Wednesday, December 26, 2012

On the feast of Stephen ...

"You don't have Boxing Day in the states," said the bishop's mother --- not to drop names or anything --- with mild disapproval as we shared lunch on Sunday. The senior Mrs. Scarfe is spending the holidays in Iowa this year, far from home in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where this the second day of Christmas also is Boxing Day, as throughout the UK.

While we in the States, having exhausted ourselves during the pagan prelude, are ready to rip down the decor, forget this peace-on-earth-good-will business for another year and get back to hollering and shooting at each other, the British are enjoying a second public holiday.

Boxing Day also is one of Britain's biggest shopping days, what with Dec. 26 sales and all, kind of a counterpart to our Black Thursday --- also known in more traditional circles as Thanksgiving.

My Christmas spirit generally revives about Dec. 24 and by the 25th it's time to start listening to carols and enjoying the bright lights. But just when the urge to acquire a poinsettia of my own develops, the florists have stopped watering and are tossing out tattered rejects.  Then the bright lights start going out one by one.

As Scrooge reportedly said, however, I will try at least for a few more days to "honor Christmas in my heart," and may even make more of an effort "to keep it all the year."


This also is the feast day of St. Stephen, the protomartyr of Christianity, reportedly dispatched with stones hurled by an enraged mob egged on by cranky old Saul of Tarsus, later cranky old St. Paul. See The Acts of The Apostles for details.

I bring this up, because the feast day of St. Stephen is the setting for a favorite carol, "Good King Wenceslas."

 Like an indifferently trained dog, I have very few tricks --- but one of them always has been the ability to sing without reference all the verses of "Good King Wenceslas." I traditionally perform this trick --- without prompting --- at least once a year during the season, at a party, at the office, wherever the spirit moves. I enjoy this hugely; others, not so much.

For those who missed the performance this year --- here's second best: The Irish Rovers:

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