For many centuries Christians have celebrated Christmas on December 25th (Western Church) or January 6th/7th (Eastern Church). While there are many attempts to discover the origin of the date for Christmas, perhaps the most common explanation is that the Roman church first established the day in the 4thcentury in conjunction with the winter solstice and the celebration by Roman pagans. Christians trying to minimize the pagan holiday began to celebrate it as the birth of Christ.
While the date of Jesus’ birth cannot be ascertained for sure, some facts suggest that the idea of a white Christmas may not be the most consistent with Gospel accounts. The scriptures that state there was no room at the inn, but only in the stable, may suggest that the animals either had not come in for the winter, or had been sent out to the spring pasture.
The Gospel according to St. Luke 2:7 states that Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger because there was no room in the inn. Traditional Christmas pageants depict Mary and Joseph arriving at Bethlehem only to find the local motels (inns) full; but the kind innkeeper offered them a place in the stable to accommodate the birth of Jesus.
Luke 9:8-14 records that the “shepherds were abiding in the fields watching over their flocks.” Why were the shepherds attending their flocks in the fields in the cold and rainy winter season?
Justin Martyr first mentioned Jesus’ birth in a cave in the second century. It was not uncommon for houses in the Judean hillsides to be built as extensions of a cave. The ground around the cave was simply leveled and a stone-like structure built adjacent to the cave. The cave area would be shared with the animals during the cold winter rains and the heat of summer.
The common house was composed of four rooms consisting of a main hall, guestroom, a private family room, and then a storage room to house the animals, which was often a cave with a shared entrance. Perhaps the guest room was full so Joseph and Mary were offered the cave room where the animals lived in the winter and hot summers.