Is Jesus’ birth day on December 25th or an approximation? How did we come
to this date? Please share your studies on this especially some


I answered this question in an article posted at the web site just a
couple of weeks ago. What I will do is copy the article here:

Is Christmas a Christian Holiday?

Christmas sure has taken a beating lately, seemingly from all
sides. The secularists demand that we say happy holidays instead of Merry
Christmas, while some believers have threatened to boycott a certain large
retail corporation for caving in to political correctness and no longer
mentioning Christmas. When my checkout person said “happy holidays” to me
the other day, I was tempted to retort, “and a Merry Christmas to you
too.” Some Christian groups celebrate Christmas as the highlight of their
religious year, while other, more conservative sects, claim that Christmas
is a pagan holiday which should be shunned by all believers. Who is
right? What is the correct doctrine of Christmas?

The answer is that there is no “correct” answer to this
question. Obviously, Christmas is not mentioned in the Bible, but this
fact can be used by either side. Some would argue that since the Bible
does not prohibit the celebration of the birth of Jesus, we are free to
celebrate it. Others would say that since the celebration of Christmas is
not authorized by the Bible, to do so is to add to God?s word, and is
therefore not biblical. True, it is not biblical, but then neither are
church buildings or Sunday School or ushers or nearly any of the specific
things we do when we gather to worship God. Such traditions are harmless
unless we let them rise to the level of doctrine (Matthew 15:9).
Arguably, some have done exactly that with Christmas. The apostle Paul
seems to answer the question once and for all in Colossians 2:16f in which
he declares that no one should judge anyone else with regard to a
religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath. The judging
should not occur in either direction; pro or con.

So, we are free to celebrate the birth of Jesus if we like, but is it a
good idea to do so? Let us look for just a moment at the history of this
Christian holiday. First of all, there is the issue of the date of the
birth of Jesus. The fact is that we do not know for sure even the general
time of the year of Jesus? birth, never mind the exact day. Scholars
have argued for a late Spring or early Fall date based on the fact that
the shepherds were out in the fields with the sheep. So much for the
debate about the timing. Bottom line, no one knows when Jesus was born.
If we are to celebrate the birthday of the Son of God, someone had to
choose a date. Why was December 25th chosen by the Western churches and
eventually adopted by Rome? (by the way, the Eastern Orthodox churches
celebrate Christmas on January 7th). The evidence is that in the third
century AD or possibly earlier, the leaders of the Christian churches set
the date of December 25th to celebrate the birth of Jesus because this
coincided with the Roman holiday of Saturnalia. Saturnalia is named after
the Roman god Saturn. This holiday was timed to coincide with the turning
of the days at the winter solstice. The birth of a new year was
celebrated not just by the Romans, but by most of the ancient cultures as
the point when the amount of daylight began to increase. It represented a
new beginning?new hope for everyone. Because the Roman holiday Saturnalia
was chosen as the time for the celebration of the birth of Jesus,
opponents have claimed that it is a pagan holiday. This is a spurious
argument. Yes, it is true that the church leaders chose a pagan holiday
as the date, but what kinds of holidays were there to co-opt other than
pagan ones? Obviously, the early church had absolutely no intention of
making this a pagan holiday! Given that they had no idea of the actual
date of Jesus? birth, and given that the Christians already had a holiday
scheduled at this, the slowest time of the year, what better date could
they have chosen?

So we have a traditional date which is neither better nor worse than any
other. One thing we can be sure of is that we are stuck with this date.
For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it just so happens to come at
a time when we really need a celebration of new birth and new hope. What
better time to celebrate the birth of Jesus (assuming that the idea is a
good one in the first place)?

This brings us to the meaning of Christmas. The word is a compound of the
words Christ and mass. Christ comes from the Greek for anointed one. The
Hebrew equivalent word is Messiah. The word mass in the English evolved
from the Anglo-Saxon word maesse, which derived in turn from the Latin
missa, which is a form of the verb mittere, which means “to send.” So, the
meaning of the word Christmas is the sending of the messiah. If we
celebrate Christmas according to the original intent of the Christian
church, we are celebrating the coming of the messiah. If we can put aside
the crass commercialization and all the associated “stuff” which comes
with the Western celebration of Christmas, the heart of the holiday seems
like a pretty good idea, at least to this observer.

