I am just wondering … many historians say that Jesus could not have been born on December 25th if Shepards were in thier fields and based on the historical timing of the census. How come tradition didn’t preserve the actual day? I know many early church fathers proposed dates all over the calendar.
Anyone with more historical knowledge than me know the answer to this one?
Poor people did not record or celebrate birthdays at that time. It was only later that the Church realized that the miraculous nature of Christ’s Birth deserved observance. It is not important that the celebration occurs on the exact same calendar date.
The modern “birthday party” is very much a new invention. In many cultures, people celebrate their Name day, the feast day associated with the saint whom they were named after.
Queen Elizabeth II of Britain was born in April but her birthday is celebrated each year in June because that is more convenient.
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.
Now I am more confused. If the early church did not celebrate christmas, why do we? or should we?
Peasants were perfectly able to remember days they had to go to the temple or that they needed to go somewhere for a census during a certain time, then why would they not be able to remember a day of birth or even month of birth.
Pagans also had ritual washings…similar to Christian baptisms…should Christians then stop having baptisms?
Pagans also had songs, raised their hands in worship of something, knelt in from of pagan idols…should Christians then stop singing, stop raising hands in worship of God? stop kneeling in worship of God?
If finding a pagan parallel provides proof of paganism, the Lord Himself would be pagan. The woman called Mystery Babylon had a cup in her hand; the Lord has a cup in His hand (Ps. 78:8). Pagan kings sat on thrones and wore crowns; the Lord sits on a throne and wears a crown (Rev. 1:4; 14:14) Pagans worshipped the sun; the Lord is called the “Sun of Righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), Pagan gods were likened to stars; the Lord is called “the bright and Morning star” (Rev. 22:16). Pagan gods had temples dedicated to them; the Lord has a temple (Rev. 7:15). Pagans built a high tower in Babylon; the Lord is a high tower (2 Sam. 22:3). Pagans worshipped idolatrous pillars; the Lord appeared as a pillar of fire (Exod. 13:21-22). Pagan gods were pictured with wings; the Lord is pictured with wings (Ps. 91:4).
I’m sure they would remember the month of a child’s birth, since for boys, particularly, this would be important to know when they became an adult male in religion (at 12 - 13 years old). Also to know how many years a girl had to be old enough for marriage, usually at 13 or 14. (they had to be considered not just “adult” in the sense of having menses, but old enough to bear children safely). Children of peasants had an extremely short childhood, usually they were working in the fields or tending sheep by age 5 or so, girls were married by 14, and were grandmothers before they were 30. They simply didn’t celebrate birthdays as we do. They knew how old they were, perhaps even the month and day, they simply didn’t consider it important to mark every year with a celebration and cakes as we do. Only particular birthdays were important – the 3rd year, ending weaning, the 5th year, when a boy started studying Torah and learning to read & write (and work with the men with flocks, or in fields or shops) and so forth. I guess the Apostles had the same mind set – i.e., they never thought to write down the exact Hebrew or Roman dates for Christ’s birth, only to chronicle (by Luke especially) the event as it was told to them.
They had chores to do as soon as they were weaned, and worked at age 5, so actual childhood was only about 2 years – between weaning and starting work & school at about 5 years. Girls were generally taught by their Mothers at home. Israel in the 1st Century apparently had a high literacy rate among the common people, at least in Hebrew, and perhaps in Aramaic as well. Roman Latin and Greek would have been picked up by hearing it from travelers and merchants as they grew up.
It is a liturgical celebration honoring the birth of Jesus. The liturgy has many celebrations honoring different events concerning Jesus. The liturgical year begins in November with Advent which is the preparation time commemorating the time of when the world awaited the coming of Jesus. The Year ends in November with Christ the King. In between, the Church celebrates many other events in Jesus’ life.
The educational process is certainly a gift given to all of us! To share and research is a blessing of recent technology indeed.
Certainly back in Christ’s time, their culture was so radically different. It’s a wonderful thing, to learn of the culture that Our Lord was born into, and realize that it’s not the same as what we live in…
Although I majored in Literature (English), I became fascinated with ancient History while in my early teens, and have read more books than I can count about different cultures, customs, etc… from the time of the early Egyptians, through the time of the Pyramids, and then for several years I concentrated on the customs and culture of the last century BC through the 1st Century AD. Although the calendars changed a lot since then the Hebrew calendar is still the same, (but is lunar), the customs and culture remained about the same up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the battle at which the Roman Army finally defeated the last fighters of Israel at a mountain called Massala in the Dead Sea area. I learned a lot about what everyday life was like for the peasants/common people among whom Jesus grew up. The types of foods they ate, their daily work and activities, their religious practices, etc… Even learned the old Ashkenahzic Hebrew so I could read some of the Scriptures (such as the Ten Commandments) in the original, or close to original language. Of course, the Hebrew I learned was heavily influenced by the Jews in Eastern Europe, and not quite the same as that which was read in the synagogues in the time when Jesus would have heard the Scriptures read. I have seen photographic copies of the Dead Sea scrolls, which are from about that time period, and although I can read the Hebrew letters, I cannot translate most of it. It was apparently written or spelled differently. Anyway, I’m unable to translate most of it. Also, the original Hebrew Torah was apparently written with only consonants, no vowels, which is where we get “YHWH”-- no vowels. The words and pronunciation must be learned or memorized. There are rules for the spelling/grammar, which helps a bit. When I learned to read it, I also learned it without vowels. The major celebrations in a family living in Nazareth would have been 1) the weaning of the first born son (and possibly other sons, doesn’t mention daughters); 2) the time when a boy started synagogue school to learn his religious obligations and to read the Torah; 3) the coming of age of each boy, and 4)marriages. Of course, the religious festivals would have been important in each season, particularly Passover, First Fruits, and the Day of Repentance (Yom Kippur) as well as some other major ones, like the Harvest festivals. Funerals also had many cultural customs. Keep reading what you can find on those times - it’s fascinating. A good librarian is a true treasure, as they can lead you to a lot of research. Good history hunting!
Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the “birthdays” of the gods.
[quote=Hockeygurl] I am just wondering … many historians say that Jesus could not have been born on December 25th if Shepards were in thier fields and based on the historical timing of the census. How come tradition didn’t preserve the actual day? I know many early church fathers proposed dates all over the calendar.
Anyone with more historical knowledge than me know the answer to this one?
haha…I got a good laugh at this one. Thanks.
The Church’s mission is to save souls. Therefore, the whole Tradition of the Church is to lead souls to heaven. If you could come up with a good explanation on how knowing His actual birthday is beneficial to salvation, I will research it for you.