Saturnalia

Why Christmas is held on 25th December

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According to popular tradition, Christmas is celebrated on 25 th December to honour the birth of Jesus.  However, no records exist in the Bible or elsewhere to suggest that Jesus was actually born on this date, which raises the important question – why is Christmas celebrated on 25 th December?  In fact, the selection of this date has its root in both Persian and pagan traditions.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia admits "there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ's birth" ( Catholic Encyclopaedia ).  There are, however, a number of reasons to suggest that Jesus was probably not born in December.  Firstly, Luke 2:8 states that on the night of Jesus' birth " there were also in that same country shepherds living out of doors and keeping watches in the night over their flocks."  Many scholars agree that this would have been unlikely in December, as shepherds would have been keeping their flock under cover during the cold winter months. 

Some scholars have stated that shepherds would not watch their flock overnight in December, but would keep them under cover.  ‘The Good Shepherd’ from the early Christian catacomb of Domitilla/Domatilla (Crypt of Lucina, 200-300 CE). ( Wikimedia Commons )

Secondly, it is written in the Bible that Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census (Luke 2:1-4).  However, such censuses were not taken in winter, when temperatures often dropped below freezing and roads were in poor condition.

Pagan celebrations

Since it appears unlikely that Jesus was born on 25th December, it raises the logical question of why Christmas is celebrated on this date. The answer points back to the Romans' pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Two celebrations in particular took place around December 25 - the Saturnalia, and the birthday of the Sun God, Mithra (Catholic Encyclopedia). The Saturnalia festival began on 17 th December and later expanded with festivities through to the 25 th December. It paid tribute to Saturn, the agricultural God of Sowing and Husbandry, and was associated with the renewal of light and the coming of the new year.  The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice in the Temple of Saturn, a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere

The pagan celebration of Saturnalia

The birth of Mithra

Followers of the cult of Mithras, which became popular among the military in the Roman Empire from the 1 st to 4 th centuries AD, are believed to have celebrated his birthday on 25th December, which was the most holy day of the year for many Romans. The worship of the Sun God, Mithra (proto-Indo-Iranian ‘Mitra’), has its origin in Persia, from around the 6 th century BC, and was later adapted into Greek as ‘Mithras’.  The most popular hypothesis is that Roman soldiers encountered this religion during military excursions to Persia.

While it is widely accepted that the Mithraic New Year and the birthday of Mithras was on 25 December and was celebrated on this day as part of the Roman Natalis Invicti festival, others have argued that the Natalis Invicti was a general festival of the sun, and was not specific to the Mysteries of Mithras.  Nevertheless, it is clear that 25 December was an important day for the Romans and revolved around a celebration of the sun.

Mithra divinity statue in Vatican library, old illustration. By unidentified author, published on Magasin Pittoresque, Paris, 1840. Source: BigStockPhoto

Pagan-Christian fusion

When King Constantine converted to Christianity in the fourth century, he had quite a challenge ahead of him with regard to converting an empire full of pagans.  It was therefore decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus on a date that was already sacred according to pagan traditions. So as a compromise with paganism and in an attempt to give the pagan holidays Christian significance, it was simply decided that the birthday of the Sun God would also be the birthday of the Son of God. The Catholic Encyclopaedia quotes an early Christian with saying, "O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born.... Christ should be born".

Featured image: Saturnalia by Antoine Callet ( Wikimedia Commons )

By April Holloway

Comments

In Luke 1:26, the angel Gabriel came to Mary "in the sixth month" (Elul, which is August/September) to announce she was pregnant. She was apparently shocked, so she hadn't missed her monthly visitor, obviously. So, that means Jesus would have been born in ... June. (Or it's all a myth, whatever.)

