So, not sure how or why, but I didn't 'know' until this past summer that Jesus wasn't ACTUALLY born on Christmas. I feel like the adult version of finding out Santa isn't real, it really bothers me since I'm teaching my kids to celebrate Jesus's birth on Christmas, but it's not really his birthday?
Someone please talk me off my personal ledge and explain this to me, lol.
eggplant / 11716 posts
@josina: haha! I knew when I was like 10 that he wasn't really born at Christmas. They taught us that at church!
But it wasn't till I was an adult that I learned that the church kind of co-opted the end of December to capitalize on the very popular pagan celebrations that were popular at the time!
pear / 1565 posts
Yep, no one actually really knows when Jesus was born as the Bible did not say. A lot of people actually challenged if Jesus was ever even born in the winter based on the historical facts presented in the Bible. A lot of people also worked backwards from Jesus' life later on to try to figure out when hew as born.
I think celebrating Jesus' birth during this time of the year came at some point during the Roman Empire...
persimmon / 1111 posts
Um... Confirmed, semi-practicing Catholic married to someone literally raised in the church here. Didn't know this was true until you posted and I googled. I feel lied to. Like I'm not surprised, but every Christmas Eve we do a birthday cake for Jesus. It was so a part of our Christmas
pear / 1565 posts
My grandparents and a lot of that generation where I'm from, they don't know their birthdays because there was just no proper documentation back in the day in the villages of rural China. So to me, making up a random day to celebrate a birthday is not that off
cantaloupe / 6085 posts
I think truthfully there’s a lot you don’t want to know about how the early church decided things that are taken as hard truth now. Christmas is only one of many ...
That said, I think you just have to take it as this is when we choose to celebrate, it’s not the date that is important but taking the time to think about what it all meant, what was written about it, what it means for you as a person living today, etc.
pomegranate / 3272 posts
For some reason I thought he was born in June but could be making that up.
pomegranate / 3966 posts
@Pollywog: YES! that's how I feel! My mom and sister told me this summer and I was like WHAT?! And my DH isn't religious, and so now questions it even MORE!
@graceandjoy: Yeah, I read that they think his actual birthday might've been in September.
@Anagram: lol, apparently I missed that mass or ccd class or just totally didn't pay attention!
pomegranate / 3966 posts
@bhbee: Very true! And good point about taking the time to think about everything..
nectarine / 2085 posts
Gently, it's definitely not, and never has been, a secret.
The short answer is: Tradition! The Dec 25th date was chosen probably because it somewhat coincides with the winter solstice, which fits quite nicely with the idea of the light coming into the world with Jesus' birth AND it's also nine months after the traditional date of the Annunciation. (Things line up really well in the long-used Catholic liturgical calendar.) But also, it's because we (RC and most Protestants that I know of) use the Gregorian calendar. The Orthodox use the Julian, and their date of Christmas is later.
eggplant / 11716 posts
@josina: Well, I grew up in an unusual Christian environment. My dad's side of the family are something called "Old German Brethren AKA Old Order brethren"...they are kind of like Amish people! So the women wear bonnets and the men wear particular clothes, and they don't have TVs or radio or secular media (newspapers, magazines, etc). So my grandmother on that side was like that--and they take the new testament very literally, which is why women have their heads covered and they don't wear jewelry and only plain clothing (there's some bible verse against fancy clothes/jewelry/pierced ears). They also don't do Santa or Christmas trees, because they think it's sacriligious. So my parents didn't bring us up in that church (instead, they randomly picked Southern Baptist), but they were always a weird hybrid of fairly strict, biblical type Christians. So early on, we were taught what the bible actually says about the birth of Jesus (and what it doesn't say, which is a time of year).
I don't know if this is something that is taught or not taught in typical protestant Christian denominations, and I don't know what is taught in Catholicism--it would be interesting if different Bees weighed in and what they were taught in which kind of church.
pear / 1930 posts
Is it weird I learned this in my K-8 Catholic school? I think it was my fifth grade religion teacher.. who was a nun!
pear / 1718 posts
I was raised Catholic, CCD religious education my whole life (after school programming only. I went to public school) and mass every Sunday. Never was this mentioned to me. I just randomly learned it as an adult.
It doesn't really matter to me, but I can definitely understand why people would balk at that and wonder what else they are not being told.
pomegranate / 3355 posts
Coming from a non religious but kinda believer I think there are lots and lots of things in religion that can be questioned and not easily explained. Hence, to me why there are such vast differences in beliefs and what people think. It always amazes me how one person can be so steadfast in their side/belief but there is just as much proof or whatever for something completely different..... I am not educated enough in any realm to argue or defend any one way. But it is clear to me that there are lots of holes and questions not readily answered.... I find it interesting. DH's family are all Catholic and every year they sing happy birthday to Jesus.... however, I've never asked if they believe it to be his actual bday or just a day to observe it.. maybe I will this year
grapefruit / 4361 posts
I learned this is a middle schooler at school. When I told my parents, they got SO upset and offended, it is a crystal clear memory. "Well then if you don't care about Jesus, we can just take back your presents!" "You said Christmas was fake, so obviously you don't care" etc etc. And I was like whoa, all I'm saying it, Jesus was born at another time, not that I don't believe in Jesus *eyeroll*.
