Why Dec. 25?


#1

I heard this interesting tidbit the other day.

The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on March 25. This would be the day of Christ’s conception. Nine months later is Dec 25. This is why we celebrate the event of Christ’s birth on Dec 25.

Just thought I’d share.

In Christ,
Nancy :slight_smile:


#2

I thought we celebrated Annunciation on March 25 because the date of Christmas was arbitrarily fixed on December 25.


#3

[quote=mercygate]I thought we celebrated Annunciation on March 25 because the date of Christmas was arbitrarily fixed on December 25.
[/quote]

Hmmmm. Isn’t that interesting? I wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg??

In Christ,
Nancy :slight_smile:


#4

Regardless of whether Dec 25th is the exact date (probably not, as it used to be celebrated on Jan 6), I’ve heard an argument that suggests that at least the time of year is correct.

It is argued that when Gabriel appeared to Zachary (while he was performing his priestly duties), he was engaging in the Day of Atonement ritual, which usually occurs sometime in late September. Elizabeth became pregnant with John the Baptist, shortly thereafter.

Now, Elizabeth was in her 6th month when Gabriel made the Annunciation to Mary, who then visited Elizabeth. This would now be late March (hence the March 25th for the Annunciation). We also know that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for 3 months, until she gave birth to John the Baptist (June 24th).

Mary would now be in her 3rd month of pregnancy. Six months later, and voila…Dec 25th for the Birth of Jesus.

Again, it’s most likely that the actual dates used are somewhat approximate, but I think it’s fairly reasonable to assume that the general time frame is pretty accurate.


#5

In today’s gospel reading, St. Luke writes “in the sixth month the Angel Gabriel was sent from God…” (Luke 1:26). The Jewish calendar is lunar, and the New Year is usually in late September or October. The sixth month of that calendar is *usually *March. There’s decent scriptual basis for setting the Nativity in December.


#6

[quote=mercygate]I thought we celebrated Annunciation on March 25 because the date of Christmas was arbitrarily fixed on December 25.
[/quote]

Oh ye of little faith…why do you assume it is arbitrary? because the early primitive people were incapable of remembering a date correctly?


#7

[quote=Tom of Assisi]Oh ye of little faith…why do you assume it is arbitrary? because the early primitive people were incapable of remembering a date correctly?
[/quote]

Because it is arbitrary. December 25th is the date Constantine set as the date to celebrate Christmas. The date was already a celebration for one of the Roman fertility gods, so rather than find a new date, the old celebrations were just adapted to the Christian celebration. If you do a little research, you’ll find that Christmas, early on, was celebrated much like Mardi Gras is today. At various times, the celebrations have been banned because of the excessive debauchery. The idea of celebrating Christmas as peace on earth, kindness to fellow man, etc… really came out of the Charles Dickens book, A Christmas Carol. Prior to that, it was not really a peaceful celebration.


#8

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, xxi in P.G., VIII, 888) says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. [Ideler (Chron., II, 397, n.) thought they did this believing that the ninth month, in which Christ was born, was the ninth of their own calendar.] Others reached the date of 24 or 25 Pharmuthi (19 or 20 April). With Clement’s evidence may be mentioned the “De paschæ computus”, written in 243 and falsely ascribed to Cyprian (P.L., IV, 963 sqq.), which places Christ’s birth on 28 March, because on that day the material sun was created. But Lupi has shown (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219) that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ’s birth. Clement, however, also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany, and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January). At any rate this double commemoration became popular, partly because the apparition to the shepherds was considered as one manifestation of Christ’s glory, and was added to the greater manifestations celebrated on 6 January; partly because at the baptism-manifestation many codices (e.g. Codex Bezæ) wrongly give the Divine words as sou ei ho houios mou ho agapetos, ego semeron gegenneka se (Thou art my beloved Son, this day have I begotten thee) in lieu of en soi eudokesa (in thee I am well pleased), read in Luke 3:22. Abraham Ecchelensis (Labbe, II, 402) quotes the Constitutions of the Alexandrian Church for a dies Nativitatis et Epiphaniæ in Nicæan times; Epiphanius (Hær., li, ed. Dindorf, 1860, II, 483) quotes an extraordinary semi-Gnostic ceremony at Alexandria in which, on the night of 5-6 January, a cross-stamped Korê was carried in procession round a crypt, to the chant, “Today at this hour Korê gave birth to the Eternal”; John Cassian records in his “Collations” (X, 2 in P.L., XLIX, 820), written 418-427, that the Egyptian monasteries still observe the “ancient custom”; but on 29 Choiak (25 December) and 1 January, 433, Paul of Emesa preached before Cyril of Alexandria, and his sermons (see Mansi, IV, 293; appendix to Act. Conc. Eph.) show that the December celebration was then firmly established there, and calendars prove its permanence. The December feast therefore reached Egypt between 427 and 433.

