Most Christians do not believe that Jesus Christ was born on Dec. 25, according to a recent survey conducted by ChristiaNet.com.
“An overwhelming percentage of Christians surveyed believe that Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th,” said William Cooper, the CEO of the site.
This data was compiled from responses of 2,400 people that identified themselves as Christian. The survey found that about 70 percent of the group felt that Jesus was not born on Dec. 25.
Responders reacted to the question by expressing their belief that Jesus was probably born either in the spring or in the fall, not the winter. One responder said, “According to biblical historians, the description of the weather conditions during his birth were the indicator that it could not have been in December but more probably in October.”
He explained how Christ’s birth took place while lambs were still in the field and how and in the month of December it would be too cold for them to be there. It also is a common belief among experts and scholars in the faith that Christ was born during a warmer time of the year.
Other believers expressed the emphasis of the holiday’s meaning as holding more importance than it being Christ’s exact birth date. This seems to be especially important among Christians in recent years, since it has been so commercialized with the gift-giving aspect of the holiday.
“For most people the really troublesome aspects of Christmas gift-giving is the commercialism attached to it and the pressure it often puts on people to give gifts to people because it’s expected rather than freely given out of love,” said Hank Hanegraff, the president of the Christian Research Institute, in a recent Facebook posting.
The survey revealed that 17 percent of the Christians polled were unsure of the birth date of Christ and only 13 percent answered that Dec. 25 was the exact date citing Christian tradition as their main source.
This tradition of celebrating the birth of Christ on Dec. 25 has been a practice of the church for centuries. Most scholars believe this day was established for Christmas in the early Roman church in conjunction with the Roman winter solstice. The day’s validity was not challenged until sometime around the 18th century when philosophers such as Isaac Newton began proposing alternative theories.
Some Protestant leaders including Paul Ernst Jablonski argued that by Christmas taking place on Dec. 25, the same day as the winter solstice, it became completely "paganized" – debasing the true church. Protestant Christian sects such as the Puritans even went as far as to stop celebrating the holiday and banning it from their church.
With the strong debate over the exact date of Christ’s birth, many churches today have opted to not celebrate on Dec. 25, while others feel that those who refuse to recognize the day are missing the real purpose of Christmas.
“Basically, we follow tradition that you could probably find as to the initial date being celebrated as Dec. 25. Most agree that Jesus was probably born in early spring, like March. You can find that too. Personally, I think we get too overworked as to the date of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ,” said Pastor Timothy McIntyre, lead pastor Oasis Christian Center in New York City, to The Christian Post.
The subject of celebrating the things of God on specific dates has been a topic of debate since the times on the New Testament. But they ultimately should not divide the church, according to the teachings of the Apostle Paul.
“Scripture says one honors one day, another one honors another day. We are not under the law and we are at liberty with such things so long as it doesn’t disagree with scripture,” added McIntyre.
Aside from the biblical account of Christ’s birth in the New Testament, the earliest recorded Christmas celebrated on Dec. 25 is included in the Chronography of 354, a 4th century illuminated manuscript produced in 354 AD for a wealthy Roman Christian known as Valentinus.
In the manuscript, commemoration dates of the martyrs is included that begins with “VIII kal. Lan. Natus Christus in Betleem ludeae” (Eighth day before the Kalends of January [December 25], Birth of Christ in Bethlehem Judea).