In the east, the birth of Jesus was celebrated - in a way. Stuffed into the feast of the Epiphany, celebrated on the sixth of January. Birth? His birth? Birthday’s were unimportant. As Origen once quoted,
cursed is the day in which I was born. Christians valued Jesus’ baptism, his death and resurrection and the coming of the Holy Spirit. His birth mattered little.
Then in the late 380s, in Antioch, up stood Chrysostom to promote celebration of the
birth of Christ according to the flesh. In a December 20th celebration for a local bishop, he spoke of the imminent
metropolis of all feasts, without which there could have been no others.
In a later sermon, he spelt out why December 25th. It was celebrated all over the West from
Thrace to Cadiz and its rapid spread proved its truth. He referenced census records kept in Rome that showed when Christ was born and at length, derived the date from events in scripture.
You can read that Chrysostom saw this date as providing competition for December 25’s Sun Worshipers. But did he?
For some time, a tract on the Christian calendar was attributed to him. It refers to the Sun with
Birthday of the Unconquered” and asks
Who indeed is so unconquered but our Lord?. But it isn’t his. Its diction is North African, from the early fourth century.
And then there’s
the birth of Christ was lately fixed at Rome, in order that while the heathen were busy with their ceremonies, the Christians might perform their rites undisturbed. Books and sites cite this line from Chrysostom’s Homily 31 but what is that? The attribution seems to come from Gibbon. I think. I don’t know. Needs chasing down, this rogue homily.