Ladyday, Frodo Baggins and Happy New Year

March 25 in the Middle Ages was called Ladyday–the Feast of the Annunciation. It’s an important day because, from the most ancient times, it determined the date for Christmas.

In 386, St John Chrysostom preached a sermon linking the date for Christmas to the date of the Annunciation. He does so in a way that suggests that this was already an established belief.

The date of the Annunciation was based on a Jewish tradition that the world was created on March 25, or Nisan 15, according to the Jewish calendar.  The Jews also believed that a great man would die on the same day as his conception. Because Jesus died on Friday, March 25, the early Christians (who were of course Jews) therefore concluded that Jesus had been conceived on March 25. This made it the date not only of the world’s creation,  but also the dawn of the world’s redemption (and therefore the new creation).

So this also determines the date of Christmas (not some goofy idea that the early Christians were embracing pagan solstice festivals). It’s easy. If the Lord Jesus Christ was conceived on March 25, then he was born nine months later on December 25. The date for Christmas is therefore determined by the date of the Annunciation–Ladyday.

J.R.R. Tolkien understood this, and so he has Frodo Baggins destroy the ring of power in the fires of Mt Doom on  March 25–thus marking the dawn of a new age. That’s why today is a Tolkien reading day for fans of the Hobbit creator.

Furthermore, in the Middle Ages, Catholic society celebrated New Years’ Day not on January 1, but March 25–Lady Day–the first day of our world’s redemption.

So Happy New Year, Happy Ladyday, and long live Frodo Baggins!

via Christmas, Pagan Romans, & Frodo Baggins — Crisis Magazine.

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • http://sue-livingandlearning.blogspot.com/ Sue

    Very interesting. Thank you for this.

    My daughter was just asking me about this the other day, because we had a visit from some young women from a Buddhist off-shoot group (cult-like in nature). I was then telling her how I used to get ladies from Jehovah’s Witness stopping by pretty much every month for the first year we lived in our apartment. They really thought they had me in December when they had seen our Christmas tree lights in the window. They triumphantly asked if I knew that Jesus was not, indeed, born on Dec. 25. I was protestant at the time, and didn’t really know much about it, so I simply responded that I didn’t care, and that I still planned to celebrate His birth along with most other Christians.

    If only I had known what I know now. :o )

  • William Tighe

    But, of course, Jesus did not die on March 25; he died either on April 7, 30 or (more likely) April 3, 33. It was Tertullian who reckoned that the date was Friday, March 25, 29; but in the year 29 March 25 did not fall on a Friday, nor was March 25 anywhere close to Passover in that year. Cf.:

    http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=16-10-012-v

  • Donald F Nelson

    Thank you Vanessa and Reba for this webpage. The confusion developed from an error by the historian Flavius Josephus who said that the worldwide census was ordered in the late summer of 6 BC and Herod died in the spring of 4 BC. However it was later determined that even though this question came up again at the time of the Y2K issue stating that we had passed into the millenium without knowing it probably in the spring of summer of 1995—it had been determined that the manuscripts were old and at the time had been misread and the writings actually stated that the Annuciation occurred on March 25,1BC and Christ was born December 25.1BC

    • William Tighe

      Sheer fantasy, without any historical evidence to back it up — e.g., “it had been determined” — by whom, when, and based on what evidence?


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