Pagan Origins of CHRISTMAS
Without a doubt, Christmas is one of the most beloved holidays of the year. For the Christian, it is a time of rejoicing over the birth of the Savior of the world. For the world, it is a good excuse for partying, exchanging gifts and propagating fairytales about Santa Claus. My concern is, what should a Christian or any Bible believer do about Christmas? Should it be celebrated or not?
Many of the arguments for Christmas are not historically based and have few proof texts. On the other hand, the arguments and documentation against Christmas are very numerous as can be seen in the quoted references below.
Being that there are so many arguments for and against Christmas, can it be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is right? Can it be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is wrong? With something so cloudy and controversial, why participate at all? There is no wrong committed in avoiding this holiday. If we avoid Christmas and are wrong, then we lose nothing. If we avoid Christmas and are right, we prevent ourselves from being united with and engulfed in a sinful religious holiday during that time of the year.
Christmas, its origin found nowhere in scripture and surrounded by pagan worship and rites, has no place in the congregation of our Master. We cannot separate a religious holiday with its past or its origins. We can’t say, “Well, that was then, and this is now.” We are told in Deuteronomy 12:29-30 – “When Yahweh your Elohim cuts off before you the nations which you are going in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?,’ and 18:9 – “When you enter the land which Yahweh your Elohim gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. “
If we can see that there is even a chance, of which there is much more than that, of Christmas being pagan, should we still seek or find justification in participating? We would only succeed in being ensnared to follow pagan gods in the same way that the pagans did. The rites performed during Christmas today are those that were done to glorify their false gods in the past. Do we want to give those gods any glory whatsoever? If those things are detestable to Yahweh, should we not stay far, far away to avoid even the appearance of evil?
The statements and quotes from reputable sources below should provide plenty enough proof that Christmas has a pagan past. We cannot “Christianize” something that was theirs first, just like they can’t “Paganize” something that was ours first. They can’t take Passover and dance around snakes and sacrifice children and it be pleasing to Yahweh, so how can we imitate the rites of those pagan celebrations and honor Yahweh or Yeshua? If they offered gifts to a tree representing their god (by putting them under the tree), how can we do the same and separate the paganism from that? That is the same as playing with a wee gee board and asking Yeshua to guide our hands. We cannot bring Yeshua into that pagan practice. Is it a sin to give gifts to one another? No. But when it is done in the same manner, at the same time of the year as the ancient pagans did it, we should run away from it to avoid association with the world in it. We have had this in our past for so many hundreds of years that it seems normal. But normal doesn’t always mean right. Did Yeshua observe it? Did Yeshua instruct it to be observed? Did any of the apostles teach or observe it? Did the early church fathers observe it? The answers to these are obvious. Why should we unite our festivities with those rooted in or imitative of pagan rites and rituals?
Date of the birth of Yeshua Unknown
There is probably a good reason as to why the exact date of Yeshua’s birth is not known. Not even the devout followers of him, in all of their research and attempts, were able to ascertain that date. Simply put, “Not mentioned, not important.” There is no instruction to observe the day of the birth of Yeshua as a religious holiday. If Yahweh thought that would be important he would have said so. The lack of a specific date being even slightly alluded to should actually keep us on our guard against it.
The facts presented in scripture that do give some information regarding the season of Yeshua’s birth contradict what is currently practiced. First, a census was ordered, which brought Joseph and Miriam there to begin with. Any king, including Herod, who wanted to get any type of accurate numbering of the people in his kingdom, would not have done it during the dead of winter when traveling was difficult. Second, the inn was full. This was probably due to the ongoing or up and coming Feast of Tabernacles in the fall. Many people would have been making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem at that time for that feast. Third, the shepherds were sleeping and staying in the fields. They would not have been doing this in winter. Fourth, Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, was of the priestly order of Abijah, which served twice a year. The course of Abijah was the eighth course which was approximately three months after the start of the priestly cycle in March/April. This would place Elizabeth's conception around June or, if it was Zacharias's second yearly turn, around December.
The Bible does not specify which of the two courses it was. Nine months after one of the two courses John the Baptist was born. This would place his birth in March or September. Six months later, Yeshua's birth would have been around September or the following March. Either way, according to the time of the course of Abijah, a December birth for Messiah Yeshua is out of the question.
- “The exact date of Yeshua’ birth is entirely unknown, as all authorities acknowledge—though there are indications that it was in the early fall—probably September—approximately six months after Passover,” Catholic Encyclopedia.
- “Inexplicable though it seems, the date of the [Christ’s] birth is not known. The Gospels indicate neither the day nor the month,” The New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 656.
- “It was a custom among Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts about the Passover [early spring], and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain,” Clarke’s Commentary by Adam Clarke, vol. 3, p. 370. He adds, “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 Savior was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields …the flocks were still in the fields BY NIGHT. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up.”
