How December 25 Became Christmas

Read Andrew McGowan’s article “How December 25 Became Christmas” as it originally appeared in Bible Review, December 2002. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily in December 2012.—Ed.


 

A blanket of snow covers the little town of Bethlehem, in Pieter Bruegel’s oil painting from 1566. Although Jesus’ birth is celebrated every year on December 25, Luke and the other gospel writers offer no hint about the specific time of year he was born. Scala/Art Resource, NY

On December 25, Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. But just how did the Christmas festival originate? How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?

The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year. The biblical reference to shepherds tending their flocks at night when they hear the news of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:8) might suggest the spring lambing season; in the cold month of December, on the other hand, sheep might well have been corralled. Yet most scholars would urge caution about extracting such a precise but incidental detail from a narrative whose focus is theological rather than calendrical.

The extrabiblical evidence from the first and second century is equally spare: There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1 As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point.

This stands in sharp contrast to the very early traditions surrounding Jesus’ last days. Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus’ death. According to John, Jesus is crucified just as the Passover lambs are being sacrificed. This would have occurred on the 14th of the Hebrew month of Nisan, just before the Jewish holiday began at sundown (considered the beginning of the 15th day because in the Hebrew calendar, days begin at sundown). In Matthew, Mark and Luke, however, the Last Supper is held after sundown, on the beginning of the 15th. Jesus is crucified the next morning—still, the 15th.a

Interested in learning about the birth of Jesus? Learn more about the history of Christmas and the date of Jesus’ birth in the free eBook The First Christmas: The Story of Jesus’ Birth in History and Tradition.

Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion. Its observance could even be implied in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7–8: “Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the festival…”); it was certainly a distinctively Christian feast by the mid-second century C.E., when the apocryphal text known as the Epistle to the Apostles has Jesus instruct his disciples to “make commemoration of [his] death, that is, the Passover.”

Jesus’ ministry, miracles, Passion and Resurrection were often of most interest to first- and early-second-century C.E. Christian writers. But over time, Jesus’ origins would become of increasing concern. We can begin to see this shift already in the New Testament. The earliest writings—Paul and Mark—make no mention of Jesus’ birth. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke provide well-known but quite different accounts of the event—although neither specifies a date. In the second century C.E., further details of Jesus’ birth and childhood are related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.b These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his education—but not the date of his birth.

Finally, in about 200 C.E., a Christian teacher in Egypt makes reference to the date Jesus was born. According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups. Surprising as it may seem, Clement doesn’t mention December 25 at all. Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of [the Egyptian month] Pachon [May 20 in our calendar] … And treating of His Passion, with very great accuracy, some say that it took place in the 16th year of Tiberius, on the 25th of Phamenoth [March 21]; and others on the 25th of Pharmuthi [April 21] and others say that on the 19th of Pharmuthi [April 15] the Savior suffered. Further, others say that He was born on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi [April 20 or 21].”2

Clearly there was great uncertainty, but also a considerable amount of interest, in dating Jesus’ birth in the late second century. By the fourth century, however, we find references to two dates that were widely recognized—and now also celebrated—as Jesus’ birthday: December 25 in the western Roman Empire and January 6 in the East (especially in Egypt and Asia Minor). The modern Armenian church continues to celebrate Christmas on January 6; for most Christians, however, December 25 would prevail, while January 6 eventually came to be known as the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem. The period between became the holiday season later known as the 12 days of Christmas.

The earliest mention of December 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac that lists the death dates of various Christian bishops and martyrs. The first date listed, December 25, is marked: natus Christus in Betleem Judeae: “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.”3 In about 400 C.E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation. Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C.E. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.

In the East, January 6 was at first not associated with the magi alone, but with the Christmas story as a whole.

So, almost 300 years after Jesus was born, we finally find people observing his birth in mid-winter. But how had they settled on the dates December 25 and January 6?

There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient).4

The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations. The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. To top it off, in 274 C.E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25. Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals. According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.
 


 
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Despite its popularity today, this theory of Christmas’s origins has its problems. It is not found in any ancient Christian writings, for one thing. Christian authors of the time do note a connection between the solstice and Jesus’ birth: The church father Ambrose (c. 339–397), for example, described Christ as the true sun, who outshone the fallen gods of the old order. But early Christian writers never hint at any recent calendrical engineering; they clearly don’t think the date was chosen by the church. Rather they see the coincidence as a providential sign, as natural proof that God had selected Jesus over the false pagan gods.

