St. Stephen's Day
Also called Feast of St Stephen
Observed by Christians
Type Christian
Date 26 December (Western)
27 December (Eastern)
Related to Boxing Day (concurrent)

St. Stephen's Day, or the Feast of St. Stephen, is a Christian saint's day celebrated on 26 December in the Western Church and 27 December in the Eastern Church. Many Eastern Orthodox churches adhere to the Julian calendar and mark St. Stephen's Day on 27 December according to that calendar, which places it on January 9 of the Gregorian calendar used in secular contexts. It commemorates St Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr.


In Ireland, the day is one of nine official public holidays.[1]

In Irish, it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofán or Lá an Dreoilín — the latter translates literally as another English name used, the Day of the Wren or Wren's Day. When used in this context, "wren" is often pronounced "ran". This name alludes to several legends, including those found in Ireland linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. Although now mostly a discontinued tradition, in certain parts of Ireland persons carrying either an effigy of a wren or an actual caged wren (live or dead), travel from house to house playing music, singing and dancing. Depending on which region of the country, they are called Wrenboys and Mummers. A Mummer's Festival is held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, County Galway and Dingle County Kerry. St Stephen's Day is also a popular day for visiting family members. A popular rhyme, known to many Irish children and sung at each house visited by the mummers goes as follows (this version popularized by the Irish group The Clancy Brothers):

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds,
St. Stephen's Day was caught in the furze,
Although he was little his honour was great,
Jump up me lads and give us a treat.
As I was going to Killenaule,
I met a wren upon the wall.
Up with me wattle and knocked him down,
And brought him in to Carrick Town.
Drooolin, Droolin, where’s your nest?
Tis in the bush that I love best
In the tree, the holly tree,
Where all the boys do follow me.
Up with the kettle and down with the pan,
And give us a penny to bury the wren.
I followed the wren three miles or more,
Three miles or more three miles or more.
I followed the wren three miles or more,
At six o’clock in the morning.
I have a little box under me arm,
Under me arm under me arm.
I have a little box under me arm,
A penny or tuppence would do it no harm.
Mrs. Clancy's a very good woman,
a very good woman, a very good woman,
Mrs. Clancy's a very good woman,
She give us a penny to bury the wren.


St. Stephen's Day in Wales is known as Gŵyl San Steffan. Ancient Welsh custom, discontinued in the 19th century, included bleeding of livestock and "holming" (beating or slashing with holly branches) of late risers and female servants.[2]


St. Stephen's Day (Sant Esteve) on December 26 is a traditional Catalan holiday. It is celebrated right after Christmas, with a big meal including canelons. These are stuffed with the ground remaining meat from the escudella i carn d'olla, turkey or capó of the previous day.

Serbia and Republika Srpska

St. Stephen is the patron saint of Serbia and the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and St. Stephen's Day is celebrated as the Day of the Republika Srpska. It falls on January 9 by the Gregorian calendar (the standard international calendar), as the Serbian Orthodox Church adheres to the Julian calendar. Serbian medieval rulers' title was Stefan (Stephen).


St. Stephen's Day in Hungary refers to August 20, the day on which the relics of King St. Stephen, patron saint of Hungary, were transferred to the city of Buda. This day is the ultimate public holiday in Hungary. Stephen, originally named Vajk, was the son of the pagan chieftain Géza but was baptized a Christian at the age of ten, and was given the Latin name "Stephanus" ("István" in Hungarian). In 997, a succession struggle between the Christian Stephen and his uncle, the pagan chieftain Koppány, ended in a victory for Stephen and his followers. As a result, the Magyar tribes were united into one nation and converted from paganism to Christianity; Pope Sylvester II presented him with a crown (the Crown of St. Stephen still a symbol of Hungary) as a token of gratitude. In 1083 CE Pope Gregory VII canonized Stephen, and he has since been referred to as Saint Stephen of Hungary.

Under communism, St. Stephen's Day was referred to in Hungary as "The celebration of the new bread — the end of the harvest".


  2. Welsh Customs and Traditions, [1]; see also archived version from 1997 [2]

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at St. Stephen's Day. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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