Catholic Activity: St. Stephen's Day
A way to cultivate generosity and gratitude in children in observing the feast of the first martyr of the Church, St. Stephen, on December 26, which falls during the Christmas octave. He is one of the first "social workers" since he distributed meals to the poor.
St. Stephen's Day immediately follows Christmas, and the Church rejoices in this first testimony by blood to the fact of the Incarnation. Children love the Gospel story about St. Stephen, who for love of God was stoned to death while praying for his enemies. It is also becoming a practice on St. Stephen's Day to pray particularly for our enemies, and it is appropriate to remember the persecuted Church throughout the world and all the people who, like Stephen, are being afflicted for their faith.
St. Stephen was one of the first "social workers" in the Church, and it was his task to organize meals to feed the poor. In remembrance of Stephen's work for the needy, the British people used to collect money throughout the year in little clay boxes. On the feast of St. Stephen or "Boxing day" as it is called in Britain, these boxes were broken and the money was distributed to the poor.
In some homes and communities a box is labeled and set beside the Christmas tree. Members of the family, in gratitude for their Christmas blessings, choose one of their gifts for the "St. Stephen's Box" — clothing and other useful articles which are sent abroad to the poor or to a mission country.
As the family gathers around the lighted Christmas tree in the evening to eat minced meat pie dessert, the mother or father reads the story of Good King Wenceslaus who "looked out on the Feast of Stephen" and who enjoyed eating his minced meat pie after sharing his meal with a poor peasant family. The story is delightfully told in More Six O'Clock Saints by Joan Windham, and can easily be acted out by the children. Afterwards all join in singing Christmas carols, especially "Good King Wenceslaus."
Activity Source: Twelve Days of Christmas, The by Elsa Chaney, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1955