I don’t know about you, but I now have “Christmas-fatigue”. The relentless Christmas advertising, the supermarket jingles, the pressure to buy more, eat more, drink more, and to ignore the Jesus that people are supposed to be celebrating – it grates on my nerves.
I find the whole Christmas thing more stressful and less meaningful year by year. After we pass the marker of Bonfire Night (or I suppose it would be Thanksgiving in America) the shops are full of decorations and the TV is full of adverts, until the entire subject of Christmas is a turnoff, for me at least.
If ever there was a connection to Jesus Christ it’s now become overwhelmed by expensive purchases, feasting and partying. The Church tries valiantly to beef up the biblical connections, but fewer people show an interest, so children are raised thinking it’s all about Santa Claus and presents.
The ‘Magic’ of Yuletide
Most of all I object to the oft-repeated phrase, the “magic” of Christmas. Am I a Grinch, or do I have a point? To me as a Christian, magic is totally contrary to what I believe. You can call the solstice magical, or celebrate the ‘magic of Beltane’ if you are so minded, but don’t drag Christmas into it.
But then, I haven’t truly celebrated this festival for years, because early on in my Christian life I did a lot of research and found out the basis of most of the Christmas traditions are far from biblical. Indeed, I then wrote a pamphlet about it, that was ultimately transcribed for my website. It’s called “Somebody Cooked Your Goose!” and you can still find it today HERE.
Santa Isn’t Real – GASP!!
Before I get into the subject matter of this post (Hanukkah as the real birthday of Jesus Christ) – and it’s not what you think, so keep reading – I want to comment on something that caught my attention just as I was writing this.
The Daily Mail (who else?) reported today on outrage in Lincolnshire after some schoolchildren were told that Jesus was the reason for Christmas, not Santa, and afterwards a few of the children were invited to smash chocolate Santas (then allowed to take the chocolate home afterwards).
One parent said that “I was really annoyed because Christmas is a magical time for my kids”. Needless to say, the message that Jesus is real while Santa is not fell upon deaf ears.
One lady in her later years commented on the news story that she was a Christian and thus did believe Jesus was real, but has “carried Santa in my heart” all her life, and because Jesus is about love, she rejects most of the bible while fully endorsing the Yuletide myths.
Is this is the message parents want to convey to their children?
I would suggest that, if you feel the need to tell the children anything, read them the North Pole/Santa saga merely as a fairy story in the same category as elves and goblins and they will get the enjoyment without the lie. After all, if you took the kids to Disneyworld and they met Mickey Mouse, you would discourage them from believing he was real.
First, the False
The date we on which we now celebrate the birth of Jesus was adopted by the Christian Church as late as the fourth century and his birthday is not mentioned in scripture at all.
This date was first observed in 336 AD, some 24 years after the Roman emperor Constantine established Christianity as the state religion. Apparently, Pope Julius I chose to replace the pagan winter solstice feast in honor of Mithra, the “Unconquered Sun,” that had been officially recognized by the emperor Aurelian in 274 AD. From Rome, the new feast celebrating the birthday of the “Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2) spread to all other churches (except the Armenian church) over the following century.
As many Christians are aware, the modern Christmas celebration combines many strands of tradition including the ancient Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia (merrymaking, exchange of presents), the old Germanic midwinter customs (Yule log, decorating evergreen trees), the tradition of Francis of Assisi (displaying the crib, or crèche of Jesus), the medieval feast of St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas in Dutch, hence “Santa Claus”), and the British sending of greeting cards (1840s). The Puritan pilgrims did not celebrate Christmas because of its many unbiblical associations. The holiday was officially recognized in the United States in 1870. [Source]
Another similar quote:
“Did the Romans Invent Christmas?”
Saturnalia – the pagan Roman winter solstice festival – was a public holiday celebrated around December 25th in the family home. A time for feasting, goodwill, generosity to the poor, the exchange of gifts and the decoration of trees.
The poet Lucian of Samosata (AD 120-180) has the god Cronos (Saturn) say in his poem, Saturnalia:
‘During my week the serious is barred: no business allowed. Drinking and being drunk, noise and games of dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping … an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water – such are the functions over which I preside.’
By the time Lucian described the festivities, it was a seven-day event. Changes to the Roman calendar moved the climax of Saturnalia to December 25th, around the time of the date of the winter solstice.
The poet Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius in his work dated to between AD 383 and 430 describes a Saturnalia alive and well under Christian emperors.
The Christian calendar of Polemius Silvus, written around AD 449, mentions Saturnalia, recording that ‘it used to honour the god Saturn’. This suggests it had by then become just another popular carnival. [Source]
The Main Point
However, I don’t want to cover old ground and write about the pagan winter festival. You are probably familiar with all that anyway.
I’m writing because I was pondering how the Middle Eastern mindset is different from ours, so that celebrating a birthday for them is not about the baby being born, but being conceived.
I am told that in the Jewish culture of Jesus’s day, the day you were conceived was actually considered your birthday.
We Got The Story Wrong
Most of us know that Jesus could not have been born “in the bleak midwinter” because the sheep were still out in the pastures, but perhaps he was conceived at that time?
I was thinking along those lines, and saying to myself that the date of 25th December is just a throwback to the Solstice festivals and Saturnalia.
Then I thought, surely a more reasonable date for the conception of Jesus would have been Hannukah, a celebration of dedication and victory, when miraculous light fills the temple!
