Jesus was probably born in late September. Recall from the bible that Joseph and Mary were in town for the census (the famous Nativity scene). A census would generally be called right after harvest. People have money and resources to travel and it’s not too cold yet. Combination of census records and some logic, most thinkers put his birthday around Sept 29. I hedge later because they couldn’t find a place to stay so the town was already full.
The date is one thing, but there’s something more profound going on here. If a young man and pregnant women were turned away from the inn… and all government rule was based on force and violence… and personal conflict was for the most part resolved with violence… Then it’s time for new thinking. Clearly a brilliant philosopher/leader was needed in that time period.
New thinking was delivered and here’s a painting which I absolutely love which illustrates it (It shows a a notable story of Jesus preventing violence against a person): Christ and the Woman. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”. I think it’s very enlightened thinking to move towards common sense and tolerance in place of rules. Rules always have context which may not match every opportunity to enforce them.
I’m going to see the painting at the Gallery this Thursday. Let me know if you want to come!
Another dead ringer for an after harvest birth date was the shepherds having their flocks outdoors. December in that region at the time, animals were kept indoors. So that’s another good argument for late harvest.
December is more likely Mary’s birthday but that’s pretty vague. Consider that at the time of Christ (and still in many parts of the world), there was no emphasis on birthdays and age. Notable people are remembered for when they die. Not born, so there are no records or thought payed to when he was born. It’s unlikely that anybody at the time could tell you what year Jesus was born on by the time he was 20. They claim he got busy when he was 12. But the actual age was probably added later.
Of course some of the reports in the bible could be inaccurate because the Romans eventually pruned the books of the bible (see my youtube favorites http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phyN5tWUIUI) and with translations and language localization, it’s all pretty vague anyways. 🙂 There are the occasional text that comes forward with new information: (can’t seem to find it in my youtube favorites but there is a video on a fascinating “rejected book”).
Western “Holiday Season” and gift giving is often a solstice driven thing but by celebrating Jesus’ birth during this time, its sort of a brilliant hijack. Peoples openness and generosity during Winter Solstice combined with the notion of child birth is a good recipe.
I think some people find it irritating that gift giving is over commercialized and devalues Christmas. Don’t fret. See it as a Solstice practice. I think it’s better if people recognize that the season is different for everyone rather than subscribing to all this “What Christmas is and isn’t” stuff. The term “X-mas” used to irritate me, but now I quite like it. I’m not fully subscribed to the solstice gift thing much though. Especially since many people and even some closer to me, it seems to be more about vanity. And isn’t it a little clumsy to be passing luxury gifts back and forth when there are poor people right in your own community who suffer economic hardship? Here’s a finer example of what do with extra resources at Christmas.
If you are looking for something different, I suggest grabbing some of your family and/or friends and go to Notre Dame or Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for about 11pm on a December 24th (TODAY!) (perhaps a few minutes before). It’s free and there is no reservation required. You can observe some of the rituals which I know you would enjoy. This is the original (theoretically) church from a few centuries after Christ but has not been subject to reform that took place during the protest (the time of Galileo, Newton, Pope Urbane VIII, Bernini the Sculptor).
I think anybody who’s into art/philosophy needs to see this meme in action.
What I mean is… even if you’re not “religious”…. go.
Oh, and here’s something from my choir days (you may want to right click and save it to your desktop so it will play).
I saw this cool kinetic sculpture which is in the BMW museum. I thought that if those balls were Christmas decorations and they were arranged to all hang from a circular panel about 4 feet across, they could move around and arrange themselves in a tree. To put the tree away you just tell it to reel all the balls up and you can put it away. Next year, just hang it up and turn on the power. Do decorating!