Saint Stephen's Day

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Saint Stephen's Day
Рождественская открытка.jpg
Also calledFeast of Saint Stephen
Observed byChristians
  • 25 December (Armenia)
  • 26 December (Western)
  • 27 December (Eastern – Gregorian calendar)
  • 7 January (Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem)
  • 9 January (Eastern – Julian calendar)
Related toBoxing Day (concurrent), Christmastide, Wren Day

Saint Stephen's Day, also called the Feast of Saint Stephen, is a Christian saint's day to commemorate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr, celebrated on 26 December in Western Christianity and 27 December in Eastern Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox churches that adhere to the Julian calendar mark Saint Stephen's Day on 27 December according to that calendar, which places it on 9 January of the Gregorian calendar used in secular contexts. In Latin Christian denominations, Saint Stephen's Day marks the second day of Christmastide.[1][2]

It is an official public holiday in Alsace-Moselle, Austria, the Balearic Islands, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Catalonia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Norway, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, Switzerland and Newfoundland. The date is also a public holiday in those countries that celebrate Boxing Day on the day in addition to or instead of Saint Stephen's Day, such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom.


A statue of Saint Stephen stands in a Catholic church in Italy dedicated to the martyr.

Saint Stephen's Day is the second day of Christmastide and is celebrated in honour of one of the first Christian martyrs, Saint Stephen,[3] who was stoned to death in 36 AD.[4]

Celebrations by country[edit]


In Ireland, the day is one of nine official public holidays.[5] Its name is sometimes shortened to "Stephen's Day", particularly in informal contexts.[6]

In Irish, it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofáin or Lá an Dreoilín, meaning the Wren Day. When used in this context, "wren" is often pronounced "ran".[7] This name alludes to several legends, including those found in Irish mythology, linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. People dress up in old clothes, wear straw hats and travel from door to door with fake wrens (previously real wrens were killed) and they dance, sing and play music. This tradition is less common than it was a couple of generations ago.[8] Depending on which region of the country, they are called "wrenboys" and mummers. A Mummer's Festival is held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, County Galway, and Dingle in County Kerry. Mumming is also a big tradition in County Fermanagh in Ulster. Saint Stephen's Day is a popular day for visiting family members and going to the theatre to see a pantomime.[9]

In most of Ulster in the north of Ireland, the day is usually known as Boxing Day, especially in Northern Ireland and County Donegal (chiefly in East Donegal and Inishowen).[10][11][12]


Saint Stephen's Day in Wales is known as Gŵyl San Steffan, celebrated every year on 26 December. One ancient Welsh custom, discontinued in the 19th century, included bleeding of livestock and "holming" by beating with holly branches of late risers and female servants. The ceremony reputedly brought good luck.[13]

Catalonia, Balearic Islands, Valencian Country (Spain)[edit]

Saint Stephen's Day (Sant Esteve) on 26 December is a holiday in Catalonia. It is traditionally celebrated with a festive meal that includes canelons. The pasta tubes are stuffed with ground meat that may include the leftovers of the previous day's escudella i carn d'olla, turkey, or capó. In Catalan-speaking territories the day is also known as the Second Christmas Day or the Festa Mitjana. In the Valencia area a tradition is to eat with the mother's side of the family on the 25th of December, and on the 26th with the father’s side. Historically, the Catalan holiday on the day after Christmas may be related to the practical need for time to return home after a Christmas Day gathering and may date back to the days of the Carolingian Empire. Although this lacks historical evidence and may be construed as revisionism.


In Italy, Saint Stephen's Day became a public holiday in 1947, where previously it was a normal working day; the Catholic Church also celebrates it as a religious holiday, even if not as a precept, as it is in Germany and other German-speaking countries. The reason for the public holiday in Italy, not required by the Catholic Church despite the fame of the saint, is to be found in the intention of prolonging the Christmas holiday, creating two consecutive public holidays, which also happens in the case of Easter Monday, a non-religious holiday, but which only wants to lengthen Easter.[14] Before 1947 the two days were working days, with banks and offices open.