What, then, about all the “stuff” that comes with Christmas? What about
the trees, the wreaths, the ornaments, the Yule logs and the holly, the
mistletoe, Santa Claus, Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman? Some of these
have an interesting history. Yes, it is true that many if not most of
these traditions were borrowed from pagan celebrations. What else is
new? What else would we expect? The custom of bringing branches from
evergreen trees into the home during the dark days of winter predates
Christianity and was a reminder that the sun would return, the snow would
melt, and the vegetation cycle would begin again. Some argue against
Christmas trees using Jeremiah 10:2-4; “Do not learn the ways of the
nations or be terrified by the signs in the sky? For the customs of the
peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman
shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they
fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter.” I certainly am
not here to defend the religious significance of the Christmas tree. The
best I can tell there is none! However, unless we are actually
worshipping it as an idol, we are not guilty of violating the command in
Jeremiah 10:2-4.

What about Santa Claus, otherwise known as Saint Nick? Many ancient
cultures had a myth of a magical figure who came once a year to spread
around gifts for the poor and the children. The Christian church adapted
this idea quite early to serve its purposes. The story of “Saint”
Nicholas is interesting. Nicholas was a bishop in Asia(present-day
Turkey). He was born in the mid to late third century, coming from a
wealthy family. Traditions differ, some saying he gave up his social
position, others saying he was orphaned. Either way, he dedicated himself
to preaching, teaching, and spread of the Gospel. He defended the
Christian faith against the heresy of Arias of Alexandria, and eventually
was martyred for his faith. Nicholas was known throughout the churches for
his sacrifice and charity for the sake of others. As the early church
began to make Saints (with a capital S) out of well-known saints, they
began to celebrate a day devoted to Nicholas. Because of his charitable
spirit, and because his day fell in December, he began to be associated
with gift-giving on Christmas
. Santa Claus comes from the Dutch Sinter
Klaas, which comes from Saint Nicholas. The jolly fat man dressed in red
is an invention of nineteenth century British writers, but that is another

What is the “Christian” response to all this stuff? Despite the fact that
most of the traditions which have grown up around the celebration of
Christmas have their roots in pagan traditions, there is nothing
inherently sinful in putting up a wreath or stringing lights or hanging
ornaments. Nothing wrong, that is unless we are also worshipping the
pagan deities with which these were once associated. The Santa Claus
thing is more troubling from a religious point of view, but I would prefer
to leave Santa alone. The blatant materialism, commercialization and
outright greed which is associated with the holiday is another thing
altogether. How are Christian families to emphasize the celebration of
the coming of Jesus without caving in to the selfishness associated with
the holiday? Perhaps those who say the whole thing is from Satan (after
all Santa is Satan respelled) and that Christmas is sinful have a point.
Perhaps, given the fact that celebrating the birth of Jesus is not
biblical, the holiday does more harm than good.

For me, I am not prepared to take that step. I still find Joy to the
World to be one of the most inspiring of Christian songs. Yes, Christmas
can do more harm than good, but if the followers of Christ will make the
effort to bring Christ back into Christmas, to emphasize giving rather
than receiving, to celebrating the coming of the savior into the world,
then maybe we can still save Christmas. The proper response of the
Christian is a matter of opinion, but to accept the status quo without
response is not a wise path. So let us celebrate the season, and let us
“Remember Jesus Christ, descended from David.” (2 Timothy 2:8.

Merry Christmas,

John Oakes

To summarize, the Bible does not tell us the date of the birth of Jesus
Christ, although it is fairly unlikely that it was any time in December.
The date was chosen for practical reasons by church leaders in the second
or third century AD to coincide with an already existing Roman holiday.

J. O

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