It’s not until the 12th century that we find the first suggestion that Jesus’ birth celebration was deliberately set at the time of pagan feasts. A marginal note on a manuscript of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi states that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan Sol Invictus holiday.5 In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea.6 They claimed that because the early Christians didn’t know when Jesus was born, they simply assimilated the pagan solstice festival for their own purposes, claiming it as the time of the Messiah’s birth and celebrating it accordingly.

More recent studies have shown that many of the holiday’s modern trappings do reflect pagan customs borrowed much later, as Christianity expanded into northern and western Europe. The Christmas tree, for example, has been linked with late medieval druidic practices. This has only encouraged modern audiences to assume that the date, too, must be pagan.

There are problems with this popular theory, however, as many scholars recognize. Most significantly, the first mention of a date for Christmas (c. 200) and the earliest celebrations that we know about (c. 250–300) come in a period when Christians were not borrowing heavily from pagan traditions of such an obvious character.

Granted, Christian belief and practice were not formed in isolation. Many early elements of Christian worship—including eucharistic meals, meals honoring martyrs and much early Christian funerary art—would have been quite comprehensible to pagan observers. Yet, in the first few centuries C.E., the persecuted Christian minority was greatly concerned with distancing itself from the larger, public pagan religious observances, such as sacrifices, games and holidays. This was still true as late as the violent persecutions of the Christians conducted by the Roman emperor Diocletian between 303 and 312 C.E.

This would change only after Constantine converted to Christianity. From the mid-fourth century on, we do find Christians deliberately adapting and Christianizing pagan festivals. A famous proponent of this practice was Pope Gregory the Great, who, in a letter written in 601 C.E. to a Christian missionary in Britain, recommended that local pagan temples not be destroyed but be converted into churches, and that pagan festivals be celebrated as feasts of Christian martyrs. At this late point, Christmas may well have acquired some pagan trappings. But we don’t have evidence of Christians adopting pagan festivals in the third century, at which point dates for Christmas were established. Thus, it seems unlikely that the date was simply selected to correspond with pagan solar festivals.

The December 25 feast seems to have existed before 312—before Constantine and his conversion, at least. As we have seen, the Donatist Christians in North Africa seem to have known it from before that time. Furthermore, in the mid- to late fourth century, church leaders in the eastern Empire concerned themselves not with introducing a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, but with the addition of the December date to their traditional celebration on January 6.7
 


 
Visit the historical Jesus study page in Bible History Daily to read more free articles on Jesus.
 

 
There is another way to account for the origins of Christmas on December 25: Strange as it may seem, the key to dating Jesus’ birth may lie in the dating of Jesus’ death at Passover. This view was first suggested to the modern world by French scholar Louis Duchesne in the early 20th century and fully developed by American Thomas Talley in more recent years.8 But they were certainly not the first to note a connection between the traditional date of Jesus’ death and his birth.

The baby Jesus flies down from heaven on the back of a cross, in this detail from Master Bertram’s 14th-century Annunciation scene. Jesus’ conception carried with it the promise of salvation through his death. It may be no coincidence, then, that the early church celebrated Jesus’ conception and death on the same calendar day: March 25, exactly nine months before December 25. Kunsthalle, Hamburg/Bridgeman Art Library, NY

Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar.9 March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception.10 Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.d

This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.”11 Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.

Augustine, too, was familiar with this association. In On the Trinity (c. 399–419) he writes: “For he [Jesus] is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.”12
 


 
Learn about the magi in art and literature in “Witnessing the Divine” by Robin M. Jensen, originally published in Bible Review and now available for free in Bible History Daily.
 

 
In the East, too, the dates of Jesus’ conception and death were linked. But instead of working from the 14th of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, the easterners used the 14th of the first spring month (Artemisios) in their local Greek calendar—April 6 to us. April 6 is, of course, exactly nine months before January 6—the eastern date for Christmas. In the East, too, we have evidence that April was associated with Jesus’ conception and crucifixion. Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis writes that on April 6, “The lamb was shut up in the spotless womb of the holy virgin, he who took away and takes away in perpetual sacrifice the sins of the world.”13 Even today, the Armenian Church celebrates the Annunciation in early April (on the 7th, not the 6th) and Christmas on January 6.e

Thus, we have Christians in two parts of the world calculating Jesus’ birth on the basis that his death and conception took place on the same day (March 25 or April 6) and coming up with two close but different results (December 25 and January 6).

