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The birthday of a Sun God became the birthday of the Son of God.

Why Christmas is Held on December 25th

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According to popular tradition, Christmas is celebrated on December 25th to honor 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 December 25th? In fact, the selection of this date has its root in both Persian and pagan traditions.

Jesus Was Probably Not Born In December

The Catholic Encyclopedia admits “there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ's birth.” 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 in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” 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.

Many 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 AD). (Public Domain)

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.

But Pagan Celebrations Were Happening At That Time

Since it appears unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25th, it raises the logical question of why Christmas is celebrated on this date. The answer points back to pagan celebrations which occurred around the winter solstice. Two celebrations in particular took place around December 25 - Saturnalia and the birthday of the sun god, Mithra.

‘Saturnalia’ by Antoine Callet. (CC0)

The Saturnalia festival began on December 17th and later expanded with festivities through to December 25th. 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, followed by a public banquet and private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere.

It Was Mithra’s Birthday

Followers of the cult of Mithras (Mithra), which became popular among the military in the Roman Empire from the 1st to 4th centuries AD, are believed to have celebrated his birthday on  December 25th, which was the most holy day of the year for many Romans.

Marble carving of the god Mithras slaying a mystic bull. (Reimar / Adobe Stock)

The worship of the sun god, Mithra (proto-Indo-Iranian ‘Mitra’), has its origin in Persia, from around the 6th century BC, and was later adapted into ancient Greece 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 on December 25 were celebrated as part of the Roman Natalis Invicti festival, some scholars 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 December 25 was an important day for the Romans and it revolved around a celebration of the sun.

Dedication made by a priest of Jupiter Dolichenus on behalf of the well-being (salus) of the emperors, to Sol Invictus and the Genius of the military unit equites singulares Augusti. (Public Domain)

The Pagan-Christian Fusion, Why We Celebrate Christmas on December 25

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 Encyclopedia quotes an early Christian as saying, “O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born.... Christ should be born.”

Top Image: The birthday of a Sun God became the birthday of the Son of God. Source: Renáta Sedmáková /Adobe Stock

By Joanna Gillan

Updated on December 25, 2020.



The problem with this well known trope about Christmas replacing pagain fesitivals is it isn’t supported by history. It didn’t appear in historical records until about the 12th century and didn’t become popular until the 19th century. In all probability it was more related to the idea that Jesus was conceived on March 25th, and therefore, born nine months later. There ARE suggestions of this from the 3rd century.

Michael Cavalier

Jean-Luc Poisson's picture

In these times, all gods had birthday at the end of the year, plus one god for the first day of the year. That goes back to some Egypt myth. The problem is now that the calendars were not standardised, which make is a bit complicated.

Hi All,

I'll address this Topic, first, okay here it goes, I was young when I learned of The History of Christmas; which was then followed by the History of a Man named Santa Claus, all on PBS, I watched with my mother.

The documentary gave us a different take on the Holiday; in addition to we felt like we were being called to a different Church Faith and historically they didn't observe The Christmas Holiday to their perspective (The Faith observes The Old Testament a lot), it Compromised The worship of Christ spoken by Jesus in Revelation through The Seven Churches.

This Church has kept this time ordered tradition by not observing Christmas but, it has started to Modernize a bit by allowing the hanging of Hollies, Wreaths, an Trees in The Church so essentially I feel as though now they're observing Christmas.

Personally I feel as though The Church should Celebrate Hanukkah because the Holiday itself might not be built on top of multiplicity of Pagan Holidays that conflict, with how one worships God of The Holy Bible.

This is especially pertinent due to the 1st Commandment (Exodus chapter 20; Deuteronomy: chapter 5) Thou Shalt Not Have Any Other gods before Me.

The whole point of The Bible is that it's a Book of Faith; something we bring with us to our various Bible Studies and Houses of Faith, so we who Believe can Worship God.

