Boxing Day. Particularly now most of the traditional sporting calendar has been snowed off, the thoughts of the Christian world turn inevitably to martyrdom. St Stephen (whose feast day this is) was the first martyr, stoned to death by a Jewish mob, incited by Saul of Tarsus (later, of course, to change his name and find greater fame in Rome). I suppose this is an example of one of those things – not unknown at Christmas – that must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but regrettable later.
Anyone who has been having trouble with their family over Christmas (which I know can happen) might like to contemplate the case of another martyr – Good King Wenceslas, who famously looked out on the feast of Stephen. In his historical guise as Duke Wenceslaus of Bohemia, he had to contend with a mother (Drahomira) who strangled his grandmother (Saint Ludmilla) and a brother (Boruslav) who had him murdered on his way to church. Wenceslaus did, however, apparently have the ability to walk on ice in his bare feet and melt it as he went, which must have come in handy at this time of year, and, I hope, provided some compensation for his troublesome relations.