Many families gather for dinner on December 24 to commemorate the birth of Jesus, which is believed to have occurred on December 25. But is this the actual day Jesus was born?
Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25 if Jesus was born on another day?
The story of Jesus’ birth is mentioned in two of the four gospels considered canonical. The Gospels of John and Mark do not mention the birth of Jesus; Mark is believed to be the earliest. The Gospels of Luke and Matthew contain this information.
The words of the Bible
However, the year, month, or day of Jesus’ supposed birth in Bethlehem is not mentioned in any of these gospels. He was born when Octavian was the Roman emperor, according to Luke, and Herod was the ruler of Palestine, according to Matthew.
Moreover, it is very likely that Jesus was born in Nazareth and not in Bethlehem. Why?
The Jews then used the name of the father or the place of his birth to identify their children. Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus of Bethlehem, is the name of Mary’s son.
What justifies celebrating Christmas on December 25?
To replace the cults of paganism.
The feast of the Nativity of Christ, celebrated by the Church of Rome in 336 AD, is described in a Roman almanac, which contains the oldest surviving documentation of a Christmas celebration.
Pagan holidays marking the winter solstice
Most researchers agree that Christmas began as a Christian replacement for pagan winter solstice celebrations, although the exact reason it was celebrated on December 25 remains somewhat obscure.
In the early 4th century, as Christianity began to spread throughout the Roman Empire, church leaders had to contend with Natalis Solis Invicti, a widespread pagan holiday celebrating the “birth of the unconquered sun.” The winter solstice is known by this name in Roman culture.
Every winter, the Romans celebrated Saturnalia to pay homage to Saturn, the god of agriculture. In honor of the beginning of the new solar cycle, this festival began on April 17 and usually ended around December 25 with the celebration of the winter solstice.
This feast was a time of joy in which gifts were given and received. At the same time, some of the most significant rituals of the cult of the ancient Persian god of light, Mithraism, were observed during the winter solstice.
Church leaders went to great lengths to appropriate the winter solstice when Constantine I converted to Christianity in 312 to facilitate a more organic conversion of the population of the Roman Empire.
They had the idea that they could claim that Jesus was born on December 25 to achieve this. The Virgin could have given birth to Jesus perfectly well in late December, on the day of the winter solstice, having been conceived by the Holy Spirit on the vernal equinox.
Commemoration of the birth of Jesus
The celebration of the birth of Jesus thus spread from Rome to other Christian churches in the West and East. As a result, most Christians began to celebrate Christmas on December 25 in a relatively short period.
Later, other winter solstice rituals, such as the lighting of the Yule log and the evergreen decorations of the Germanic tribes, were added to the Roman celebration of Christmas.
So when was Jesus born?
It is essential to emphasize that no one is certain of the exact date of Jesus’ birth.
Based in part on the biblical account of Herod the Great, some scholars believe that he was born between 6 and 4 BC.
Herod supposedly ordered the execution of all children under the age of two living in the vicinity of Bethlehem shortly before his death, which is thought to have occurred in 4 B.C., to kill Jesus.
As to the actual year of Herod’s death, historians do not agree. Moreover, there is no evidence of the terrible mass infanticide, so it could simply be a myth.
The Star of Bethlehem
Other scholars have attempted to relate the so-called “Star of Bethlehem,” which supposedly heralded the birth of Jesus, to actual astronomical events to determine the year of Jesus’ birth.
For example, astronomer Colin Humphreys proposed in a 1991 paper that the fabled star was a slow-moving comet that Chinese observers had observed in 5 BC.
Some other astronomers believed that Venus and Jupiter collided to create a bright light in the sky that was the Star of Bethlehem. Dave Reneke discovered through the use of computer simulations that this unusual event took place on June 17, 2 BC.
Jupiter and Saturn
Others have theorized that Jesus was born in autumn because of a similar conjunction-that of Saturn and Jupiter-occurred in October 7 BC.
The biblical account of shepherds tending their flocks in the field on the night of Jesus’ birth-something they would have done in spring, not winter-has led some theologians to hypothesize that Jesus was born in spring.
What seems obvious to us is that Christmas has evolved from its original meaning and that many people now associate it with a time of peace and closeness to their loved ones, something fundamental after all.