The Second Topic I wish to address is Christ Birth which leaves me with a question how is The Hebrew Calendar structured?

Why I ask is because I remember this one time watching The History Channel and unfortunately, I don't recall what Topic was being studied on The Documentary; I just know that they discussed The Aztec & Mayan Calendar, The Chinese Calendar, why they even mentioned the mystery mystic Merlin observing a specific Calendar mirrored like that of The Aztecs, The Mayans, The Chinese and of course The Hebrew Calendar.

Although, the Timeline in The Bible; for when Christ was even born is seemingly absent, it appears we find out when Did Augustus edict go out that The Whole Roman Empire; Be Taxed, then calculate somehow; when The Message is brought to The Holy Land in the days of King Herod the Great sitting on the Throne.

I had mistakenly left a key ingredient out of the Gospel of Luke.

John the Baptist.

After, Gabriel informed Mary she was chosen by God to be the Saviours Mother he then to quell her fears informs her about Elizabeth who is her Cousin that in her Age reflected of the matriarch Sarah mother of Isaac, she too was pregnant.

Since Zacherias and Elizabeth was her Cousin this told me She was probably a Levite whereas Mary's betrothed Joseph who was of The Family of David (as outlined in The Genealogy of Jesus in Matthew), was apart of the Tribe Judah.

Going back to my figuring Jesus birth out still left me with a headache by the way Luke says Mary went and Visited with her Cousin Elizabeth, who she stayed with up until it neared the Time for Elizabeth to give birth too John.

I'm thinking Mary left John's parents when Elizabeth was at least, 8 or 9 month's into the pregnancy.

About that time after Joseph is reassured through A Dream from God to marry his betrothed that's when Augustus decree for The Whole World to be Taxed.

All one has to do now is to try using The Hebrew Calendar figure in when Augustus decree goes out an which month of the Calendar that Joseph and Mary would of arrived in Bethlehem.

The exact moment would have to be corroborated with Gabriel's Joyous announcement to the Shepherd's in The same Town of Christ Birth. I know people out there wonder why Gabriel approached The Shepherds an no one else.

David was a Shepherd he was in charge of the families flock in the hills of Bethlehem, but going all the way back with Gabriel's reasoning probably because of Abel the first Shepherd on Earth.

Predictably the Shepherd's did exactly what The observing Angels wanted spread the News of The Saviour arrival but, given the context and the state that The Holy Land was in not just with Herod and the occupation of The Romans but, other issues were going on behind the scenes.

Interesting in Matthew Gabriel doesn't go to the Magi and announce The Birth instead the sign from Heaven becomes The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi sees it as a sign from the gods something important was happening that affected humanity in someway.

Which is why these Magi arrive in Jerusalem and announces Christ Birth to Israel.

Oddly it should be a joyous announcement but, for the statement in the Scriptures "And All of Jerusalem was worried" not the Happy occasion one is expecting.

I will say that as long the Star of Bethlehem was seen by so few a people; it sure seemed to beam forth for a long time before eventually it vanished.

This is why I say trying to pin point what month to exact moment of The Saviours Birth was such a headache for me is left taking into account each event in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew is so difficult for me I'm sure someone else could possibly calculate Time of Christ Birth and what Month was He born in The Hebrew Calendar?

Happy Holidays everybody whichever one is being observed so until next time Everyone, Goodbye!

We are told in the Bible, as it describes what we know as how we celebrate what is now known as Christmas, in Jeremias or Jeremiah - depending on one's version of the Bible - 10:1-11 how we are to deal with the observation of the celebration.

The notion that shepherds wouldn't be in the fields during December is false. This has been discounted many times and a trip to Israel during the 'cold winter months' ' would show otherwise. Interesting read though!


Joanna Gillan's picture


Joanna Gillan is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. 

Joanna completed a Bachelor of Science (Psychology) degree in Australia and published research in the field of Educational Psychology. She has a rich and varied career, ranging from teaching... Read More

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