Connecting Jesus’ conception and death in this way will certainly seem odd to modern readers, but it reflects ancient and medieval understandings of the whole of salvation being bound up together. One of the most poignant expressions of this belief is found in Christian art. In numerous paintings of the angel’s Annunciation to Mary—the moment of Jesus’ conception—the baby Jesus is shown gliding down from heaven on or with a small cross (see photo above of detail from Master Bertram’s Annunciation scene); a visual reminder that the conception brings the promise of salvation through Jesus’ death.

The notion that creation and redemption should occur at the same time of year is also reflected in ancient Jewish tradition, recorded in the Talmud. The Babylonian Talmud preserves a dispute between two early-second-century C.E. rabbis who share this view, but disagree on the date: Rabbi Eliezer states: “In Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; on Passover Isaac was born … and in Nisan they [our ancestors] will be redeemed in time to come.” (The other rabbi, Joshua, dates these same events to the following month, Tishri.)14 Thus, the dates of Christmas and Epiphany may well have resulted from Christian theological reflection on such chronologies: Jesus would have been conceived on the same date he died, and born nine months later.15

In the end we are left with a question: How did December 25 become Christmas? We cannot be entirely sure. Elements of the festival that developed from the fourth century until modern times may well derive from pagan traditions. Yet the actual date might really derive more from Judaism—from Jesus’ death at Passover, and from the rabbinic notion that great things might be expected, again and again, at the same time of the year—than from paganism. Then again, in this notion of cycles and the return of God’s redemption, we may perhaps also be touching upon something that the pagan Romans who celebrated Sol Invictus, and many other peoples since, would have understood and claimed for their own, too.16
 


 
“How December 25 Became Christmas” by Andrew McGowan originally appeared in Bible Review, December 2002.
 

 
Andrew McGowan, formerly Warden and President of Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, Australia, is now President and Dean of the Berkeley Divinity School. His work on early Christianity includes God in Early Christian Thought (Brill, 2009) and Ascetic Eucharists: Food and Drink in Early Christian Ritual Meals (Oxford, 1999).
 

 

Notes

a. See Jonathan Klawans, “Was Jesus’ Last Supper a Seder?” Bible Review, October 2001.

b. See the following Bible Review articles: David R. Cartlidge, “The Christian Apocrypha: Preserved in Art,” Bible Review, June 1997; Ronald F. Hock, “The Favored One,” Bible Review, June 2001; and Charles W. Hedrick, “The 34 Gospels,” Bible Review, June 2002.

c. For more on dating the year of Jesus’ birth, see Leonara Neville, “Fixing the Millennium,” Archaeology Odyssey, January/February 2002.

d. The ancients were familiar with the 9-month gestation period based on the observance of women’s menstrual cycles, pregnancies and miscarriages.

e. In the West (and eventually everywhere), the Easter celebration was later shifted from the actual day to the following Sunday. The insistence of the eastern Christians in keeping Easter on the actual 14th day caused a major debate within the church, with the easterners sometimes referred to as the Quartodecimans, or “Fourteenthers.”

1. Origen, Homily on Leviticus 8.

2. Clement, Stromateis 1.21.145. In addition, Christians in Clement’s native Egypt seem to have known a commemoration of Jesus’ baptism—sometimes understood as the moment of his divine choice, and hence as an alternate “incarnation” story—on the same date (Stromateis 1.21.146). See further on this point Thomas J. Talley, Origins of the Liturgical Year, 2nd ed. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991), pp. 118–120, drawing on Roland H. Bainton, “Basilidian Chronology and New Testament Interpretation,” Journal of Biblical Literature 42 (1923), pp. 81–134; and now especially Gabriele Winkler, “The Appearance of the Light at the Baptism of Jesus and the Origins of the Feast of the Epiphany,” in Maxwell Johnson, ed., Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), pp. 291–347.

3. The Philocalian Calendar.

4. Scholars of liturgical history in the English-speaking world are particularly skeptical of the “solstice” connection; see Susan K. Roll, “The Origins of Christmas: The State of the Question,” in Between Memory and Hope: Readings on the Liturgical Year (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), pp. 273–290, especially pp. 289–290.

