The birth of Jesus of Nazareth is one of the most important historical and cultural events in history. The importance of his figure is universal and the celebration of his birth is one of the most deeply rooted traditions in the Western world.
For centuries, it has been celebrated on December 25, a date that has served to recognize and honor the life of the prophet of Christianity throughout the world. However, according to the work carried out by historians, it is more than likely that the date was established as well as a tradition of Roman inheritance and that the actual date of the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth into the world was several weeks earlier, a curiosity or a detail that does not detract one iota of importance from the symbolism of the festivity and its content.
It is almost impossible to escape the tradition of taking December 25 of the year I as the birth of Jesus, but it must be taken into account that this tradition was established in the sixth century by a Byzantine monk, Dionysius the Meager, who wanted to mark the differences between the pagan era and Christianity . In this way, one could speak, from the arrival of Christ into the world, of the “year of the Lord” and, from then on, of the history of Humanity. The work of historians regarding the specific date of his birth has been carried out with caution since the evidence and testimonies go back to the night of time. However, multiple studies have highlighted thatthe references to the Nativity that we have in writing are based on two mutually incompatible testimonies: the gospels of Matthew and Luke , written approximately between the year 80 and 90 of the first century AD. C., that is to say, about fifty years after the death of Jesus and about eighty after the events narrated about his birth, come into conflict.Let’s start by determining the year of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. As Javier Alonso López (IE University) explains in this article, it must be taken into account that “the first followers of the Nazarene did not show special interest in remembering specific moments of the Master’s deeds and sayings. When time began to pass and those who had personally known Jesus began to die, the need arose to write down everything that was known about him in order to transmit it to the following generations. That was the case of the Gospels quoted. The first, from Matthew, states that Jesus was born in the time of King Herod the Great (40-4 BC),and the second, in Lucas that coincided with the census that, in the time of Augustus, Quirino carried out in the Roman province of Syria. “Now then – explains Alonso López -: it is known with absolute certainty that Quirino was only governor of the province of Syria (which at that time already included Judea) in the year 6 of our era. Thus, the two pieces of news, the reign of Herod and the census of Quirinus, are incompatible from a chronological point of view.
In this way, there is a ten-year fork between the two possible dates to set the birth. Some facts lead historians to lean more towards one of them. A remarkable fact is that, although Judea was a vassal kingdom, it was still ruled by an autonomous dynasty and the subjects paid their own ruler, not the Roman emperor: only when it effectively became a Roman province in AD 6 it would have made sense to conduct such a census. However, during the time various attempts were made to register the population that could have led Lucas astray.
Another issue under study is that of December 25,which is believed to have also been a symbolic or intentional choice rather than a real one. There are arguments for all tastes: some point out that shepherds would not take their flock in winter. For example, the Bible says The Bible says that shepherds “lived in the open country and kept watches over their flocks by night” (Luke 2:8). Various testimonies record that the herds at the time went out into the open air from the week before Easter -that is, at the end of March- and returned in mid-November. Later, they spent the winter sheltered in the flocks, which could support the theory that the birth occurred a few weeks earlier, at the end of autumn. However, a milder winter than normal in Palestine could have allowed the herds to be outdoors for a few more weeks.
In any case, many theories suggest that in imperial Rome, there were two deeply rooted celebrations at that time of year that were transformed into Christian festivities when religion became the official one. During the early years of Christianity, Christmas was not even celebrated. It was in the time of the Emperor Constantine (around the year 300), when the practice of Christianity was legalized. It was the Saturnalia (Saturnalia in Latin) , which celebrated the end of work in the fields until spring and which enjoyed great popular roots. The rulers were almost obliged to maintain them, but they could not continue to have their pagan meaning. They were to transform them with a Christian message. One of the most important days of the SaturnaliaIt was celebrated on December 25: it was the so-called “birth of the Undefeated Sun” , which honored the winter solstice. That day received the Latin name of “Natalis Solis Invictus” and most likely the association of concepts was simple. You only had to change the birth of the sun for that of the new prophet. you could even keep the name of the old celebration: Natalis.