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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Birth of Christ

Celebrating Christ's birth on December 25th has strong origins in Natalis Invicti, a popular solar feast. It was celebrated by a well-regarded solar cult in the Roman Empire and thrived under Aurelian in 274 C.E. Christmas was not an early festival of the church.

The first evidence of the date of Christ's birth is found in Egypt in the year 200. Clement of Alexandria claims that Jesus was born on the 25th of Pachon (May 20th) in the 28th year of the reign of Augustus. Others say it is around April 19th or 20th. Clement also said that Epiphany (and the Nativity) were celebrated by other groups on January 6th or 10th.

Other claims are made in Cyprus, Mesopatamia, and Armenia as well as Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople and Rome. In Rome, the civic holiday Natalis Invicti was already well established.

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