Why Do Christians Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

Amanda Read, in an article titled “The day the Star stopped: Understanding Christmas,” published in the Washington Times, has an interesting suggestion on the reason Christians observe December 25th as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ and to give gifts to special people.

The following is a brief excerpt from Read’s article:

Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus (ca. A.D. 180 – ca. A.D. 250) is said to have been the first to claim that Jesus was born on the 25th of December. It turns out that Africanus might have had Jesus’ birthday confused with another prominent event in His life – the visit of the Magi, scholars and astronomers from Babylon who likely were intellectual descendents [sic] of the prophet Daniel.

In her article, Read explains how the star guided the Magi to Bethlehem and why Jesus was conceived, not born, in December.

Read presents several arguments to prove her point, but I am not convinced.  To me, her argument is based on too many presuppositions and on what I consider to be a superficial interpretation of the evidence.

However, it is possible that I might be wrong.  If I am, I will be glad to change my mind if I can be convinced that her argument is based on a solid foundation.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

 

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3 Responses to Why Do Christians Celebrate Christmas on December 25?

  1. Ron Lankshear says:

    Very question on which I was seeking clarification. I assume you accept 25 Dec as the day.
    Amanda I read as fixing age difference between the Baptist and Jesus as an exact six months. If Baptist’s birth date is clear then Jesus was born in our September/October per movable Jewish calendar. Amanda says 25 Dec is day the Magi star stopped over the manger in 2 BC.

    hmmmm so she has the year as well but I always thought Magi arrived very soon after the birth – she has a couple of months……….. Is that the pivot – did the Magi arrive promptly so on her evidence Africanus had the right Date……….

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    • Claude Mariottini says:

      Ron,

      Several things about your comment:

      1. I do not think December 25 is the day Jesus was born. I think the evidence shows he was born in the Spring.
      2. It is doubtful that the Magi came to Bethlehem on December 25 (remember that our calendar has changed more than once).
      3. The Magi came several months after Jesus was born. This may be the reason Herod ordered babies 2 years and younger to be killed. Also, Jesus was already in a house when they arrived.
      4. The planetary alignment I think cannot be shown to be accurate (I may be wrong here).

      The fact is that we do not know when Jesus was born. We celebrate the birth of Christ in December following the traditions of early Christians.

      Claude Mariottini

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  2. Ron Lankshear says:

    Thank you Claude. That is clear. Nativity plays lead one to conclusions so your touch of reality about the Magi’s visit is sound…. I like the Christmas quiz that clarifies things such as how many Magi? What is a Manger? etc

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