Celebrating our Savior’s birth on December 25 and teaching others to do so is to live and teach a lie. Some will say, “We know he was not born on December 25. We simply choose that day to remember his birth.” Of all the days in the year to remember his birth, why that day? History has shown, as we will see below, that that day was chosen by the Roman church in order to assimilate pagans who were celebrating their gods and goddesses on the same day. If Christians know Messiah was not born on December 25, then why not move the celebration of his birth to a different day, one that is closer to the approximate time of his birth (September/October)? Since we are not commanded to celebrate Yeshua’s birth and since we do not know the exact date of his birth, the prudent course of action in dealing with such a holiday stemming from paganism is to abandon it.
Intimately related to pagan celebrations
There is plenty of evidence supplied below to bring the celebration of Christmas as relating to Yeshua into question. From many of the reputable sources here, as well as the sheer volume of documentation by so many different sources on this subject, it is most apparent that Christmas was wholly derived from and/or strongly related to paganism. With such a “shady” background, these questions should come to mind, “Are the presents, trees, carols, candles, feasts, holly and mistletoe, stockings, and other material things, used during this time of the year, really necessary to celebrate Yeshua’s birth? Why do we hold so closely and tightly to a man-made tradition, surrounded by and engulfed in pagan rites, with no biblical sanction and no apostolic exemplification? Is it really important, or are we just fearful of what others would think if we ceased from observing it?” If there is no instruction to participate in or an example of participation in scripture of a certain religious holiday or feast, we should not participate. All others can be assumed to be man-made traditions with potentially dangerous backgrounds.
- “This tendency on the part of Christians to meet Paganism half-way was very early developed,” says Alexander Hislop in The Two Babylons, p. 93. “And we find Tertullian, even in his day, about the year 230, bitterly lamenting the inconsistency of the disciples of [Christ] in this respect, and contrasting it with the strict fidelity of the Pagans to their own superstition.” Tertullian – “By us who are strangers to Sabbaths and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to [Yahweh] - the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia, and Matronalia are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar.”
- “In patristic thought [the Christ] had traditionally been associated with light or the sun, and the cult of the Sol invictus, sanctioned as it was by the Roman emperors since the late third century, presented a distinct threat to Christianity. Hence, to compete with this celebration the Roman church instituted a feast for the nativity of [the Christ], who was called the Sol iustitiae .... Usually when Christians celebrated the natalis of a saint or martyr, it was his death or heavenly nativity, but in this case natalis was assigned to be [the Christ’s] earthly birth, in direct competition with the pagan natalis,” Dictionary of the Middle Ages, pp. 317-318.
- “Christmas…was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth.” “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,” Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 ed.
- “The Feast is first mentioned at the head of the Depositio Martyrum in the Roman Chronograph of 354. Since the Depositio was composed in 336, Christmas in Rome can be dated that far at least. It is not found, however, in the lists of Feasts given by Tertullian and Origen,” New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 656.
- The Romans kept the Saturnalia in December, at the time of the winter solstice in honor of the returning sun. The festival lasted seven days. “All classes exchanged gifts, the commonest being waxed tapers and clay dolls,” says the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition. “These dolls were especially given to children. Varro thought these dolls represented original sacrifices of human beings to the infernal God,” vol. 24, p. 231.
- “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 in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival,” New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, p. 48. And so, the church established the birthday of the Savior to coincide with the heathen feast day. “...the Latin Church, supreme in power, and infallible in judgment, placed it on the 25th of December, the very day on which the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of their goddess Bruma. Pope Julius I was the person who made this alteration,” Clarke’s Commentary.
- “December 25 was the date of the Roman pagan festival inaugurated in 274 as the birthday of the unconquered sun which at the winter solstice begins again to show an increase in light. Sometime before 336 the Church in Rome, unable to stamp out this pagan festival, spiritualized it as the Feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness,” New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 223.
- “That Christmas was originally a Pagan festival, is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, and the ceremonies with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin,” The Two Babylons, p. 93
- The decorated tree, St. Nick, yule log, wreaths, cookies, berries, mistletoe, bonfires, roast goose, roast pig, wassailing, caroling, and other familiar fixtures were added or embellished for the Christmas-Saturnalia in various countries. When the Protestant movement attempted to rid itself of the excesses and sins of Roman Catholicism, there also came an opposition to Christmas that almost obliterated it entirely in England. “In England, for example, the Puritans could not tolerate this celebrating for which there was no biblical sanction. Consequently, the Roundhead Parliament of 1643 outlawed the feasts of Christmas, Easter, Whitsuntide, along with the saints’ days,” Celebrations, p. 312.
- “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church . . . the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” “Pagan customs centering around the January calends gravitated to Christmas,” Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, “Christmas”.
- “The interchange of presents between friends is alike characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the Pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows,” Bibliotheca Sacra, volume 12, pages 153-155.
- “According to the hypothesis . . . accepted by most scholars today, the birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian), because on this day, as the sun began its return to northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the Invincible Sun). On Dec. 25, 274, Aurelian had proclaimed the sun-Elohim principal patron of the empire and dedicated a temple to him in the Campus Martius. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome,” The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967.
- “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 Christian Era,” Answers to Questions.