Alsace and Moselle[edit]

Saint Stephen's Day (la Saint Étienne) is marked as a public holiday as part of its shared culture across the Rhine River with Germany.[15][16]

Austria, Germany, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland[edit]

Stephanitag is a public holiday in mainly Catholic Austria. In the Archdiocese of Vienna, the day of patron saint Saint Stephen is even celebrated on the feast of the Holy Family. Similar to the adjacent regions of Bavaria, numerous ancient customs still continued to this day, such as ceremonial horseback rides and blessing of horses, or the "stoning" drinking rite celebrated by young men after attending Mass.

The 26th of December is – as Second Day of Christmas (German: Zweiter Weihnachtsfeiertag, Dutch: Tweede kerstdag, Czech: druhý svátek vánoční) – a public holiday in Poland, Germany, The Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

Republika Srpska[edit]

Saint Stephen is also the patron saint of Republika Srpska, one of two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. St. Stephen's Day, 9 January, is celebrated as the Day of the Republika Srpska or Dan Republike, though mainly as an anniversary of the 1992 events rather than as a religious feast.


The best-known tradition linked to the Stephen's Day (Finnish: tapaninpäivä) is "the ride of Stephen's Day" which refers to a sleigh ride with horses. These merry rides along village streets were seen in contrast to the silent and pious mood of the preceding Christmas days.

Another old tradition was parades with singers and people dressed in Christmas suits. At some areas these parades were related to checking forthcoming brides. Stephen's Day used to be a popular day for weddings as well. These days a related tradition is dances of Stephen's Day which are held in several restaurants and dance halls.


In Bulgaria, the Orthodox Church celebrates Saint Stephen's Day, also called Stefanov Den (Bulgarian: Стефанов ден), on the third day after Christmas - December 27.[17] On this day, the ones who have a nameday are given gifts.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lopez, Jadwiga (1 January 1977). Christmas in Scandinavia. World Book Encyclopedia. ISBN 9780716620037. The remainder of Christmas Day is spent snacking, playing with toys, reading new books, or napping. December 26 is a legal holiday, and is called "Second Day Christmas." It is also Saint Stephen's Day—the feast day of a Christian missionary, once a stable boy, who came to Sweden around A.D. 1050.
  2. ^ Crump, William D. (15 September 2001). The Christmas Encyclopedia (3 ed.). McFarland. p. 25. ISBN 9780786468270. On Saint Stephen's Day (December 26, "Second Christmas Day"), families make traditional visits to friends and relatives.
  3. ^ McLaughlan, David (2012). The Top 40 Traditions of Christmas. Barbour Publishing. ISBN 978-1-62029-108-5.
  4. ^ "St. Stephen's Day". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  5. ^ "Public holidays in Ireland". 16 January 2017. Archived from the original on 7 July 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2017.
  6. ^ "Why is Stephen's Day called Boxing Day? 12 yuletide questions answered". Irish Times. 18 December 2018. Archived from the original on 19 December 2018. Retrieved 9 December 2020.
  7. ^ "Christmas and New Year in Ireland Long Ago".
  8. ^ "Christmas in Ireland: The Wren Boys". Archived from the original on 3 April 2013.
  9. ^ "Saint Stephen's Day in Ireland".
  10. ^ Boxing Day tragedy in Donegal as man dies in crash (Donegal News, 26 December 2019).
  11. ^ Donegal couple devastated after losing home in Boxing Day fire (Donegal Daily, 29 December 2017).
  12. ^ Boxing Day / St. Stephen's Day - Which is more common in Donegal? (, December 2009).
  13. ^ "Wales on Britannia: Welsh Culture & Traditions".
  14. ^ "Santo Stefano: perché si festeggia il 26 dicembre?" (in Italian). Retrieved 28 December 2022.
  15. ^ Barreiro, Nicolas (26 December 2020). "Fêtes de fin d'année : pourquoi le 26 décembre est-il férié en Alsace ?". RTL (in French). Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  16. ^ Zaugra, Nicolas (26 December 2017). "Pourquoi le 26 décembre est-il férié en Alsace et en Moselle ?". (in French). Retrieved 11 December 2022.
  17. ^ "STEFANOVDEN (St. Stephen or Stefan's Day) - December 27".
  18. ^ "27 Декември - Стефановден".

External links[edit]