The Maccabean Revolt was a Jewish rebellion, lasting from 167 to 160 BC, led by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire and the Hellenistic influence on Jewish life.
According to the Talmud, a late text, the defiled Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned there for eight days, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting.
This event is now celebrate as Hanukkah which is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. It may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
The name “Hanukkah” derives from the Hebrew verb “to dedicate“. But it has also been rendered as “[they] rested [on the] twenty-fifth”, referring to the fact that the Jews ceased fighting on the 25th day of Kislev, the day on which the holiday begins. [Source]
A Surprising Discovery
As I considered the possibility that Jesus might have been conceived at that time, I suddenly remembered today’s date and that my thoughts had come during – guess what – the very same festival of Hanukkah 2018, which began on 2nd December and runs to 10th December!
Is it merely a coincidence that the first day of Hanukkah for Israel IS in fact the 25th – 25 Kislev! Maybe something unique has been lost over the ages?
Can the idea of Jesus’ conception on 25th Kislev be supported by scripture? Yes. The bible also leads us to another conclusion, that the actual birth of Jesus into this world happened during the Feast of Tabernacles in September – a time of rejoicing to celebrate “God With Us”.
A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week (Luke 1:8-13, 24). Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14). Six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33); therefore Jesus would have been conceived six months after Sivan 30 in the month of Kislev—Hanukkah. Was the “light of the world,” conceived on the Festival of Lights [Hanukkah]? Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles. [Source]
These facts would be much more in keeping with the prophecies of the birth of the Messiah, certainly much more relevant than the old pagan winter festivals of Rome.
Naturally, there is much discussion and debate about the exact facts, with some disputing the Hanukkah conception, and some disputing the timing. But overall there is consensus among scholars about the scriptures.
Feast of Tabernacles Birthday
Respected theologian Matthew Henry states:
“It is supposed by many that our blessed Saviour was born much about the time of this holiday; then He left his mansions of light above to tabernacle among us (John 1:14), and he dwelt in booths. And the worship of God under the New Testament is prophesied of under the notion of keeping the Feast of Tabernacles (Zec.14: 16).”
The most sure way of discovering the truth is by using (as above) the birth of John the Baptist as a time-marker.
When Zechariah was ministering in the temple, he received an announcement from God of a coming son. The eighth course of Abia, when Zechariah was ministering, was the week of Sivan 12 to 18 (Killian n.d.).
Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14).
Six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Therefore, Jesus would have been conceived six months later in the month of Kislev.
Kislev 25 is Hanukkah. From this date, counting the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles (the early fall of the year).
During the Feast of Tabernacles, God required all male Jews to come to Jerusalem. The many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the festivals would spill over to the surrounding towns (Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem). Joseph and Mary were unable to find a room at the inn because of the influx of so many pilgrims. “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).”
They may have been given shelter in a Sukkah, which is built during a seven-day period each year accompanying the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to the difficulties during travel, it was common for the officials to declare tax time during a temple feast (Luke 2:1).
The fields would have been dotted with Sukkoths during this harvest time to temporary shelter animals. The Hebrew word “stable” is called a Sukkoth (Gen. 33:17).
From Kehila News – Richard Honorof – Dec 21, 2016
[Kehila News is a community news site of the Messianic community in Israel.]
There is so much biblical evidence proving that Yeshua was born on Succoth. I have written two books on this subject of Yeshua’s birthday being on Succoth. One is called,‘Yeshua’s True Birthday, the Feast of Succoth!’ And the other book is called ‘Yeshua’s True Birthday: 20 Points of Evidence for Succoth.’
Both of these books are free to download from my website.
[NOTE: I haven’t personally read these books nor do I know the author, so download at your own risk.]
Was Yeshua’s conception prophesied in the Scriptures? Was this around what we now call the Hanukkah? For the human life of the Son of God began at His conception! Yes! It is found in the book of Haggai (about 520 B.C.):
“Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, (the Hebrew ninth month is the month of Kislev), even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’s Temple was laid, consider it … from this day I will bless you.” [Haggai 2:18,19]
I believe this is the day of our Lord’s conception! The 24th of the ninth month is the 24th of Kislev. The feast of Hanukkah (164 B.C.) begins the 25th of Kislev, and lasts for eight days. [Source]
Dates of Hanukkah [the 24th of Kislev] recently and upcoming:
- 2005 – December 25th
- 2011 – December 20th
- 2016 – December 24th
- 2019 – December 22nd
- 2021 – December 28th
- [NOTE: this year 2018 it falls on 2nd December.]
His True Birthday
So, to conclude, perhaps there really is a “reason for the season” and we CAN celebrate the birth of Jesus (his conception that is) if we remember that it’s Hanukkah not the artificial festival today known as Christmas that is a REAL reason for our hope and joy.
And, in fixing upon that date instead of 25th December in the world, we can maybe avoid the worst of the paganism and excesses that the world has recreated around its modern-day Saturnalia.
Indeed, I feel more inclined to emulate the early joy of Hanukkah as described by The Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus in his book, Jewish Antiquities XII, where he tells how the victorious Judas Maccabeus ordered lavish yearly eight-day festivities after rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem that had been profaned by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Josephus does not say the festival was called Hanukkah but rather the “Festival of Lights”:
“Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival. Judas also rebuilt the walls round about the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein. He also fortified the city Bethsura, that it might serve as a citadel against any distresses that might come from our enemies.”[http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=J.+AJ+12.287, Jewish Antiquities xii. 7, § 7, #323]