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The Dates of Christmas
Why do We Celebrate the Birth of Jesus in December?
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
The New Calendar and the Celebrations
If the Christian Era (i.e., the numbering of B.C. and A.D. years) was artificially made to coincide with the birth of Jesus,why is his birthday December 25?  (And I know that he was probably born in September, by the time of the Feast of Trumpets).  Why not make his birthday the first of the year?
The date was not set with reference to the actual time of year when the birth was thought to have taken place.  This would be a goal or representation coming out of our modern "factual" concept of history.  The primary focus in those days would have been celebration, remembrance or proclamation, not calendar convergence.

Rather, the goal was to represent its meaning in the cultural life, or rather to make the message prominent in a pagan society as a basis of proclamation.  This decision would be consistent with what is called today "contextualization," to make a statement in the prevailing cultural context.

This time of year saw several major cultural celebrations in the traditional religions of several European peoples – the Roman Saturnalia being the most prominent – so the Christians used this opportunity to communicate their message.  Thus the celebration of the birth of Christ was organized as an alternative to the pagan celebrations, and grew to be a major focus for the whole early Christian church apparently, since this is still about the time when all the world communions of Christian faith celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Christ Mass:  Focus on the Birth
The name, Christ mass, developed later, in the early Middle Ages, as the church grew more formal and the general worship focused on the "mass," that is a celebration of the death of Jesus on the cross.  So the Christ Mass was a worship focus on the birth, while weekly worship and other special days were focussed on other themes.

Have a meaningful celebration of the coming, rather than the date.

Also related:
The Dates of Christmas: The New Calendar and the Celebrations
Holy Evening, Fall Festival and Celtic Celebrations, Some Thoughts
When Did the Millennium End?
Y2K and Christianity


Originally written 1999
Page last edited 5 January 2014

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD

Copyright © Orville Boyd Jenkins 1999, 2004
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

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