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Why is Christmas Celebrated on December 25? The History of Christmas

by Stephen Davey

Rebekah wrote to ask: "Why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25?"


Thanks for your question. As someone who celebrates Christmas every year, I pondered the same question. As I have explored the history celebrating on December 25, here is some of what I learned. As you know, it is rooted in tradition, and not in the Bible. 

The Origin of December 25

It is widely known that Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. However, the actual date of His birth is not recorded in the New Testament. So, why did the early Christians choose December 25?

During my studies, I learned that in the early 4th century, Christianity was legalized in the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine. At this time, Christianity was still trying to establish its unique identity, separate from pagan practices. Many Romans celebrated the Winter Solstice, which usually fell around December 25. They observed a festival known as 'Saturnalia' in honor of Saturn, the false god of agriculture. Later, it became a holiday to celebrate the 'birth of the unconquered sun.'

Christian leaders saw this as an opportunity to overlay the birth of Jesus, often referred to as the 'Son of Righteousness,' onto the existing celebrations. In AD 336, the Roman Christian community observed December 25 as the date of Jesus's birth for the first time, marking the beginnings of Christmas as we know it.

The Symbolic Interpretation

Another intriguing discovery I made was that some people saw symbolic interpretation behind the choice of December 25. The date is close to the annual Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. That, of course, is the shortest day of the year. After this day, the daylight progressively increases. There is some evidence that early early Christians appreciated the symbolizm of increasing light with the coming of light into the world through the birth of Jesus Christ.


Unraveling the reasons behind "Why is Christmas celebrated on December 25?" reveals two primary reasons. The choice of December 25 by the early Christians was both a strategic decision and a symbolic interpretation. Whether you regard it as a Christian overlay on a pagan festival or a symbolic representation of light overcoming darkness, December 25 has undeniably become a day to celebrate the salvation God offers us through the birth of Jesus Christ.

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