FRI., DEC. 26, 2003
Friday is Boxing Day, the Feast of St. Stephen. You remember St. Steve, right? The first Christian to be martyred (stoned to death, to be specific) for his faith? The patron saint of headaches? No, really. Look it up. Then again, you might be more familiar with him as the patron saint of stonemasons or maybe coffin makers. OK, so it’s apparent that the early Christians lacked a certain amount of sensitivity training, but St. Stephen is also the patron saint of horses and of the Catholic diocese of Owensboro, Ky., the third largest city in the commonwealth of Kentucky. Not too shabby. All of the street cred notwithstanding, St. Stephen’s Day and its conjoined twin Boxing Day don’t get a lot of play here in the states. Pity. Boxing Day in England derives from the tradition of the churches opening their alms boxes for the poor on the day after Christmas … or from the tradition of wealthy folks giving their servants presents on the day after Christmas, presumably after having made them work on Christmas. Either way it sounds like a nice holiday, a holiday for poor and working-class types – the kind of people Jesus liked to hang out with. In America, Boxing Day is traditionally celebrated in the exchange lines at the mall, waiting for the harried customer-service clerk to swap out the box of crap you don’t need for the box of crap you think you do. Boxes, boxes everywhere, but what about St. Stephen? One thing is for certain: All over America people will be getting stoned on Boxing Day – not in that painful, biblical way, but in a relaxing, arguably medicinal way that rarely involves a headache. Maybe that’s not the kind of homage the One True Church intended, but Christianity has a long tradition of appropriating existing traditions and giving them a Christian context (Saturnalia for instance), so why not add another? Here in Austin, when people get stoned around Boxing Day they invariably end up down at Zilker Park spinning circles beneath the Christmas tree. Even if you’re not baked it’s a wonderfully wholesome, dizzying end to the Trail of Lights – although you have to be careful not to trample the toddlers. Later that night if you’re still in a celebratory mood, head over to the Vortex and check out the 10-year anniversary revival of comedian Rob Nash’s 12 Steps to a More Dysfunctional Christmas, a hilarious look at dashed expectations and familial dysfunction during the holidays. After all of the nauseating earnestness of Christmas, a little well-placed satire should make a nice aperitif.