Christmas is, as we all know, observed on Dec. 25, but what many may not know is it is also the wrong day, in the wrong month. This fact is well documented, but I propose we move Christmas for a reason many may not expect. Before we get into that, however, allow me to support the case for the date I have chosen to propose as the new Christmas.
We begin with the historical case. During ancient times, Dec. 25 was widely celebrated because of the strengthening, or rebirth, of the sun. As the sun’s duration in the sky grew shorter with each passing day, many populations feared that the sun would disappear completely, perhaps as a result of their failure to properly appease their various Gods. Of course, after Dec. 21, the duration of the sun in sky began to gradually increase and it would make sense that by the 25th, astronomers would be reasonably confident that disaster had once again been averted.
The first record of Dec. 25 being celebrated was in 336 A.D. during the reign of the Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome. Pope Julius I later made it the official observation of the birthday of Jesus. One can speculate that the church hoped that by picking this date, pagans would be more likely to convert to Christianity, but no solid evidence of this exists.
Now as to the true date of the birth of Christ, let us first examine the reason Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem; to be taxed. Knowing the voracious Roman appetite for coin of the realm, it stands to reason that when taxing the population they would have conducted their census in the spring, after the livestock had given birth. Picking an average of a mid-February birth, they would have been six to eight weeks old by mid-April, and well able to make a journey.
The next clue is the Star of Bethlehem. Some have speculated that the star was actually a comet; however astronomers of the time understood the difference between a comet and a star. Furthermore, comets were viewed as a bad omen, not a portent of blessed events. The idea of a supernova has been tossed about, but a supernova would have been visible for a much longer period of time. Record does exist of a conjunction of the Sun, Moon, Saturn and Jupiter which occurred on April 17, in the year six B.C.
This brings us to the final reason moving Christmas would be wise, an economic reason, one I am sure the credit card companies and banks are going to hate. Christmas, like it or not, has become a commercial holiday. People spend money they do not have on Christmas, throwing themselves into months of debt and stress afterwards.
By April 17, a large portion of the population would have their income tax returns, and could spend those on gifts and parties instead of going into debt, thus making Christmas all the more joyous. Furthermore, we could move Easter until a week after Christmas thus having a weeklong celebration of the life and resurrection of Christ.
Sadly the common denominator here is taxes. Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem, and Jesus was born there because of taxes. Now you have some madman suggesting moving Christmas because of taxes. But hey, America, it’s just a thought.