The date of Christmas

Some people today say as a matter of fact that Christians cynically picked December 25 for Christmas to co-opt a pagan sun festival. A minority concludes from this “therefore there is no God,” but that minority draws the same conclusion as readily from alkene reactivity or the parallel postulate. They don’t care any more about geometry than they do about history. But most people aren’t radical atheists or enemies of God, they’re just making conversation, repeating something interesting they heard.

It sounds like the early Christians cared more about the date of Jesus’ conception than in the date of his birth. Some influential writers back in the day thought the world had been created on the vernal equinox 5000 years earlier; that the annunciation was on the vernal equinox and the passover of that year; and that the crucifixion likewise was on the vernal equinox and the passover of that year. They got their date of Jesus birth as March 25 plus nine months. It’s all more complex than that, of course, and it’s an interesting historical puzzle, Hippolytus and the Original Date of Christmas.

The link is from Roger Pearse, who points out we should discuss that dating of Christmas with courtesy, maybe encouraging each other to read more history. About anything is good that leads us to think more about the origin of Christmas.


3 Replies to “The date of Christmas”

  1. Outstanding!

    I can’t find the good site that I had at one point, but about that sun festival:
    (Stolen from Yahoo answers but verifiable.)
    Best Answer – Chosen by Voters

    Misty has the key point. The basic idea behind celebrating Christmas on December 25th goes back to around 200AD. The evidence suggests that the Christmas celebration on 25th started in the area of Rome, Italy before 330AD.

    Now what about this supposed Pagan holiday?
    Saturnalia – Ran from Dec 17th to 23rd at the latest. NEVER lasted until the 25th. Harvest festival.
    Solstice – The Romans did not celebrate any Solstice festival.
    Natalis Invicti – Sun festival which was on December 25th but there is no trace of it before about 300AD – it is not known to be earlier than Christmas.

    These claims can all be checked by looking at Roman calendars (called Fasti). Early Fasti, before 300AD, show no festival on December 25th. (Christianity was forbidden so its festivals don’t appear at all).

    As to Northern European festivals like Yule being the origin, this is simply crazy. Yule was a Viking festival and Christianity did not encounter the Vikings till centuries later.

    1. Not that I know of, though I remember a story about a figure of the French enlightenment, an atheist and a mathematician. He was visiting the Russian court and agreed to debate a theologian. Knowing the theologian knew no math, he wrote some algebra on the board, concluding with “Therefore there is no god.” I had that in mind, along with people who blather on about The Big Bang and the Coming of the Great Singularity.

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