Why do we celebrate Christmas in December?

I asked this in the Apologist area but did not get an answer for some time. In fact none of my questions gets answered over there. So I will ask it here.

Someone told me recently, while having a discussion about Christmas with them, that Biblical scripture proves Jesus is not very likely to have actually been born at Christmas. Apparently he was probably born in the summer or at the beginning of Autumn, due to shepherds being in the fields at the time of his birth, as well as other things that are written in the Bible. So why do we celebrate Christmas when we do?

Whoever told you that probably believes that Israel’s winter weather is a lot like New York’s winter weather. That’s not the case at all. Israel’s winter weather is about like Scotland’s summer weather. Summer in Scotland ranges from the mid 40’s to the mid 60’s, and winter in Israel likewise ranges from the mid 40’s to the mid 60’s.

And what do you see all over the fields of Scotland in the summer? Yep, you guessed it - sheep! Sheep thrive in a wide variety of climates. They can handle the heat of Israel in summer, but they can also handle the cold of Scotland in winter.

Winter in Israel is also the rainy season. That makes it the best time to send the flocks out into the fields to graze. Summer through the middle of fall would be the worst time for that, because it’s too hot and dry then for enough grass to grow. There’s little for the sheep to graze on until after the rains begin, which in Israel normally isn’t until late October.

We celebrate two birthdays - the Nativity of John the Baptist and the Nativity of Our Lord. All other feasts celebrate the anniversary of someone’s death except for John the Baptist and Jesus.

The Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist is near the summer solstice which is the longest day of the year - the length of the day decreases after this feast. The Feast of the Nativity of our Lord is near the winter solstice which is the shortest day of the year - the length of the day increases after this feast.

This echo’s John the Baptist’s words:

He must increase, but I must decrease. (John 3:30)


So, the two nativities are celebrated six months apart, but if Elizabeth was in her sixth month when Mary’s pregnancy started, the time between the births would have been at most 4 months.

Somewhere along the line, someone was guessing at the dates.

There was an excellent article abou this very subject on the Catholic Answers portion of thes website. Lots of facts and logic. That may be one of the reasons why it wasn’t answered on ask an apologist. You may want to go there and check the archives.:thumbsup:

The celebration of the event does not necessarily line up with the actual date of occurrence.


Dr. Taylor Marshall just wrote an e-book defending the 25th of December date. It’s only about 50 pages and is a great read. I believe he is giving it away still on his website, taylormarshall.com/, if you sign up for his email subscribers list. You should check it out.

I am wondering how you are figuring. Elizabeth was six months pregnant when Mary accepted to become the mother of Jesus. That means John was born three months later and Mary would then be three months pregnant assuming that the conception happened immediately which I believe. She would still have six months before Jesus was born. :confused:

To the OP, Christmas is Christ Mass. It is the liturgical celebration. The liturgical year begins with advent in November. It ends in November with Christ the King. We are currently in the season of Christmas. We then enter ordinary time until Lent.

How would you classify the Immaculate Conception? It is neither a birth or a death.

What? :confused: Why would Mary have had Jesus *4 months or less *after Elizabeth had John, if they started out six months apart? That makes no sense. :shrug:

If Elizabeth was in her sixth month when Mary’s pregnancy started (in other words, the two were conceived six months apart), the time between the births would have been about six months.

When John was born, Mary would have been about 3 months along in her pregnancy (9 months - 6 months = 3 months).


The Feast of the Presentation of Mary
The Feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran
The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus
The Feast of the Epiphany
The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord

Yet the only two nativities we celebrate are still Jesus and his cousin John.



I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed that.

If your conceived 6 months apart, then…your born 6 months apart.

To the O.P. I read somewhere (I think it was on Catholic Answers blog actually) that there was an ancient Jewish tradition that said prophets died on the day they were conceived. So the early Christians calculated that Jesus died on March 25th, add nine months to that and you get December 25th. Eastern Christians calculated that Jesus actually died on April 6, which would then make his birth fall on January 6th, when the East celebrates the Nativity.

The reasoning might not be the most solid, but that’s how the date was historically chosen according to what I have read.

This is a liturgical feast date, the Church makes no attempt to assert this is Christ’s actual birth date.

The feast of the nativity was not on the early liturgical feast lists. Regionally, it was celebrated on a variety of days, actually every month of the year in different localities with various dates proposed for a number of reasons-- astrological, historical, scriptural, different calendars, etc. Also Epiphany and Nativity were in some places celebrated as a double feast on Jan 6.

Eventually, theses were split into Dec 25 and Jan 6. The date was set on the universal calendar in the late 300s.

Christmas is also near the Jewish feast of Hanukkah - also called the Festival of Lights or the Dedication of the Temple. Jesus is the light of the word and the light of men, as well as the new temple made without hands. Many of the Christian celebrations have a basis in the yearly Jewish cycle of festivals.

Father Paul Schenck gave an entertaining talk about the Jewish festival cycle and it’s fulfillment in Christ at instituteofcatholicculture.org/feasts-of-the-jews-understanding-the-jewish-festal-cycle-and-its-fulfillment-in-christ/


Because we use a different calendar system now.

The date in December was chosen to help convert Pagans. There was some type of tree worship for them on that date. Since they were already used to having celebration on that date it made it easier for the conversion process.

In Luke’s Gospel, we’re told that the Angel Gabriel came to Mary in the 6th month to ask if she would be the mother of the savior. The Jewish new year falls in September or very early October. Therefore, the Annunciation was most likely in the time of year we now know as the month of March. Therefore, Jesus would have been born 9 months later towards the end of December.

Is it because December was the darkest time of the year??

Though these days, I’m not so sure. January and February are quite colder and colder=darker.

My math was off – sorry.

However, Luke doesn’t say that she was six month pregnant; he says that she was “in her sixth month.” That could have been anything from five months and a day to five months and 28 days, according to the way of reckoning the passage of time in those days.

Here are some links which should prove helpful:



Robertmidwest, you are correct. The day was selected to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the Winter Solstice to celebrate the rebirth of the sun as the days began to lengthen.

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