The Bible does not actually mention the precise date of Jesus' birth, so we can't know for sure what day Jesus was born. We DO get plenty of details in the Bible though, such as His birth city (Bethlehem), where He slept (a manger), and what He was wearing (swaddling blankets) (Luke 2:4,7,12). We can learn all about the circumstances surrounding His birth in Matthew 1:18-25; 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38; and 2:1-20. But the exact date is never mentioned.
People have been speculating about the actual birthday of Jesus Christ since the 3rd century, when Hyppolytus (ca. 170-236) claimed that Jesus was born on December 25. The first recorded observance of Christ's birthday is included in the Philoclian Calendar, representing Roman practice, in the year 336. Later on, one of the early church fathers, John Chrysostom, agreed that December 25 was correct. Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) had access to the original Roman birth census, which also documented that Jesus was born on the 25th of December.
Because of the various historical records, December 25 was eventually officially recognized for Christmas, but it is true that the date coincided with the time of Saturnalia and winter solstice festivals that were already practiced by pagans. During the time of the early church, Christians would still participate in winter solstice festivals because, in an agricultural society, it was an important time of year.
The celebration of Christmas on December 25 had the added opportunity to offer a Christian alternative during a time of pagan festivities. (Think of it sort of like Halloween today.) Over the years, many of the symbols and actions the pagans used were reinterpreted in ways acceptable to the Christian faith, and Christians also came up with their own symbols and traditions for December 25.
While December 25 has pretty much been accepted as the day to celebrate Jesus' birth, it is still impossible to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was born on December 25. In fact, we don’t even know for sure the exact year in which He was born. Many scholars believe it was somewhere between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C., but that is still a range of 2 years.
Some Christians argue that Jesus may have been born in another season, such as autumn. This theory claims that the Judean winters were too cold for shepherds to be out at night, watching their flocks. However, historical evidence proves that unblemished lambs were kept in the fields near Bethlehem for the Temple sacrifice during the winter. So maybe not then.
The truth is, it really doesn't matter what DAY Jesus was born. What matters is that He was born at all, that He came into the world to pay the penalty we owe for our sins, that He was resurrected to eternal life, and that He's alive today in the heart of every believer.
The details the Bible does include about Jesus' birth can help us understand more about who He is as a person. The fact that His birth had such humble beginnings, that God chose for His Son to be born this way, speaks of His nature and character—meek and lowly. The exact date of Jesus' birth has no significance whatsoever, which is likely why God chose not to mention it in the Bible.
In the Old Testament, we are told to celebrate the coming of Christ: "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the Lord" (Zechariah 2:10). In the New Testament, when the angel announced the Savior's birth to the shepherds, he brought "good news of great joy that will be for all the people" (Luke 2:10). This is definitely cause for celebration—not only on December 25, but every day of the year!
The Bible does not mention the precise date of Jesus' birth, so we can't know for sure if Jesus was born on December 25. Various historical records point to December 25 as a high possibility, but even the year of Christ's birth is still in question. The truth is, it doesn't really matter what DAY Jesus was born. What matters is that He was born at all, that He came into the world to pay the penalty we owe for our sins, that He was resurrected to eternal life, and that He's alive today.
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org and loves to write novellas with local young writers at her workshops. She also contributes at GotQuestions.org, Blogos.org, and GQkidz.org. When Catiana is not writing or hanging out with teens, she loves spending time with her two kids, five socially awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.