Was Christ really born on 25th of December? What does the Holy Bible say on Christ's birth? What does pagan customs and traditions has to do with the celebration of birthday of Christ? Read on... here are the interesting facts dug out from the pages of ancient history.
Let history say whatever it has to say. But one thing is true. Jesus Christ was born. Doesn't mind the date and time. This article is only written from the point of academic interest. Treat it thus and correct me if I am wrong.
The Birth of Christ
"... behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be unto all people. For unto you is born this day... a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2: 10 & 11.
Its indeed good news that Christ the Lord, "... died for our sins... and buried; and rose again on the third day... " I Corinthians 15: 3 & 4. So that whosoever believeth on Him should have everlasting life... " John 3: 36.
What isn't good news is that the way the Christmas - supposed to be birthday of Lord Jesus Christ - is being celebrated. It has become a ritualistic festival with many pagan (non-Christian) customs being observed as a tradition on that day, thereby diluting the very essence of Christ's birth and His mission on this earth. I Peter 2: 24; Colossians 1: 14; and Isaiah 53: 5 & 6.
Even the ardent believer whose faith in the Word of God is unshakable seems to have fallen victim to the ritualistic celebrations, which is indeed abhorrence to Lord God.
For Christmas does not mean the birth of Christ. The word is made up of Christ + Mass which means Christ's Mass. The Mass is a much-sanctified religious service of the Roman Catholic Church, the performance of the sacrament of the Eucharist, i.e. ceremony performing Lord's Supper. And Mass is a Latin Word meaning dismiss.
Further, there is no precedence in the Bible where Christ's birth was celebrated. But the Lord did ask His people to remember His death. Luke 22: 19 & 20; and I Corinthians 11: 24 to 26.
No one can dispute the fact about Christ's birth. But it was definitely not on 25th December as believed by Christians throughout the world.
The Possible Scriptural Evidence
There is possible evidence to believe that Christ was born during the Feast of Tabernacles, which falls in the intervening months of September\October. Of course, one only has to study the Scriptures diligently and relate all the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus Christ and place all the feasts of the Lord in proper perspective in relationship to the Savior, (like Passover is related to His crucifixion and First fruits to His resurrection etc.) and interpret it correctly in the light of the Gospels.
Well, as of December and 25th; it is written in Luke 2: 8 to 11 that... shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night were told by the Angels of the Lord about Christ's birth. But this incident couldn't have happened in December. In Judea, at that time December was cold and at that a rainy season, which is most unlikely that shepherds were out in the field by night.
Also in verse 1 of the same chapter Luke says, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that the entire world should be taxed or registered for census purposes; and in subsequent verses 3 to 6, "all went to be taxed... Joseph also went up... to be taxed with Mary. This incident also cannot be traced to the month of December because middle of the winter was not fitting for such a business, especially for women with child, and children to travel in those days.
Even Christ has warned his disciples. "But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter." Mathew 24: 20. If winter was so bad (like hell) even to flee, then it was certainly not fit time for shepherds to be in the fields nor for women and children to travel.
Thus in the light of this argument we could well say, that Christ's birth and the occurrences of the events in Luke Chapter 2, could not have taken place during winter or more precisely in the month of December as was believed by Christians throughout the world.
Then how come December 25th has come into wide acceptance as the day of the birth of Christ?
The Significance of December 25th
To get at the root of this, one should go back to the ancient times and have a look at their customs and traditions that has unique relationship with the day of 25th December.
* December 25th was the day on which was celebrated the accouchement of the Queen of Heaven, the celestial Virgin, and the birth of her child, the sun-god.
* The Savior of Greeks, Bacchus or Dionysus was born of a Virgin on the 25th of December.
* So was Hercules. Isis, the Egyptians' Virgin Queen of Heaven delivered the child called Horus towards the end of December [probably 25th December].
* The Egyptians apart from worshiping the Virgin Mother, they also to the congregation exhibited the effigy of her babe lying in a manger, a custom that is very much in practice even today in churches and homes throughout the Christian world.
* In Rome, the day of winter solstice December 25th was celebrated as the birthday of the unconquered Sun; and it was the birthday of Mithra, the Persian sun-god, whose worship spread far and wide in the Roman Empire.
* Even in Hinduism, from time immemorial and to this day, Sun is worshiped as God. Yet Hinduism did not influence in fixing the Birth of Christ like other customs of the nations across Europe and West Asia did.
* In Rome, there was another festival called Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of seed-time and harvest. This festival was celebrated with much gaiety and revelry for a week-long period during the end of December at winter solstice. It was just a kind of Christmas.
* The ancient Germans, Britons and Saxons burnt the Yule (Yule is the Chaldea name for an 'infant' or 'little child') log and banqueted at the winter solstice. Their bonfire symbolically represented the sun god's regeneration as he returned from his winter-home. Thus Christians of that time thought it fit to celebrate the birth of Christ on that day as burning of Yule log supposed to represent the Light of life.
* During the reign of Constantine the Emperor of Rome, the Church at Rome under Bishop Liberius, around 320 A D or 354 A D assigned and fixed December 25th as the day of celebration of Christmas.
December 25th was Fixed as Christ's Birthday
Thus by the end of the 4th century the whole of the Christian world was celebrating Christmas on 25th of December.
This is how the day of Mithraic feast of sun god; festival of Saturnalia; and the Yuletide feast; including the veneration of the Queen of Heaven followed by celebration in Egypt, Greek and other parts of the world under Roman Empire strongly influenced the day of Christ's birth, which came to be the 25th of December.
But not all fell in line and upright men like Tertullian (230 A D) protested and lamented. They blamed the Disciples of Christ in this respect and demanded they keep themselves away from world's idolatrous corruption. They couldn't stem the tide and gradually the church was submerged under pagan superstition.
John Chrysostom, an Antioch born zealous pastor and archbishop of Constantinople writing in Antioch about 380 A D says, "The birth of our Lord was unknown on the very borders of the Holy Land where He was born; but was made known in all the European regions of the west, from Thrace even to Spain... "
It is quite clear from the above statement that in those days itself the birth of Christ was unknown in a land where He was born.
Finally December 25th was Accepted as Christ's Birthday
By the turn of the 4th century, Christians began defending the celebration of Christmas on 25th December on the ground that it got an opportunity to turn the people away from pagan traditions to that of worshiping the Christ as Lord God and Savior.
To this effect, there went out an official decree to all to observe the festival of Christmas on 25th of December, for it gave them, they believed, a chance to put Jesus Christ, the "Sun of Righteousness" ( Malachi 4: 2 ) in peoples' hearts in place of the sun god Mithra. Yes, David also proclaimed in his Psalms 84:11 as "For the LORD God is a sun and shield... "
Thus, gradually by the year 450 A D and to this day, the 25th of December came to be observed as Christmas, the birth of Christ, throughout the Christian world.