Jesus was born in September,ancient Jewish calendar began with theSpring Equinox and then you go to the story of the conception of John the Baptist,whom was a cousin of Jesus. If people have trouble reading and understanding the Bible may I suggest the teaching of Pastor Arnold Murry of the Shepherd's
Chapel

As I recall, in Judges and again in Mica, "a young Levite" will lead...Levites are associated with the March-April time frame.  The Chinese in the 5 th Century identified a comet in March-April,a slow moving comet with a swirling startrail..a 'SUI-HSING".  The wiseman travelling from the East would have certainly seen it..and finally..the flocks of sheep were being herded in the Spring there..safe to assume then that Christ was born in early Spring around March-April.  One final point to consider that Hanikkah lasting 8 days is really a Macabbean celebration to honor Sukkost ..which the Macabbeans had missed fighting to capture the Temple.  Sukkot was the most important Jewish Holiday (in that time)..early Christians were hunted by the Romans..so their celbrations were timed to match Hanukkah celebrations masking them from Roman persecution..ergo the early December dating.  It all makes sense..but I'll need another cupof coffee to sort it all out for you. :)

 

The comment in Luke 1:26 re "in the sixth month" is referring NOT to month of the year when Mary became pregnant but 6 months AFTER Elizabeth had become pregnant. Elizabeth became pregnant in the month of June. Therefore Mary became pregnant somewhere in November or December. Therefore she gave birth to Christ September/October. This can be discovered by studying when Zachariah was in the temple. His discourse would have been IN the temple early/mid June.

Luke 1:26 "In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to nazareth....."
Lori misread the scripture. It didn't say in the sixth mont of the year, the angel appeared to Mary when her sister or cousin Elizabeth was six months pregnant.

The scripture gives us a clue of the time when Mary found out she was pregnant but it doesn't specify the month of the year.

Shepherd's in their fields would have brought their flocks in because of the long cold nights???? We are talking about the holy land not in the northern hemisphere.
Again research when Census' were taken by the Roman's cold weather and poor roads do not apply in the holy land.

The holy land is in the northern hemisphere.

The feat of fooling a nation of Pagans could even be performed today, apparently. You should schedule a vacation to the Holy Lands this time of year and just pack shorts and t-shirts.

But its snowing and freezing over there now so it would be the height of stupidity to only take shorts and a Tshirt.

Check your facts... 1st... IT CAN snow in the winter in the Holy Land 2nd sheep DON'T need to be inside in the winter as they have wool this keeps them warm... BUT they would not be lambing in the winter only modern flocks do....

I spent December in Haifa, Israel. It is every bit as cold there as the December I spent in Chicago.

Weather in Bethlehem (Israel) is very similar to Seattle Washington, minus the rain. I have been there and yes December is cold. Even snow at times.

You ever been to the Middle East? It gets way cold at night in the winter. Day time temps average 80 or so, while night time is about 30.

Well....
Partially true, all of this. But there are more than just these three reasons to link the birth of Jebus myth to the solstice.
Romans tried to adapt all superstitions to unify them into one huge superstition. So they took the pagan superstitions of all kinds of peoples they conquered and added them. And, guess what, the solstices has been a very common moment to celebrate for many superstitions.

So they used it as their own feast and later they also hooked it up with the superstitions about some son of a goddie they suddenly favoured.

Inflammatory phrases like "Jebus myth" add nothing to the discussion, and only serve as an ad hominem against your imagined opponents in a discussion.

Thanks - good point. I trust we are beyond that here and looking for answers together.

Ummmm, the majority of you do know the bible is one of the greatest pieces of fiction ever wrote, right??? So it doesn't really matter where the flocken sheep were at night ......

Uhh, no they don't and that's a major problem...

Greatest works of fiction? Have you read it? If it was written today it wouldn't even win third place in a elementary school writing contest. Seriously, just from a literary standpoint, it's just terrible. Almost no character development. I mean, how many people were "begotten" and then you never hear of again. Then there's wives out of nowhere to marry and bear children for several men who were supposedly the only people alive on the planet. For something that's supposed to be written by the creator of the universe it's reads just like something written by a bunch of uneducated sheep herders in the desert.

ummm, they were uneducated...totally illiterate..

Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible was a highly educated man. Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.

Contrary to popular belief, many, many Bible writers were highly educated people.

In the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6 verse 9 it says this about God's laws: and you must write them upon the doorposts of your house and your gates.

Writing was a way of life for many ancient Hebrews.

King Solomon, a Bible writer was by far the most educated man of his day. A Queen from a distant land came to Israel to see if Solomon was as wise as what she had heard. When she visited Solomon, she said " I haven't been told the half of your wisdom; 1st Kings chapter 10.

The Apostle Paul, who wrote several books in the new testament was a highly educated man. He was a trained lawyer, and Pharisee. He studied under the leading Jewish lawyer of Paul's day; Acts 22:3.

My favorite saying that is a delusion is that all the ancient Jews were was goat herders and agrarian people. This is simply not true.

However, what people could exist without agriculture or animals? None. Therefore, just because there was agriculture and animal herding, that doesn't mean the people were stupid.

Also, a judge of the highest court in the land became a Christan; Acts 17:34

Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible was a highly educated man. Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.

Contrary to popular belief, many, many Bible writers were highly educated people.

In the book of Deuteronomy, chapter 6 verse 9 it says this about God's laws: and you must write them upon the doorposts of your house and your gates.

Writing was a way of life for many ancient Hebrews.

King Solomon, a Bible writer was by far the most educated man of his day. A Queen from a distant land came to Israel to see if Solomon was as wise as what she had heard. When she visited Solomon, she said " I haven't been told the half of your wisdom; 1st Kings chapter 10.

The Apostle Paul, who wrote several books in the new testament was a highly educated man. He was a trained lawyer, and Pharisee. He studied under the leading Jewish lawyer of Paul's day; Acts 22:3.

My favorite saying that is a delusion is that all the ancient Jews were was goat herders and agrarian people. This is simply not true.

However, what people could exist without agriculture or animals? None. Therefore, just because there was agriculture and animal herding, that doesn't mean the people were stupid.

Also, a judge of the highest court in the land became a Christan; Acts 17:34

I'm confused. How could totally illiterate people write a work like the Bible?

As a contributor mentioned below, Moses was highly educated, having been raised in the palace of the Pharaoh, but Hebrew literacy dates back much further than that.

Abram, whose name God later changed to Abraham (Genesis 17:5), came from Ur of the Chaldees. The Ebla Tablets, discovered around Ur of the Chaldees and the surrounding area, date back to 2,000 BC and include fragments of business contracts and other legal documents. The name Abram is found frequently in these tablets, probably not referring to the Abram of the Bible but lending credibility to the Biblical account by demonstrating that Abram was a common name in that region at that time.

The idea that the Hebrews were illiterate is the concoction of liberal theologians 150 years ago who never bothered to revise their ideas in light of the discoveries of modern archeology which for the most part supports the accuracy of the Scriptures.

Aw, are you saying this because you don't understand it? You poor thing. Well here, let me try to explain it to you. It will be difficult since some of this stuff is blindingly obvious, though.
Cain's wife: Being the only people on the planet, Cain's wife is essentially his sister. It doesn't say she was born, but do you expect it to mention every birth? It doesn't say he finds his wife in Nod, but simply goes there with her.
Character development: First of all, for the major characters there is plenty of character development. What, do you think every extra in the greatest films gets a backstory? No. And even in the genealogy of Jesus, it mentions a few names like Ruth and Boaz, like Judah and Tamar, like Rahab, and we know those stories. If Abraham, Saul, David, Peter, and Paul don't get character development, I think you're reading it wrong.
And that's *if* it's a work of fiction. Since billions of people in the world believe it's not, then another explanation is that it's just writing things as it happens, leaving out a detail here or there. Lies typically have the most detail. And it wasn't written in a vacuum. Understanding historical context helps.

