, the vast throng appeared to grow larger. There was an insatiable consumer hunger in their eyes. I quickly unlocked the gate and we slid in, low to the floor, and we hurried to brace ourselves against the press of bargain hunters.

It was the day after Christmas, and we had been working at my uncle's Christmas Store, one of a small chain. Everything was 50% to 75% off. We really didn't want to have to haul it all back to the warehouse...

I worked for my uncle for several seasons, and December 26 was always like that. ravaging bands of the cheap and greedy coming to fisticuffs over marked-down baubles and trinkets. As a shopping day, it rivals Black Friday.

At least here in the U.S.

Elsewhere, in other English-speaking countries, December 26 is called Boxing Day. I've always wondered why it was called that, as we don't call it that. so, I did a little half-assed research. This is what I learned.

So, there was this guy named Stephen, or some Aramaic version thereof, and he was friends of Jesus. Well, he may have been a friend of a friend, but still, he was two phone calls away from the son of god. Records show (to the extend that the Catholic Church relies on such things) that Stephen was the first official guy to die for Mr. J. He was stoned, to be precise, and not in the good way...

Coincidentally, Saint Stephen, like St. Nickolas, whose day we just celebrated, was also associated with the giving of gifts. AND!! Both Stephen and Nick's special days coincide with the ancient Roman holiday of Saturnalia, which ALSO featured the giving of gifts! Imagine that! This is why, at this time of the year, I am endowed with approximately $300 worth of Starbucks gift cards, which I'm NOT complaining about... No, no, daddy needs his grande coffee...

Somehow, sometime, probably around the time of the Reformation (mid-1600's), when England decided to not be Catholic anymore (for a while), They stopped referring to it as St. Stephen's day, changing it to "Boxing day."

Which really doesn't make any sense.


Boxing day incorporated the gift-giving ideals of St. Stephen's day, and the wealthy would basically hand off their scrap gifts to those who were not worthy of Christmas gifts, like servants, beggars and the Irish.

Over time, as these things go, and as with their non-Canadian American friends, the Boxing Day tradition was converted to one big shopping day. And so, now, 21 years later, St. Stephen, looking down on us from Heaven, still nursing his 1,973 year-old blunt-force trauma wounds, can squarely be blamed for my 16-hour marathon of discount retail misery.

Happy Boxing Day!


  1. Lucky Red8:02 AM

    Yes, my Grandmother often told me stories of the generosity of the English to the Irish on Boxing Day- and how we all looked forward to thanking them in our own, special, militant way...

  2. I thought you were going to tell them about the signs we made to the girls that walked by.

  3. I am an ogre who hates the holidays. I loathe Christmas. Day after Thanksgiving I want to crawl into a cave and hibernate until Spring, or at least until the first crocus blooms.

    Oh, and for those of you who know him, my brother is engaged. Pretend to care.

  4. Jerry Garcia1:44 AM

    St. Stephen? Isn't that a Grateful Dead song? Jesus, you are such a goddamn hippie.

  5. You doing anything for your birthday?

  6. Probably not. I'm not a big birthday guy. It usually gets lost in the mix of other birthdays, holidays and travel.


Be compelling.

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