The Christ in Christmas

During the holiday season, should you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays”? It seems some retailers have switched to the politically correct Happy Holidays, resulting in badly written online petitions to the US Congress to put Christ back in Christmas.

But Christ was never there in Christmas to begin with. There is no evidence in the Bible. There is no extra-biblical evidence for a Dec 25th birthday. In 200 C.E. there was confusion regarding Yeshua’s birthday: it could have been 28th August, May 20th, or April 15th.  The popular theory is that Christians appropriated a pagan festival — the mid-winter Saturnalia festival of the Romans.

A new theory suggests that the date of Dec 25 came, not just from pagan traditions, but also from the Jewish belief that creation and redemption happen at the same time.

The Babylonian Talmud preserves a dispute between two early-second-century C.E. rabbis who share this view, but disagree on the date: Rabbi Eliezer states: In Nisan the world was created; in Nisan the Patriarchs were born; on Passover Isaac was born…and in Nisan they [our ancestors] will be redeemed in time to come. (The other rabbi, Joshua, dates these same events to the following month, Tishri.)14 Thus, the dates of Christmas and Epiphany may well have resulted from Christian theological reflection on such chronologies: Jesus would have been conceived on the same date he died, and born nine months later.

In the end we are left with a question: How did December 25 become Christmas? We cannot be entirely sure. Elements of the festival that developed from the fourth century until modern times may well derive from pagan traditions. Yet the actual date might really derive more from Judaismfrom Jesus death at Passover, and from the rabbinic notion that great things might be expected, again and again, at the same time of the yearthan from paganism. Then again, in this notion of cycles and the return of Gods redemption, we may perhaps also be touching upon something that the pagan Romans who celebrated Sol Invictus, and many other peoples since, would have understood and claimed for their own too.[How December 25 Became Christmas]

With that note, this blog is taking rest of the year off. Regular programming will resume in January. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year.

7 thoughts on “The Christ in Christmas

  1. There was no Ram in Ramayan too. In fact he does not even exist. Do you have objections to Diwali and other festivals connected to this mythical person?
    All my Christian friends at school were told in Catechism classes that the German Winter Festival was adopted as Christmas. This was no secret. But does it matter if it isn’t Jesus’ actual birthday?Any day agreed upon by all as a day to celebrate that great mans’ birthday should be enough to commemorate him.

  2. Isn’t it interesting how more people (“Hindus”) on Orkut have wished me “Merry Christmas”, than “Happy Diwali”? It’s becoming fashinable for us Indians to celebrate Christian holidays than our own. Why are so many college students wearing a ‘Cross’ as opposed to ‘Om’? The trend is quite disturbing. It seems like we’re losing our traditions and culture to the Church. It’s nothing personal against the Church, but when our identity is under threat, then we have to be more protective.

  3. Ravi, how can you be so sure that Ram did not exist and he is a “mythical person”? And you seem very sure that Jesus did really exist.
    Looks like we have another pseudo-secular misguided fellow on our hands here! lol

  4. And what if Ram did not exist? it simply doesnt matter unlike Christianity which depends on not just the existence of the man named Yeshua, but also, more importantly, on Yeshua’s divinity.
    And the only way Yeshua proves his divinity is through “certain” miracles. Curiously, all (yes, every single one) of these miracles are generally possible for a rishi or sadhu in Bharat. According to Hindus, these miracles are possible through “siddhis”, powers obtained through tapas (meditation). You dont have to be God HImself or His (not “Her”!) son do pull off these heists.
    They will go to any desperate lengths to prove that divinity. Besides, bible sales is good business– in fact, one of the most profitable trades in the world.

  5. “There was no Ram in Ramayan too”
    The actual existence of Ram or Krishna at those historic timelines is immaterial for the spiritual seeker.Indian rishis advise us that we should not confuse path with goal. To sit in meditation with eyes closed concentrating on the third it is said in Bhagavat exactly will the actual existance of those personalities improve your or my concentration..In Gita, Krishna pointedly mentions that those who regard him as a “personality” rather than the infinite-absolute as ABHUBhAHA or idiots..
    enough said..

  6. Our house cleaning service person here in the U.S, a Mexican, is a Christian but goes to a Church that does not believe in celebrating Christmas or celebrating it as Jesus’s birthday. When I wished him Merry Christmas, that was the reply I got. He does not feed his children with false information either. Their community follows the teachings of the Bible without celebrating Christmas.

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