Is christmas a pagan holiday?
professing Christians believe that Christmas is one of the most important
holidays. without question, many people blindly follow its observance.
Moreover, they assume that Jesus was actually born on December 25th.
Because we look to Christ as our Savior, it is important to take a deeper look
into his birth. We often hear people say, "Let's put Christ back into
Christmas!" Perhaps we should investigate just how Christ got into Christmas in
the first place.
scholars agree that Christmas is of pagan origin. In his book 4000 Years of
Christmas, Earl W. Count, Professor of Anthropology at Hamilton College,
explains the origin of the Christmas celebration:
"We do not
know its beginning . . . we do not really know when the Christ child it
venerates was born: or the time and place when Christmas was first celebrated:
or exactly how it was that, over the centuries, a bishop saint of Asia Minor,
and a pagan god of the Germans merged to become Santa Claus."
Christmas story centers in the Christ child of Bethlehem, it begins so long
before his coming that we find its hero arriving on the scene after more than
half of the time of the story has gone by. Christmas began over 4000 years ago,
as the festival which renewed the world for another year. The 12 days of
Christmas, the bright fires and probably the yule log; the giving of presents;
the carnivals with their floats; their merry makings and clowning; the mummers
who sing and play from house to house, the feasting; the church processions with
their lights and song ”all these and more began three centuries before Christ
was born. And they celebrated the arrival of a new year" (ibid., page 18).
"For that day
[25th of December] was sacred, not only to the pagan Romans but to a
religion from Persia which, in those days, was one of Christianity's strongest
rivals. This Persian religion was Mithraism, whose followers worshiped the sun,
and celebrated its return to strength on that day. The church finally succeeded
in taking the merriment, the greenery, the lights, and gifts from Saturn and
giving them to the "babe of Bethlehem" (ibid., page 27).
that the date [December 25th] did fall in the midst of the
Saturnalia. Far from being an invention to compete against Roman and Persian
paganism, the birthday of Christ ran the danger of being swallowed up in pagan
merry making. The [church] fathers tried strenuously to keep Christmas strictly
a churchly celebration. It was part of their unremitting struggle to break the
grip of the pagan gods upon the people. And as they broke, Romans became
Christians . . . but the Saturnalia remained" (ibid., page 28).
Jesus born? No one knows. December 25th is no more than the
historical date of his birth than is any other" [page 50]. "Christmas, as we
have seen, is of the Mediterranean . . .for the Mediterranean world already had
not merely centuries, but millennia behind it, when Christ was born; and even
the religion which he founded had traveled several centuries before it
discovered its need of Christmas" (page 86).
rebirth: After 4000 years, the festival that has grown about the birth of the
Christ child remains an affirmation that all things can be made anew" (ibid.,
one knows the exact date of Christ's birth, there is evidence that he was not
born in the winter: "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in
the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night" (Lk.2:8). This never
could have occurred in the month of December in Palestine. The shepherds usually
brought their flocks from the mountainsides and fields and corralled them no
later than the middle of October to protect them from the cold, rainy season
that followed. The Song of Solomon 2:11 and Ezra.10:9, 13 show that winter was a
rainy season during which shepherds could not have remained in open fields at
"It was an
ancient custom among the Jews of those days to send their sheep to the fields,
and deserts about Passover [early spring] and bring them home at commencement of
the first rain . . .During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them
night and day, . . .The first rains began early in the month of Marchesvan,
which answers to part of our October and November [begins in the middle of
October] we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the
whole summer, and as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it
is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that
consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no
flocks were out in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in
December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is
a chronological fact" (The Adam Clarke Commentary, Volume 5, page 347).
There is no
command in the whole Bible that tells us to observe Christmas. Under the
inspired teaching of Paul and Peter and the other apostles, the Christians of
the first century never observed Christ's birth date. Christmas came to us
through the Roman Catholic Church, which is where it gets its authority as a
religious holiday. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, which is
published by the Catholic Church: "Christmas was not among the earliest
festivals of the church . . .The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt."
We find this
truth acknowledged further in the Encyclopedia Britannica:
"Christmas [i.e., the Mass of Christ] was not among the earliest festivals of
Encyclopedia Americana states:
. .it was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries
of the Christian church, as the Christian's usage in general was to celebrate
the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth . . ." (The communion,
which is instituted by New Testament authority, is a memorial of the death of
Christ.) ". . .A feast was established in memory of this event (Christ's birth)
in the fourth century. In the fifth century, the Western church ordered it to be
celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no
certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed."
How did the
pagan custom get into the church? Most recognized authorities agree that
Christmas was not observed by the early church for the first two or three
hundred years and that its origin began in the western segment of the Roman
Church in the fourth century A.D.. However, it was not until the fifth century
that the Roman Church ordered it to be celebrated as an official Christian
"How much the
date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (December 25th)
following the Saturnalia (December 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day of
the year and the "new sun " . . .cannot be accurately determined. The pagan
Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set
aside by Christian influence. The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking
was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its
celebration with little change in spirit and manner. Christian teachers of the
West and Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity, while Christians of
Mesopotamia accused their western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for
adopting as Christian the pagan festival."
observance of December 25 (as a Christian festival) only dates from the fourth
century and is due to assimilation with the Mithraic festival of the birth of
the sun" (World Popular Encyclopedia, Volume 3).
number of prevailing practices of the [heathen] nations into which Christ came
were assimilated and were combined with the religious ceremonies surrounding
Christmas. The assimilation of such practices generally represented efforts by
Christians to transform or absorb otherwise pagan practices" (The Zonderian
Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 1, page 805).
symbolism was taken over and, in Christian view, elevated. Jesus became the "sun
of justice" and the "sun of righteousness" (Celebrations: The Complete Book
of American Holidays, Myers, page 310).