- “Christmas was originally a festival of the Winter Solstice. It was customary to hold great feasts in honor of the HEATHEN GODS. The early teachers of Christianity PROHIBITED THESE FESTIVALS as unsuited to the character of Christ. Yet the symbols and customs of the old festivals are adapted to the new, and so we find Christmas patterned with many customs of pagan origin.” “To the mind of the Puritans, Christmas smelled to heaven of idolatry... The Puritans abolished Christmas as a hateful relic of Popery.” The Customs of Mankind.
- “There were non-Christian elements present in the origin of Christmas. The giving of presents was a Roman custom. The Yule-tree [modern ‘Christmas Tree’] and the Yule-log are remnants of old Teutonic NATURE WORSHIP.” Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia.
- “Many current customs date back to pre-Christian origins: among them are Christmas decorations. The Romans ornamented their temples and homes with green boughs and flowers for the Saturnalia [Dec. 17-23] ... The Druids gathered mistletoe and hung it in their homes; the Saxons used holly and ivy,” Encyclopedia Britannica.
The Christmas Tree
One of the most beloved traditions of Christmas is to cut down a tree, bring it into the house, secure it so it stands upright, decorate it, and put Christmas presents under it.
An interesting parallel to this is found in Jeremiah 10:1-5:
1 Hear you the word which Yahweh speaks unto you, O house of Israel:
2 Thus says Yahweh, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
This is referring to the idolatry into which Israel fell as a result of learning pagan ways. Those who use Christmas trees today will say, “We are not worshipping our tree as idolatrous Israel did.” That may be true, however, what relation is there between cutting down a tree and decorating it and Messiah’s birthday? Regardless of the modern day intent, it was a pagan practice to do such things. Since there is no connection between Messiah’s birth and Christmas trees, and since we clearly see how Israel learned to do so from pagans, why would we want anything to do with such a practice?
- 2Kings 17:9-11: “And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against Yahweh their God, and they built them high places in all their cities .... And they set them up images and groves [asherah] in every high hill, and under every green tree ... and they wrought wicked things to provoke Yahweh to anger.” “We can find enough instances of the use of trees, even decorated ones such as the pine tree on which images of the god Attis were hung amid rows of ribbons at a spring festival, to convince us of the ultimately pagan origin of our custom,” Celebrations, p. 331.
- “He [St. Boniface] was trying to stamp out the pagan rite of sacrificing people to the oak tree. He led his followers into a forest at yule time. Showing them a fir tree, he said it pointed straight upward to the [Christ]. ‘Take this tree into your homes,’ he said, ‘as a sign of your new worship [Christianity]. Celebrate [Yahweh’s] power no more in the forest with shameful rites, but in the sanctity of your homes with laughter and love’,” Compton’s Encyclopedia and Fact Finder, vol. 5, p. 326.
- “Now the Yule Log is the dead stock of Nimrod, deified as the sun-God, but cut down by his enemies; the Christmas tree is Nimrod redivivus – the slain God come to life again,” The Two Babylons, p. 98
No where instructed or exemplified in scripture
It is very clear that there is absolutely no record in scripture of anyone celebrating the birth of Messiah. His death is observed (14 Abib), but never his birth. Likewise, there is no record of the apostles or early church fathers celebrating his birth. Again, knowing this, we must ask ourselves, “Why are we celebrating this?” Yeshua didn’t set this example or instruct it to be done before or after his resurrection. The apostles, the people taught directly by Yeshua himself, didn’t set this example. Shouldn’t we be following their example?
- “There is no historical evidence that our [Savior’s] birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or early post-apostolic times,” (Christmas, p. 47) The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge.
- “The day was not one of the early feasts of the Christian church. In fact the observance of birthdays was condemned as a heathen custom repugnant to Christians,” The American Book of Days, by George W. Douglas.
- “The fathers of the first three centuries do not speak of any special observance of the nativity. No corresponding festival was presented by the Old Testament … the day and month of the birth of [the Christ] are nowhere stated in the Gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined,” Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, p. 276, “Christmas”.
- “Christmas (i.e., the Mass of Christ). . . . Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1946 edition.
- “Christmas . . . was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth,” Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 edition.
- The early Catholic Church father, Origen, acknowledged: “In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners like Pharaoh and Herod who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 edition, Natal Day.
Knowing all of the facts above, we should choose to not participate in the normal activities of Christmas time. This includes:
-Teaching others that Yeshua was born on December 25
- Decorating trees or aiding those who sell them
- Using other decorations linked to the Christmas holiday
- Exchanging gifts
- Participating in or going to Christmas plays, pageants, or dramas
- Participating in Christmas carolling
- Setting up Christmas lights
Yahweh seeks those who worship Him in spirit and in TRUTH. A December 25th birth of the Savior is not true. It has its origins in paganism. Believers are not to learn the way of heathens/pagans. We are to learn Yahweh’s ways and obey them. All His Holy Days are listed in Leviticus 23. Christmas is not one of them. Christmas is not found in the New Testament either.
The word “Christmas” is a contraction of “Christ” and “mass”. The "mass" is a man-made , Roman Catholic doctrine in which the Savior is sacrificed over and over again in what is called an "unbloody sacrifice." It is taught that the true believer cannot be fully cleansed of his sins unless he partakes of this sacrifice at mass. Christmas is simply a Roman Catholic holiday that has no place in the true worship of Almighty Yahweh.