In my last post, we briefly explored the history of Christmas and the way the holiday was celebrated before the Church instituted December 25 as the day to celebrate Jesus’s birth.
This time, I would like to discuss the actual birth of Jesus and why December 25 was chosen for this blessed celebration.
When we look at the passages in the New Testament, we notice that during the time that Jesus was born, there was a census called and all Israelites had to return to their native home city. For Joseph and Mary, that city was Bethlehem, since they were both of the house of David (more on that in a future post). And so, they traveled, Mary 9 months pregnant with her Son, who would be named Jesus.
Discovering that there was no room in any of the homes in Bethlehem, they were able to stay in the stable of a well-to-do Jewish man who was generous enough man to give them a place to stay for the night. During the night, Mary gave birth to her Son, Jesus.
The Scriptures tell us that nearby in some fields, there were shepherds watching their flocks. Suddenly, angels appeared in the sky, told them about Jesus’s birth and where to find Him. So the shepherds made their trip and found the baby Jesus.
For a long time, this story never bothered me. It was an ancient time. It would make sense for people to travel to their home city for a census and for shepherds to be in a field at night with their sheep. However, after some research, I found something that made me think: December is part of the rainy season in Israel (Ezra 10:9-13; Song of Solomon 2:11)! Well then, if there was a strong chance of rain at night, why would the shepherds be out with their sheep? That’s just it. They wouldn’t be.
During the rainy season, the people would have been in and the sheep would have been kept in stables or barns throughout the night instead of out in an open field. It was only during the summer, sometime between Passover, in the early Spring, and the first rain, which occurred sometime during the months of October and November.
What does this mean? It means that Jesus was not born in December or during the winter season at all! He was born during the summer months, probably sometime in September, though no one knows for sure since there are no historical records of Augustus’ census at the birth of Jesus (it could have been a census for taxation purposes, which was common for non-Romans during that time and would not have been recorded).
If Jesus was not born in December, why was December 25 chosen as the date of celebration?
There are a few possibilities for this decision:
1. Since Christians were being persecuted for their beliefs, they would have chosen this time as a disguise to celebrate. They would have used the celebrations of Saturnalia and the birth of Mithra in order to keep people from noticing.
2. They may have chosen this time in order to make their celebration more easily acceptable to those around them. It would have been hard for the people around to accept something completely new, so they may have used this time to make the transition more comfortable for those who were new to the Church by replacing an old feast with a new one.
Christmas being decreed officially during this time did not occur until 336 AD by Emperor Constantine.
American Christmas as we know it, as mentioned in an earlier post, was not in its current form until the 1800s. Before then, Christmas was outlawed because the Puritans felt that Christmas was filled with decadence and wanted to rid the American Church of all decadence. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings.
After the American Revolution, English customs, including holidays such as Christmas, fell out of favor and use. Christmas was not declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
What’s your point?
My point is this: Christmas is not a Christian holiday. It was not even a holiday in America until the 1800s. Before that, and even now, it was a mix-match celebration with customs and traditions stolen from other cultures.
I want us all to be aware of what Christmas was and how it came to be. I want us to challenge widely accepted traditions and do our own research and maybe, just maybe, we can get back to the roots of our lives and purity.
I love Christmas. It is a great time with friends and family and I get to catch with people I only get to see once a year.
However, in light if the mass plastering of “Keep Christ in Christmas” and “The Most Important part of Christmas is the first 6 letters”, I felt it was necessary for us to explore the historical Winter festivals.
And so, this is Christmas. And what do you think?