SUZANNE HARRINGTON: St Stephen... the patron saint of headaches

Whether you call it Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day or Monday, Suzanne Harrington reckons it’ll be a day of headaches.

Over here, we call it Stephen’s Day. This is after the first Christian martyr who ended up getting stoned the day after Christmas, and not in a good way. Trust us to attach the second most miserable image available — a fella getting pounded by rocks — to our festive lie in.

(The first prize goes to the one being nailed to a plank of wood, which we will be celebrating later on with supermarkets full of egg-shaped chocolate).

But back to today. The shopping, the spending, the wrapping, the prepping, the cooking, the decorating, the organising, the inviting, the hosting, the guesting — all done. Mission accomplished. We can let our faces go slack after all the smiling. Take off our comedy antlers.

But what do we call this glorious day of leftovers and indolence, where we can legitimately not care about anyone’s needs but our own? Not Chill The Feck Out Day. Not Relax It’s Over Day.

Not even Don’t Worry I’ve Kept The Receipt Day. No. We named it after the patron saint of coffin makers, horses, headaches, and masons. Could someone maybe start a petition to get December 26 renamed to something encompassing 21st century jollity?

I know it’s in global short supply — jollity, I mean — but naming the day immediately post Christmas after a long dead martyr is way too much nominative determinism. Nor do we want it to be Discount Retail Frenzy Day.

Across the Irish Sea, it’s called Boxing Day, which I always took to mean a tradition whereby family members, driven insane from enforced proximity and too much Lidl prosecco, would designate the morning after the 25th to slug it out in the back garden before collapsing once again in front of the telly, further fortified by Baileys and Quality Street.

On reflection, this seems a plausible theory, a sort of legitimised punch up to expel the festive steam. Biff! Take that for those crappy pleather gloves. Pow! How dare you criticise my bread sauce.

Bam! I never liked your sister anyway. Shazoom! That’s for eating the last caramel barrel. Obviously this is just my own little fantasy — the reality is that Boxing Day stems from some class-based ritual from the olden days, not a massive bare knuckle event to clear the air of festering resentments brought about by prolonged obligatory contact around the primary gifting period. Nice idea though, no?

In the US it’s known as The Day After Christmas Day, and it’s not even a holiday in 44 states, because Americans have this idea that not being at work every day of your life makes you a communist.

Kansas, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, New Hampshire and Texas can have a lie in — everywhere else has to take a day out of their already pitiful annual leave. Which reminds us that no matter how badly we’d like to see actual boxing on the 26th, it’s always worse somewhere else.


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