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3.58 Is 25 December Jesus’ birthday? Can’t I celebrate Christmas without him? Why all the candles?

The liturgical year

In the Bible there is no mention of a date for Jesus' birth. In the first centuries, Christmas was less widely celebrated as Easter. Early scholars concluded that the world was created on 25 March and that Jesus died on 25 March. While it is not clear how they came to this conclusion, it led to setting 25 March as the date we celebrate the annunciation of Jesus’ conception in Mary. Nine months later we celebrate Christmas.

The word Christmas itself contains the name of Jesus Christ: Christ-Mass is the celebration of the Eucharist of Jesus’ birth with a solemn Mass, traditionally at midnight. Christmas and Jesus Christ are so intrinsically connected that one cannot go without the other. In the northern hemisphere, Advent is the darkest period of the year. There is an old Advent tradition of getting up early for the celebration of the Golden Mass, often celebrated in a church illuminated only by candles. Candles bring light, as does Jesus’ coming into our lives.

Jesus’ birthday is unknown but from the first centuries Christians celebrated it on 25 December. Christ-Mass without Christ lacks the centre of life, Jesus, who wants to bring light in darkness for all.