Is December 25 Really the Day Jesus Was Born? What the Bible Says About Christmas

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A faithful holds up a Nativity Scene figurine of baby Jesus during the traditional blessing of figurines as part of the pope's Sunday Angelus prayer before Christmas in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican on December 11, 2016. Jesus may not have been born on Christmas. VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

Though Christmas has become a retail extravaganza, its holiday roots lie in the celebration of the birth of Jesus, who the Christian religion regards as the son of God. But was Jesus really born on December 25?

The short answer is no. It is not believed Jesus was born on the day Christmas is globally celebrated. Instead, Christmas was chosen as a convenient celebratory day on the same day of a pagan holiday that celebrated the winter solstice, according to The History Channel. The holiday was celebrated as the Roman pagan solstice, or "birthday of the unconquered sun," which began on December 17 and ended December 25.

When Jesus was really born can be assumed based on Scripture. One large plot point in the story of Jesus's birth is the presence of shepherds watching over their flocks. This is clearly outlined in the Bible at Luke 2:7-8, and is such a prominent part of the story, it has been featured in Christmas songs, according to the United Church of God. Multiple sources, including books "Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays" and "The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary" commented that the weather would not have permitted Shepherds to be tending to their flocks at the end of December. Instead, this implies Jesus was born during a warmer month.

Another major plot point, regarding Jesus's birth and parents Mary and Joseph's commute to their hometown, Bethlehem, was the concept that Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem for the Roman census. The census allegedly would not have occurred in the winter, or December specifically, because the turnout would have been expected low.

As for when Jesus was really born, many Christians base their calculation on the birth of Jesus's cousin, John the Baptist. John was conceived six months before Jesus. If his birth is taken into consideration, it leaves Jesus's birth in June. United Church of God specifically names June 13 to 17 as a likely time Jesus was born.

According to author William Walsh, as published in 1970 book, The Story of Santa Claus, the Christian decision to use December 25 as the global holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus came about as a way to hopefully convert pagans to Christianity. It was seen as a compromise between opposing beliefs.

Christmas is celebrated globally on both December 25 and December 24, or Christmas Eve, with church services.