December 25th: Explained


Evan Welch, Senior Staff Writer

Many different cultures celebrate a winter holiday. Many people know that Christmas is one of these days that religions celebrate.  They celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, whom they believe is the Son of God. However, what many people may not know is why Christmas falls on December 25, and why not all places celebrate the holiday on that date.  

The Roman Empire Constantine was the first person to celebrate the birth of Jesus on the 25th of December. This date was decided around 300 years after Jesus is said to have died.

 There are many theories on why this date was decided. The main reason for the celebration of Christmas falling on December 25th is that it occurs about nine months after Jesus’ mother, Mary, was said to have become pregnant, which happened in springtime according to historical records. 

The winter solstice is on the 21st of December and after that date, the days become longer in the northern hemisphere. Because of this, many Germanic tribes in Northern Europe would celebrate the end of winter. 

At this time, the Roman Empire covered much of Europe and was comprised of many Pagan tribes. Introducing a Christian holiday at the same time as the Pagan celebration of winter solstice would help the Pagans feel more connected to the Roman Empire and help the cause for conversion to Christianity. From December 17th-23rd the Roman Empire would celebrate the Festival of Saturnalia, which was to honor the Roman god Saturn, who was the god of farming. Most Romans were not yet Christians and still believed in Pagan deities. All of these factors contributed to Constantine’s decision to celebrate Christmas on December 25th. 

Christmas is considered a Christian holiday, and December 25th is the day that the birth of Jesus is celebrated by Catholics and most Christian denominations. Most members of the Orthodox Church and Christian Coptics celebrate Christmas on January 7th because they use the Julian calendar to calculate when the date of Jesus’ birth would have occurred, while the U.S. and Great Britain use the Gregorian calendar. 

The differing dates on which different countries and religions all over the world celebrate Christmas is the product of the different calendars they use. The Gregorian calendar is newer than the Julian calendar and was created by Pope Gregory XIII.  January 7th is sometimes referred to as Old Christmas because of this calendar shift that occurred in Western Civilization. 

If you are talking to someone over this winter break about holiday spirit, include a little holiday history to enrich the conversation!