Christmas on December 25th?

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by Nick the Pilot, Nov 30, 2007.

  1. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Hi everybody!

    I thought I would share a story, as to why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. According to the story, the date was not decided by a birth, but by a committee. It is said they took December 22nd, because it was the Winter Solstice. (The Solstice used to be on that day; it has since been shifted in modern times to December 21st.)

    According to the story, the Winter Solstice (called the darkest day of the year) was chosen to signify the darkest day in the Christian tradition — the day Jesus died. As we all know, Jesus is said to have risen after three days. 22 + 3 = 25. Thus, December 25th was chosen.

    ...according to the story.
     
  2. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    March, June, September, and December 25 were the original dates of the equinoxes and solstices in the calendar as Julius Caesar intended it. But since 365 1/4 days is not exactly the year, the dates drifted backward over the centuries. The spring equinox had shifted to March 21 by the time of the Council of Nicaea, which set the rules for fixing Easter based on that date for the beginning of spring, and that is why when the Gregorian calendar corrected the drift (by Pope Gregory's time, it had moved back to the 11th!) the dates were reset to the 21st, not back to the 25th.
     
  3. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Bob,

    That is an interesting twist to the story. Is it possible Christmas was placed on December 25th, because that was the Solstice at that time?
     
  4. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    What I've always heard was it was to separate those pagans, can't have some bacchanalian festival lasting for days at such a somber time. So they had to choose, and be identified and ostracized, of course today, eat, drink, be merry, gluttony and materialism have won back out.

    Now the Greeks have a different day yes? But still far from Jesus's supposed real birthdate.
     
  5. bob x

    bob x New Member

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    "That is an interesting twist to the story. Is it possible Christmas was placed on December 25th, because that was the Solstice at that time?"
    December 25th was celebrated by the Romans as the birthday of "Sol Invictus" (the sun-god) because it was the traditional date of the solstice; and was also adopted by the Mithraists as the birthday of Mithra (also a sun-god in origin) because in Persia the sun was "reborn" every year on the winter solstice. By the time Christianity became widespread, Dec. 25 was no longer the true solstice, but was still the date of these celebrations, which the Christians decided to co-opt for their own purposes.
     
  6. mee

    mee Interfaith Forums

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    True, some feel inclined to say, "It does not matter about the date, as long as we celebrate his birth." But such persons must still square such a celebration and its many pagan features with the fact that Jesus commanded his followers to commemorate his sacrificial death, not his birth.—Luke 22:29, 20.



    Other fallacies have been built up around the festivities of December 25. Many have assumed that the Magi or astrologers who came bearing gifts were three in number. Do you believe that? The Scriptures leave them unnumbered. It also has been commonly assumed that the astrologers were directed straight to Jesus in Bethlehem. by a star. But the fact is that the star directed them to Jerusalem to King Herod, who wanted to kill the babe, and when they finally arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus was no longer in a manger, as is commonly believed, but he then lived in a house. Read the account yourself in your own copy of the Bible at Matthew chapter 2, verses 1-12.
     
  7. mee

    mee Interfaith Forums

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    In his book The Trouble With Christmas, author Tom Flynn set out conclusions reached after years spent researching Christmas:


    "An enormous number of traditions we now associate with Christmas have their roots in pre-Christian pagan religious traditions. Some of these have social, sexual, or cosmological connotations that might lead educated, culturally sensitive moderns to discard the traditions once they have understood their roots more clearly."—Page 19.


    After presenting a mass of supporting information, Flynn returns to the basic point: "One of the great ironies of Christmas is how little of its content is truly Christian.

    Once we dispose of the pre-Christian elements, most of what remains is post-Christian, rather than authentically Christian, in origin."—Page 155.
     
  8. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    I actually could care less what was of Pagan origin and what wasn't.

    Bad wording the above, I do have an interest in Pagan traditions and have no issues respecting their beliefs.

    But in regards to Christmas, Easter, or any day of the year I think it is the rememberance, not of the event, but that we have another chance to realize the Christ within. From Paul, I die daily, and put the mind in Christ in you. Reminding us that we grow, we need to shed the old skin and try to be better people on a regular basis. Whatever it takes to do that, whatever your method is, it is worthwhile.

    One freaks because of wreaths or trees or bunnies or eggs, so be it, don't have em, don't participate. Others enjoy the fun around it, if it helps, awesome, if not let it go.

