Was Jesus born on December 25th (Christmas), as many people believe? Honestly, it is very doubtful. Ancient pagan celebrations on this date (December 25) were well established in Rome long before the time Jesus walked the earth. It is much more likely that this date was chosen (Dec. 25) for “Christmas” to oppose or to attract GENTILE Christians away from the HIGHLY POPULAR pagan celebrations. Christmas was not celebrated until the 3rd century, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine.
Christmas has pagan roots?
The pagan celebration of Saturn, the Roman ‘god’ of agriculture and time, began as a single day, but by the late Republic (133-31 B.C.) it had expanded to a weeklong festival beginning December 17.- December 25th. (On the Julian calendar, which the Romans used at the time, the winter solstice fell on December 25.).
Pagan fertility rituals were performed at the temple of Saturn, including sacrifices (sometimes human, sometimes animals).
Citizens decked their halls with BOUGHS OF GREENERY and even hung small tin ornaments on bushes and trees. Bands of naked revelers often roamed the streets, singing and carousing, as a sort of naughty precursor to today’s Christmas caroling tradition.
To modern eyes, some Saturnalia customs come across as hedonistic perversions of Christmas traditions. For instance, singing from house to house naked, feasting excessively, eating baked goods shaped like people, and exchanging bawdy gifts. In reality, there’s some historical evidence suggesting that these events were reformed, absorbed, and transformed over time as a result of Christmas’s popularity overtaking that of Saturnalia. Christians may have “redeemed” portions of the celebration.
There is another Roman holiday, Sol Invictus (the sun “god”), that seems to have been gradually absorbed by Christmas, too. Sol Invictus (“Invincible Sun”) celebrated, on December 25, the renewing of the “sun King” and was linked to the winter solstice (although the solstice itself never falls on December 25).
Many of our modern traditional Christmas festivities morphed out of the ancient Roman celebration of Saturnalia and Sol Invictus, whose pagan celebrations included fertility rituals, sacrifices, drunkenness, debauchery, nakedness, excessive eating, exchanging gifts, etc. Also, we must add that Christmas was not celebrated by the early Church, and it was BANNED by the Puritans in Colonial New England because they viewed its traditions—the offering of gifts and decorating trees, for example—as linked to paganism. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336 AD, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor).
Is celebrating Christmas a sin, especially since we now know that many of our Christian traditions originate from pagan celebrations?
We do not claim to be experts and the Bible is not explicit on this subject, so we can only give our opinion. We do not think that celebrating Christmas (Dec. 25) is a sin…IF one celebrates it in the LIGHT of the Messiah Jesus. This is our opinion and NOT a “thus sayeth the Lord”. Although it is disturbing to discover that many of our December 25th Christmas celebrations have pagan roots, we believe that if Christians celebrate Christmas in a CHRISTIAN (not secular) fashion, without the drinking and debauchery (think “Office party”), without the materialistic over-gifting, without the gluttonous eating, but rather, focusing on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and on His Birth, on LOVE and GIVING and KINDNESS….then it seems perfectly okay to us. In-fact, OUR FAMILY celebrateS Christmas and findS it is an awesome time to proclaim Jesus as the Light of the World! But we also celebrate Hanukkah and the Old Testament Feasts (in a “Gentile Christian way”.). While the world is celebrating a “secular Christmas”, which is really nothing more than a winter solstice celebration, Christians who celebrate Christmas should do so in a way that brings Glory to the Name of Jesus!
But again, whether or not you celebrate Christmas is something that has to be determined by each Believer because it is not explicitly spelled out in the Bible. It is somewhat sobering to have the blinders removed and recognize that December 25th was originally a pagan holiday; however, it is also very possible that Christians TRANSFORMED these pagan days INTO Christian CELEBRATIONS in much the same way that today’s Christian Churches offer Fall Festival and “Trunk or Treat” as an alternative to Halloween, delighting and encouraging the children to focus on festivities that do not celebrate worldly passions or death. The controversy on whether or not to celebrate Christmas has gone on for many generations, and is not new. As stated above, the Puritans BANNED the celebration of Christmas because of its pagan roots.
It is NOT our intention to cause division or to upset anybody by reporting on the pagan roots of the December 25th celebration of Christmas, but rather to better understand the truth so that Christians can make their own informed decisions. There are many Bible believing, born again Christians who fall on both sides of this Controversy. If you are unsure what to do, we would recommend taking this issue to the Lord in your prayer closet and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
What is Jesus’ True Birthday?
