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Why do we celebrate Christmas? The history and origin of 25th December as Christmas

As Christmas draws near, so does the year-end, and the entire world illuminates with holiday cheers and a gleeful welcome of the New Year: 2023.

Why do we celebrate Christmas? The history and origin of 25th December as Christmas
Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Christmas is globally associated with presents and cakes. The streets are laced with fairy lights, and the cities sparkle to celebrate Christmas and New Year.

And the most interesting question that gets easily associated with Christmas is its history and origin.

Read the article to know the history and origin of 25th December as Christmas.

Why do we celebrate 25th December as Christmas?

The celebration of Christmas on December 25, is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon.

The most popular response on why we celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December is that the first Christmas occurred when Jesus Christ was born. 

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It is popularly true that Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.

But interestingly, the 25th of December is not the date cited in the Bible as the day of Christ’s birth. 

For a long time, no date or time of the year was mentioned when Mary was said to have given birth to him in Bethlehem. The earliest Christians did not commemorate his birth. In the first two centuries, there was strong opposition to recognizing the birthdays of martyrs. 

The celebration of the 25th of December is a bit of a novel event in Christianity.

The mass celebration on a particular date began as December 25th was the Christianizing of the dies Solis invicti nati ( day of the birth of the unconquered sun). This was a popular holiday in the Roman Empire that celebrated the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun and the casting away of winter.

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And due to the solstice, symbolically marking the rebirth of spring and summer, December 25 had become widely accepted as the date of Jesus’ birth. Christian writers many times made the connection between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son.

The word “Christmas” means “mass on Christ’s day”. The term is of fairly recent origin. The earlier term was Yule which may have derived from the Germanic jōl or the Anglo-Saxon geōl. These referred to the feast of the winter solstice. 

The history and origin of Christmas

Why do we celebrate Christmas? The history and origin of 25th December as Christmas

As mentioned earlier, the date of 25 December as Christmas was not decided upon until hundreds of years later. It is not biblically true that Jesus was born on the 25th of December. 

Many Christians base their calculations of Christ’s birth, on the birth of Jesus’s cousin, John the Baptist. Notably, John was conceived six months before Jesus, and the date is 24th June.

So, doing a reverse calculation leads to December 24th as the birth of Jesus Christ.

Many researchers have speculated a different fact about Christmas.

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According to them, the polytheists during the Roman Empire already held celebrations in December for the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The festival was the fact that days were beginning to get longer.

Similarly, Romans too marked the solstice with Saturnalia, a feast day to celebrate the God Saturn. The feast lasted from 17 to 23 December and involved exchanging presents. The celebration was the Roman pagan solstice or the “birthday of the unconquered sun”. 

In the 4th century AD,  Pope Julius I set the 25th day of December as Christmas. 

It is said that marking the day as the birth of Jesus was an attempt to Christianise the Pagan celebrations.

Soon, in the year 529 AD, Christmas became a civil holiday.

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The origin of Christmas may be jumbled up on its own, but the tradition of feasts and gifts continued. The ideology of celebrating Christmas is to celebrate the beginning: the birth of Christ or the beginning of longer days. This year on Sunday, 25th of December 2022, celebrate Christmas merrily with your family.

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!

Written By

Abira Dutta is an Entertainment content writing intern at Empire Weekly. She was born and brought up in Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. She has completed her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Calcutta and wants to establish her career as a content writer. Writing has always been her passion. She loves to write down the different aspects of life that she comprehends. Something that her love for books, cinema, and photography, made her skillful. She believes that every time she writes something, she learns something. And learning should be a never-ending process. She is a hard-working individual with a keen sense of professionalism.

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