Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus’ death.
On December 25, Christians around the world will gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?
A blanket of snow covers the little town of Bethlehem, in Pieter Bruegel’s oil painting from 1566.
Although Jesus’ birth is celebrated every year on December 25, Luke and the other gospel writers offer no hint about the specific time of year he was born.
E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation.
Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.The most loudly touted theory about the origins of the Christmas date(s) is that it was borrowed from pagan celebrations.The Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25.Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals.According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.The Bible offers few clues: Celebrations of Jesus’ Nativity are not mentioned in the Gospels or Acts; the date is not given, not even the time of year.