The Third Day of Christmas

Friends, Romans, countrymen… lend me your ears (and eyes)! By all accounts, and if my math is correct, we are only 25% of the way through the 12 Days of Christmas. Which should be good news for those who love this time of the year and hate to see it pass too quickly. According to tradition, the 12 Days of Christmas begin on Christmas Day (Dec. 25) and end on January 5 (which is referred to as Twelfth Night, as all you Shakespeare lovers will find familiar). Thus, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, the celebration of Jesus’ birth continues, and merriment should abound, even now. Keep playing (and singing) the familiar carols and songs. But, there’s a natural question to be asked: when did people start celebrating the birth of Jesus? As some parts of the story are familiar to us, we know Jesus was born in a backwoods part (Bethlehem, near Jerusalem) of the Roman Empire of the 1st Century AD (CE). Yet, it wasn’t until the 4th Century (300s AD) that Christianity became accepted in the Roman world, helped tremendously when Emperor Constantine himself became a Christian in 311 AD, followed closely by the Edict of Milan (in 313 AD), which gave Christians proper standing within the Empire, finally free of the fear of persecution. There is then record of the first Christmas being officially celebrated in the Roman Empire in 336 AD. Some will say that December 25th was chosen as the date of Christmas because it was also the timing of the Winter Solstice, as well as the natural substitute for the Roman pagan festival which celebrated the birth of the sun god, Sol Invictus. Yet, there is evidence in writings as early as 204 AD as to the choice of December 25, well before Christianity was legal and before Christians even thought to overtake a popular pagan celebration. As St. Augustine aptly proclaims: “We hold this day [Dec. 25] holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of him who made it.” Alas… Perspective is everything, don’t you think? May you find some perspective during these 12 Days of Christmas. Peace (pax) be with you.