Why Dec. 25 is Day of Christmas

 Why Dec. 25 is Day of Christmas

Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25? If you search this question online you will find sources that say the only reason for this is because Christians wanted to replace other pagan holidays. But this, actually, is not the primary reason (if it is a reason at all), that Christians began to celebrate the birth of Christ on Dec. 25. Here are three reasons why Christians celebrate Christmas on Dec. 25.

1) The Feast of the Annunciation is March 25: Dec. 25 was decided because of another feast, the Feast of the Annunciation – The Conception of Jesus. Christian writers from the early 200s A.D. claim that Jesus died on Friday, March 25. Thus, the early Christians also saw a poetic connection between commemorating Christ’s death and His conception (the Incarnation) on the same day of March 25. It was later developed that nine months later, Dec. 25, would be the day Christians would commemorate Christ’s birth.

2) The conception of John the Baptist: There is also a tradition of calculating the birth of Christ based on the conception of St. John the Baptist. John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, was a priest who served in the temple at Jerusalem. Zechariah was a priest of the class of Abijah (Luke 1:5). Each class of priests served one week in the temple twice a year. In the Old Testament book of Nehemiah 12:17, we are told that the Abijah class took their turn during the second week of the Jewish month of Tishri (Zichri). On our calendar, that would fall between Sept. 22 and 30. At the Annunciation, Mary was told that Elizabeth, John the Baptist’s Mother, was six months pregnant (Luke 1:36). If John the Baptist was conceived around Sept. 25, this means Jesus was conceived around March 25. Count forward nine more months and you get Dec. 25 as the date for the birth of Jesus Christ.

3) The Christmas Star: Lastly, there are various theories about what exactly was the star of Bethlehem that the Magi followed to find Jesus. One theory has to do with Babylonian Astrology – as the Magi may have been from the Kingdom of Babylon – that the Magi interpreted based on the position of the “King Star” (what we know now to be the planet Jupiter), which a new King was born in the land west of them. Astronomers have figured out that position of the King Star (Jupiter) around the time of Jesus’ birth would have matched that Babylonian interpretation. In fact, they figured out that in December of that time, the King Star would have been in the south, so directly in front of the Magi as they traveled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Another indicator that the Magi may have found the child Jesus around the time of December or January! And so, another reason why we celebrate Christmas and Epiphany during this time!

Merry Christmas!

– Fr. Kevin