From Fr. Dennis Duvelius–
The Saints Commemorated Liturgically
during the Octave of Christmas
December 25: the feast of St. Anastasia (the Pharmakolytria), virgin & martyr, invoked as a powerful exorcist and healer. Her relics lie in the cathedral of St. Anastasia in Zadar, Croatia. She is commemorated in the martyrology of Christmas Day and in the first Eucharistic Prayer. A bow is made on Christmas Day at the invocation of her name at Mass.
December 26: the feast of St. Stephen, deacon and first Christian martyr. Accused of blasphemy at his trial, he made a speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him and was then stoned to death. Saul of Tarsis, later St. Paul the Apostle, participated in Stephen’s martyrdom. Today is the patronal feast of the city and Archdiocese of Vienna.
December 27: the feast of St. John, the Divine, Apostle and
Evangelist, the beloved disciple, author of a gospel, three letters, and the Apocalypse. Today is the patronal feast of St. John the Apostle Parish, with the rank of solemnity. The New Testament apocrypha include “The Acts of John,” a work dating from the second century, which includes tales of the saint healing and converting, and even driving bedbugs from an inn! Historically and doctrinally worthless, it nonetheless makes interesting reading, as it influenced Christian piety, explaining for instance why St. John is invoked against poison. Of course, the saint’s canonical gospel, letters, and Apocalypse make much more fruitful reading.
December 28: the feast of the Holy Innocents, whose massacre is related by St. Matthew the Evangelist, when Herod the Great, King of Judea, ordered the execution of all male children two years old and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem.
December 29: the commemoration (feast in England) of St. Thomas Becket, Lord Chancellor of England and then Archbishop of Canterbury, martyr. He was murdered by four knights of King Henry II in his cathedral while Vespers were sung.
December 30: in years when Christmas falls on Sunday, the feast of the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Long celebrated on local calendars, the feast was extended to the Church universal by Pope Benedict XV in 1921 to be observed on the Sunday in the Octave of the Epiphany. The feast was moved to its present date by Pope Paul VI.
December 31: the commemoration of St. Sylvester I, Pope (334-335) and Confessor. He was responsible for the building of the San Giovanni in Laterano, San Pietro in Vaticano (the old basilica), and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.
January 1: the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, which the Byzantines have celebrated from time immemorial but on December 26. In the West the feast was first celebrated in Portugal in the 18th century on the first Sunday of May. It was later adopted in Naples, Tuscany, and other places, celebrated on various dates. Pope Pius XI extended the feast’s celebration to the Church universal in 1931, moving it everywhere to October 11. Paul VI moved it 38 years later to January 1, explaining in his Apostolic Letter Marialis Cultus, “This celebration, placed on January 1 …is meant to commemorate the part played by Mary in this mystery of salvation. It is meant also to exalt the singular dignity which this mystery brings to the ‘holy Mother…through whom we were found worthy to receive the Author of life.’ It is likewise a fitting occasion for renewing adoration of the newborn Prince of Peace, for listening once more to the glad tidings of the angels, and for imploring from God, through the Queen of Peace, the supreme gift of peace.”