Christmas on Dec 25th?

Several times people have made reference to the “irony” of Christian Christmas being on Dec. 25th which has some element of paganism.

What is the big deal? What is the pagan element?

Its the winter solstice. I guess pagan gumbas thought the days would keep getting shorter and shorter until there was no daylight unless they did some sort of rituals and what not. On December 22nd the days start getting longer, Horray, it worked, time to party. I have no idea how they measured daylight time so accurately without stopwatches, but once they figured the day of the solstice, it became a traditional party.

I have heard that there is lots of biblical evidence that Christ was not actually born during winter.
Christmas was celebrated in winter because a) Christians were trying to subvert the pagans or b)Chistians were trying to pass themselves off as pagan to avoid getting fed to the lions. Depending on who you believe.

Okay, long quote ahead:

Here’s the URL for the home page of this site. Interesting place.
You mention the irony people have found in Christmas. I guess that would be from the rumor that the Saturnalia generally dengenerated into a big party with the orgy and drinking party being part of it; this would be ironic in that Christians use this day to celebrate the birth of their Savior who came to save them from such sins.

…it has never been my way to bother much about things which you can’t cure.

  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court-Mark Twain

I’ve read many places that Jesus was probably born in Sept.or Oct.around the Jewish New Year.So maybe Dec.25th is when He was conceived.Anyway,I like Christmas being in Dec.It gives us a break in the nasty weather here in Ohio.

Most knowledgable Christians I know no longer refer to Christmas as being Christ’s birthday. Instead, it is a “celebration of Christ’s birth”. It’s generally thought that Christmas was instituted as a Christian alternative to the aforementioned Saturnalia. It’s easier to convert people if they know they can still party with everyone else.

Maybe his birthday was in April and he happened to be crucified on that day. Early church leaders knew this and thought everyone would be bummed out by this info, so they moved his BD. :slight_smile:

Falcon2 hit the nail.

The majority of Christian festivals were created to subvert pagan celebrations.

Best example being All Saints Day. The first of November is the first day of the pagan new year - in the Christian calendar this is now All Saints Day.

Halloween suffered an even worse fate - it’s now a celebration of commercialism.

By the way I don’t know how they measured time so accuratly either but if your ever in Ireland check out a place called Newgrange in County Meath. Every winter solstice the inner chamber is lit up with the sunlight from the first rays of the new day indicating the end of winter. It’s a fantastic place and by some estimates older than the pyramids.

Check out for some good photos of the event.

My understanding is that early Christian converts were bummed because all their pagan friends still got to have their cool celebrations, so the church made Christian events at the same times of the year. I think I like this explanation because it’s not devious, just practical and accomodating.

Also - some people think Jesus was born around March, because the sheperds were in the fields watching their sheep. Sheperds would only keep that kind of nightly vigil in the season when the sheep would be giving birth (in March or so) and might need assistance with delivery. Anyone think this information about the sheperds is accurate?

Thanks for the info.

Now I know, and knowing is half the battle. GI Joe! (I used the love those GI Joe public service messages).

Jewish babies are circumcised on their 8th day, i.e., when seven days old. A boy born on Dec 25 would be circumcised on Jan 1.

There is an Urban Legend, well-known among Jews, that the date of Dec 25 was chosen for this reason. I do not think that there are any anti-Christian undertones in this UL; whenever it is related from one person to another, it is almost always accompanied by a curious “I wonder what theological value there is in having Jesus’ circumcision on New Year.”

I remember hearing another version. In early medieval times, there was a lot of contention about everything on the calender, including the date of Jesus’ birth. This was more important then it seems to us today, because A) they really took things a lot more seriously then and B) a lot of obligations, duties, tithes, tarriffs and so on followed the holiday calendars. As pope or king or prince, you can’t have everyone interpreting when the taxes are due, can you? To resolve this, the pope asked a number of scholars (remember, this was before the Straight Dope) if they could find a definitive date. A simple question. Most of the scholars came back with a range of dates - that is, between January and June, you have to consider lunar cycles, leap years, assume this or that, or whatever-academia never changes. One guy, though, simply said December 25th, which was the popular observance anyway. No qualifications, on-going adjustments, explanations, maybes or could bes. December 25th. That’s it. The pope probably said the medieval Italian version of “Hey - I like this guy!” and December 25th it was.

I don’t think this can be the reason, since the date of the New Year was only fixed relatively late, around the time of the Gregorian calendar reforms. In Britain, the new year started in March until the mid-18th century.

thanx, jti

Actually, it’s even more complicated than that – there were a good many new years days used over the centuries, and even when the new year was definitely on March 25, many regarded the old year as being in limbo from December 31 on. A document dated between January 1 and March 24 might be dated with either year, for which reason modern historians will usually refer to those dates as, for example, February 2, 1723/4, to make it quite clear that they are aware of the problem and which year (in this example, the year that we would call 1724) they mean.

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams


thanks for the reminder about March 25 - I’ve corrected my recent posting on the “Nostradamus” thread.