Date of Christmas

On Nature: David Voigts

Many people wonder why Christmas is celebrated on December 25. The key to determining the date of Jesus’s birth lies in the date of his death at Passover, for which information was available. Around 200 AD, Roman theologians calculated that the day Jesus was crucified according to the Gospel of John was 14 Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, which is equivalent to March 25. This was important because according to ancient Jewish tradition, the righteous die on either their birthday or the date of their conception. Since the conception of Jesus was miraculous, March 25 became identified as the date of Jesus’s conception, and it is recognized as the Annunciation of our Lord. March 25 is nine months before December 25.

Meanwhile, in the east, theologians similarly linked the dates of Jesus’s conception and death, but instead of using 14 Nisan, they used the 14th of the first spring month in their Greek calendar, which is April 6 in our calendar. April 6 is 9 months before January 6.

December 25th gradually became accepted as the date for Christmas, although January 6 is still considered an important holiday in eastern churches, and it has become identified with Epiphany in the west.

David Voigts is a retired ecologist and the current Conservation Chair for the Prairie Rapids Audubon Society. He is a Tama County native, graduating from Dinsdale High School, and lives in rural Jesup on his wife’s family farm.