5. A gloss on a manuscript of Dionysius Bar Salibi, d. 1171; see Talley, Origins, pp. 101–102.

6. Prominent among these was Paul Ernst Jablonski; on the history of scholarship, see especially Roll, “The Origins of Christmas,” pp. 277–283.

7. For example, Gregory of Nazianzen, Oratio 38; John Chrysostom, In Diem Natalem.

8. Louis Duchesne, Origines du culte Chrétien, 5th ed. (Paris: Thorin et Fontemoing, 1925), pp. 275–279; and Talley, Origins.

9. Tertullian, Adversus Iudaeos 8.

10. There are other relevant texts for this element of argument, including Hippolytus and the (pseudo-Cyprianic) De pascha computus; see Talley, Origins, pp. 86, 90–91.

11. De solstitia et aequinoctia conceptionis et nativitatis domini nostri iesu christi et iohannis baptistae.

12. Augustine, Sermon 202.

13. Epiphanius is quoted in Talley, Origins, p. 98.

14. b. Rosh Hashanah 10b–11a.

15. Talley, Origins, pp. 81–82.

16. On the two theories as false alternatives, see Roll, “Origins of Christmas.”
 


 

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  1. Freedomborn says

    I think you will see very clearly if you follow the Link below that Jesus was born in December, as I shared before God’s wisdom, not man’s fleshy understanding is needed to know His Truth in all things.

    Proverbs 4:7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

    https://freedomborn.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/jesus-christ-gods-great-gift-to-us/

    Christian Love in Christ Jesus – Anne

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    [...] No, not the baby Jesus, he was born in the spring. [...]

  33. December 25 | Young Adults of Christ the King linked to this post on December 9, 2013

    [...] By Nancy Mitchell When was Jesus born? Not on December 25th. Probably sometime in the spring, with an unwed mother and some dirty shepherds (and an angel choir) to celebrate the balmy night of his birth. So why do we celebrate his nativity at the very end of the year? Pagans. That’s when the Romans used to celebrate the winter solstice. It was their holiday, the story goes, and we stole it. Cleverly, we appropriated it, and made it all about a little baby born in a barn. Centuries before his birth, throughout the Roman world the end of December marked the celebration of ‘the waxing of the light.’* Living as we do in an age of electric lighting, I don’t think we truly understand darkness. I remember the first time I went camping. I was 14. I didn’t realize it was possible for it to be that dark. I literally could not see my hand in front of my face. The tenuous light of a flashlight, the faraway light of the stars: I had never known I could be so grateful for these little things. The pagans understood darkness. They lived with darkness. On the winter solstice they celebrated the longest night of the year. It was an article of faith to them that the light would come again. They had not been forgotten. It would not be this dark ever again. I don’t think we understand darkness. Our world is full of injustice, and we are far more complacent than we ought to be. Sometimes I hate to read the news, because there are so many bad things happening and it seems so hopeless. It would be easier not to think about it at all. But there is no reason to be afraid. We can face the darkness and still rejoice, because we know that the night is already over. The true light that gives light to all men has come into the world.** On the night that he was born, the darkness began to abate. Peace on earth, said the angels, and goodwill towards men. It would never be this dark, ever again. The pagans understood darkness. They knew what it mean to wait, in darkness, for a long, long time. They loved the light, and they celebrated its return. How appropriate, then, for us to celebrate his birth at the darkest time of the year. Our light has come. *Two Roman winter solstice festivals were Brumalia and Saturnalia. The festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or the birthday of the sun god, was celebrated in Rome on December 25, but it is unclear whether this festival predated Christmas or not. **This is John 1:9. ***Some scholars reject entirely the idea that the December 25th date was chosen for its coincidence with the Winter Solstice (or with the birthday of the sun god) and instead maintain that December 25th was chosen because it was nine months distant from March 25, celebrated as the day of the Annunciation. More on that here and here. [...]

  34. How December 25 Became Christmas | De Civitate Dei linked to this post on December 10, 2013

    [...] Read on here for more… Share this:Digg Pin ItShare on TumblrEmailPrintLike this:Like Loading… [...]

  35. A Blended Christmas Story | Simplicity Redesigned linked to this post on December 12, 2013

    [...] Bible History Daily [...]

  36. Why Christmas in December? | Writings of Branko's Blog linked to this post on December 13, 2013

    [...] from Andrew McGowan. It is quite inspiring and has a lot of interesting facts from the past: http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christ… Share this:FacebookEmailTwitterPrintGoogleLinkedInLike this:Like [...]

