Its observance could even be implied in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 5:7–8: “Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.
Therefore let us celebrate the festival…”); it was certainly a distinctively Christian feast by the mid-second century C. But over time, Jesus’ origins would become of increasing concern.
A blanket of snow covers the little town of Bethlehem, in Pieter Bruegel’s oil painting from 1566.
Joyful carols, special liturgies, brightly wrapped gifts, festive foods—these all characterize the feast today, at least in the northern hemisphere. How did December 25 come to be associated with Jesus’ birthday?E., Augustine of Hippo mentions a local dissident Christian group, the Donatists, who apparently kept Christmas festivals on December 25, but refused to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6, regarding it as an innovation.Since the Donatist group only emerged during the persecution under Diocletian in 312 C. and then remained stubbornly attached to the practices of that moment in time, they seem to represent an older North African Christian tradition.The Gospels of Matthew and Luke provide well-known but quite different accounts of the event—although neither specifies a date. E., further details of Jesus’ birth and childhood are related in apocryphal writings such as the Infancy Gospel of Thomas and the Proto-Gospel of James.These texts provide everything from the names of Jesus’ grandparents to the details of his education—but not the date of his birth. E., a Christian teacher in Egypt makes reference to the date Jesus was born.Jesus is crucified the next morning—still, the 15th.Easter, a much earlier development than Christmas, was simply the gradual Christian reinterpretation of Passover in terms of Jesus’ Passion.Each of the Four Gospels provides detailed information about the time of Jesus’ death.According to John, Jesus is crucified just as the Passover lambs are being sacrificed.The modern Armenian church continues to celebrate Christmas on January 6; for most Christians, however, December 25 would prevail, while January 6 eventually came to be known as the Feast of the Epiphany, commemorating the arrival of the magi in Bethlehem.The period between became the holiday season later known as the 12 days of Christmas.