Why December 25th?

It probably had nothing to do with co-opting pagan holidays

Many of us learned Christians set the date of Christmas to co-opt pagan holidays. Both the Roman Saturnalia festival and Sol Invictus, the Feast of the Unconquered Son, fell around December 25. Christians could claim Christ was the unconquered son and draw people into their religion.

This theory really did not develop until the twelfth century and only took off after the 18th century. The earliest records of the still developing church show two things. First, the early church did not celebrate Christ’s birth, but his death and resurrection. Second, when the church did start celebrating Christ’s birth, the church had its own reasoning completely unrelated to pagan holidays.

To understand why the church celebrates Christ’s birth on December 25th you must first understand that to the early church it was Christ’s death and resurrection that were of gravest importance. According to Andrew McGowan of the Biblical Archaeology Society, "Around 200 A.D., Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan in the year Jesus died was the equivalent to March 25 in the Roman calendar.”

Christians and Jews at that time held as fact that a prophet died on the same date of his conception. In other words, if Christ died on March 25, he would have been conceived on March 25 too. Go nine months out and you would land on December 25 as his date of birth.

Concurrent to that theory was another one. Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, was in the priestly division of Abijah. Knowing the division of priest in the temple in Jerusalem when it fell to the Romans in 70 A.D. and assuming an unbroken chain, early church historians counted backwards and concluded Zacharias would have been in the temple in October. The Bible tells us that after Zacharias left the temple, his wife conceived John. Luke 1:25-26 notes that six months later Mary conceived Jesus.

That would put Mary conceiving Jesus around March 25, which other early church leaders had already established as his date of death. The two separate calculations confirmed each other to early church leaders who could then set Christ’s birthday as December 25.

The earliest known records of setting Christ’s birthday come in 200 A.D., one thousand years before any documented suggestions that Christians set his birthday to correspond to pagan holidays. By 300 A.D., Christians throughout the world were celebrating Christmas on December 25th because it fell nine months after the date they had set for his crucifixion. Within 100 years it had become a formal church celebration.

Most scholars reject the idea that Zacharias was in the temple in October the year Gabriel appeared to him. Further, modern scholarship suggests Christ may have been born in the spring. One is able to conclude the early church got it wrong. But it is also important to note that they thought they had it right and they set the date of Christmas for reasons entirely unrelated to Roman pagan holidays.

The more significant point is not when Christ’s birthday actually is, but that Christ himself exists. Many atheists wish to write Christ’s existence entirely out of history. To do so requires an extraordinary number of other people to be written out of history too. For me, about the only thing fraudulent this Christmas season will be the words of “Silent Night.” Between a new born baby and the heavenly host singing, there was nothing silent about that first Christmas.

Comments
No. 1-9
Dave_A
Dave_A

I had always heard that Christmas started after the fall of Rome, and that it was put on Dec 25th to break up the most depressing and dreary (back then downright deadly) few months of the year (eg, be smack in the middle of European winter) with a feast....

We have removed most of the other feasts & celebrations of that era from our cultural & religious calendars... But back then, having something to look forward to besides counting how much not-spoiled food was left until spring...

USNinja
USNinja

Human gestation period is not 9 months, it's 280 days or 40 weeks. Unless you're saying Jesus is a premature, a March 25th fertilization date would give a birth date of January 4th. I hope this will stop Erick from continuing with false information.

centerright
centerright

I had once heard the Christ was born on the equivalent of April 1st. I've never been able to verify this through another source.

Part of me wishes Christmas would return more to celebrating Christ, and be less about the frenzy of presents and shopping.

One thing I think we can all agree on is what's most important is that Christ exists, as alive now as 2,000 years ago.

Oregun
Oregun

Actually the feasting, caroling, gift exchanging, tree decorating etc. are all saturnalia. The sychrotism is glaring and as far as you can get from sound doctrine and practice. All times when those things were important the practice fell away with the other synchrotism with idolotry. The covenanters had a saying " No king but king Jesus and no day but the Lords day. "

Patriot1
Patriot1

Is it possible that the reason we don't know when he was born is because the date is not important? Maybe the date was kept from us and it's not focused on in the Bible because we were never supposed to celebrate it. The church was given two ordinances: baptism and the Lord's supper. Those are the ones that we are told to observe and a lot of churches hardly ever remember the Lord's death.