Curious as it may seem, there is another way to find the origins of Christmas on 25 December, and that is with Easter. On 25 December, Christians worldwide will celebrate the Nativity of the Lord. Joyful carols, Holy Mass, beautifully wrapped presents, and chosen foods are the hallmarks of this celebration. But where does Christmas originate, and how did 25 December come to be associated with the birth of Jesus.
According to historical sources, in 0200 AD, a calculation was made which showed why Christmas is celebrated in December by calculating the 14th, Nisan (the day of crucifixion, according to the Gospel of John), of the year in which Jesus suffered, is equivalent to 25 March in the Roman (solar) calendar. March 25 is nine months before December 25, which was later recognized as the day of the Annunciation. In other words, it was believed that Christ was conceived and crucified on the same day and was born exactly nine months later, on 25 December.
Thus, the Nativity stands in contrast to the traditions accompanying Jesus’ last days. All four evangelists give dates for it, with slight differences in their accounts. And by the middle of the second century, Easter had already become a feast in its own right, as St. Paul the Apostle had said: for our Christ sacrificed himself for us, therefore let us celebrate Easter (1 Cor. 5:7-8).
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Where is Christmas mentioned?
For more than 2 billion Christians, 25 December is the Feast of the Nativity, the fourth great feast after Easter, Pentecost, and Good Friday. Since the beginning of the 20th century, Christmas has also been a secular holiday celebrated by Christians and non-Christians, with customs specific to each country.
The earliest written reference to Christmas was found in Mesopotamia, where the holiday lasted 12 days and was meant to help the god Marduk tame the monsters of chaos for another year. The four Gospels also record the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on 25 December, although there is nothing in the Bible to establish the date of his birth around this day. The precise reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on this date remains obscure, but it is thought to have its origins in pagan celebrations of the winter solstice.
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When was Jesus conceived?
This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise from the 4th century in North Africa. (On Solstices and Equinoxes) Which says: On the eighth calendar of April, March (March 25) is the day of the Lord’s passion and His birth. For on the day He was conceived on the same day He also died.
Blessed Augustine (399-419 A.D.), in his work On the Holy Trinity, states that: It is believed that Jesus was conceived on the 25th of March, on the same day on which He suffered; therefore, the womb of the Virgin. In which He was conceived, where no mortal was born, corresponds to the new tomb in which He was buried. Where no man had been laid, either before or after. But he was born, according to tradition, on 25 December.
The same analogy was applied in the East, but here, instead of using the 14th day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar. They used the 14th day of the first month of spring (Artemisias) in the Greek calendar, April 6. And from there, adding nine months, they arrived on January 6. Thus we have Christians in two parts of the world who calculate the birth of Jesus. On the basis that the conception and crucifixion took place on the same day (25 March and 6 April). It comes to a similar but different conclusion (25 December and 6 January).
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What does Aurelian have to do with Christmas?
Even if the 25th of December has become an eminently Christian holiday, we still find today the remnants of the pagan cult of the sun: the fires that are made on Christmas morning. The Christmas sticks imitate the shape of the sun and the goat walk.
There is a hypothesis that Emperor Aurelian wanted this celebration dedicated to the god Mithras to replace the feast of Christmas, present at that time on 25 December. Those who share this hypothesis state that in the past, Christians believed that the appearance of the seen world took place at the spring equinox, then placed on March 25. Therefore, the new creation through the “incarnation of Christ” was also supposed to occur on 25 March. From which the nine months counted together gave the date of 25 December.
In the West, since the 3rd century, Christmas has been celebrated on 25 December. In the East, until the second half of the 4th century, the Nativity was honored with the Baptism of the Lord on 6 January and was called the Lord’s Birthday.
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Key Verse related to Christmas
“For Christmas began in a humble, hay-filled box of splintered wood. . . And in the end, when He had ransomed our sins with His blood, the Lord of Christmas was laid down in a stone box. How fitting that each Christmas season, brightly wrapped boxes skirt the pine boughs of Christmas trees around the world.”
Who first declared that the Nativity of Jesus was on December 25?
In 264, Saturnalia fell on 25 December, and the Roman Emperor Aurelian proclaimed this date “Natalis Solis Invicti,” the festival of the birth of the invincible Sun.
According to biblical and historical accounts, in 0320 AD, Pope Julius I officially specified the date of Jesus’ birth as 25 December for the first time. The early Christians did not celebrate Jesus’ birth on 25 December, believing it to have taken place in September with Ros Hashana (a holiday in the Jewish calendar).
In 325, Emperor Constantine the Great officially designated Christmas as a holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. He also made Sundays a ‘holy day’ in a seven-day week and introduced Passover with a variable date.
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Which state first declared Christmas a legal holiday?
The Nativity, popularly called “Christmas,” is celebrated on December 25. It is the feast of the birth of the Son of God. Since, in the past, the focus was on the death of saints, the Nativity is not as old as Easter.
According to recorded historians, the US state of Alabama was the first to declare Christmas a legal holiday in 1836. Since 1870 it has become a national holiday in all US states.
The choice of the date of Jesus’ birth and its official celebration was probably decided to counter the influence of the pagan holiday called Natalis Solis Invicti (Birth of the Unconquered Sun) and the worship of Mithras, the Persian sun god, who was supposedly born on that day.
Read also: What is Corpus Christi, and why is it celebrated?
How did Christmas spread to Scandinavia?
In Western European countries, Protestants have sometimes banned Christmas celebrations and the worship of saints. For example, Oliver Cromwell banned this celebration in England between 1649 and 1660.