Ironically at that time my parents and I were just lukewarm noncommittal Catholics; now we are all pretty serious about our Protestant faith.
I still am uneasy that all flavors of Christianity, and in particular evangelicalism, totally gloss over this and that they ignore the pagan roots of the holiday. I mean, I love Christmas and Jesus, but at least I can admit most of the traditions were co-opted.
persimmon / 1467 posts
This is pretty funny. I was much more bothered by the wise men in nativity scenes than whether it was actually Jesus birthday. With what I've learned about the calendar and how we got to our current 365 1/4 set up, I'm not sure I'd believe any date someone figured out.
nectarine / 2458 posts
I was raised Catholic and know I learned this at some point...not sure when. But then again, I don't think we've ever said it's Jesus' birthday, just that Christmas is when we celebrate his birth. Kind of like how Easter clearly isn't a celebration of the exact date that Jesus rose since it changes every year - it's just the time that was chosen to commemorate it.
pomegranate / 3230 posts
(Disclaimer: I'm Jewish so I am not too emotionally invested.)
olive / 53 posts
I don't remember when I learned this. One of my friends in high school was pagan, but her parents forced to go to ccd with me. So I probably got it from her. Upon further reflection, the seasonal themes of death and rebirth don't really make sense for a religion founded that close to the equator.
persimmon / 1467 posts
This topic just came up the Advent book I am reading to my kids. So now my 5 year old knows. He was a little surprised but took it in stride.
apricot / 264 posts
I don’t think I ever learned this in catholic school. Maybe so and I just don’t remember? But I always figured it was the day we celebrated his birth not his actual birth day. I mean how could they have the correct documentation from back then right???? But I’m also a very practical person. I remember my mom getting so mad when I told her Adam and Eve could not have populated the whole entire world. She takes everything the Bible says very literally.
persimmon / 1385 posts
@Ajsmommy: Yes, this! I was raised by a non-practicing catholic and an atheist so I am a natural questioner when it comes to religion. My mom has since become more religious in her old age and had me watch one of the more recent PBS documentaries on Jesus and early Christians. I don't think I got out of it what she was hoping for. It pretty much cemented to me how early Christians took the oral and minimal written history of Jesus and massaged it to fit into the "modern" world. This makes it very hard for me to take anything written in the bible literally.
pomegranate / 3966 posts
@Mamatimes3: Its funny, as an adult that I hadn't figure it out yet, but I guess I just never took the time to really think about it! It's hard to even imagine what it was like 2000 years ago.
nectarine / 2461 posts
@ElbieKay: lol, I never thought about that!
@Mommy Finger: can't say where I got this, but I also had it in my head that historians thought he was born in spring or late spring.
@JennyPenny: @Anagram: re the co-opting of the pagan rebirth of the sun--another HB user sent me an article years ago about how Easter was adapted similarly--found it here. I'm not informed enough to speak to its veracity but love the fun fact about the bunnies (if true!)
pomelo / 5257 posts
I knew it growing up Catholic. I always kind of side eyed people when they say "Jesus is the reason for the season." Nope. Which is not to say celebration of his birth isn't something to be revered. That statement is just untrue.
nectarine / 2433 posts
@Pollywog: I'm shocked you didn't know this!! (lol I didn't either)
I wish whoever decided his birthday would have spread it out from Thanksgiving and New Years a little bit. Late January would have been nice.
clementine / 918 posts
I went to Catholic school for 12 years and don't remember when exactly I learned this but it was early on in one of my religion classes. I always think of Christmas as a celebration of Jesus' birth rather than his actual birthday. Even though my family has a tradition of making a birthday cookie that we eat on Christmas Day.
@LCTBQE: @JennyPenny: Yes, I was going to say that Easter is based on a pagan holiday. The date moves each year because it is the first Sunday, after the first full moon, following the first day of Spring. That right there tells me all I need to know about the origin. Again it has always been symbolic to me so I never took the dates literally.
cantaloupe / 6730 posts
I kind of like finding out things like this. It gives my beliefs a historical context. And for me, it’s not important *when* he was born, it’s important that he *was* born.
persimmon / 1079 posts
@Grace: This exactly!!!!!Thank you!!!!!!
nectarine / 2431 posts
@Grace: Yes, absolutely agree!
squash / 13199 posts
@josina: my parents taught us this growing up and our church was actually against celebrating Christmas for this reason. We explain to or kids that this is the day we focus on thinking about his birth even though we don't know the date of his actual birthday
pomegranate / 3658 posts
I'm not sure when I learned this, it kind of feels like one of those things I've always know. I think I was a lot more rocked to learn the details of the Council of Nicaea (i.e. that much of what gets preached in church as being the direct word of God was actually the product of a ton of arguing between a bunch of old dudes 300+ years after Jesus died).