Why do we celebrate Christmas in December?

The Nativity of the Mother of God is celebrated on September 8th in the Roman Rite and the Byzantine Rite. :wink: Outside of the nativities of Christ, the Mother of God, and St John the Baptist, no other nativities are celebrated. :slight_smile:

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.

Nope. From this link (emphases mine):

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.

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. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Bible scholars spurred on by the new study of comparative religions latched on to this idea. 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.

Right again. Thanks Z.


I see what you’re saying. Even so, that still leaves the possibility that they were born about six months apart. :shrug:

Especially since, IME, pregnancy isn’t necessarily exactly nine months long. :wink:

I have the answer!
Kepler defined the 3 Laws of Planetary Motion, proving that the planets’ and stars’
positions in the night sky can be plotted with mathematical precision. So, given
the approximate time of Christ’s birth(2 or 3 B.C.) we can view the night skies
at that time! According to research, the exact date that the wisemen arrived in
Bethlehem and found the Christ-child was… Dec 25th!

Here is the logic and defense of the selection according to a blog on CA.:slight_smile:

I thought Dr. Marshall’s article (found here) was excellent! :thumbsup:

The link goes to a page that outlines his reasoning that Dec. 25 is, indeed, the correct date; very interesting reading! I didn’t know he had an e-book as well!

With that line of thought I would say, as pagans became Christians they brought some of their own traditions with them.

The Catholic Church teaches that all religions have truth and beauty and have made it possible for people to bring with them those traditions that don’t conflict with Church teachings.

The Church doesn’t teach that Christ was born in December. We don’t know what month Jesus was born. But it makes sense to Celebrate Christ birth in December. If one follows the yearly celebrations, John the Baptist is teaching repentance the four weeks before Christ was born.

Except that Christians were already celebrating Christmas on December 25 centuries before pagans were converting in droves.

Sorry to come back to this, but we actually celebrate 3 Nativity (Birthday) feasts. On Septemeber 8th the Church Celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin.

I know you have been hit with a rebuttal of this twice already. But I had quoted it and I am too lazy to go back and click on it.

My son, celebrates his birthday with the Nativity of the Blessed Mother. He always tries to attend Mass on that day. He was very disappointed last year, when for us, there was no Mass.

Also, everyone else, remember pregnancy is 40 weeks, not 9 months.

This pops up every year and every year I marvel at so many history “experts” First off, Here is the weather for the next 10 days in bethlehem.
Jan 17th 60
Jan 25th 62

Looks like pretty good weather to be tending flocks.

And the Church does in Her prayers get pretty specific on the birth. How about the St Andrews Christmas Novena.

At a stable at midnight in Bethlehem
In the piercing cold

I don’t know if Christmas is the actual day or not. But it sure could be.:shrug:

If people raise a ruckus about it I usually ask them what the date should be.


I used to read all the discussions and think, “I don’t really care; it doesn’t really matter to me.”

But over the years I’ve noticed it seems to matter to two groups of people: certain christian denominations who are very anti-Catholic and want to accuse the Church of “creating” festivals and holy days; and atheists who want to discredit Christianity and equate it with myths and legends of other cultures.

Honestly, Taylor Marshall’s research and arguments that Jesus was, indeed, born in late December is very compelling and well worth the read including a discussion about the weather in Bethlehem as you pointed out, as well as documenting that we CAN know the date of John the Baptist’s birth and it’s simple math from there. Again, the link is here.

no one knows when Jesus was born, people will tell you that it was too cold, so these Jewish shepperds were suppose to go to Miami. winter temps range from 45-58 not cold at all. but since will tell this and that, but remember these are the same scientist who say we came from monkeys , my bible says GOD created us from the dust of the earth. scientist said pluto was a planet and now its not. if anyone can look back at old newspaper article on the first gulf war, the big stink was going to war on mlk birthday. there was newspaper headlines front cover showed a tank and just off to the side was a sheppard and his flock of sheep. the J/Ws are big on that, because they down play JESUS and don’t worship him as they should. GOD saw fit to have the angel announce his birth, then a multitude to sing and praise GOD for it. He who does not honor the son just as they do the father does not honor the father.


As pro life Catholics we ought to be celebrating the annunciation more heavily than Christmas. The annunciation was the first day of Jesus’ existence on earth, not Christmas.

As it happens, I agree with you; however, neither the Annunciation nor the Nativity was celebrated for several centuries in the early Church. The Crucifixion and Resurrection were where it was at, when thinking of Church Holy-Days.

It has nothing to do with pro-life issues.

The visible manifestation of God was a theme the Jews carried with them throughout their history - the burning bush, the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, the glory cloud in the tabernacle and the temple. These speak of Israel’s longing for God to manifest himself visibly.

  • Moses said, "I pray thee, show me thy glory." And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you my name `The LORD’; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand upon the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.” (Exodus 33:18-23)*

Israel longed to see God, to behold the face of God. Jesus is the fulfillment of that desire.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. (John 1:14)

God was finally visible. Israel finally beheld God’s face.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life - the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us - that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us; and our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3)

This is what we celebrate - Emmanual - God is with us.


Dr. Marshall’s article (found here) gives an earlier date:

The earliest record of this is that Pope Saint Telesphorus (reigned A.D. 126-137) instituted the tradition of Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. Although the Liber Pontificalis does not give us the date of Christmas, it assumes that the Pope was already celebrating Christmas and that a Mass at midnight was added. During this time, we also read the following words of Theophilus (A.D. 115-181), Catholic bishop of Caesarea in Palestine: “We ought to celebrate the birthday of Our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen.”[vi]

Here are another three articles by him

That is, 40 weeks if you are counting from the last menstrual period. From Conception to birth a normal pregnancy is 38 weeks plus or minus two weeks.


Annunciation : Conception

I agree completely.
Mr. Marshall states:
In the Syrian Church, March 25 or the Feast of the Annunciation was seen as one of the most important feasts of the entire year. It denoted the day that God took up his abode in the womb of the Virgin. In fact, if the Annunciation and Good Friday came into conflict on the calendar, the Annunciation trumped it, so important was the day in Syrian tradition.


Your post concerns the question of why do we celebrate Christmas. To that end I offer no disageement.

The Incarnation, on the other hand, is still of extreme importance to the Church, and for its own sake should be PROCLAIMED LOUDLY. It is so Great.


I would not argue that we put more emphasis on celebrating the Annunciation just for Pro-Life. The Solemnity deserves our best in its own right.

However, as a secondary benefit, it would help us in the Pro Life battle to emphasize it more.

What is the biggest justification for CATHOLICS
yes, you read that right as I estimate 40% of Catholics who go Mass every Sunday and receive Holy Communion each week support legalized abortion for when they “need it” ]
when they get an abortion ?

Their mental excuse is, “It is just a blob of tissue. Who knows for sure when a person begins their life.”

What is the best Feast in the Church to clarify that fuzzy [for the pro abortionists I mean] issue of when life begins ?

The Annunciation - Incarnation


Thanks for reading,

Glad you caught that, brother! :thumbsup:

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