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Wednesday, 26 December 2018 14:38

Christmas history Part II: When was Jesus born?

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Christmas history Part II: When was Jesus born? Image from Pixabay

One perspective regarding the birth date of Jesus is that, according to early Christian thought, the Annunciation (when Mary was informed of the impending birth of a “very special” child) occurred on March 25, so the nine-month gestation period would lead to an approximate birth date of Dec. 25.


The fact that Jesus was a Jew is also cited as a possible factor. Specifically, the Jewish “Festival of Lights” (Hanukkah) starts on the 25th of Kislev, the month of the Jewish calendar that roughly coincides with the Julian and Gregorian month of December.

But perhaps the most logical reasoning is simply one of convenience and diplomatic social relations. The winter solstice was held in reverence by western European peoples during the 4th century. The Romans had conquered most of what is now the United Kingdom, but had been struggling in their attempts to fully incorporate the locals into the “Roman way of life.”  It is thought that the ancient pagan festivals (e.g., Saturnalia, Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, etc.) that were already being held in conjunction with the solstice simply provided a convenient opportunity for the Romans to introduce the notion of Christianity to the Anglos, Saxons and other indigenous tribes of what is now Great Britain. It is noted that, throughout this area and Scandinavia at the time of the Roman occupation, the term “Yule” was already applicable to the time of the solstice.  The fact that we continue to associate “Yuletide” with our Christmas lends some semblance of credence to this explanation.

So might there be any viable alternatives to Dec. 25 as the denoted date for Christmas? One idea is that we should celebrate His birth on March 25. The given date of Jesus’ death is the 14th of Nisan in the Jewish calendar and that equates to March 25 in the Julian calendar. Early Christians thought that Christ was crucified on his birthday, thereby rendering the day of his birth to have also been March 25.

 

C.K. Craven

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