On the Feast of Saint Stephen, the church celebrates the very first martyr to die because of his love for Jesus. You can find Saint Stephen’s story in the book of Acts. Stephen was elected by the apostles to take care of the needs of the poor in their community so that the apostles could focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word. It is said that Stephen was full of grace and fortitude and that he did great wonders and signs among the people. One day, while Stephen was preaching the Gospel in the streets, angry Jews, who believed his message about Jesus to be blasphemy, dragged him outside of the city and stoned him to death. Since Saint Stephen was the first Christian martyr, the church gave his day of remembrance a special place of honor right after the day we celebrate Christ's birth.
Ways to Celebrate
Since St. Stephen’s role in the Christian community was to care for those in need, the Church distributed their alms boxes to the poor on this day.
In England, St. Stephen’s Day is a national holiday and is known as “Boxing Day”. Small gifts of money are given to the people who provide them with services during the year. These gifts of money were called “boxes”. Thus, St. Stephen’s Day became known as "Boxing Day".
It is a day to visit family and friends or to take a long walk in the countryside
Traditional fare for this day is "Bubble and Squeak" and mulled ale.
The origin of the piggy bank comes from this day. Children in Germany and Holland stored their pennies in a pig-shaped earthenware container which they broke the day after Christmas. The money saved was distributed to the poor.
The origins are unclear but St. Stephen became the patron saint of horses. On this day, in Poland and other Slavic countries, bread is baked in the shape of horseshoes.
In Poland people confer St. Stephen’s Day blessings by throwing handfuls of rice, oats, or walnuts at one another. The act symbolizes the stoning of St. Stephen.
Devotion for St. Stephen’s Day
Light the Christ candle.Begin your devotion time with the following invitation to prayer:
Leader: The Lord be with you.
People: And also with you.
Leader: Let us pray.
While we suffer here on earth, help us, O Lord, to remember to look up at heaven and by faith to behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Spirit, that we would learn to love and bless those that persecute us. Help us to be like the first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to you, blessed Jesus, who stands at the right hand of God to comfort all those that suffer for you. Amen.
Read Acts 6-7
Close with a prayer thanking God for his goodness and asking for his guidance and protection for you and all who are in any need or trouble.
End your devotion by saying the Lord’s Prayer together.