Dec. 25: The Savior Comes; Dec. 26: Stephen is martyred!
Lets take the easy road and talk about Stephen. Saints and martyrs are always commemorated on the day they leave this veil of tears and not on the day they enter it. So if Stephen was martyred on Dec. 26, we then commemorate him on that day.
Now, how did we get Christmas on Dec. 25? For that we turn to Dr. Gene Edward Veith's excerpt from Biblical Archaeology Review.
First, some mythbusting. Christians do NOT celebrate Christmas because they christianized a pagan festival. They had no interest in pagan ritual and were quite content to not participate.
So, why Dec. 25? The ancient tradition dated the crucifixion on March 25, which in turn, was used to commemorate the Feast of the Annunciation (when Gabriel told Mary she was with child). Tack on 9 months to Jesus' conception and you get to celebrate His birth on Dec. 25.
Now for some trivia: What Christmas carol doesn't mention the birth of Christ but does mention the Feast of Stephen?
That's right, Good King Wenceslas!
For more about the 12 days of Christmas and the famous king of Bohemia, check out this post from Past Elder.