  37. Reblog: How December 25 Became Christmas | Everywhere Present Filling All Things linked to this post on December 15, 2013

    [...] related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.b These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his [...]

  38. Why is Christmas on December 25? | Praedicare linked to this post on December 15, 2013

    [...] refer to this link.  I thank Biblical Archeology for this [...]

  39. Christmas Wars: Then and Now | Veracity linked to this post on December 17, 2013

    [...] Much of this post was adapted from the resources I link to above, but by far the most informative article I found was from BiblicalArchaeology.org, by Andrew McGowan, President …. [...]

  40. Julekildene | Bjørn Are Davidsens blogg linked to this post on December 18, 2013

    [...] den romerske delen har Andrew McGowan en bra gjennomgang i How December 25 became Christmas der han oppsummerer diskusjonen i lys av [...]

  41. Some of my Favorite Christmas Characters: Mary and Nicholas | Creation Science 4 Kids linked to this post on December 18, 2013

    [...] Biblical Archaeology: Why Dec 25th? [...]

  42. Onko joulu sittenkin alunperin kristillinen juhla? linked to this post on December 18, 2013

    [...] Andrew McGowan: How December 25 became Christmas? Bible History Daily, vierailtu 18.12. [...]

  43. Noah's Ark Has Been Found. Why Are They Keeping Us In The Dark? December 13, 2013 - Page 6 linked to this post on December 24, 2013

    [...] indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1 As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this point. This stands in sharp [...]

  44. Merry Christmas 2013 | Mr. Cool linked to this post on December 24, 2013

    [...] did some online research and found some interesting article. Rate this:Like this:Like [...]

  45. December 25 Feast of the Day – The Nativity of Our Lord, God, and Savior Jesus Christ | The Onion Dome linked to this post on December 25, 2013

    [...] December 25 (Chronicon Blog) Sol Invictus evidently not a precursor to Christmas (Chronicon Blog) How December 25 Became Christmas (Bible History Daily) Sol Invictus (Wikipedia) Icon from stjohnmemphis.com (Public domain according to this rule). The [...]

  46. How December 25 Became Christmas | Taylor Halverson linked to this post on December 25, 2013

    [...] An insightful article on Biblical Archaeology about the dating of Christmas and other Christian holi…  Some argue that Jesus was conceived on April 6, born on January 6, and crucified on April 6.  Cyclical views of time where significant events fall on certain, specific, special days (perhaps borrowing from Judaism) may be more informative to the development of these dating traditions rather than linear notions of time, which are quite western. [...]

  47. I am a Muslim that Celebrates Christmas – And You Should Too | Pakistanis for Peace linked to this post on December 26, 2013

    [...] of the pagan god Mithra (also referred to as the sun) which was the pagan god of light. With Constantine accepting Hazrat Isa as the Messiah (meaning saviour) he declared that Hazrat Isa was the true [...]

  48. The holiday in disguise | Nova Safo linked to this post on December 26, 2013

    [...] And, of course, we know through lots of scholarly research that December 25 is almost certainly not the actual date of Jesus’ birth. Sure, we may spend a few hours in church. Personally, I love midnight mass on Christmas Eve, [...]

  49. Get It Right and Prepare For The Coming of The Lord | christisourvictory linked to this post on December 27, 2013

    [...] Maybe. The standard story is that December 25 was adopted after Constantine’s conversion to Christianity because it was on a pagan holiday and the winter solstice. Christians then co-opted the holiday and Christianized it. What’s interesting is that the early church put almost no emphasis on celebrating the birth of Christ. They were much more concerned with the resurrection. It’s not until AD 200 where possible dates are mentioned for the celebrating of Christ’s birth. By about AD 300 there were two dates: December 25 (for the west) and January 6 (for the east). There does seem to be a tradition of December 25 long before Constantine’s conversion, so that’s why I say maybe. This article from the Biblical Archaeology Review gives a good summary of “How December 25 Became Christmas.” http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christ… [...]

  50. How December 25th Became Christmas | D's Blog linked to this post on December 27, 2013

    [...] indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with similar festivities at that place and time.1As far as we can tell, Christmas was not celebrated at all at this [...]