So, there were December celebrations which had nothing to do with Constantine, apparently, as well as other datings.


#9

Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Asia Minor. In Cyprus, at the end of the fourth century, Epiphanius asserts against the Alogi (Hær., li, 16, 24 in P. G., XLI, 919, 931) that Christ was born on 6 January and baptized on 8 November. Ephraem Syrus (whose hymns belong to Epiphany, not to Christmas) proves that Mesopotamia still put the birth feast thirteen days after the winter solstice; i.e. 6 January; Armenia likewise ignored, and still ignores, the December festival. (Cf. Euthymius, “Pan. Dogm.”, 23 in P.G., CXXX, 1175; Niceph., “Hist. Eccl,”, XVIII, 53 in P.G., CXLVII, 440; Isaac, Catholicos of Armenia in eleventh or twelfth century, “Adv. Armenos”, I, xii, 5 in P.G., CXXII, 1193; Neale, “Holy Eastern Church”, Introd., p. 796). In Cappadocia, Gregory of Nyssa’s sermons on St. Basil (who died before 1 January, 379) and the two following, preached on St. Stephen’s feast (P.G., XLVI, 788; cf, 701, 721), prove that in 380 the 25th December was already celebrated there, unless, following Usener’s too ingenious arguments (Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, Bonn, 1889, 247-250), one were to place those sermons in 383. Also, Asterius of Amaseia (fifth century) and Amphilochius of Iconium (contemporary of Basil and Gregory) show that in their dioceses both the feasts of Epiphany and Nativity were separate (P.G., XL, 337 XXXIX, 36).

Jerusalem. In 385, Silvia of Bordeaux (or Etheria, as it seems clear she should be called) was profoundly impressed by the splendid Chilhood feasts at Jerusalem. They had a definitely “Nativity” colouring; the bishop proceeded nightly to Bethlehem, returning to Jerusalem for the day celebrations. The Presentation was celebrated forty days after. But this calculation starts from 6 January, and the feast lasted during the octave of that date. (Peregr. Sylv., ed. Geyer, pp. 75 sq.) Again (p. 101) she mentions as high festivals Easter and Epiphany alone. In 385, therefore, 25 December was not observed at Jerusalem. This checks the so-called correspondence between Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) and Pope Julius I (337-352), quoted by John of Nikiu (c. 900) to convert Armenia to 25 December (see P.L., VIII, 964 sqq.). Cyril declares that his clergy cannot, on the single feast of Birth and Baptism, make a double procession to Bethlehem and Jordan. (This later practice is here an anachronism.) He asks Julius to assign the true date of the nativity “from census documents brought by Titus to Rome”; Julius assigns 25 December. Another document (Cotelier, Patr. Apost., I, 316, ed. 1724) makes Julius write thus to Juvenal of Jerusalem (c. 425-458), adding that Gregory Nazianzen at Constantinople was being criticized for “halving” the festival. But Julius died in 352, and by 385 Cyril had made no change; indeed, Jerome, writing about 411 (in Ezech., P.L., XXV, 18), reproves Palestine for keeping Christ’s birthday (when He hid Himself) on the Manifestation feast. Cosmas Indicopleustes suggests (P.G., LXXXVIII, 197) that even in the middle of the sixth century Jerusalem was peculiar in combining the two commemorations, arguing from Luke 3:23 that Christ’s baptism day was the anniversary of His birthday. The commemoration, however, of David and James the Apostle on 25 December at Jerusalem accounts for the deferred feast. Usener, arguing from the “Laudatio S. Stephani” of Basil of Seleucia (c. 430. – P.G., LXXXV, 469), thinks that Juvenal tried at least to introduce this feast, but that Cyril’s greater name attracted that event to his own period.


#10

[quote=StJeanneDArc]In today’s gospel reading, St. Luke writes “in the sixth month the Angel Gabriel was sent from God…” (Luke 1:26). The Jewish calendar is lunar, and the New Year is usually in late September or October. The sixth month of that calendar is *usually *March. There’s decent scriptual basis for setting the Nativity in December.
[/quote]

Cool!:thumbsup: I’m ashamed that I never noticed that before.


#11

Constantine did make December 25th the official date to celebrate Christ’s birth because of the reason I stated earlied. That is an historical fact. I didn’t mean that it wasn’t celebrated around that date earlier. Prior to Constantine, the celebration had always been done around that date for the very reason that the Christians could avoid persecution by celebrating at the time of the pagan celebration. It was like they were hiding in plain sight.


