Christmas's Date - A History

Christmas on the 25th - History

The average person may believe that the Christmas holiday has always been on December 25, as the celebrated birthday of Jesus. However, it may surprise to know that not only is December 25th almost certainly not the birth date, but that the reason it was selected had to do with a completely different holiday.

The early Christian church did not have a celebration of Jesus’ birth, as they saw it as a somewhat pagan custom to celebrate that type of event, feeling that only pagan gods and kings would celebrate their moment of birth. In addition, after the first century or two, the exact date appeared to have been forgotten due to poor contemporary records, though estimations mostly center in the spring.

It was around the late 3rd century that the decision to celebrate the birth and a date was selected. The date, December 25, was already the celebration of two different Roman/pagan holidays, the Saturnalia and a sun festival connected to the nearby winter solstice. The church leaders decided to use that date, both to disguise the then underground religion, and to attract non-believers with the familiar trappings of holidays they were already familiar with. In 336, the religion became the official one of the Roman Empire and therefore the first official December 25th celebration was underway.

There was a slow transition of the churches in various regions, several choosing January 6th as a date instead, but the normal date slowly won out. Even the later changing of the calendars to the Gregorian accounting in the 16th century only created a discrepancy to slowly be worked out. The majority of the world that celebrates Christmas now has agreed on the specific date, to the point that people often believe it to be the historically accurate choice, rather than a carefully selected date for tradition’s sake.

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