Exploring the “Pagan origins” of Christmas Day

Exploring the “Pagan origins” of Christmas Day

Taking place on 25 December, a common ‘birthday’ for various religions’ gods, Christmas Day shares a few commonalities with various pagan holidays. Why is this?

With the holiday season underway, social media feeds are oftentimes inundated with memes suggesting that Christmas is a pagan holiday. Responding to such messages, an early church historian has sought to cast this in its historical context.

Postdoctoral Fellow at The American Research Center in Egypt, Andrew Mark Henry took to Twitter to explain some of the origins of Christmas’ December setting.

As he went on to explain, the 25 December date is likely the result of early church figures locating the date of Jesus’ crucifixion around 25 March, and aligning his birthday to the same day. This was something of a tradition for saints, who were said to be born on the same day that they died.

“Though, rather than outright “stealing” between Christians and pagans, scholars see this as everyone (pagan, Christian, and otherwise) having a vested interest to link their god to a day already considered cosmologically important for half a millennium: the Winter Solstice,” Dr Henry wrote.

“So in the end, the topic is much more complicated than “Christians stole a pagan holiday.””

More like, “Xstians (sic), living in a society that marked the equinox and solstice on Mar 25 and Dec 25,  influenced by solar theology and a desire to raise Jesus’ life to a cosmic scale, embarked on chronographic speculations, settling on Mar 25 and Dec 25 for his death and birth.”

While a short explanation, in keeping with the restraints of the Twitter platform, Dr Henry recommended a number of follow up sources including a blog entry by scholar Peter Gainsford and his own earlier video on the subject.

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