The answer can be easily found in any encyclopaedia. Let’s read together what you can find about the origin of Christmas in the encyclopaedia Britannica:
(from Old English Cristes maesse, "Christ's mass"), Christian festival celebrated on December 25, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. It is also a popular secular holiday.
According to a Roman almanac, the Christian festival of Christmas was celebrated in Rome by AD 336. In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, however, a festival on January 6 commemorated the manifestation of God in both the birth and the baptism of Jesus, except in Jerusalem, where only the birth was celebrated. During the 4th century the celebration of Christ's birth on December 25 was gradually adopted by most Eastern churches. In Jerusalem, opposition to Christmas lasted longer, but it was subsequently accepted. In the Armenian Church, a Christmas on December 25 was never accepted; Christ's birth is celebrated on January 6. After Christmas was established in the East, the baptism of Jesus was celebrated on Epiphany, January 6. In the West, however, Epiphany was the day on which the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus was celebrated.
The reason why Christmas came to be celebrated on December 25 remains uncertain, but most probably the reason is that early Christians wished the date to coincide with the pagan Roman festival marking the "birthday of the unconquered sun" (natalis solis invicti); this festival celebrated the winter solstice, when the days again begin to lengthen and the sun begins to climb higher in the sky. The traditional customs connected with Christmas have accordingly developed from several sources as a result of the coincidence of the celebration of the birth of Christ with the pagan agricultural and solar observances at midwinter.
In the Roman world the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchange of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness. On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor.
To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain, and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, and gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian. Since the European Middle Ages, evergreens, as symbols of survival, have been associated with Christmas. Christmas is traditionally regarded as the festival of the family and of children, under the name of whose patron, Saint Nicholas, or Santa Claus, presents are exchanged in many countries.”
Here is some more information about Christmas in Worldbook encyclopedia:
“The first mention of December 25 as the birth date of Jesus occurred in A.D. 336 in an early Roman calendar. The celebration of this day as Jesus' birth date was probably influenced by pagan (unchristian) festivals held at that time. The ancient Romans held year-end celebrations to honor Saturn, their harvest god; and Mithras, the god of light. Various peoples in northern Europe held festivals in mid-December to celebrate the end of the harvest season.
As part of all these celebrations, the people prepared special foods, decorated their homes with greenery, and joined in singing and gift giving. These customs gradually became part of the Christmas celebration. In the late 300's, Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. By 1100, Christmas had become the most important religious festival in Europe, and Saint Nicholas was a symbol of gift giving in many European countries. During the 1400's and 1500's, many artists painted scenes of the Nativity, the birth of Jesus.
An example of these works appears in the Jesus Christ article in the print version of The World Book Encyclopaedia. The popularity of Christmas grew until the Reformation, a religious movement of the 1500's. This movement gave birth to Protestantism. During the Reformation, many Christians began to consider Christmas a pagan celebration because it included nonreligious customs. During the 1600's, because of these feelings, Christmas was outlawed in England and in parts of the English colonies in America. The old customs of feasting and decorating, however, soon reappeared and blended with the more Christian aspects of the celebration.”
Enlightening, isn’t it?
I believe that it is strictly traditional that we celebrate Jesus' birth on the 25th of December. My reason being that there is no scripture giving the exact date of his birth.
I was doing a study on Easter this year and I think that some of the information that I found will help to answer this question. When studied in depth it is very interesting and sometimes scary what we accept as Christian but in reality is very pagan.
About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to appear in Rome just as they had earlier in Greece. Most notable was the Cybele cult centered on Vatican hill ...Associated with the Cybele cult was that of her lover, Attis ([the older Tammuz). He was a god of ever-reviving vegetation. Born of a "virgin", he died and was reborn annually. During the early church history many Christians and pagans worship there gods at the same time. Wars broke out over the fact as to which god was really the true God. Many church historians believe that the worship of Tammuz was practiced hundreds of years before Christ’s birth and death but slowly over time became part of it.
From History we know that Tammuz was born on Dec. 25th and was killed by a wild boar on what we know today as Easter. His mother, also his grandmother, was considered to be the most beautiful woman of that time. She had deceived the people to believe that her former husband/son, Nimrod, had died and gone to become the Sun god. When the people accepted this she could continue to deceive them. A few years after her husband/son's death she was found to be with child and she again lied to the people and told them that her husband/son had impregnated her through the sun's rays. So she had a virgin birth. The people accepted it as fact and with the merge of Christianity and paganism in the early part of church history many of these pagan beliefs became part of Christianity and we now are really celebrating Tammuz's birth and death and not really Christ's.
As far as Christ's true birth date, many scholars can only guess that it must have happened sometime in Sept because of the shepherds being out in the fields. Israel is a very warm place but even at Christmas time it also is very cold and they receive snow as well. So the shepherds are not out tending their flocks by night.
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In response to your question: I have done much research on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is a chronology of Jesus' Birth and Childhood. The books of Matthew and Luke record different incidents. To harmonize these into exact chronological sequence is not easy.
When Christ was born time was reckoned in the Roman Empire from the founding of the city of Rome. When Christianity became the universal religion over what had been the Roman world., a monk named Dionysius Exiguus, at the request of the Emperior Justinian, made a calendar A.D. 526 reckoning time from the Birth of Christ., to supersede the Roman calendar. Long after the Christian Calendar had replaced the Roman Calendar, it was found that Dionysius had made a mistake in placing the birth of Christ in 753 A.D. from the founding of Rome. It should have been about 749 A.D., or a year or two earlier.
Jesus Birthday is now celebrated on December 25th. There is nothing in the Bible to indicate it. This date first appears as Jesus' birthday in the 4th century, in the West. The Eastern Church the date is January 6th.
We look at the sequence of evidents:
5 B.C. Announcement to Zacharias found in Luke 1:5-25
"....But the angel said fear not Zacharias for thy prayer is heard and they wife Elizabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt bear thee a son and thou shalt call his name John." v13
6 months later Announcement to Mary in Luke 1:26-38
"....in the six month an angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel said unto her and in her Hail thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee.....v26 - 28 And behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus" v.31
3 months later Mary returns to Narareth Luke 1:56
Announcement to Joseph found in Matthew 1:18-24
".....angel approached Joseph telling him to fear not....... to take Mary as his wife......."
Then there was the birth of John the Baptist found in Luke 1: 57-80
4 B.C. note the date, The Birth of Jesus Matthew 1:25
"Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son; and she called his name JESUS."
Then at this time there were the announcements to the Shepherds found in Luke 2: 8-20:
"....And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen as it was told unto them."
8 days later, Jesus' circumcision Luke 2:21
32 days later, Jesus' presentation Luke 2:22-38 ".......according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought Jesus to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord."
3 B.C Visit of Wise-Men, Flight to Egypt, Slaughter of Children all found in Matthew chapter 2:1-18
2 B.C. Return to Nazareth Luke 2:39 ".....And when they had fulfilled and performed all the things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee to their own city Nazareth."
I hope that this was not lengthy but had to share what I thought. I find this great. I think this was my first time ever answering one of your questions. It certainly makes you looked Scripture and learn, and study. :-)
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