  51. the Jesus Event | End of Year Happenings linked to this post on December 27, 2013

    [...] I wanted to share with you an excellent article from the Biblical Archaeological Review. You can check out the article over HERE. Spoiler alert- Jesus was probably, most definitely, not born on December 25. Find out [...]

  52. un-christmas | Find Your Niche linked to this post on December 28, 2013

    [...] Christmas-on-the-day is a farce anyway. Most scholars agree that historical Jesus wasn’t born anywhere near December 25. Mistletoe and the Yule log come straight from my ancestors, the pagan Norsemen. And the whole gift [...]

  53. The fetus is a parasite, abortion is like plucking out a hair: how much does Jerry Coyne really know about biology? | Uncommon Descent linked to this post on December 29, 2013

    [...] in pursuing the matter further, I would strongly recommend Andrew McGowan’s article, How December 25 became Christmas (Biblical Archaeology Society, December 7, [...]

  54. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn’t a Holiday, but It’s No Less Real Than Christmas | Radio Free linked to this post on December 31, 2013

    [...] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus’s birthday. These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There’s also that whole thing about [...]

  55. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn’t a Holiday, but It’s No Less Real Than Christmas « INTLFACES linked to this post on December 31, 2013

    [...] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus's birthday. These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There's also that whole thing about [...]

  56. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn't a Holiday, but It's No Less Real Than Christmas - | Bharat Press linked to this post on December 31, 2013

    [...] Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus's birthday. These dates were just helpful [...]

  57. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn’t a Holiday, but It’s No Less Real Than Christmas | Obsession Systems | Arash Dibazar Pick Up Artist · Psychology · Dating · Hypnosis · Lifestyle · Entertainment | Arash Dibazar PUA Mind Control · Voodoo Hy linked to this post on December 31, 2013

    [...] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus’s birthday. These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There’s also that whole thing about [...]

  58. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn't a Holiday, but It's No Less Real Than Christmas - Right Kind of Revolution linked to this post on January 1, 2014

    [...] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity . December 25 might not even be Jesus's birthday . These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There's also that whole thing about [...]

  59. Why is Christmas in the winter? Not the reason you thought, says New Testament scholar | Freethinking Jew linked to this post on January 4, 2014

    [...] this interesting article (here) in Biblical Archaeology Review, New Testament scholar Andrew McGowan goes through the sources and [...]

  60. Is January 6th The Real Christmas? - Cracked History linked to this post on January 6, 2014

    [...] main source for this entry on Cracked History was the online article available here, but additional information on Christmas in general, particularly the holiday’s evolution and [...]

  61. IN CHRISTMAS, whom we celebrate..., to Santa Calus, Harry Potter, or Jesus? - Page 6 - Religious Education Forum linked to this post on January 12, 2014

    [...] but since I don't have it with me, I can't directly quote. Instead I'd offer the following; How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical Archaeology Society This doesn't actually support the pagan festival theory, and like I said, I'm trying to be [...]

  62. How Did December 25 Become Christmas? | Wascana Fellowship linked to this post on January 13, 2014

    [...] As it turns out, I may have been wrong about a pagan connection with the choosing of the date of December 25. It would seem that the church settled on that date due to some interesting, and probably Jewish-inspired, mental gymnastics. The details can be found in an article written for the Biblical Archaeological Society titled “How December 25 Became Christmas.” [...]

  63. Roman Emperor Constantine - Page 2 - Christian Chat Rooms & Forums linked to this post on January 21, 2014

    [...] on birth dates for the Patriarchs, particularly Isaac. All of what I've described is written about in more detail here, complete with a bibliography consisting mostly of primary writings from the people I mentioned. At the end of the day, I think [...]

  64. Who Needs Christ During Christmas? | Lost Little Lutheran linked to this post on February 8, 2014

    [...] December 25th. Actually, nobody knows what his truth birthday is. If you want to do some digging, here’s a good website that might help you along. In short, theologians struggled to figure out the exact date, and [...]

