10 Myths About Christmas

Jesus Was Born on Dec. 25
The presence of shepherds in the fields during Jesus' birth could be one clue it didn't take place in December. Reza/Getty Images News/Getty Images

If Christmas is the celebration of Jesus' birth, and Christmas is always on Dec. 25, then Jesus was born on Dec. 25, right? Nope. No one knows for sure when Jesus was born. The Bible mentions neither a month nor a date. Yet while Jesus may have been born on Dec. 25, it's highly unlikely, at least according to Biblical interpretations [source: Christian Answers]. Here's why.

First, the Bible mentions that during Jesus' birth, shepherds were in their fields. But it's cold in Bethlehem in December, and nothing much grows in the fields, so shepherds sheltered their sheep around that time of year and stayed inside. The Bible also says Mary and Joseph were traveling to take part in a census. But back in Jesus' time, censuses were normally held in September or October -- after the fall harvest, yet before the harsh winter made travel difficult [sources: Christian Answers, Boyett].

Finally, while Easter was celebrated by the earliest Christians, Jesus' birth wasn't considered a special day until about the fourth century, when the church wanted some kind of celebration to take the focus away from the winter solstice celebrations favored by the pagans. Voilà -- the church proclaimed Jesus' birth date as Dec. 25, and it became a major Christian celebration. Most scholars, incidentally, agree Jesus was likely born near the end of September, based on a host of additional Biblical clues [source: Boyett].