Wednesday, December 21, 2005

December 25: not a recycled pagan holiday after all

I've always thought I knew that we Catholics decided to celebrate Christ's birthday on December 25 as a repurposing, if you will, of a pagan holiday prevalent in Rome at the time of the early church -- the solstice feast of Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun.

Turns out, according to this article, that Sol was the latecomer to the party. Christians had probably already staked out December 25 as a good day to celebrate Christ's birth as much as a century before the emperor Aurelian proclaimed the observance of Sol Invictus in A.D. 274. They didn't have very accurate reasons for doing so, but they seem to have grabbed the date first.

A more detailed article on the subject is available here.

So, when someone tells you that Christians "stole" the date of Christmas from the (peaceful, tolerant, eco-friendly) pagans, don't let 'em get away with it.