Makoto: Thanks for picking me up at the airport.
Tom: Oh, sure.
Makoto: Say, I heard something strange on the airplane.
Makoto: A woman behind me was telling the little girl beside her that nobody knows when Jesus' birthday really was.
Tom: Well, that's true. We don't.
Makoto: I thought it was December the twenty-fifth.
Tom: That's the date of a number of non-Christian winter festivals, actually.
Makoto: Then why is Christmas on December twenty-fifth?
Tom: It's a long story.
Makoto: No short version?
Tom: Hmm. Okay, for starters, you know that we don't have any hard evidence that the Biblical Jesus actually existed.
Makoto: I've heard that, but I thought it was just atheist arguments.
Tom: An atheist doesn't think it's just argument. At least, some of my atheist friends seem to be sincere about it.
Makoto: What about the shrines over in Jerusalem?
Tom: Well, what about Japan's traditional history back around Jimmu?
Makoto: Okay. No evidence for that, either. But I always thought you guys had harder evidence. I mean, you believe in Jesus, don't you?
Tom: Well, you don't have to believe all the stories told about the Boddhisatva are true to believe there was an original Gautama, do you?
Makoto: I guess you have a point there.
Tom: Anyway, soon after most of the apostles were martyred, there was some discussion about having a celebration for Jesus' birthday. There does seem to be evidence of those discussions.
Makoto: But they didn't know when?
Tom: According to some interpretations, it was thought that the date was suppressed to avoid the celebrations.
Makoto: By the enemies of the Church?
Tom: By the Church leaders. Such celebrations easily turn idolatrous.
Makoto: Wow. But, so Christmas shouldn't exist? What happened?
Tom: Whether Christmas should exist or not is another question, but what happened was a Roman emperor named Constantine.
Makoto: Sounds like someone from Star Wars.
Tom: Heh. Whether he was a good guy or bad guy is still a subject of debate. But Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire about then. And the early Christ Mass mostly began during his reign as emperor.
Makoto: I think I see. So how about the date?
Tom: Those who seemed to know most about it at the time argued for a date in spring -- March or April.
Makoto: That would double up on Easter, wouldn't it?
Tom: There were apparently some who worried about that.
Makoto: How about now?
Tom: Late August or early September are favored theories these days.
Makoto: No midwinter?
Tom: Some did and do argue for for December. But, apparently, they wanted to borrow an existing festival -- horn in on another religion's holiday.
Makoto: Another religion?
Tom: Druidism and the pre-Christian religions of the area, and the Roman worship of the Sun God among others. Lots of religions seem to have some sort of festival just a few days after winter solstice.
Makoto: Son God?
Tom: The sun in the sky, shining down on you, sometimes dies. He is reborn three days after solstice.
Makoto: Winter solstice? Three days after the twenty-second would be the twenty-fifth.
Makoto: So is that the reason you're not very big on Christmas? My sister sometimes calls you a Scrooge.
Tom: Bah! Humbug! Heh. No, we just don't have much money yet. The boutique isn't doing very well, and we both have to work a lot of part-time jobs.
Makoto: Yeah. Small fashion stores are subject to the winds of fashion.
Tom: And I forget, and she waits for me. That's the real reason we came to visit my family this year, so I wouldn't forget.
Makoto: Well, hey, I'm looking forward to meeting your family. Mom said she was jealous when I left.
Tom: Dad says he thinks he and Mom can make it to Japan next Christmas, and some of my sisters are talking it up as a family reunion over there.
Makoto: That'd be sweet.