The first certain mention of Dec. 25 is in a Latin chronographer of A.D. 354, first published entire by Mommsen.' It runs thus in English: "Year 1 after Christ, in the consulate of Caesar and Paulus, the Lord Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December, a Friday and 15th day of the new moon." Here again no festal celebration of the day is attested.In certain Orthodox religions, Christmas is celebrated on what most consider January 7, 13 days after the December 25 Christmas date. Most people today use the Gregorian Calendar, but the January 7 Christmas date is based on the Julian Calendar, according to which it is December 25.
Christmas - 1911 Encyclopedia
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, in the fifth century, circus games were outlawed on December 25, by the Codex of Theodosius. It wasn't until the sixth century that Christmas became a legal holiday -- work was banned -- according to the Codex of Justinian. Later that century, Christmas became a holy period running from the 25th of December through Epiphany, preceded by a fast throughout Advent, that period in which modern children daily open little paper doors.
In Touchstone Magazine's Story Behind December 25, William J. Tighe argues that "the pagan festival of the 'Birth of the Unconquered Sun' instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians." Comments?
As Terence Lockyer points out below, this accepted traditional position has been challenged. As Judith Weingarten writes in Whose Christmas Is It Anyway? (Updated):
A recent doctoral dissertation by S.E. Hijmans at the University of Groningen (NL) takes a fresh look at whole kit and caboodle.* The new Dr Hijmans is the first to have noticed that there is absolutely no evidence to show that the Games of the Sun founded by Aurelian ever took place on December 25th. On the contrary, no feast day for Sol is mentioned on that day until 80 years later in the Calendar of 354 and, subsequently, in 362 by Julian the Apostate in his Oration to King Helios (the Sun).
References: "When Was Jesus Born?" by John Thorley.
Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 28, No. 1, Jubilee Year (Apr., 1981), pp. 81-89
"Basilidian Chronology and New Testament Interpretation," by Roland H. Bainton Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 42, No. 1/2 (1923), pp. 81-134
"When Was Jesus Born?" by John Thorley. Greece & Rome, Second Series, Vol. 28, No. 1, Jubilee Year (Apr., 1981), pp. 81-89
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