25TH DECEMBER EXISTED AS “CHRISTMAS” BEFORE THE PAGAN FEAST: A correction on the misconception of Xmas, Christmas date and Christmas Traditions.
There have been write ups that suggest that the X of Xmas means “no Christ”. THAT IS ABSOLUTELY WRONG, and the source of that speculation is either woefully ignorant or maliciously disingenuous.
The X in Xmas is not the English letter X (pronounced ‘ex’), rather it is the Greek ‘Χ’. They look alike but pronounced differently. Greek X is ‘ch’ is pronounced as “k”.
In the early days of Christianity, the symbol X was used as an abbreviation for “Χριστός” (kristos) meaning Christ. And that is the style people still use today. Thus we don’t pronounce “Xtians” and “Xtopher” as “extian” or “extopher” respectively, but CHRISTians and CHRISTopher. In the same way, Xmas is pronounced “CHRISTMAS” not “exmas”.
Secondly, 25th was NEVER A DAY OF PAGAN SACRIFICE that Christians took over. Fact, 25th December was made a pagan festive day by Emperor Aurelian, who in 274 AD instituted the holiday of the Dies Natalis Solis Invicti. But He did so partly as an attempt to give a pagan significance to a date ALREADY IMPORTANT FOR CHRISTIANS IN ROME. In fact, by 204 AD, Hippolytus of Rome already indicated 25th December as Christmas. This could also be implied from the 221 AD writing of Sextus Julius Africanus. Moreover, there was no pagan religious celebration attached to the date as one would expect, it was simply the date of the dedication of a temple to the sun god at Campus Martius in 274 AD.
So, 25th December as Christmas day existed at least, 50 years BEFORE the pagan feast. I repeat, 25th DECEMBER as CHRISTMAS DAY EXISTED BEFORE THE PAGAN FEAST.
25th December as CHRISTMAS DAY IS NOT IN THE BIBLE… so?
The date of Jesus birth is not recorded in the Bible, and indeed, nobody knows the exact date. But we do know that He was born on a particular day. The root of 25th December can be traced to Jewish tradition and Easter.
It was a traditional Jewish belief that great men were born and died on the same day, so lived a whole number of years, without fractions: Jesus was therefore considered to have been CONCEIVED on March 25 (Annunciation), as he died on March 25, which was calculated to have coincided with 14 Nisan (Passover – Easter period) . This was the view of Hippolytus of Rome and Sextus Julius Africanus mentioned earlier. So since Jesus was conceived on 25th March , 9 months after, His birthday is celebrated on 25th December.
SYMBOLICALLY, December 25 was the date of the winter solstice (shortest period of daylight) in the Roman calendar. Saint Augustine explains that Jesus was born on the day which is the “shortest in our earthly reckoning and from which subsequent days begin to increase in length. He, therefore, who bent low and lifted us up chose the shortest day, yet the one from where light begins to increase.”
Linking Jesus to the Sun was supported by various Biblical passages. Jesus was considered to be the “Sun of righteousness” prophesied by Malachi 4: 2- “Unto you shall the sun of righteousness arise, and healing is in his wings.”
SO WHAT IF IT WAS A PAGAN FEAST? Ask anybody on the street what 25th December means and they’ll tell you it’s Christmas day. Ask those who claim it was a pagan feast the name of the pagan god, I’m sure many won’t know it. Ask them how it was celebrated? I doubt if any can give you an answer. Even if it was a pagan feast, it is now known as the celebration of Christ’s birth, which is the most important.
But think about it, any day that walould have been attributed to Christmas will also be claimed to be a pagan feast day because everyday of the week is named after a pagan god.
Let’s share the right information and cancel out disingenuous misinformation about Christmas, Christ and Christianity.
Fr Julian Egwuatu