#12

[quote=Steve M]Constantine did make December 25th the official date to celebrate Christ’s birth because of the reason I stated earlied. That is an historical fact. I didn’t mean that it wasn’t celebrated around that date earlier. Prior to Constantine, the celebration had always been done around that date for the very reason that the Christians could avoid persecution by celebrating at the time of the pagan celebration. It was like they were hiding in plain sight.
[/quote]

The Day of Christ’s Birth

"The traditional date for the birth of Christ from as early as Hippolytus (ca. A.D. 165-235) has been December 25th. In the Eastern Church January 6th was the date for not only Christ’s birth, but also the arrival of the Magi on Christ’s second birthday, His baptism in His twenty-ninth year, and the sign at Cana in His thirtieth year. However Chrysostom (A.D. 345-407) in 386 stated that December 25th is the correct date and hence it became the official date for Christ’s birth in the Eastern Church (January 6th was still considered the day for the manifestations of the coming of the Magi, the baptism, and the sign at Cana).

Although the exact date may not be pinpointed it seems that there is a relatively old tradition of a midwinter birth, therefore a date in December or January is not in itself unlikely.

The one objection raised for the winter date is the fact of the shepherds attending their flock in the night (Luke 2:8). Usually, it is noted, the sheep were taken into enclosures from November until March and were not in the fields at night. However, this is not conclusive evidence against December being the time of Christ’s birth for the following reasons. First, it could have been a mild winter and hence the shepherds would have been outside with their sheep. Second, it is not at all certain that sheep were brought under cover during the winter months. Third, it is true that during the winter months the sheep were brought in the from the wilderness. The Lukan narrative states that the shepherds were around Bethlehem (rather than the wilderness), thus indicating that the nativity was in the winter months. Finally, the Mishnah (Shekalim 7:4) implies that the sheep around Bethlehem were outside all year, and those that were worthy for the Passover offerings were in the fields thirty days before the feast, which would be as early as February, one of the coldest and rainiest months of the year. Therefore, a December date for the nativity is acceptable.

In conclusion, the exact date of the birth of Christ is difficult to know with finality. However, a midwinter date is most likely. It is clear that Christ was born before Herod the Great’s death and after the census. In looking at the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke one would need to conclude that Christ was born of Mary within a year or two of Herod’s death. In looking to some of the other chronological notations in the Gospels, the evidence led to the conclusion that Christ was born in the winter of 5/4 B.C. Although the exact date of Christ’s birth cannot be known, either December of 5 B.C., or January of 4 B.C. is most reasonable."

Harold W. Hoehner, “Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ” (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1981) pp. 25-27


#13

Believe what you like, but no legitimate historian believes that Jesus was born on or around December 25th. Most agree that it was in the spring or summer.


#14

[quote=Steve M]Believe what you like, but no legitimate historian believes that Jesus was born on or around December 25th. Most agree that it was in the spring or summer.
[/quote]

Our fallacies for the day are appeal to popularity and begging the question.

– Mark L. Chance.


#15

Another opinion:

www.touchstonemag.com/docs/issues/16.10docs/16-10pg12.html

+JMJ+


#16

I thought that (as pointed out by mtr01) “the sixth month” referred to the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary immediately went to visit Elizabeth and stayed with her “about 3 months” --i.e., until the birth of John the Baptist.


#17

but no legitimate historian believes that Jesus was born on or around December 25th.

Most secular historians don’t have a position on when Christ was born; they couldn’t care less.

What is true is that the vast majority of them are coming to the conclusion that, whatever other reason there may be, the December 25 date for Christmas predates any Roman celebration of the Sol Invictus and has little or nothing to do with that.

Read any serious book on this subject that was written in, say, the last five years.

The “Christmas is a taken-ver Roman holiday” myth is one that tries to discreidt Christianity. It’s got no basis in fact.


#18

Hi all,
I was reading this thread, which caused me to go searching the net. I stumbled across a site which seems to confirm the December 25th birthdate. Of course I am no expert, but it is certainly worth a look.
If you wish to cut to the chase, so to speak, the page is sectioned by roman numerals, then a letter then another number.
The number V, section C, and number 16, which is about two thirds the way down the page tells of the day in question.
I hope that isn’t too confusing.

versebyverse.org/doctrine/birthofchrist.html

God Bless,
Shari


#19

The Catholic Encyclopedia: “The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date”
([/font]http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm).

I like this theory because I like the idea of the celebration of the birth of the sun god being replaced by the celebration of the birth of the Light of the World. I found one reference to this feast as dies natalis Solis Invicti, which I think translates “day of the birth of the invincible sun god.”

Someone recently wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper claiming that Christmas is a pagan celebration because it was once a pagan feast. But that is just as untenable a claim as: if Christmas were ever replaced by a pagan feast (which in some quarters it has been) that would prove that the pagan observation was really a Christian one.


#20

I apologise for my previous post (# 18). I made some errors and have not been able to edit it, so please pay it no heed. Thank you for your patience as this ‘newbie’ finds her ‘feet’.
God Bless,
Shari


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