Which is more possible? A human coming from a human or a human coming from a dust particle. If it takes faith to believe the former, it also takes faith to believe the latter. Then, evolution is just as much a religion as creation. The Bible has withstood time & destruction contrary to popular books even of great philosophers. Many skeptics (Lee Strobel) who tried to disprove the Bible ended up becoming Christians. You can fight God all you want but where will that bring you? Better you try to sincerely seek the Truth before it's too late. May God bless you.

Maybe not "uneducated sheep herders," but certainly not the words of a god.
When one turns to the Bible to evaluate things, one is engaging in circular, tautological reasoning; a nice way to say "Garbage in, garbage out."

Why would you call it fiction?? Archeology is proving that a lot of the events in The Bible in fact did occur.

Sorry, but you must be a shill. Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that has made fakes to try to verify the Bible. That is why it steals others heritages' to try to hide the fact that they have none. Fail

Excellent and informative article, except that Constantine was an emperor rather than a king.

constantine thought of himself to be a god instead of just being a lowly king.

The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop will help any of you to understand the reasons how, why, and by whom. It is much more expansive and precise than this article on Ancient Origins. You're welcome.

Constantine was the king of the Frank's first until he was crowned emperor by the pope in an attempt to reunite the Roman empire

Correction, Chase: Constantine the Great was the Roman Emperor who embraced Christianity in the 300s AD.

The Frankish king whom the Pope crowned Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas 800 AD was Charles the Great, or Charlemagne.

Thank you.

I think all the comments are interesting. Although this isn't exactly my point of view, it is a view I have always been aware of and have thought about. Also, our Homily Christmas Eve was about symbolism.
Blessings.

GERALD205 may I inquire where you get this info? Sounds interesting and worth looking up but I wouldn't know where to start.

appreciate your interest...which facts do you want to explore ?  always good to start with google or wickipedia ..as for Macabee tribe..go to Cathoilc Bible (there were many banned books-like Thecla) In the Catholic Bible, not Jewish Old test or Protestant King James..they have Book of Macabees..describes the whole Temple thing.   Rabbis like to tell children that Judas kept the oil lamp glowing for 8 days (Rabbis acknowledge)nice tale..but unlike today, Sukkot was the big Holiday, not Passover..In Jersusalem the holiday lasted 8 days..Judas and his Army missed it fighting the Assysrians..so when they recaptured the Temple..he  started Hanukkah ..which means to dedicate..it lasted 8 days.

The Romans tolerated the Jews after their rebellion, but not the converts, the Christians..so to hide in plain view, the Christians tied many of their hoildays next to Jewish festivals.  Hanukkah-Christmas, Easter-Passover, etc.

 

hope this helps..

 

Gerald

Thanks for the reply! After doing a quick search I'm curious, was the celebration 8 days prior to the reclaiming of the temple? If so this was an attempt to convert more people and glorify Judas accomplishments? And you mentioned the comet, any idea where I could hear more about this?

there was a comet recorded i believe in the 6th century b.c.e

The actual choice of 25 December is much simpler than any of the theories presented here or elsewhere. You see, Christ is the god of "resurrection." This resurrection supposedly began on the third day after his descent into Hell following his death. Likewise, in the Northern Hemisphere, the Sun descends to it's farthest point southward on 21 or 22 December. It seems to hang in the sky in the same position for three days around this date - hence the name, "solstice."

What does that have to do with celebrating Christ's birth?

Christ descended into Hell - Earth, that is - at his birth, not his death. As proof, I offer the Anno Domini dating system, in which the the years "descend" to his birth and "ascend" afterwards. This change does not occur at his death but at his birth.

It's not rocket science, boys and girls. Pay attention to the symbolism of the fraudulent "religious" freaks who've controlled the game throughout. What they say and what they do are two different things and they will always be opposite.