    At church we have the kids and adults write letters to G!d at Christmas time. Like our letters to Santa requesting what we want as gifts and how good we been, letters to G!d are to indicate how good we want to be and how we'd like to use the gifts G!d has already provided, Love, Wisdom, Renunciation, Faith, Order, etc. Then the church sends the letter back to us in July, a reminder of our intentions, giving us the rest of the year to catch up.

    Whatever it takes to learn to love your nieghbor is alright with me.
     
  9. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Hi everybody!

    We have reached another winter soltice, so it is time to reflect once again on how the winter solstice affected the 'choosing' of December 25th as the 'big day.' This is especially important for people who are being overwhelmed by the shopping hysteria that christmas has become, as well as bing overwhelmed by a melancholy feeling as christmas approaches -- just remember it was a date decided by a committee many years ago.
     
  10. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Ah, I see 'Old Nick' is making the same old mischief again! ;)

    Thomas
     
  11. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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  12. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    As St. Paul says: "For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity" Romans 1:20

    From the very beginning, Christians understood that God, and specifically the Son, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Logos of God, is the source, the cause and the sustainer of all reality, and that the same God underpins what they saw as 'pagan' festivals ... nor that pagan festivals were necessarily wrong, for if all truth is one, then there will be a correlation between natural religions, and supernatural revelation.

    The pagan sources of Christmas are well attested, but not so well known are the Christian sources that fed into the discussions.

    Clement of Alexandria (d. 215AD) records that some Christians of the time placed his birth date in April (Stromata I:21). Hippolytus (d. 236AD) may have believed that Jesus was born on April 2nd, but there is also evidence he believed Jesus was born on December 25th. What we can assume is that there was no fixed date for the birth Of Jesus in the early Church.

    The current date of the celebration of Christmas took hundreds of years to become established throughout the entire Church.

    One of the reasons for selecting December 25 is from early Christian cosmology. Sextus Julius Africanus (c220AD) speculated that the world was created on March 25th, based on his chronology of Jewish and Christian history. He suggested that Christ was conceived on that date, as with the Incarnation, a new creation began. This would place His birth in December.

    Hippolytus of Rome (c225AD) mentions the date of Christmas as December 25 ("eight days before the kalends of January"), in the Commentary on Daniel. This may be an interpolation, however. The best manuscripts of Hippolytus mention both December 25th and April 2nd as possible dates for the birth of Jesus, although again the latter could refer to his conception, which would then place his birth in December.

    Another reason behind the dating is based on the estimated date of the death of Christ, with some theologians suggesting March 25th. Based on the Jewish idea of the "integral age," that great prophets were conceived on the same date as their death, led them to suggest March 25th (in fact most unlikely).

    Saint John Chrysostom forwarded another idea:
    Luke 1 says Zechariah was performing priestly duty in the Temple when an angel told his wife Elizabeth she would bear John the Baptist. During the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, Mary learned about her conception of Jesus and visited Elizabeth "with haste."

    The 24 classes of Jewish priests served one week in the Temple, and Zechariah was in the eighth class. Calculating from Rabbinical tradition, Zechariah's class would have been serving Oct. 2-9 in 5BC. So Mary's conception visit six months later might have occurred the following March and Jesus' birth nine months afterward.

    Thus, for John Chrysostom, the date of December 25 was based on Scripture and Jewish tradition. While it is possible John was mistaken, this demonstrates that Christians at the time were choosing the dates of feasts based on Scripture, not paganism.

    Another possibility:
    The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary "in the sixth month" (Luke 1:26) of the Jewish year ... February-March. Count nine months for the pregnancy and you come to November/December.

    According to some Church Fathers, Jesus was born during Channukah. Thus Christ was born Festival of Lights. December again.

    So there are multiple reasons why ancient Christians chose December 25th as the date to celebrate the birth of Jesus. And while we may not agree with the reasoning behind the choice of December 25th, the idea that the date is purely pagan is unfounded.

    In the 3rd-4th centuries Christians had been engaged in a propaganda war with pagans since the Emperor Aurelian established the Sol Invictus, the feast of the unconquered Sun, on December 25th. For Christians, Christ is the Son of God, and the Sun of Righteousness (cf Malachi 4:2). In fact, Aurelian may have established the Sol Invictus because of the rising popularity of Christianity, and may have established the date of the Sol Invictus in response to Christian celebrations already occurring that day!

    Since Christians, it's reckoned, accounted for ten percent of the population of Rome at the time, this is not far-fetched in the least.

