The freest day of the year (26 December)

Kate Holmquist of the Irish Times knowswhat St Stephen’s Day/Boxing Day should truly be about.

December 26th—if you have the day off—is the one day in the calendar when there is nothing you are obliged to do. It’s a delightful switch-off from the outside world-Ireland’s unofficial mental health day. In the dark week between Christmas and New Year, all of Ireland catches its breath. You don’t have to be Christian to enjoy the mood.

In the past, we used to feel so sorry for the gardaĆ­, fireman and nurses who worked that day. There was always a newspaper article interviewing them about what it was like.

They’re not alone any more. Now the 26th is just another day.

While I’ve worked my share of St Stephen’s Days, since we publish on the 27th if it isn’t a Sunday, I still think that the only paid work on Christmas Day and St Stephen’s Day should be absolutely necessary work. While I’ve heard it said that the shops opening on the 26th is yet further encroachment of godless UK and US values, that’s not what makes me disapprove. My reason is that we need a rest this year more than ever, and on top of that we’re learning to live within our means.

[Some] may still be getting a kick out of shopping, but the rest of us have reassessed our priorities and found better things to do.

The traffic jams of yore are gone, and you can nearly see the tumbleweed blowing down the thoroughfares and through the huge open-plan retail spaces of the nougthies’ temples, while bored shop assistants practically beg to be of assistance and even the mannequins look disgruntled.

On St Stephen’s Day, the shops will be trying to lure us in with what they promise will be extravagant discounts, but if the item that is on sale on St Stephen’s Day for half the price it was fewer than 48 hours before, then why wasn’t the shop selling it for 50 per cent less in the first place if it could still make a profit? . . .

“Save 50 per cent!” You’re not saving anything. The only way to save money is to keep it in your wallet.

So on St Stephen’s Day, let’s stay home by the fire. There can hardly be anything so life-enhancing on sale on St Stephen’s Day that it can’t be bought on the 27th or the 28th, if it is to be bought at all.

Good King Wenceslas went out apparently, on the feast of Stephen; but he is supposed to have been a saint (a C10th Duke of Bohemia, actually). So where have I been this St Stephen’s Day? At home. And glad of it. I’ll skip the fire though.