Scientific proof is unnecessary...Jesus provided us the choice to believe. I choose to believe.

Sorry to say that the author is not conversant with actual historical facts. In fact, Roman celebrations of late December were invented long after Christians started celebrating Jesus' birth. The connection fails again when you understand that the Romans used the Julian calendar, not our Gregorian calendar, and the earliest Christians used the Jewish calendar.

Furthermore, using Kepler's equations the reason for a Dec. 25 Christmas celebration becomes crystal clear: that was the date that the wise men arrived in Bethlehem - which was perhaps as long as two years after Jesus was born. Full explanation here:
http://senseofevents.blogspot.com/2012/12/why-dec-25.html

If you reason with the fact that Jesus was 33 years old on the day he was nailed to the torture stake and count back it was closer to the end of September early October that we can speculate his birth. Along with a few of the other matters that I read in other comments. However; We can estimate when Jesus was born by counting backward from his death on Passover, Nisan 14 in the spring of the year 33 C.E. (John 19:14-16) Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his three-and-a-half-year ministry, so he was born in the early fall of 2 B.C.E.—Luke 3:23.

for many of you here i read the comments seem to be very insighful and well not lead easy by myth or the masses. i use to own and run realmsofmagick.com now i just opened a new site. love to invite many of you espically gerald to the site http://www.historyofmagick.net/ historyofmagick.net hope to see you all at the forum tom

Jesus was born August 21st 7BC.  See Urantia Book.  Also Truthbook.com

angieblackmon's picture

we were never avid church-goers when i was growing up, but i never questioned this date. when i got older and got my hands on some different information, it was thrilling and exciting to learn about....but trying to explain this to a few family members and friends...didn't go over so well...i've really had to learn when and where  to share some of my knowledge.

love, light and blessings

AB

I do not think the bible is entirely a book of fiction. Many stories are probably based onreal happenings. The great flood f.i. and Noah may be a fictional person representing survivors. 

A meteor impact changed over the years to the story of Lot.

 

But why are we discussing the bible here.  

 

This is about Constantin changing the bible to suit him.

Sunny Young

Both accounts of Jesus' birth are fabricated. It is impossible to construct a narrative time line that agrees with both Luke and Matthew. There was no worldwide census and there was no slaughter of the innocents. Why would both birth narratives be inaccurate about all the central facts, and then suddenly get a background fact about shepherds right?
The authors of of all four gospels are unknown. What is know is that none of them were, or even claim to be eyewitnesses. The titles of the Gospel were They were written years later by educated people, hundreds of miles away. No author thought "I'm writing the Bible, I better get this right," they were just collecting folk stories that developed over the decades ("legendary accretion"). Jesus and the disciples were illiterate, and spoke Aramaic.
Anyone who thinks they know the details of Jesus' birth lives in Disneyland. No one knows when Jesus was born. We know that we don't know. Period. Not the Urantia Book, not Pastor Murry from Frogballs, Arkansas, or the Catholic Bible. The date of Jesus' birth is not even important in theology.

What I don't understand: according to christian teachings there's something called the trinity:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity

According to these teachings jesus and god are in a way the same. Now, if jesus is god. And god - in the story of noah - killed millions or even billions of people in the flood, that would make jesus the greatest mass murderer the face of the earth has ever seen!?!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_flood_narrative

Or am I the one that's crazy here?

Merry solstice to everyone! And don't drink and eat to much!

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/jesus_myth_history.htm

What I don't understand: according to christian teachings there's something called the trinity:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity

According to these teachings jesus and god are in a way the same. Now, if jesus is god. And god - in the story of noah - killed millions or even billions of people in the flood, that would make jesus the greatest mass murderer the face of the earth has ever seen!?!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genesis_flood_narrative

Or am I the one that's crazy here?

Merry solstice to everyone! And don't drink and eat to much!

http://www.rationalrevolution.net/articles/jesus_myth_history.htm

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