    As regards Saturnalia, since that festival ended at the latest on December 23, the claim that Christmas was chosen to coincide with Saturnalia is rather weak. However, since the celebration of Saturnalia occurred around Christmas time, it is very possible that this made December 25th, already celebrated by many Christians as Christ's birth because of Jewish and Christian reasons, even more of an ideal date, because it offered an alternative to the popular Saturnalia festival in Rome.

    To pose the question again, "is there anything wrong with Christians borrowing some practices and concepts from pagan festivals?" The Catholic and Orthodox answers are "no."

    Did Christians put an end to pagan customs? No. Did some Saturnalia customs become associated with the Christmas feast because the dates of the festivals were close to one another? Undoubtedly.

    Christians absorbed these customs, looking beyond the forms to their metaphysical significance. Thus, worship of the sun is transposed to the worship of the Sun of Righteousness: Jesus Christ.

    But to suppose that December 25 rests solely, or even mainly, on pagan tradition is demonstrably erroneous.

    Thomas
     
  13. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    I'd say you worked quite hard here to demonstrate what you believe to be true. But we'll have to wait to see how many think your argument to have succeeded.

    For me it falls under 'thou doth protest to much' You do consistently demonstrate that you have some issues and fear surrounding the carpet being yanked out from under you and being left standing on a house of cards. And will go to great lenghths to hold it all together. I find it admirable, but also lacking any independent thought.

    However the day was developed, can we concede that it is wrong? Is there a need to rehash and defend something that we know is mistaken?

    As I indicated a few years ago...to me this is a time of rememberence....rememberance of the birth of the Christ idea within each one of us. A chance to put on the mind of Christ as asked to us by Paul. A time to be thankful for our gifts and abundance and share with others and those in need....not as a day...not as an event....but as a reminder that we are to be like this all year long.

    Let the Christ child be born anew in you this day....let the only begotten be continually begotten....die daily to your old self and awaken your awareness of that spirit within.

    Merry Christmas to all....G!d bless everyone....no exceptions.
     
  14. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

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    Thomas,

    When I was a child, I went to Catholic church and I was told Jesus was born on Dec. 25th. Were the nuns and priests wrong? Did I misunderstand what they were saying? Or does the church say Jesus was born on Dec. 25th?
     
  15. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Hi Wil —
    More thought than Nick's post. I simply get annoyed at Christianity being misrepresented by people who don't know what they're talking about.

    Well, we do not know if it's mistaken, do we? The reality is we, as the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, celebrate the Feast of the Nativity on December 25th, although we are well aware that we cannot be certain of the date. But you cannot say it is 'wrong', because the doctrine does not state the date dogmatically historically, but dogmatically traditionally.

    But there has to be a birth of Christ as the human person of Jesus Christ before there can be a theology of the birth of Christ in each of us, which has been orthodox theology from the earliest days.

    God bless,

    Thomas
     
  16. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Nope, we celebrate His birth on December 25th. He might well have been born on that very day ... who knows?

    I'm not disputing the date. I'm pointing out your ignorance of the development of Christian tradition, to preserve others from making the same ill-informed assumptions.

    Thomas
     
  17. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Yes the theology aside, the rememberance aside...not tossing aside, but yes there had to be a story of Chists birth, however allegorical or metaphorical it is for us to come to our conclusions today.

    But...

    Is there anything? Anything that points to dec 25? everything points away from it. What was the reason they were headed to town in the first place? We have historical records of when that occurred and it wasn't in December.

    Your whole treatise on why it was put on Dec 25.... none of it was reasoned because it was the actual date.

    Perhaps it was to have enough shopping days after thanksgiving?;):D :rolleyes:
     
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    Yes. precisely.

    Yes. Please read my above post.

    No it doesn't ... quite the opposite. Please read my above post.

    But this is not under discussion ... it's the date of Christmas, not where they were. None of the traditional Christian reasoning rests on the idea of the census.

    We don't know the date ... I'm not disputing that ... I'm saying there was a lot more to selecting that date than simply adopting a pagan festival.

    Thomas
     
  19. wil

    wil UNeyeR1

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    Ok with all that I have to back up...

    Are you arguing that not Christ's birth but the celebration of Christs birth was always Dec 25?

    Or are you saying he was born on Dec 25?
     
  20. Thomas

    Thomas Well-Known Member

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    No. As I said above, some traditions posit April ...

    No-one knows when He was born.

    I am saying that whilst His actual birthday is not known, and in the absence of firm data, then based on:
    1: sound esoteric/metaphysical principle;
    2: the little evidence that can be derived from Scripture;
    one could do a lot worse than suggesting the 25th December. There are a number of good reasons to suggest it, and there are no better reasons to suggest another date.

    Thomas
     

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