Friday, December 23, 2011

About the Date of Christmas

Fr. Longenecker is a pretty good historian.  So was JRR Tolkien, by the way.

...In 386, St John Chrysostom preached a sermon linking the date for Christmas to the date of the Annunciation. He does so in a way that suggests that this was already an established belief. The date of the Annunciation was based on a Jewish tradition that the world was created on March 25, or Nisan 15, according to the Jewish calendar.  The Jews also believed that a great man would die on the same day as his conception. The early Christians (who were of course Jews) therefore concluded that Jesus had been conceived on March 25. This made it the date of the world’s creation, and the start of the world’s redemption (and therefore the new creation).

It’s easy. If the Lord Jesus Christ was conceived on March 25, then he was born nine months later on December 25. The date for Christmas is therefore determined by the date of the Annunciation and has nothing to do with the Roman celebration of the Saturnalia or the celebration of the birthday of Sol Invictus.
So Christmas Day cannot be separated from Ladyday–the medieval term for the Feast of the Annunciation. While we now (sadly) celebrate New Years’ Day on the pagan date Jan. 1, it was not always so. From the apostolic age through the Middle Ages, the church continued to battle the vestiges of paganism. So right through 1752, the new year was celebrated in Europe not at the outset of the pagan god Janus’s month, but on the Annunciation, March 25.

What about Frodo Baggins? Tolkien fans the world over celebrate March 25 as a day of celebration by the reading of Tolkien’s work. Why is that? Because the day Frodo Baggins saves his world by delivering the Ring into the fires of Mount Doom was (you guessed it) March 25.  Ladyday–the feast of the Annunciation and the beginning of our world’s redemption.

Take that and stuff it into your Saturnalia.


jimspice said...

Well, there's plenty of evidence suggesting otherwise, and frank(incense)ly, it doesn't really matter. BUT, regardless of when it' celebrated, is is correct? I've heard suggestions of spring based on the date of Passover, as well as September based on the more detailed description of John the Baptist's birth.

Dad29 said...

John TB's birth is celebrated on Sept. 24th--3 months before Christmas. Mary visited John's mom just after the Annunciation (3/25) and John's mom was 6 months preggers.

Ergo, 12/25 works both with the Ann'tion AND with JTB's birth.

Your Passover suggestion is interesting, but it tallies with the Annunciation-event (late March) rather than the birth-event. As you note from the post, the 3/25 Annunciation also fits into Jewish beliefs.

Saint Revolution said...

Now THAT'S beautiful blogging.

Keep up the excellent work, D29.

By the by, Merry Christmas to you and yours'.

It's been one heckuva year.

Grim said...

Dicebam vos: non semper Saturnalia erunt.

Dad29 said...

Iterum dico: Saturnalia non eret.

jimspice said...

Althouse's data predates yours: