The Feast of the Holy Family is first Sunday after Christmas.
In England, this Sunday was an occasion for godparents and godchildren to celebrate with "god cakes" (pastries filled with sweetened fruit, nuts, and spices). Roll ready-to-bake piecrust in squares, fill, fold diagonally into a triangle, crimp the edges and bake till crisp and bubbly.
December 26: The Feast of St Stephen (35 AD), deacon, martyr.
Stephen was stoned to death for teaching about Jesus. As a deacon, it was his task to organize meals to feed the poor. In remembrance of Stephen's work for the needy, the British people used to collect money throughout the year in little clay boxes. On the feast of St. Stephen or "Boxing Day" these boxes were broken and the money distributed to the poor. (This is the origin of the "piggy bank.")
December 27: The Feast of St. John (1st century), apostle, evangelist.
On this day, children with names derived from John were invited to light the Christmas candles in the house. Because this beloved disciple was believed to have drunk poisoned wine and remained unharmed, people blessed and drank wine on his feast. A supply was kept throughout the year for brides and grooms to sip after their wedding, and for travelers to drink for protection.
December 28: The Feast of the Holy Innocents (1st century).
This memorial honors Bethlehem's baby boys who were killed by Herod in his effort to eliminate any future threat from a rival. In some places this day has been kept as a day of prayer and abstinence from meat. It was once considered the day when children who died unbaptized would be welcomed into heaven if the faithful prayed for them and called them by a Christian name.
December 29: The Feast of St. Thomas Becket (1170 AD), bishop, martyr.
This hunting companion of England's Henry II became Bishop of Canterbury reluctantly but sincerely. When he refused to support the king's injustices, the friendship ended. After a six-year exile, Thomas was martyred by the king's henchmen. Bishop's bread (a kind of fruitcake) and bishop's wine (sweetened, spiced and flavored with orange zest) are customary refreshments today.
December 31: The Feast of St. Sylvester (335 AD), pope.
Sylvester was the first Bishop of Rome to lead Christians freely and openly in worship. Two chocolate cakes have been named for this Pope: one with whipped cream, rum and candied chestnuts, and a triple chocolate (dark, milk, and white) cake with tart dried cherries. For a beverage, Pabst (pope's punch) is nearly identical to bishop's wine.