By Ben Radstein, Staff Reporter

I recently spoke with Dr. Michael Ackley, a Professor of Religious Studies at Brandine University. He says that we are observing Christmas on the wrong day, and that his studies have uncovered the actual date of Jesus' birth: February 29, aka Leap Day. I interviewed him about this.

Radstein: Could you tell me what you have got against Christmas?

Ackley: Yes. It is not at the right time of the year. It should not be in December at all. The first clues should be obvious with a simple reading of the gospels, and the proof is right there for anyone who cares to study history.

Radstein: Can you elaborate?

Ackley: In Luke, 2:8 it says "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." They don't do that in the dead of winter, they start doing it at the beginning of spring.

December 25 was the date of the Winter Solstice on the old Julian Calendar. The Winter Solstice has been a great festival in pagan cultures since the dawn of man. In Rome, it was called Saturnalia. This was also the birth date of a solar deity called Mithras, or Mithra in some texts. He was worshipped by a Roman cult which counted the Emperor Constantine as one of its members. Mithras was the son of a greater deity, was seated at the right hand of his father and had many other similarities to Christ, likely forced into Christianity by the Emperor.

Radstein: So, since the day we observe Christmas is also very close to the Winter solstice, and also a pagan idol's birthday, it couldn't have been Jesus' too? Is there any other evidence?

Ackley: Yes. Well into the Middle Ages, there were more songs about the sun in the sky than the Son of God. The evidence that what we call Christmas was only and excuse to continue having a Winter Solstice festival is overwhelming. That is the wrong time. Period.

Radstein: So you would do away with Christmas?

Ackley: No. observing the birth of Christ is important, as western culture is so intertwined with Christianity. I just want to move it to its proper time, and ditch the parts of it with purely pagan origins. I am convinced that I have pinpointed that time.

Radstein: What makes you so sure?

Ackley: The Gospel, Chinese and Arab astrology references to a star 2000 years ago and many other things point to the end of winter and the early part of spring. If you change the days of that time from the old calendar to the modern  calendar, Year Zero was a leap year. This makes February 29 a very real possibility.

Radstein: Year Zero?  I always heard that the number zero was a recent invention, and that our calendar only has 1 B.C. then 1 A.D. What do you mean?

Ackley: I mean 1 B.C. Christ had not been born at the beginning of that year, but was by the end of it. Many scholars refer to that year as Year Zero.

Radstein: So if your idea catches on, Kris Kringle will be coming down the chimney on February 28, but only once every four years.

Ackley: I hate it when people call St. Nicholas that! Kris Kringle is an illiterate bastardization of Kristkindl, German for The Christ Child. Many German children believe it is Kristkindl who brings them gifts. Don't call St. Nicholas Baby Jesus. That is not his name!

The professor became visibly upset with me, even more so than when I had asked about Year Zero. I tried to apologize for upsetting him, explaining that such questions were part of the interview process and that I was only doing my job. My next question would be the last. I guess his reaction was also his answer.

Radstein: Christmas would come once every four years instead of every year. What would you say to those who will call you a Scrooge or a Grinch, and say you just hate Christmas? Couldn't it have easily been another day in late February or early March? What makes you so sure about Leap Day?

Ackley:  I am sick of your attitude. I am a tenured professor at a prestigious university. You are a reporter for an Internet outfit, not even the real press. I don't have to put up with you questioning my scholarship or my integrity. If moving Christmas to the right day meant it happened only once every four years, that would make it more special. The only people who would have a problem with that are the greedy bastards who make a buck off of it. They have turned it into The Almighty Dollar's birthday!

He then refused to answer any more questions, and threatened to call the campus police if I did not leave. I complied. Christmas on February 29, What do you think of that?