Okay, if December 25th is NOT Jesus’ true birthday, then when WAS Jesus born? The Bible does not EXPLICITLY tell us the birth date of Jesus. Why? The first century Jewish historian Josephus noted that in the days of Jesus, Jewish families did not celebrate birthdays because birthday celebrations themselves have pagan roots. Wow, the more we dig to find the truth, the worse it gets…Apparently the traditional birthday cake and candles also have their origin in ancient pagan idol worship. Just to be clear, most of us have NO IDEA that there are pagan roots in many of our celebrations, so we personally do not believe that they have to be discontinued by Christ followers. Instead, we are under Grace, so everything we do, birthdays, Christmas, Independence day celebrations, national Holidays, should all be celebrated in such a manner as to give glory to Christ.
1 Corinthians 6:12: All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.
1 Corinthians 10:23: All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. 24: No one should seek his own good, but the good of others.…
Since the date of Jesus’ birth is not explicitly told to us in the Bible, is it possible to know the date, or at least to get closer to the approximate timing of His True Birthday? What clues does the Bible provide?
The Bible does give us a couple very important clues. We are shown in the book of Luke that the timing of Jesus’ birth is CONNECTED to the timing of the birth of John the Baptist. Then we are also given some clues to the approximate timing of the birth of John the Baptist, so we may be able to approximate the timing of Jesus’ birth. None of this is set in stone, and there is no absolute day we can land on, but we can potentially have an idea of the approximate timing of Jesus’ birth.
In our quest to find the truth, we begin with the miraculous conception and birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner to Messiah Jesus.
Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, worked in the Temple as a Levitical Priest. The priests had a “regular rotation” for serving in the Temple that is detailed in 1st Chronicles 24. Per Luke 1:5, Zacharias served as part of the division of Abijah, known to be the eighth rotation of the year (1 Chronicles 24:10). Zacharias was visited by an Angel of the Lord during his time of service to tell him that he and his wife Elizabeth would soon bear a son in her OLD AGE, which is why John’s conception is miraculous. The angel told Zacharias that the boy would be named John (Yochanan). John means “YHWH has been Gracious”
Luke 1:5 : There was in the day of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zachariah, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
In Luke 1:8, we see that Zachriah was chosen by lot to enter the Temple of the Lord and burn incense (symbolizing the prayers of the Saints) in the “order of his division”. We can surmise that Zachariah’s angelic visitation occurred during his time of Temple service because the angel appeared to Zachariah on the right side of the alter of incense, which is in the Temple.
Luke 1:8: Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
Luke 1: 11 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the ALTAR OF INCENSE.
Luke 1: 23-25 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived and she hid herself for five months, saying, 25 ‘Thus the Lord has dealt with me, to take away my reproach among people.’
So shortly “after those days” of his temple service, Zachariah went home and Elizabeth became pregnant and HID HERSELF FOR FIVE MONTHS...but what part of the year did Zachariah’s days of Temple service fall upon? Zachariah was of the lineage of Abijah, and therefore performed his priestly duties on the eighth rotation (Luke 1:5, 1 Chronicles 24:10)
Luke 1:5 : There was in the day of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zachariah, of the DIVISION OF ABIJAH. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
1 Chronicles 24:10: the seventh to Hakkoz, THE EIGHTH TO ABIJAH,
In the priestly system, the Levitical priests each took “shifts” serving in the Temple throughout the year. There was a schedule of service that consisted of twenty-four divisions, each of which served one week at a time, twice a year. There are two HEBREW calendars that are represented in the bible. There’s the civil calendar which was the official calendar of the kings, childbirth, and for contracts. This calendar began with Tishrei 1, which is called Rosh Hashanah today (Feast of Trumpets). It falls in our September/October. The other calendar is the religious calendar which starts on the Hebrew month of Nisan 1 (SPRING), our March/April. And it is from this calendar that the priestly divisions started.
