Why is Christmas Celebrated on December 25


By: Prerana Aggarwal

1. Early Christians did not celebrate Christ's birth. However, by the 4th century, the Western Christian Church set the date of Christmas at December 25 to coincide with existing pagan midwinter festivals.

1. The Roman festival of Saturnalia took place in mid-December, celebrating the agricultural god Saturn. Some scholars believe Christmas appropriated the pagan day of revelry.

1. December 25 also coincided with the Roman solar holiday Dies Natalis Solis Invicti - meaning Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. This holiday recognized the sun god Sol Invictus.

1. The date of December 25 may also have been chosen to match a Jewish holiday, Hanukkah, which falls in late December some years. Hanukkah celebrates dedicating the temple in Jerusalem.

1. Additionally, nine months before December 25 is the Feast of Annunciation, commemorating angel Gabriel visiting Mary. This led to setting the birth of Jesus in December.

Some scholars argue that December 25th was chosen to coincide with ancient birthday celebrations for the Persian sun god Mithra, who had popularity in early Roman civilization.

There are mentions of December 25 as a possible date for Jesus' birth by Hippolytus of Rome (170-240) and John Chrysostom (349-407), important early Christian figures.

Spread & Standardization

However, winter marked a fitting symbolic time for celebrations centering around "light coming into the world" as the days start becoming longer.

Setting the Christmas holiday in December ensured it would be celebrated during Roman paganalia, a month-long period of feasting beginning on December 17th.

1. The first recorded observance of December 25th as the official feast day celebrating Christ's birth was in 354 AD in Rome, which set the standard date for future Catholic observances and later most Protestant celebrations.

Secular interpretations connect the setting of Christmas near the winter solstice as a response to earlier religious practices that placed meaning on seasonal changes and cyclical renewal in nature

1. Fixing December 25th as the standard date also resolved numerous calendar issues in early Christianity over when to properly commemorate Jesus' birth, allowing unity rather than disparate local choices.

1. As Christianity spread throughout Europe so did the tradition of Christmas on December 25th, celebrated by Roman Catholics and Protestants and becoming entrenched over time.