The day after Christmas, on the liturgical calendar, is the Feast of St. Stephen, who was martyred. The Church wants to remind us not to get too caught up in all the trimmings and warm-fuzziness of a baby in a manger, Midnight Mass, and carols. The day after we celebrate Jesus' birth, the Church reminds us that we have to be willing to die for the Faith (ain't being Catholic grand?)
One of my favorite Christmas songs is "St. Stephen's Day Murders." Elvis Costello did it with the Chieftains - you can listen to it here, but some of the lyrics are:
I knew of two sisters whose name it was Christmas,
And one was named Dawn of course, the other one was named Eve.
I wonder if they grew up hating the season,
The good will that lasts til the Feast of St. Stephen
For that is the time to eat, drink, and be merry,
Til the beer is all spilled and the whiskey has flowed.
And the whole family tree you neglected to bury,
Are feeding their faces until they explode.
There'll be laughter and tears over Tia Marias,
Mixed up with that drink made from girders.
’Cause it's all we've got left as they draw their last breath,
Ah, it's nice for the kids, as you finally get rid of them,
In the St. Stephen's Day Murders.
We all have a vision of sugar-plums and joyful family celebrations....and sometimes we get this. We get the harried rush of family visits, the over-bearing uncles, the stress of meal-planning and travel....It's a wonder there aren't more St. Stephen's Day murders.
The trick, if there is one, is to keep a balance. That's why the Church gives us Christmas and then a martyr's feast day: balance. We have to balance the food and the drink with the virtue of temperance, the rush of visits and parties with time to pray and reflect, the frustration and hurts with family members with love and patience and humility.
As we enter into the holiday season, let us all bear this in mind, lest we end up celebrating St. Stephen's day in too-realistic a way.
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