Why Do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

Why Do We Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

By Larry Plachno

Larry-150x1 blueNon-Christians frequently bring up the question of why Christmas is celebrated on December 25. It is a known fact that Jesus Christ was probably born in the summer and they suggest that Christians took advantage of existing harvest festivals, the date of the winter solstice, or the date honoring the sun god of the ancients. However, there is strong evidence that the day the “star” stood still over Bethlehem and the visit of the Magi with their gifts took place on December 25. Hence, there is ample justification for the celebration of Christmas and the exchange of gifts on December 25. If you give me a few minutes of your time I will try to provide the background on all of this and give you some interesting history as well as information on stars.

Today, when we talk about stars most people think about movie stars or rock stars. It was not always this way. When Christ was born people spent more time looking at the stars in the heavens. There was less pollution in the cities to block the view and the people did not have television, newspapers and cell phones to divert their interest. In those days prior to air conditioning it was not uncommon for people to sleep on their rooftops to get some fresh air and fall asleep watching the stars. Hence, it is not unexpected that stars are mentioned so prominently in the Bible.

Early work on tracking the movement of the stars was done by Tycho Brahe, a Danish astronomer, who is memorialized by having a crater on the moon named after him. His successor was Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a German who became the Imperial Mathematician and Astronomer in Prague. By the early 1600s he had developed the laws of Planetary Motion that we still use today. Kepler did try to recreate the sky at the time of the birth of Christ but was not successful. One reason was he was looking at the wrong dates due to mistaken ideas on the dates for the birth of Christ and the death of King Herod. A second reason was that figuring out the mathematics of planetary motion had to be done manually at that time and was very time consuming.

It was Dionysius Exiguus (470-544), a monk from the area we now call Romania and Bulgaria, who had originally developed the method of numbering years that we still use today. He is remembered for doing substantial translations from Greek to Latin and he also wrote on elementary mathematics. In those days, there was not a calendar in every kitchen and numbering years was very informal. Some countries based years on dynasties or when a leader came to power. The only serious system used by some scholars was called AUC or Ab Urbe Condita (from the founding of the city), based on the founding year of Rome. But, since the Roman civilization was in decline while Christianity was on the rise, Dionysius Exiguus figured out how to start dating years with the birth of Christ. He was not that far off. Continue reading

The Feast of Christmas

The Feast of Christmas

ProLifeCorner-

 Merry Christmas!  Tonight the Church celebrates the Vigil of the Solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Christmas 275xThe Feast of Christmas was initially celebrated in the late fourth century only after Christianity became legal and became the official religion of the Roman Empire! The December 25th date was chosen to counter a popular Roman Pagan holiday.  Scholars speculate that Christ was actually born sometime in mid-March!

The Old Universal Calendar the Church of the saints, before it was revised by Pope Paul VI in 1969, originally celebrated Christmas Eve (12/24) as the feast of Adam and Eve, our first parents! This indicates to us that the Church always did and still does esteem the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, kings, queens, and holy men and women as saints!   By being here tonight should remind us of few things:

  • First, that Christmas must always remain Christmas. I say again, Christmas must always remain Christmas. Despite other secular and religious holidays at this time of year, we must not let Christmas get lost in the “holidays.”
  • Secondly, the Christ child cannot be sidelined by snowmen, Santa’s, elves, reindeers, bells and tinsel. The Nativity scene must always remain central to Christmas.
  • Third, Saint Nicholas is a real saint of the Catholic Church. He was a bishop of great charity toward children and the poor in the fourth century!
  • Fourth, the truths of the birth of Jesus exists within the Gospels. The first Christmas was an act of divine intervention when the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in the womb of Mary. It was a miraculous birth, directly caused by God.
  • Fifth, Angels are not mythical figures but spiritual beings from God who interact with humanity. In the Bible we hear of angels speaking to Mary, Joseph, shepherds and others.
  • Sixth, the sighting of the star and coming of the magi proclaimed the divine revelation that God intended salvation for both Jews and Gentiles through Jesus.
  • Seventh, the Christmas season begins tonight (today) and end on the Feast of the Epiphany! It did not begin the day after Thanksgiving and it does not end the day after Christmas.
  • And lastly, the evils of King Herod foreshadowed the rejection of Christ that would lead to His passion and death, and serves as a reminder that there will always be people in our lives who hate and despise anything to do with Christmas, and so therefore, Christmas must always remain Christmas, and not just a winter holiday shopping season!

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