Christian festival (Christmas) is nothing but a continuation under a different
name of this old solar festivity (Saturnalia)" (The New Golden Bough,
Frazer and Foster, page 653).
was generally celebrated in the West only after the triumph of Constantine when
the time of Christ's birth was reckoned with the Day of the Unconquered Sun on
25 December" (From Christ to Constantine, Smith, pages 150-151).
assimilation of Christ to the sun god, as sun of righteousness, was widespread
in the fourth century and was furthered by Constantine's legislation on Sunday,
which is not unrelated to the fact that the sun god was the titular divinity of
his family" (A History of the Christian Church: Revised, Walker, Section
13, pages 154-155).
grandson of Ham and the great grandson of Noah, was the real founder of the
Babylonian system of worship and government that continues to thrive throughout
writings speak of Nimrod as the one who started a great, organized world
apostasy against God, which still dominates the world. It is said that he was so
wicked that he married his own mother, Semiramis. After Nimrod was killed, his
mother-wife propagated the doctrine of the survival of Nimrod as a spirit-being.
She claimed that a full grown evergreen tree sprang up overnight from a dead
tree stump which symbolized the resurrection of Nimrod. On each anniversary of
his birth (supposedly December 25th), she claimed Nimrod would visit
the evergreen tree and leave gifts upon it.
scheming and planning, Semiramis became the Babylonian Queen of Heaven, and
Nimrod, under many other names, became the Divine Son of Heaven. Through the
generations, in this idolatrous worship, Nimrod also became the false messiah,
son of Baal, who was the sun-god. In this false Babylonian religious system, the
mother and child (Semiramis and the reborn Nimrod) became chief objects of
worship. This worship of mother and child spread throughout the world. Only the
names varied because of differing languages. In Asia they were known as Cybele
and Diorus. In Rome they were Fortuna and Jupiter. In Egypt their names were
Isis and Osiris. Long before the birth of Jesus Christ, the counterpart of the
Madonna can be found throughout China, Tibet, and Japan.
are explanations of the origins of popular practices and symbols of the
The yule log
is in reality the sun log. Yule means wheel, which is applied as the
pagan symbol of the sun. Today, professing Christians speak of the sacred
yuletide season. There is nothing sacred about it! The symbols come from the
worship of false gods.
tree was equally common in pagan Rome and pagan Egypt. In Egypt that tree was
the palm tree and in Rome it was the fir tree. The palm tree denotes the pagan
messiah, Baal-Tamar (Jdg.20:33), and the fir tree denotes the same pagan messiah
under the name Baal-Berith. The mother of Adonis, the sun god and great divine
mediator, was said to have been mystically changed into a tree. And when she was
in that state, she brought forth her divine son.
mistletoe bough in the Druidic superstition, which was derived from Babylon, was
a representative of the Messiah, "the man of the branch." The mistletoe was
regarded as a divine branch, a branch that came from heaven, and grew upon a
tree that sprang out of the earth. Thus by engrafting the celestial branch into
the earthly tree, heaven and earth, which sin had severed, were joined together.
Thus the mistletoe bough became the token of divine reconciliation to man, the
kiss being the well known token of pardon and reconciliation" (The Two
Babylons, Hislop, page 99).
Encyclopedia Americana says:
the mistletoe and the yule log . . . are relics of pre-Christian times."
gifts because the three wise men presented gifts to the Christ child. Did you
know the Bible nowhere states there were three wise men? Did you know those wise
men never appeared at the manger on Christ's birth night; they actually arrived
many months later? They didn't appear at the manger, they appeared at Christ's
house (Matt. 2:11).
people believe that the custom of giving gifts at Christmas is associated with
the men that brought gifts to the child Jesus, the New Standard
Encyclopedia, Christmas, says:
at least so far as the English speaking people are concerned, it [gift giving at
Christmas] is derived from an old heathen custom."
"The wise men
gave their gifts to Christ, but did not exchange gifts with each other. The
gifts presented to Christ were to a king, because of his royalty, and not
because of his birthday. He was a king, and the people of the East never
approached the presence of a king without a present in their hands" (Adam
Clarke Commentary, Volume 5, Matt. 2:11, page 34).
The use of Christmas wreaths is believed by authorities to
be traceable to the pagan customs of decorating buildings and places of worship
at the feast which took place at the same time as Christmas. The Christmas tree
is from Egypt and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christmas
era (Answers to Questions, Frederick gentlemen.
many other holidays have come directly from paganism, but the annual observances
and festivals of Leviticus 23 have come from God and should be observed today by
the children of God. See our study papers about the annual festivals and
commanded observances of God.
Santa Claus is actually the corruption of the name St. Nicholas, a Roman
Catholic bishop who lived in the fifth century.
St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. . .a saint honored by the
Greeks and Latins on the 6th of December. . .a legend of his surreptitious
bestowal of dowries on the three daughters of an impoverished citizen. . .is
said to have originated the old custom of giving presents in secret on the eve
of St. Nicholas (December 6) subsequently of Christmas and Santa Claus (Encyclopedia Brittanica, 11th Edition, Volume 19,
German people were to come those most universal of Christmas customs: the
Christmas tree, and the portly beneficent Kris Kringle, known as Santa Claus.
Gradually the Presbyterians, Quakers and Puritans accepted
such customs as the Christmas tree, the giving of small gifts and the Christmas
feast. But they spoke violently against the corruption of the Christkindl, (the
Christ Child) into Kris Kringle. After Kris Kringle was fully assimilated, there
was much concern among all religious groups about the non-religious trend of the
holiday (Christmas Day: The Complete Book of
American Holidays, Myers, pp. 314-316).
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