Christmas (Christ’s Mass) is the Feast of Our Lord’s Birth. The liturgical colour is white, symbolising joy. It was being celebrated at Rome in 354 AD but had already been observed fairly widely in the West before this date, perhaps before the end of the third century in some places. (1) The Gospels provide no evidence as to the exact date of Christ’s Birth.  However, St Chrysostom preached a sermon in Antioch in around 386 AD in which he encouraged all the people to celebrate Christ’s Birth on December 25th, in line with the practice of the Western Church. (2)

It is possible that December 25th was chosen because in the Roman Empire it was the date of the well-known pagan solar feast of Natalis Invicti (Birthday of the Unconquered).  As early as the third century AD, St Cyprian was making a connection between the births of Christ and the sun. And still today solar symbolism and language is evident in our hymns (3); for example:

“Wakened by the solemn warning
let the earthbound soul arise;
Christ, her Sun, all ill dispelling,
shines upon the morning skies” (4)

“Hail, the heaven-born Prince of Peace:
hail, the Sun of Righteousness.
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings”. (5)

See Malachi 4:2 – ‘wings’ means ‘rays’ (6)

“In the heavenly country bright,
need they no created light;
thou its light, its joy, its crown,
thou its sun which goes not down…” (7)

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