According to historical accounts, in 815, Christmas entered Scandinavia through St Ansgar; St Cyril helped spread the Christian holiday to Slavic countries. St Adalbert to Hungary from 997, and Denmark became entirely Christian from 1014-1053.
However, each Christian community worldwide celebrated Christmas according to the traditions of its culture and pagan customs at the time of conversion. So the specific rituals are numerous and very different. An interesting mention is that the Catholic Church vainly opposed the affirmation of Santa Claus and resisted the assimilation of popular mythologies different from Christianity, especially in the 1950s.
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When did Christmas become the holiday of giving?
In 325, the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine the Great, established the celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. In 429, Emperor Justinian declared the day of Jesus’ birth a feast of the Roman Empire.
It wasn’t until the 19th century that Christmas became famous as a holiday for children, giving, and charity; Charles Dickens is responsible for this mentality. In 1843, Dickens published the novella ‘A Christmas Carol.’ It is about a grumpy, miserly man who is transformed after being visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve. A story later illustrated and translated into films and cartoons.
In the East, January 6 was chosen as the day of the Lord’s birthday, the day the Greeks celebrated the birth of the god Dionysus and the Egyptians the birth of the god Osiris. This date is still celebrated today in the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches.
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Which is the oldest carol?
One of the most beloved Christmas customs, carol singing, was once forbidden. Oliver Cromwell decided music was inappropriate for a solemn day like Christmas and banned carols in the 17th century.
The oldest Christian Christmas carol is “Jesus refused omnium,” composed by St. Hilary of Poitiers in the 4th century. The earliest transcription of an English melody belongs to Ritson and dates from 1410.
In 1818, the Austrian assistant priest Joseph Mohr was told the day before Christmas that his church organ had broken down and could not be repaired in time for the Christmas service. Very saddened by this, he set about writing three pieces that could be sung by the choir and accompanied by guitar. One of them was ‘Silent Night, Holy Night, which is now sung in over 180 languages by millions of people.
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What do Christians eat on Christmas Eve?
An essential culinary moment preceding Christmas is the day of Ignat (20 December), when the pig is cut up, and specific dishes are prepared, which will be on the Christmas table.
On the evening of Christmas Eve, the faithful are accustomed to eating a sweet dish, popularly called “Jesus’ Diapers.” With flour, water, and salt, thin sticks are kneaded and baked on a griddle. They are soaked in a sweet syrup (water with honey or sugar) and sprinkled with ground walnuts.
After lunchtime, in the evening, it is customary to eat boiled wheat mixed with fruit and honey in remembrance of the fast of the Prophet Daniel and the three young men of Babylon.
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7 Christmas Facts
Christmas is one of the most important and eagerly awaited holidays. It symbolizes the birth of the Saviour Jesus Christ, and children love it because they get the presents they want from Santa Claus. Below you can see seven different Christian customs, some of which have pagan origins.
1. At Christmas, people should not clean their house
No brooms, no washing, and no borrowing at Christmas. Those with animals and birds in the household are used to giving them plenty of food and a piece of leavened dough, which is said to ward off disease.
2. On Christmas Eve, people tie up trees
According to tradition, in some areas, fruit trees are still tied with straw on Christmas Eve to make them more fruitful in the coming year. The superstitious anoint cattle with garlic on their horns and hips to ward off evil spirits. From the ancestors, it is said that if the cattle lie down on the left side on Christmas Eve. It is a sign that the winter will be long and cold.
3. On Christmas Eve, the “jesters” go through the village
On Christmas Eve, young people dressed as a goat, soldier, bear, priest, constable, doctor, bride, and groom perform a little skit in each house.
4. On Christmas Eve, young people carol
On the evening of Christmas Eve, the choir of young boys sings carols in all the village houses, dressed in folk costumes. The caroling begins at the mayor’s and the priest’s house, after which the children go from house to house until morning. And finally go directly to the “haunt,” where they sing carols to the host.
5. Decorating houses with basil for good luck
In addition to decorating the tree, some households keep an ancient custom: decorating their homes with plants: basil, marjoram, and the good luck tree.
6. Christmas cakes
People make Christmas cakes and keep them until spring when they are put between the cattle horns when they go out to plow. These cakes are said to be round like the Sun and Moon.
7. Businessmen note the money sequence
To keep the house’s savings from going to waste. Merchants and businessmen perform a ritual: from Christmas Day onwards. They start writing down in a notebook the amount of money they spend each day. Over time, it has been found that this habit stops the householder from making unscheduled expenses, and the loot flees from his home.
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- The Nativity, popularly called “Christmas,” is celebrated on 25 December. It is the feast of the incarnation of the Son of God. Since the focus in the past was on the death of saints. The Nativity is not as old a feast as Easter.
- Therefore, December 25 as the date of the Nativity is not due to pagan influences on church practice. We cannot be entirely sure that it is the actual day Christ was born. But it was wholly established through the efforts of Christians during the early centuries.
- The pagan feast of the sun, instituted by Emperor Aurelian at the time of the winter solstice. Maybe more of an attempt to paganize a date already significant to Christians.
Read also: Traditions and Customs on Pentecost Day
Such a connection between the birth and crucifixion of Jesus will undoubtedly seem strange to some readers. But it reflects an early understanding of saving deeds. This belief is also echoed in the rabbinic tradition that the world was created. The Patriarchs were born, and the ancestors will be resurrected when the time is right, in the month of Nisan.
Therefore, the belief that Israel’s prophets died on the same day they were conceived or born was the key factor that led early Christians to establish December 25. On the day Christ was born.
Thank you for your attention in reading this article. I certainly hope you have a wonderful day!
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- Weintraub, S. (2006). 11 Days in December: Christmas at the Bulge, 1944. Simon and Schuster.