Saint Stephen (d. c. 35) is celebrated on Dec. 26th in the Roman tradition and Dec. 27th in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. He is regarded as both Protodeacon and Protomartyr, being the first deacon and first martyr in the early church.
Stephen was a Greek-speaking (Hellenistic) Jew, who was one of the seven selected by the apostles to serve (root of word, deacon) at tables in the distribution of food within the early Christian community of Jerusalem. This was to ensure equity in answer to a complaint that Hellenistic widows were being overlooked (Acts 6).
Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin (Jewish Ruling Council) on accusation of blasphemy against the Temple and Law of Moses, Stephen gave a fiery defence of the Gospel (Acts 7), and was dragged out of the city and stoned to death. The account of his martyrdom closely parallels the account of Jesus’ death, signifying a faithful following after Christ (imitation of Christ) unto death.
Other notable saints and commemorations of the season are as follows:
Dec. 27th – John the Apostle
Dec. 28th – The Holy Innocents (male children of Bethlehem under 2 years old slaughtered at the command of Herod the Great)
Jan. 1st – The Virgin Mary and Feast of the Holy Name (when Jesus was circumcised and named)
While not a canonized saint, John Wycliffe’s feast day would land on Dec. 31st.