  65. Snow Day to the Future | We Write Together! linked to this post on March 18, 2014

    […] This has been accepted as fact. So, if Christ was actually born, when was he born? BiblicalArchaeology.org notes: “According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various […]

  66. Ann Coulter Thinks Kwanzaa Isn’t a Holiday, but It’s No Less Real Than Christmas | Kinkementary Adult Personals-KinkementaryAdult Personals-Find a Sex Partner Free, Sex Personals Online, CasualEncounters, Adult Personals Online Sex Dating site linked to this post on March 25, 2014

    […] around the existing Winter Solstice as a means to convert pagans to Christianity. December 25 might not even be Jesus’s birthday. These dates were just useful to the early Christians. There’s also that whole thing about […]

  67. Who Needs Christ During Christmas? | Lost Little Lutheran linked to this post on May 5, 2014

    […] December 25th. Actually, nobody knows what his truth birthday is. If you want to do some digging, here’s a good website that might help you along. In short, theologians struggled to figure out the exact date, and […]

  68. Quora linked to this post on May 10, 2014

    What are the historical dates of the birth and death of Jesus Christ?

    WELL NUTS!!! MY MOBILE WONT LET ME EDIT AT THIS TIME SO TILL I CAN EDIT MG QUESTION I POST IT HERE…enjoy!!! ¢0: [EDIT] AS THE QUESTION GOT EXSPANDED ON, BUT HASN’T ALL THIS BEEN ASKED AND ANSWERED??? There us no clear date…I will give you speculat…

  69. De la Conception à la Résurrection - Pneumatis linked to this post on June 4, 2014

    […] McGowan, How December 25 became Christmas, […]

  70. Constantine and Christianity - Page 12 - Religious Education Forum linked to this post on June 15, 2014

    […] Can someone own a date? And I am not arguing that those dates were used to celebrate Pagan festivals. Quite the opposite actually, that those dates were chosen to celebrate Christian events in place of those Pagan festivals. I don't even know if Santa would be considered "pagan", but I would say that the Christmas tree could definitely be argued as a pagan tradition incorporated into the celebration of Christ's birth. How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical Archaeology Society […]

  71. Idées reçues: Ces choses que l'on croit vrai. linked to this post on June 25, 2014

    […] FAUX, il n’existe aucune preuve de cette affirmation. La Bible ne fait jamais référence au fait que Jésus soit né un 25 décembre ; elle indiquerait plutôt une date proche de septembre, voire du printemps selon certaines interprétations. La date du 25 décembre est attribuée au pape Jules Ier, en l’an 350 il déclara le 25 décembre date officielle de la célébration. Cette date a pu être choisie pour correspondre au jour situé exactement 9 mois après l’Annonciation, au solstice d’hiver du calendrier romain, ou encore coïncider avec d’anciens festivals hivernaux. Source […]

  72. İsa Hangi Tarihte Doğdu? | Viktor Kopuşçu linked to this post on August 14, 2014

    […] McGowan, Andrew. “How December 25 Became Christmas.” 20/12/2013. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christ… […]

  73. Onko joulu sittenkin alunperin kristillinen juhla? - Areiopagi linked to this post on September 3, 2014

    […] Andrew McGowan: How December 25 became Christmas? Bible History Daily, vierailtu 18.12. […]

  74. How Far Is Too Far Christian Dating | Christian Dating linked to this post on September 20, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical Archaeology … – Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion…. […]

  75. Born Again Christian Dating Site Free | Dating Around Me linked to this post on September 23, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical … – Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion…. […]

  76. Born Again Christian Dating Ireland | Dating Around Me linked to this post on September 25, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical Archaeology … – Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion…. […]

  77. The Four Horsemen of The Holiday Marketing Apocalypse | Phaze 2 linked to this post on November 3, 2014

    […] DEFINITELY forget the pagan origins of Christmas and how the holiday should really be celebrated sometime around August*.  Christmas is here and you mothatruckers better be ready for Santa.  To make sure we are, cable […]

  78. Links of Interest (11.8.2014) | Dr. Matthew R. Perry, Pastor linked to this post on November 8, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas (Biblical Archaeology) […]

  79. Apie kaledu atsiradima | Dalinames Rasto Tiesa linked to this post on November 13, 2014

    […] Kiss http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/…/how-december-25…/ November 11 at […]

  80. Know Palawan's Christmas Traditions- Seacologia Travel | Palawan Resorts Hotels linked to this post on November 17, 2014

    […] pen down your secret Christmas wish list. This contains not just the things you desire to have this December 25, but also things you want to experience and places you want to visit before the year ends. You may […]

  81. – Where Was Jesus Born? linked to this post on November 17, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas […]

  82. Saying Happy Holidays is Acceptable | Scripturient linked to this post on November 26, 2014

    […] worth reading about how and when December 25 was chosen as the date for the birth; many scholars suggest it was wrongly chosen. But that’s outside […]

