MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In just four short days, millions of Christians around the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus. But was he really born in December?
Johan Van Parys is the Director of Liturgy at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. He says what Christians are actually celebrating is that Jesus became human. Van Parys believes that the shepherds who were present at Jesus’ birth may be evidence that Jesus could have been born a few months earlier.
“The shepherds would have been in the field in the spring until fall. So it’s likely that Jesus was born sometime in the fall, but there is no written documentation about it,” said Van Parys.
Why Dec. 25 then?
The Roman Empire first recognized “Sol Invictus,” also known as the “Celebration of the Invincible Son.”
“The invincible son celebration is when the sun starts to grow so it’s the beginning of winter solstice going into spring when the days become longer,” said Van Parys.
So, as we start to see more light, Christians see a symbol of light becoming victorious over darkness.
“So that might have been a reason why Jesus’ birth was celebrated on the 25th of December,” said Van Parys.
The ultimate Christmas symbol is the nativity scene. There are more than 200 of them from around the world at the Basilica. A woman in Austin, Minn. has more than 830 of them. If you are looking for the exact year Jesus Christ was born, however, you may find that’s even more of a mystery than his actual birthday.
“In the Gospel writings, there is no specific date as to which year exactly he was born and which year exactly did he died,” said Van Parys.
Van Parys said some early Christmas celebrations occurred on January 6, which is now known as the Feast of the Epiphany.
He says one thing we do know is that, according to tradition, Jesus was 33-years-old when he died.