Do you ever wonder how Christians came to the belief that Christmas (literally “Christ Mass”) is December 25th?  You may say it is literally the day of Jesus’ birth, “traditionally” his birthday, or something else.   But, shouldn’t we, as Christian’s KNOW why we celebrate it on December 25th?

If we go to the 1914 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia, and bring up “Christmas” [Archived article here], we can get the authoritative answer.  According to the website,

The Catholic Encyclopedia(TCE) was published in 15 volumes between 1907 and 1912 by the Robert Appleton Company. In 1913 the publisher, renamed as Encyclopedia Press, Inc., released a new edition. A year later (1914) a comprehensive Index was released as Volume 16.”

Also, “The encyclopedia was designed to serve the Roman Catholic Church, concentrating on information related to the Church and explaining matters from the Catholic point of view…it offers in-depth portrayals of historical and philosophical ideas, persons and events, from a Catholic perspective, including issues that divide Catholicism from Protestantism and other faith communities.” [Wikipedia article on the encyclopedia]

Within the article on Christmas, we find the following:

  1. The word for Christmas in late O. E. is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ
  2. Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church
  3.  Origen, …asserts (in Lev. Horn. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the “birthdays” of the gods.
  4. Lupi has shown (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219) that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ’s birth
  5. Asked to assign the true date of the nativity “from census documents brought by Titus to Rome”; Pope Julius I (337-352) assigns December 25

However, if we go down in the article to the heading “ORIGIN OF THE DATE”, we find the true reason for December 25th:

  1. Concerning the date of Christ’s birth the Gospels give no help; indeed, upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter: a whole population could not then be put in motion
  2. Authorities moreover differ as to whether shepherds could or would keep flocks exposed during the nights of the rainy season.
  3. Lightfoot (Horne Hebr. et Talm., II, 32), arguing from O. T. prophecy, e.g. Zach., xiv, 16 sqq.; combining, too, the fact of Christ’s death in Nisan with Daniel’s prophecy of a three and one-half years’ ministry (ix, 27), he puts the birth in Tisri, i.e. September
  4. And FINALLY, we get to the crux of the matter:  “As undesirable is it to connect December 25 with the Eastern (December) feast of Dedication (Jos. Ant. Jud., XII, vii, 6). The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti (“The Unconquered Sun”), celebrated on December 25, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism, see Cumont’s epoch-making “Textes et Monuments” etc., I, ii, 4, 6, p. 355.

But, what was this “well-known solar feast” that the church derived this date from?

Well, we just saw in point 4 above that the solar cult was tied in the Roman Empire (of which the Catholic Church held rule) to Mitrhaism.

In Rome, Mithras was a sun god, and, in Persia, he was a god of the morning sun. The Roman Mithras killed the Primeval Bull, mirroring the death of a Primeval Bull in the Persian religion.” [wikipedia article on Mithras]

Mithras (left) sanctifying the establishment of the emperor

Mithras (left) sanctifying the establishment of the emperor

Continuing in the encyclopedia, we find that

  1. Augustine (Tract xxxiv, in Joan. in P.L., XXXV, 1652) denounces the heretical identification of Christ with Sol. Pope Leo I (Serm. xxvii in nat. dom., VII, 4; xxii, II, 6 in P.L., LIV, 218 and 198) bitterly reproves solar survivals—Christians, on the very doorstep of the Apostles’ basilica, turn to adore the rising sun.  Gives new meaning to the “Sunrise Services” many denominations practice in place of Easter services because they think they are putting away the pagan for Christian…
  2. Sun-worship has bequeathed features to modern popular worship in Armenia, where Christians had once temporarily and externally conformed to the cult of the material sun
  3.  Duchesne (Les origines du culte chretien, Paris, 1902, 262 sqq.) advances the “astronomical” theory that, given March 25 as Christ’s death-day [historically impossible, but a tradition old as Tertullian (Adv. Jud., 8)], the popular instinct, demanding an exact number of years in a Divine life, would place His conception on the same date, His birth December 25…Unfortunately, there is no contemporary evidence for the celebration in the fourth century of Christ’s conception on March 25.
  4. And again,  “the same instinct which set Natalis Invicti at the winter solstice will have sufficed, apart from deliberate adaptation or curious calculation, to set the Christian feast there too.  By the way, the Natalis Invicti was the Roman Pagan concept of “Birthday of the Unconquered Sun“.

Coin of Emperor Probus, circa 280, with Sol Invictus riding a quadriga, with legend SOLI INVICTO, “to the Unconquered Sun”: the Emperor (at left) wears a radiated solar crown, worn also by the god on the obverse

I will show in the next parts how this is all tied to the worship of Nimrod (Satan)…