The people of the Roman Empire were also accustomed to celebrating the birth of their (various) Pagan gods on December 25th. Consider, adherents of the gods Attis, Mithra, Osiris, and Dionysus all celebrated their lords’ birthday on December 25th. Immediately preceding this was the Feast of Saturnalia, a seven-day Roman celebration that started December 17th and ended December the mystical teachings of jesus 24th, leading up to the great religious birthday celebration on the 25th. Then in 274 C. E., Roman Emperor Aurelian blended the Saturnalia celebration with the large number of birth celebrations of savior gods from the various Pagan religions into a single holy day celebration, the feast of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), known as Natalis Invictus – the rebirth of the sun – on December 25th. (The winter solstice generally occurs circa December 21-22 – in modern times – and by the 25th the days are growing visibly longer, thus symbolizing the rebirth of the sun. )
Prudent Christian forefathers realized that if the celebration of the birth of Christ looked more like a pagan holiday, then more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated. So, it was a relatively simple decision to once again reset the date of the birth of Christ, from January 6th to December 25th, in order to match the pagan holiday of Sol Invictus, since the actual birth date of Jesus was both unknown and unrecorded in the church’s own official account, the Bible. The first known modified celebration of Christmas on December 25th was in Rome on 336 C. E. By 379 C. E., the new date of celebration for the birth of Christ had spread to Constantinople, thence to Antioch in 380 C. E., and to Alexandria by 430 C. E. By changing Jesus’ birthday celebration to December 25th, Christianity brought itself into alignment with the Roman regime and the then established state (pagan) religion.
An examination of Jesus’ true birthday should begin by first trying to determine his year of birth, which seemingly should be the easier task than the date, at least statistically speaking. The Gospels of both Luke and Matthew date the birth of Jesus to the reign of King Herod of Judea, which lasted from 39 BC to March, 4 BC. Luke (2: 1-7) further clarified, “When Cyrenius was governor of Syria, Joseph went to Bethlehem, to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife. While they were there, she brought forth her firstborn son. ” From this passage we examine Cyrenius, also known as Quirinius, who went as Legate to Syria in 6 C. E., but we know from a Roman inscription discovered in Antioch that he also went to that country, under orders of Augustus Caesar, on a military mission in 7 BC.
Luke 3: 23 further provides that Jesus was “about 30” when he started his ministry, which commenced with his baptism in the River Jordan by John the Baptist. Luke clarified in chapter 3, verses 1-2 that the ministry of John the Baptist started in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar. Depending on whether Luke used the Julian or the Roman regional year calendar, the fifteenth year of Tiberius was either 1 January – 31 December, 29 C. E., or Autumn 28-29 C. E., respectively. Now, the Lucan term “about 30” is a broad term that would span the age range from 26 to 34, thus the earliest possible year for the birth of Christ would be obtained by subtracting his maximum age at the start of his ministry, or 34 years old, from the earliest point on the Roman regional year calendar, or 28 C. E, providing an earliest date of birth of 7 BC.
Comparing the information in the previous two paragraphs, we find the earliest year of birth as 7 BC and the latest as 4 BC. However, given the events which occurred in the year of Jesus’ birth (visit by the Magi to both King Herod and Jesus, and the order of the ‘death of the innocents’ by King Herod), as well as Herod’s own death in early 4 BC and poor state of health immediately preceding his death, Herod would have been in no condition to consummate either of those two requirements, thus signaling the true period of likely birth as between 7- 5 BC.
Now onto the more difficult question: the most likely date (or season) of birth. Again, according to Luke (2: 8), Jesus was born in the season “when shepherds abide in the field and keep watch over their flock by night. ” This ensures the period must have occurred sometime between mid-March and mid-October because the winter months in Palestine comprise a cold, rainy season, prone to frost so flocks were/are not put out to pasture, especially from December – February. In fact, it was/is Jewish custom for shepherds to put their sheep to pasture in early spring at about the time of the feast of Passover and to bring them home when the first rains started in early to mid fall. Throughout this period, the shepherds would remain with their flock to insure their safety. If we can abide by the historicity of Luke on this passage, it tells us little more than the historically practiced dates of Christmas, i. e. both January 6th and December 25th, are inaccurate – as would be expected given the dates’ history and reason for their (falsified) origin.