Sunday, December 19, 2021

A Flyover of Christmas History, Folklore, and Celebrations

Is Christmas based on pagan celebrations? Is there a War On Christmas? Why do we have the decorations we do? What does it even mean to get into the spirit of Christmas? What follows starts 2,000 years ago; meander through the Middle Ages, Puritans, and your local Starbucks; and end up in your heart. I hope you enjoy the journey! 


The date of Jesus’ birth is not known. Dionysius (1st century) is known for doing the historical math and arriving at a birth year around BC 12.[1] Others disagreed.[2] Generally, Jesus’ birth date is now placed around 4 BC, but there is nothing of theological or spiritual significance that hangs on this date. It was not a priority in the early church, and no writer of Scripture saw fit to include a date. 

The early church associated birthday celebrations with the pagan gods.[3] Early Christian writers (Irenaeus, 130–200; Tertullian, 155–240; Origen of Alexandria, 165–264) mocked Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices—a strong indication that Jesus’ birth was not marked with  festivities at that place and time.[4]Origen (c.185-c.254) said it would be wrong to honor Christ in the same way Pharaoh and Herod were honored. Tertullian did not list it as a Christian holiday for sure.

When Jesus’ birthdate was discussed, the date would have been figured out from a tradition that martyrs died on the same date they were conceived. If Jesus died on 14 Nisan (March 25), he was conceived on a March 25, which meant he was born on December 25 if the timing was perfect.

Hippolytus' Commentary on Daniel (AD 200) claimed either March or December 25 as the date for Jesus' birth; Clement thought March 25 as the date of Jesus conception, thus 9 months before his birth and death.[5]

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THE ROMAN INTERLUDE: Did Christians Join A Pagan Holiday?