19 December 2010

Dating Christmas

It has often been asserted by pagan historians and even widely believed by Christians that the holiday of Christmas originated as an attempt to Christianize a pagan Roman holiday. This is similar to other myths concerning the origins of such Christian holidays as Easter and Halloween. (I specifically dealt with the myth of the supposed pagan origin of Halloween here.)

For a few years, I've been sending people to this article for an alternative take on the origin of the December 25 Christmas holiday. I originally found this article from Touchstone magazine by hunting down the source for a similar article in World magazine. Unfortunately, the Touchstone article is not footnoted, and so, however much I wanted it to be true, I had to leave it as a possibly true accounting of the origin of the date of Christmas. So I was quite happy when Biblical Archaeology Review ran this excellent article proposing the same thesis but backed up with primary and secondary sources and excellent scholarship. So go check it out. Christians did not steal the date for Christmas from a pagan holiday!

As a side note, I'm not suggesting that Jesus was actually born on December 25. I don't think we can know the exact date, and frankly I'm not too interested in finding out. The point is that very early on in Christian history, the Church decided to celebrate the feast of the nativity on December 25, and the reasons for doing so were not related in any way to the similar date of a pagan festival. So don't let yourself be bullied by unproven assertions concerning the supposed pagan origins of Christmas.

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