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Christmas, the argument goes, is really a spin-off from these pagan solar festivals.According to this theory, early Christians deliberately chose these dates to encourage the spread of Christmas and Christianity throughout the Roman world: If Christmas looked like a pagan holiday, more pagans would be open to both the holiday and the God whose birth it celebrated.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.E., when the apocryphal text known as the Epistle to the Apostles has Jesus instruct his disciples to “make commemoration of [his] death, that is, the Passover.” Jesus’ ministry, miracles, Passion and Resurrection were often of most interest to first- and early-second-century C. We can begin to see this shift already in the New Testament.The earliest writings—Paul and Mark—make no mention of Jesus’ birth.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 Romans had their mid-winter Saturnalia festival in late December; barbarian peoples of northern and western Europe kept holidays at similar times. E., the Roman emperor Aurelian established a feast of the birth of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun), on December 25.
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.
But how had they settled on the dates December 25 and January 6?
There are two theories today: one extremely popular, the other less often heard outside scholarly circles (though far more ancient).
According to Clement of Alexandria, several different days had been proposed by various Christian groups.