  83. Desember - Tren Berita linked to this post on November 30, 2014

    […] How december 25 became christmas – biblical archaeology […]

  84. Why Christmas needs to move to February | U. S. Senior Citizen Network linked to this post on December 2, 2014

    […] wasn’t until centuries later that a Dec. 25 holiday actually came about. Some suggest Christians moved the date to the end of December to hijack pagan festivities such as […]

  85. Spicy hagiography. | Megan knows arse-all about... linked to this post on December 5, 2014

    […] It’s almost the most Christmassy thing I can think of, aside from Jesus’s birthday, which was quite likely in the spring anyway. I thought I had read once that it was the earliest cookie associated with Christmas, but because […]

  86. On the original St. Nicholas - DOR Scribe linked to this post on December 10, 2014

    […] There are any number of theories, but the most reasonable seems to be that December 25 is exactly nine months after March 25, traditionally celebrated as the date of The Annunciation, the date of the “announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God.”  See Annunciation – Wikipedia, and also Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25? — Ask HISTORY,Why December 25? | Christian History, and/or How December 25 Became Christmas – Biblical Archaeology Society. […]

  87. Does Christianity Borrow from Other Cultures? - The Salty Trail linked to this post on December 11, 2014

    […] Society, the notion that that it borrowed December 25th from a pagan holiday has some holes in it. Check out this link for more understanding on the dating of both Easter and Christmas – great […]

  88. Christmas on December 25th is not from Paganism! — Logos Apologia linked to this post on December 11, 2014

    […] Archaeology Review is a serious journal respected by real biblical scholars. The article How December 25 Became Christmas provides ample evidence debunking the pagan origins myth, showing how it actually got began, and […]

  89. The real 12 days of Christmas and why April 6 is a religiously significant date linked to this post on December 15, 2014

    […] are the 12 days of Christmas? Many of the insights that follow are drawn from the article “How December 25 Became Christmas," by Andrew […]

  90. The Date of Christmas has Nothing to Do with Pagan Holidays | agnus dei - english + romanian blog linked to this post on December 15, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas […]

  91. The Feast of Tabernacles, Hanukkah, and…Christmas? (Part 5: The Birthday of the Gods) | CONTEXT MATTERS linked to this post on December 15, 2014

    […] To read, CLICK HERE […]

  92. Three HUGE Christmas Myths - Derek Ouellette linked to this post on December 15, 2014

    […] article written in Biblical History Daily (from the Biblical Archaeological Society) by Andrew McGowan tells a different story. In surveying […]

  93. Is Christmas/Easter a Pagan Holiday? - Nyssa's Hobbit Hole linked to this post on December 17, 2014

    […] “How December 25 Became Christmas” by Andrew McGowan […]

  94. Jesus Christ, Born on Christmas Day, December 25th - Postcards of TruthPostcards of Truth linked to this post on December 17, 2014

    […] How December 25 Became Christmas. Bible History Daily – Biblical Archaeology Society. http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/new-testament/how-december-25-became-christ…  Accessed 17 December […]

  95. มารู้จักเทศกาล Christmas กันเถอะ! | 65Blogs linked to this post on December 18, 2014

    […] BIBLICALAR CHRISTMASPEDIA CHRISTMASTIME Categories Entertainment Tagged Christmasjingle bellsmerry christmasซานตาครอสดอกคริสต์มาสต้นคริสต์มาสประวัติสีประจำวันคริสต์มาสเพลงวันคริสต์มาสแซนตาครอสแซนต้า​ […]

  96. 3 Reasons I Think Christians Shouldn’t Freak Out When People Say “Happy Holidays” | TitusLive linked to this post on December 19, 2014

    […] No one can be certain why we started celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25th, but we can be relatively sure it wasn’t because He was actually born that day. The early church argued a lot about when to celebrate. […]

  97. Sunday Go To Meeting Bun! « L.A. Marzulli's Blog linked to this post on December 21, 2014

    […] Archaeology Review is a serious journal respected by real biblical scholars. The article How December 25 Became Christmas provides ample evidence debunking the pagan origins myth, showing how it actually began, and even […]

  98. Christmas Traditions Based On Other Religions linked to this post on December 21, 2014

    […] the date of the birth of Christ is unknown, but suspected to be at some time during the spring or even late summer. There are some documents […]


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