by Gordon Nary
It. Stephen was the first Christian martyr (protomartyr) to be murdered for his faith, Stephen was stoned by the Jewish council who accused the young deacon of blasphemy. More likely the council members "'were offended when Stephen accused them of being "stiff-necked and uncircumcised in hearts and ears", although the opposite would have made medical history.
One of the more bizarre commemorations of St. Stephen's death is still practiced in remote areas of the British Isles by village boys called Wren Boys. On St. Stephen's Day, the Wren Boys catch a wren, stone it to death, decorate it with scarlet ribbons to symbolize the flowing blood, and tie the blood-drenched murdered wren to a stick. The Wren Boys then visit all of the houses in the village, tap the front doors with the stick to which the wren is attached, and sing weird songs. The villagers give the boys either a gift or money, probably to stop them from singing. This custom is a Christianized Druidic ritual which required the sacrifice of wrens at the winter solstice.
St. Stephen has been adopted as the patron saint of potheads because he was the first Christian martyr to be stoned to death. Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead even wrote a song titled Saint Stephen. Stephen is also the patron saint of horses. It was a common European custom in past centuries that horses should be bled on St. Stephen's Day to be copiously let blood, to insure them against disease during the following year. In Central Europe, it is still traditional for farmers to decorate their horses with garlands of flowers and take than to the local church to be -blessed along with a supply of oats and hay. In Poland and other Slavic countries., St. Stephen's Day was also celebrated by having children throw walnuts at each other, symbolizing St. Stephen's stoning. The Poles also bake podkovy (St. Stephen's Horns), a sweet bread baked in the shape of a horseshoe to commemorate the saint's patronage over horses
Podkovy (St. Stephen's Horns)
1 pk dry yeast 1/4 cup warm water 2 cups flour 1/4 cup sugar 1 egg 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 cup margarine melted
8 oz cream cheese; softened . 1/3 cup sugar 2 TB almond extract
Dissolve yeast in warm water
Mix melted margarine, egg, sugar, and salt. Add dissolved yeast mixture
Beat in flour and make a soft dough..
Rest dough in refrigerator 30 min.
Combine filling ingredients in small bowl and mix to spreading consistency
Knead briefly on floured board and roll into 15x10 in. rectangle. Spread filling leaving 1/2 inch border on all sides. Starting long side, roll into jellyroll and tuck and seal ends. Seal long seam and place on greased baking sheet, shaping into horseshoe. Cut slits with scissors through top of dough at 2 inch intervals
Cover and let rise in warm place till double in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat over to oven 375º F.
Brush top with beaten egg or egg sub. and bake in preheated oven or 15 to 20 minutes until golden.
Make on dough cycle and remove to greased bowl.
© 2012 Gordon Nary