Christmas is a season steeped in age old traditions and long held beliefs. The primary celebration of Christmas for centuries was a simple remembrance of the birth of Christ. Many people are bothered by the fact that Christmas seemingly replaced the celebration of the Winter Solstice. Why did Christmas become the major holiday celebrated in December?
It can be safely assumed that Jesus was not born on December 25th. In fact, it is likely that Jesus was not even born in the winter months. The gospel of Luke records that the shepherds were watching over their flocks at night. The winter months would have been too wet for such work. The winter months bring rain to the region. These nighttime watches would have been in late spring or early summer. This evidence alone shows that a December is unlikely for the date of Christ’s birth.
The celebration of the Christ Mass
One of the celebrations started sometime in the second century was the Christ Mass. The Christ Mass was a special service dedicated to the remembrance of Christ’s birth. The service was usually focused on praising God for sending Christ and His sacrifice. The services would often end on the note of expectation. The Christ Mass also celebrated the second coming of Christ.
The choice of December 25th
The date of December 25 is important for a couple of reasons. First, we must remember that the church and Christianity endured incredible persecution. The persecution made it nearly impossible for any type of public worship or celebrations. One reason that December 25 was chose due to the close proximity of Saturnalia, a pagan festival. The Christians could celebrate the birth of Christ without fear of persecution. This theory may be plausible but is unlikely due to the lack of official celebrations regarding the birth of Jesus.
The second and more likely option is that church leaders wanted counter the celebration of Saturnalia with a Christian celebration. Since there was no official celebration for the birth of Jesus, so they created one. The church desired to have a celebration that honored the birth of Christ. The creation of Christmas was a time to reflect on the birth of Christ and the second coming. The original focus of Christmas was more on the second coming rather than the birth of Christ.
A shift in culture
Another reason that Christmas seemed to replace the celebration of the winter solstice was a dramatic culture shift. The Roman Empire was radically changed when Christianity became a legal religion. The church was empowered by the past persecutions and people saw the faith as something to believe in. The empire saw massive numbers of converts to the Christian faith. With increasing numbers of people coming to the church a change took place. Many stopped celebrating the solstice and started celebrating Christmas.
Christmas has replaced the Winter Solstice for many people and for many different reasons. Celebrating the birth of Christ may not be the purpose for many but the celebration will continue for many different reasons. Be clear that the celebration of Christmas is here to stay.