Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th?
Christmas (compound word of the vernacular Christ + birth) denotes the annual Christian celebration of the birth of Christ and by extension all the holidays from the Nativity to the Epiphany (“Christmas Holidays”). Christmas is celebrated on December 25.
Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th?
The birth of Jesus as a man is presented as one of the most important events in the history of all mankind (Matt. 1:18-23; Luke 2:1-7; Phil. 2:6-7). Ecclesiastical writers during the first centuries after Christ express themselves similarly.
The important Despotic celebration of the birth of Christ in the flesh is a special celebration, which according to Gregory of Nazianzus should not be confused with the birthday of any other person, since on this Birthday we celebrate the unique and unrepeatable fact that “God appeared people by birth”.
The Birthday of the Saviour, in the meaning given by Gregory, i.e. as Theophany, is a celebration “ancient” which was “celebrated until the 4th century, under the more universal epiphany, on January…after the great…feast of the Baptism…the celebration of these two…feasts was based on it, right after the story of the Baptism of Jesus instead of John, according to the Evangelist Luke, ‘and this Jesus was at the beginning of thirty years of age’… The first to be mentioned on the feast of Clement is Alexandreus…”.
“Antiquity” refers to the 3rd century onwards as it is clear that the Church of the first two centuries did not observe any celebration of the birth of Christ.
According to the New Testament accounts, both Jesus Christ and his disciples did not celebrate people’s birthdays, and he specifically asked his followers to observe the memory of his sacrificial death. (Luke 22:19, 20).
Also, the Jews rejected the celebration of birthdays as it was considered a pagan custom and this attitude was also followed by the Christians during the first two centuries of the Christian church.
The timing of the beginning of celebrating the birth of Jesus cannot be done with certainty
In the New Testament it is mentioned that the day of the birth of Jesus was an extremely joyful event for both humans and angelic creatures as the Savior of obedient humanity was born as a human, a joy that in the sacred texts is manifested in hymns.
Thus, for many Christian denominations the celebration of Christmas is par excellence the commemoration of the saving event of Christ’s incarnation.
After all, as far as the Orthodox church is concerned, every institution or habit of its is considered that it cannot function and evolve within its organization if it does not have a New Testament endorsement.
The history of Christmas and why we celebrate it December 25
Close to the time period when the “Savior” of mankind was born, there was no particular interest in the exact determination of the unknown date on which Jesus was born since they considered the fact of the incarnation of the Messiah and the salvation of mankind more important, a fact that is also celebrated during celebration of Christmas in most Christian churches.
The timing of the beginning of celebrating the birth of Jesus cannot be done with certainty.
For some researchers, the first references to the celebration of the birth of Christ (on January 6) are found in the texts of Pope Telesphoros (125-136 AD), elements that are not considered authentic by others, but later interventions.
In other cases, the beginning of celebrating the birth of Christ is generally assumed to be the second or even the third century.
According to some scholars, the celebration of Christmas took place for the first time in Antioch during the 4th century by the Eustathians, a Christian movement that had a direct relationship with the Church of Rome.
The Date December 25th
According to a tradition of the 8th century, in the work On the Birth of Christ to Zacharian the Catholic of Great Armenia by the archbishop of Nicaea John, in the archives of the Church of Rome, there was allegedly a document of Joseph which indicated that Jesus was born on the 9th of the month Sapeth, which corresponds to the 25th of December.
According to the latest research, this work dates back to the end of the 9th century and is considered controversial and illegitimate.
In 386, St. John Chrysostom urged the church of Antioch to agree on December 25 as the day of celebration of the Nativity, and in Rome the Philocalian calendar (354 AD) includes in the date of December 25, opposite the pagan Natalis invicti, i.e.
“birth of the invincible (sun)”, the phrase “VIII kaalitan nattis Christus in Bethleem Iudea”.
During the time of St. Augustine the date of the Nativity was fixed, however Augustine omits it from his list
with the important Christian anniversaries (PL 33.200).
It is considered that a fundamental relationship with the prevalence of this date had not only the manuscript of Josephus, but also the competitor of Christianity sun worship, with the celebration of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, as was its full title (day of the birth of the invincible Sun ).
