The “Pagan Origins of Christmas” . . . a Myth Without Historical Substance

HiResThis Christmas season, you’ll likely have some holiday-sweater-wearing, nog-breathed, know-it-all regale you with this buzzkill of a story. Well fear not, dear reader. After checking out this article from Touchstone, you can face down the Grinch in question with your Christmas cheer well intact.

Calculating Christmas
The Story Behind December 25
by William J. Tighe

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, 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. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

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