Now that we know the week of the first division (NISAN 1), we can count forward eight weeks “THE EIGHTH TO ABIJAH..1 Chronicles 24:10)... to arrive at the beginning of Zacharias’ first week of service in the Temple. The eighth rotation would have occurred near the last week of the month of lyar to the beginning of sivan ( MAY – JUNE ) on Gregorian calendar). There is no way to know the exact day on which Elizabeth gets pregnant once Zachariah is back home, but it’s safe to believe that it happened sometime during the month of Sivan (JUNE-JULY) when Zachariah returns home (“after those days”). The gestational period for a child in the womb is forty weeks. This VERY LIKELY puts the birth of John the baptist around the Feast of Passover the next spring (march/april)! And this is no surprise as the scriptures say in Luke that he (John) is to come in the spirit of Elijah and will be the forerunner to the Messiah. It has always been understood in Judaism that Elijah will come during Passover. To this day, every practicing Jew will leave an empty chair at the Passover table for him and will even, at one point in the Seder, get up and go open the front door, symbolically inviting him in. For John to be born during Passover is no surprise at all.
Now we need to tie this to the date that Mary gets pregnant with our Savior Jesus. The scriptures give us that timeline in the exact same chapter:
Luke 1:26: Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth. 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary…31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son of the Highest and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.
So now that we have some idea as to when John was likely born, calculating the birth of Jesus involves plain math. Because we know from Luke’s narrative that Mary was three months pregnant when John was born, we simply count forward another six months to find out when she gave birth to our Savior. And again, not surprisingly, Jesus’ birth seems to land in the fall (Sept/Oct)…right around the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles, where He tabernacled among men.
John 1:14: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt (TABERNACLED) among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Further evidence of JESUS being born during the Feast of Tabernacles (our September/October) is the fact that the narrative says in Luke 2:8 that the shepherds were still out in the fields tending their flocks. If He’d have been born at the end of December, the shepherds wouldn’t have been spread so far out in the fields; they would have been tending their flocks closer to shelter during those much colder winter evenings. Secondly, Caesar Augustus of Rome called a census that year and would never have done so during the winter months where travel was difficult and the weather not optimal. Logic says that the best time to do a census would be when the people were already traveling to Jerusalem…which was during the Feast of Sukkot!
Another important point: Jesus was not born in just any little town. Few people know that Bethlehem’s very name is made up of two Hebrew words: beit, which means “house,” and lechem, meaning “bread.” Bethlehem literally means “House of Bread.” This was THE Levitical village where the holy bread for the priests working in the Temple as well as the olive oil for the menorah that lit it was made. Furthermore, this is where the Yom Kippur goats and the Passover lamb, the most important animals in all of Israel, were raised. This was the birthplace of King David, the burial place of Rachel, the threshing floor of Ruth and Boaz, and was also a military outpost. The prophetic history in this little place could not be thicker.
Think about this for just a moment… Mary, nine months pregnant, was rejected because “there was no room in the Inn?” It would have been anathema for their family and friends to not make room for them with her being with child. The more likely truth is that she was shunned because everyone knew that she was pregnant out of wedlock and no one would have believed a crazy story of her having conceived by the Holy Spirit. So she and Joseph were sent over to a barn in which she could give birth. Since God is a God of perfect prophecy and extreme prophetic detail, could it be that the Lamb of God was actually born in THE Levitical barn in which the Passover Lamb and Yom Kippur goats were raised? Could He have been placed in THE manger (feeding trough) from which the Passover Lamb fed?
And if all that wasn’t enough, because we have a good estimation of the approximate time of Jesus’ birth, we can back date it to the time of the miraculous conception. And that just so happens to be at the end of Chislev, our December, during the Feast of Dedication, better known as Hanukkah. This feast is called The Festival of Lights and Yeshua is called the Light of the world!
There is a possibility that although December 25th was the time of a massive pagan roman celebration, Jesus COULD HAVE been conceived on December 25th. Perhaps in a tiny Jewish village named Nazareth, away from the commotion and revelry of a GIGANTIC pagan Roman celebration, a young woman named Mary was visited by the Holy Spirit on that day, where she conceived the Savior of the World. Perhaps she had a Menorah in her home that very day reminding her of the light of the world. That is possible since December 25th often falls during Hanukkah.
We’re not sharing the information about the LIKELY timing of Jesus’ TRUE BIRTH during the FEAST OF TABERNACLES to discourage the celebration of Christmas, but rather, to open our GENTILE CHRISTIAN eyes to SEE how relevant this “Old Testament Feast” of SUKKOT is to Christians. It is VERY LIKELY that JESUS, our MESSIAH was born DURING the FEAST OF TABERNACLES…when He came down from HEAVEN to TABERNACLE with HIS CREATION…MANKIND. The Feast of Tabernacles is also known as THE DAYS OF JOY!
God Bless! We pray you’ve had a joyous and Blessed Sukkot!