08 Sep

The Nativity Sequences Included In The Gospels Of Matthew And Luke Prompted Early Christian Writers To Suggest Various Dates For The Anniversary. Although No Date Is Indicated In The Gospels, Early Christians Connected Jesus To The Sun Through The Use Of Such Phrases As "Sun Of Righteousness."The Romans Marked The Winter Solstice On December 25. The First Recorded Christmas Dresses Was In Rome On December 25, 336. In The 3rd Century, The Date Of The Nativity Was The Subject Of Great Interest. Around Ad 200, Clement Of Alexandria Wrote:

There Are Those Who Have Determined Not Only The Year Of Our Lord's Birth, But Also The Day; And They Say That It Took Place In The 28th Year Of Augustus, And In The 25th Day Of [The Egyptian Month] Pachon [May 20] ... Further, Others Say That He Was Born On The 24th Or 25th Of Pharmuthi [April 20 Or 21].

Various Factors Contributed To The Selection Of December 25 As a Date Of Celebration: It Was The Date Of The Winter Solstice On The Roman Calendar And It Was Nine Months After March 25, The Date Of The Vernal Equinox And a Date Linked To The Conception Of Jesus (Now Annunciation).

Christmas Played a Role In The Arian Controversy Of The Fourth Century. After This Controversy Ran Its Course, The Prominence Of The Holiday Declined For a Few Centuries. The Feast Regained Prominence After 800 When Charlemagne Was Crowned Emperor On Christmas Day. Later During The Protestant Reformation, The Puritans Banned Christmas In England, Associating It With Drunkenness And Other Misbehavior. It Was Restored As a Legal Holiday In England In 1660, But Remained Disreputable In The Minds Of Many People. In The Early 19th Century, Christmas Was Reconceived By Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, And Other Authors As a Holiday Emphasizing Family, Children, Kind-Heartedness, Gift-Giving, And Santa Claus.

Christmas Does Not Appear On The Lists Of Festivals Given By The Early Christian Writers Irenaeus And Tertullian. Origen And Arnobius Both Fault The Pagans For Celebrating Birthdays, Which Suggests That Christmas Was Not Celebrated In Their Time. Arnobius Wrote After Ad 297. The Chronography Of 354 Records That a Christmas Celebration Took Place In Rome In 336.

In The East, The Birth Of Jesus Was Celebrated In Connection With The Epiphany On January 6. This Holiday Was Not Primarily About The Nativity, But Rather The Baptism Of Jesus. Christmas Was Promoted In The East As Part Of The Revival Of Orthodox Christianity That Followed The Death Of The Pro-Arian Emperor Valens At The Battle Of Adrianople In 378. The Feast Was Introduced In Constantinople In 379, In Antioch By John Chrysostom Towards The End Of The Fourth Century, Probably In 388, And In Alexandria In The Following Century.

Mosaic Of Jesus As Christus Sol (Christ The Sun) In Mausoleum M In The Pre-Fourth-Century Necropolis Under St Peter's Basilica In Rome.

December 25 Was The Date Of The Winter Solstice On The Roman Calendar. A Late Fourth-Century Sermon By Saint Augustine Explains Why This Was a Fitting Day To Celebrate Christ's Nativity: "Hence It Is That He Was Born On The Day Which Is The Shortest In Our Earthly Reckoning And From Which Subsequent Days Begin To Increase In Length. He, Therefore, Who Bent Low And Lifted Us Up Chose The Shortest Day, Yet The One Whence Light Begins To Increase."

Linking Jesus To The Sun Was Supported By Various Biblical Passages. Jesus Was Considered To Be The "Sun Of Righteousness" Prophesied By Malachi: "Unto You Shall The Sun Of Righteousness Arise, And Healing Is In His Wings."

Such Solar Symbolism Could Support More Than One Date Of Birth. An Anonymous Work Known As De Pascha Computus (243) Linked The Idea That Creation Began At The Spring Equinox, On March 25, With The Conception Or Birth (The Word Nascor Can Mean Either) Of Jesus On March 28, The Day Of The Creation Of The Sun In The Genesis Account. One Translation Reads: "O The Splendid And Divine Providence Of The Lord, That On That Day, The Very Day, On Which The Sun Was Made, March 28, a Wednesday, Christ Should Be Born.

In The 17th Century, Isaac Newton, Who, Coincidentally, Was Born On December 25, Argued That The Date Of Christmas Elf Cosplay Was Selected To Correspond With The Solstice.

According To Steven Hijmans Of The University Of Alberta, "It Is Cosmic Symbolism ... Which Inspired The Church Leadership In Rome To Elect The Southern Solstice, December 25, As The Birthday Of Christ, And The Northern Solstice As That Of John The Baptist, Supplemented By The Equinoxes As Their Respective Dates Of Conception."

* The email will not be published on the website.