I’d always heard that December 25 became Christmas because Christians were trying to “sanctify” a Roman feast. However, an article by Andrew McGowan changed my mind.
McGowan notes the lack of ancient Christian writings that mention using that feast date for Christmas. This theory wasn’t mentioned until the 12th century!
Instead, the earliest explanations point to another reason. Here’s what McGowan says:
Around 200 C.E. Tertullian of Carthage reported the calculation that the 14th of Nisan (the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John) in the year Jesus diedc was equivalent to March 25 in the Roman (solar) calendar. March 25 is, of course, nine months before December 25; it was later recognized as the Feast of the Annunciation—the commemoration of Jesus’ conception. Thus, Jesus was believed to have been conceived and crucified on the same day of the year. Exactly nine months later, Jesus was born, on December 25.
This idea appears in an anonymous Christian treatise titled On Solstices and Equinoxes, which appears to come from fourth-century North Africa. The treatise states: “Therefore our Lord was conceived on the eighth of the kalends of April in the month of March [March 25], which is the day of the passion of the Lord and of his conception. For on that day he was conceived on the same he suffered.” Based on this, the treatise dates Jesus’ birth to the winter solstice.
Personally, I’m going to quit talking about the “occupied feast date” as a fact,” and I’ll offer the above possible solution.
What do you think?