Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25? Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25?
This is a very good question that really has no good answer. You could probably pick any date on the calendar and come up with a valid reasoning of it being Jesus Christ’s birthday. No one knows exactly when Jesus Christ was born. Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth and we have no written record of when this occurred.
The Christmas story comes from the Bible. It tells how the three wise men and the shepherds followed the Star of Bethlehem to the stable where Jesus as born. The custom of exchanging gifts began in memory of the gifts that the shepherds and the wise men brought to the Christ child. Christmas is celebrated in all Christian countries as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Many persons exchange gifts and decorate their homes with holly, mistletoe, and Christmas trees.
The word Christmas comes from the early English phrase Christes Masse, which means Christmas Mass.
For more than 300 years, people celebrated his birth on different days. Clement of Alexandria favored May 20 (c.150-c.215), Hippolytus (c.170-c.236) championed January 2. April 18, 19, May 28, November 17, 20, and March 5 all had backers back in the early days. In A.D. 336, paganism was rampant; Emperor Constantine wanted to change that so he declared Christianity the Roman Empire’s favored religion. In A.D 354, Bishop Liberia of Rome ordered people to celebrate his birth on December 25. This date was probably chosen because the people of Rome already observed this date as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the pagan holiday “the birthday of the sun.” The winter solstice, another pagan holdover was celebrated a few days earlier than the 25th of December -- it actually is the 21st of December, the longest night of the year. So that evening and the next day is celebrated as the birth of the Sun King who returned the light and brought about the end of the cold and darkness. This date made sense to the Roman emperor who wanted to make Christianity the favored religion and to get people to celebrate Christ’s birth; what better way to do it than take over the pagan holiday on that date? As an early theologian said during those years, that we hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.
The Church at Rome deliberately chose December 25 so that Christ’s birth would replace the birthday of the sun. This theory seems probable and the 25th was chosen, not because the 25th was proven to be the actual birth of Christ, but to counteract a very popular pagan holiday. The Orthodox Christians still celebrate Christmas on January 7.
There is no definitive research that has been done to determine the actual date of the birth of Jesus Christ. Many persons believe it occurred during the fall, during the growing seasons at that time but there is no written record of the birth or death of Christ Jesus. We can only speculate on the exact date. What we do know is that the celebration now occurs on December 25th. It appears that a conspiracy can be seen as the Emperor and Bishop decided on the particular date to celebrate Christ’s birth due to the pagan holidays so persons would continue the celebrations they were accustomed to, but hopefully celebrate Christ’s birth and not the birth of the sun.