As said, the first Christians did not celebrate people’s birthdays, probably because of the relationship of birthdays with astrology and divination, pagan customs of the time and perhaps for reasons of distancing themselves from the birthdays of the Roman emperors and other deities that had been customary for centuries to their birthdays are celebrated.
In the 3rd century, with the radical changes brought about in the Church by the sun-loving emperor Constantine, it seems that the objections regarding the celebration of the birthday of Christ-God, according to the model of the celebration of the birthday of the sun god on December 25, were set aside.
Some believe this was because the majority of Christians were now Gentiles (non-Jews), who considered themselves law-abiding Romans for whom birthdays were simply part of their culture.
However, even at the beginning of the 5th century some Christians refused to accept the celebration of Christmas, but without this being a substantial problem based on the teaching of the New Testament.
During the reign of Pope Julius I (336-332), Christmas stopped being celebrated together with Epiphany and December 25 was established as an anniversary
However, it should be taken into account that based on biblical texts and church writers, in no case was the birth of Christ perceived in the same way as the birth of any other person.
After all, most people understood Christianity as fundamentally historical and therefore dynamic and not something static or inert.
Since the structures had changed so dramatically, it was difficult for objections prevailing over the dominance of paganism to continue to prevent the celebration of such an important moment in the history of Christianity.
How much more so when the start of celebrating Christmas was considered not to be contrary to the K.D.
When Christianity now came out of the era of persecution and was called upon to contribute as a reforming and unifying factor of the Roman Empire, it tried to cancel the content of the pagan customs that were popular at the time by turning their content into a Christian one.
Three centuries after the birth of Christ, the evangelization of the Virgin Mary and the birth of Christ were chronologically defined.
Historical sources indicate that the celebration of Christmas began to be celebrated in Rome around 335, although some researchers based on ancient hymns with a Christmas theme believe that the first steps that led to this celebration took place in the 3rd century.
Tradition holds that the earliest Christmas speech was delivered by Basil the Great in Caesarea, Cappadocia in the year 376 AD.
Under Pope Julius I (336-332) Christmas ceased to be celebrated together with Epiphany and December 25th was established as the anniversary following a search of the archives of Rome, as it is believed, on the census taken under the emperor Octavian Augustus, combined with a calculation saying of the Gospel (which he continued) of the Forerunner I said about Christ:
“He sees it increase, but I do not decrease” (John 3:30). Based on this hypothetical source, the Birth of Christ was set at the winter solstice where the days begin to increase.
One of the many interpretations for setting December 25 as the date of celebration refers to Christianity’s desire to deliberately Christianize ancient pagan festivals such as the great national festival of the “invincible” Sun god (Dies Invictis Solis) and the celebration of Mithra’s birthday which were widespread throughout the territory of the Roman empire.
The celebration of this day as the day of the birth of Christ was supposed to contribute to the extinction of important pagan (non-Christian) festivals that were observed at that time, such as the Saturnalia and the Brumalia.
In this way the Christians confirmed the predominance of their faith against the pagan deities, giving a completely new, Christian content to these celebrations:
the Sun of Justice was the Christ of the Old Testament, the “light of the world” (John 8:12) and not the Sun god of the Romans, while the Christian world celebrated with praise (“with me the angelic multitude of the heavenly army praising…glory in the highest God and on earth peace, among men prosperity” Luk. 2:13-14) this joyous event for all (“behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which is all to the people” (Luk. 2:10).
A practical reason that calls into question that Christ was born on December 25 is the fact that what according to the Scriptures the shepherds in Bethlehem had their flocks in the field, when the angel of the Lord announced to them the birth of the Savior. In temperate climates, the winter months are frigid, very cold, and rainy.
For this reason the shepherds with their flocks are not in the countryside, but in their winter quarters.
From the West, the celebration of the Nativity on December 25 passed to the East around 376. Over time, it prevailed throughout the Christian world, except for the Armenian Orthodox Church, which continues the celebration with Epiphany.
In 529 Emperor Justinian banned work and public works during Christmas and declared it a public holiday. By 1100, as the missionaries had spread to the pagan European tribes, all the nations of Europe celebrated Christmas.
However, later, due to the Reformation, their observance was banned or restricted at times in various countries of Europe and America, as it was considered to contain largely pagan elements.