The Silly Season is here! A time of nativity scenes, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, reindeer and presents. Whether you say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays the festive season is unavoidable. Most of us know the basics of the Christmas story, but where did all these other Christmas traditions come from?
There are no dates for Jesus’ birth recorded in the Bible and very few clues as to the season. So it’s really not known when He was born. However, in the early third century Clement of Alexandria (a Christian teacher in Egypt) announced several possible dates for the famous birth, though none of these included the 25th December.
Clement writes: “There are those who have determined not only the year of our Lord’s birth, but also the day; and they say that it took place in the 28th year of Augustus, and in the 25th day of Pachon.” (The Egyptian month, equating to May 20 in our calendar).
It was around 350 CE that Pope Julius decided on the 25th December for Christmas. The reason for this date is attributed to the adoption of previous pagan celebrations, such as the winter solstice and the Roman Festival of Saturnalia. Celebrations were already common at this time of the year. Therefore it was easy to replace the pagan traditions with Christian traditions.
Another theory suggests people believed Jesus was conceived on the same day that he died, supposedly the 25th April. Exactly 9 months before 25th December.