After reading Deut. 12:29-31, how can we justify celebrating Christmas given all (trees, decorating, and even the date) are pagan symbols and forbidden by God to adopt or worship in conjunction with God? Our American founders (Protestants) even outlawed celebrating Christmas in America until the Catholic Irish immigrants flooded America and Christmas was then cleaned up and made fit for family celebration in the 1850s. Most Biblical scholars believe Jesus was born in mid-year not the winter and Dec. 25 was the birth date of the Roman god Mithris. The birth date for Jesus was set at 25 Dec by Constantine a pagan/Christian (who directed the Catholic Church) in about 324. I suppose a case could be made for 25 Dec as the Jews celebrated the re-dedication of the Temple however Jesus had proved he was, in three days greater than the temple. That day of course, would be the re-birth of Jesus (Resurrection) It’s a tough question but one asked every year about this time.
To begin with I celebrate Christmas but do not celebrate Halloween. Yes what you have said is true about the history of Christmas. its complex and shrouded in mystery and paganism. In essence Christmas was created to appease both sides of the fence. The Church wanted thier one day to celebrate Christs birth. Simply said a compromise was achieved to incorporate both together. A devout Christian celebrates His birth, death, and resurrection every day by living out His life. As long as I keep Christ in Christmas I see this is a enhanced season of giving to our fellow man. This of course is my thoughts or opinion on what Christmas was intended to be. Over the years the world has made it more about getting than giving pushing materialism. The same things can be said about Easter also. This debate has been going on for millennium in many denominations. In closing thanks for you querry. Looking for others input into this age old question.
Hi Jack. Your question is a valid one and we here in India struggle with it a lot as well. Many churches hold services on 25th Dec but forbid the use of trees or decorations. First, let me clarify about the externalities then we’ll come to the date. We don’t use any trees or decorations or even Santa Claus, because we want to focus that Christmas is not a “Western” festival or has anything to do with all these symbols we have created over time. We celebrate the birth of Lord Jesus Christ and make sure that is what the day is all about. And it also serves us an opportunity to share the good news with our non-Christian friends and you can imagine how all these things can be a hindrance to us from doing so. Pagan or not, this is our reason to avoiding these external things that take away the focus from the Reason of the celebration, the incarnation of Jesus for our sake.
But if we begin to see them as Pagan symbols, I am afraid we will become quite legalistic and judgemental of others, for whom these mean lovely childhood memories and warm family traditions.
Regarding the date, I do agree with you that many scholars theroize that Jesus was born sometime in March or April. But really, what does it matter? Shouldn’t we celebrating the birth of our Lord all year long? Shouldn’t we be rejoicing everyday that the Son was given to us? Sometimes traditions stick (quite harmlessly, if I dare say so) and I think we should use them best to our advantage to share the gospel with those who haven’t heard. And again, that’s what we do when we hold services or camps in churches here in our country. We invite all our friends and colleagues to come here the good news.
P.S. On my campus, our student ministry celebrates Christmas on the last day of November, because December is our winter break and students will not be there on the campus. So if we celebrate it on 25th, not a lot of them will get the opportunity to hear the good news.
Thank you for the question again. I hope I have helped.
Hello jack, i want to share my opinion here First of all, what is the motive of our celebration? We are commemorate our Christ birth on this day. For me, beyond the historical evidence, i want to celebrate my saviours birth spiritually in an everyday, an every hour and an every second. we are not celebrate pagan Gods festivals. It is not our motive. I want to mention Martin Luther king’s quote about Christmas “When they [Mary and Joseph] arrived at Bethlehem, they were the most insignificant and despised…. No one noticed or was conscious of what God was doing in that stable. He lets the large houses and costly apartments remain empty, lets their inhabitants eat, drink, and be merry; but this comfort and treasure are hidden from them. O what a dark night this was for Bethlehem, that was not conscious of that glorious light! See how God shows that he utterly disregards what the world is, has, or desires; and furthermore, that the world shows how little it knows or notices what God is, has, and does.” it is true that nowadays this world had forgotten the true meaning of Christmas celebration.
it is occupied by Christmas tree, Santa Claus, new clothes, alcohol such as many.there may be many opinions about Christmas. but only JESUS is the center of the Christmas. He came to this world to raise dead people like me, He came to open the eyes of the many heart. He is the Lord of Christmas, He is the king of Christmas forever and ever. Thank you. God bless you
THE HISTORY OF CHRISTMAS By Jack V Cowan
Merry Christmas! What? That’s against the law? That’s the response you might get in the 1700’s in America. That’s right, celebrating Christmas in Boston would get you a 5 shilling fine and elsewhere in the United States Christmas was all but ignored. It wasn’t until 1840 that Christmas started to be openly celebrated and finally in 1870 became a recognized holiday.
To understand this strange bit of American history, we must go back in time to the period when Jesus walked the earth giving Father’s Love and Forgiveness to all who would have faith in one God and shun the predominately pagan customs. These early Christians took seriously God’s words in Deuteronomy 12:29-31 saying not to adopt pagans customs. What does that have to do with Christmas? Let’s take a look at pagan customs of that time and how they made their way even into our own time and the greatest birthday of all, Christmas.
The first record of a birthday celebration was by the Egyptian pharaohs, but it wasn’t on the day they were born. They celebrated on their coronation day because it was thought that Egyptian kings became gods once they were crowned. Thus, they were reborn.
Elsewhere in the pagan culture, it was believed evil spirits visited people on their birthdays. To protect the person having birthday from the evil effect, people used to surround him and make a lot of noise to scare away the evil spirits. In those times they didn’t bring gifts but guests attending the birthday party would bring good wishes for the birthday person. However, if a guest did bring gifts it was considered to be a good sign for the person of honor. Later, flowers became quite popular as a Birthday gift.
It is believed the tradition of Birthday cake was started by early Greeks who used to take round or moon shaped cake to temple of Artemis - the Goddess of Moon. The popular custom of lighting candles on cake was to make it glow like a moon. Some also believe that gods lived in the sky and lighted candles helped to send a signal or prayers to the god. Germans are said to have placed a big candle in the centre of the cake to symbolize ‘the light of life’.
Many civilizations marked birthdays in conjunction with astrology, in hopes of using that to predict their future destinies. Early Christianity had a hard time accepting the whole concept of a birthdays, regarding astrology as a pagan practice and an individual birthday as a celebration of ego.
Judaism, on the other hand, never mentions anyone’s birthday, although it does mark one’s 13th with the rite of passage of a bar or bat mitzvah, since at that age they make the transition to maturity and are expected to understand and take up the faith and accept all responsibilities of a Jewish adult. An early Christian theologian, Origen of Alexandria in his commentary “On Levites” writes that Christians should not only refrain from celebrating their birthdays, but should look on them with disgust. While most all Christians accept the practice today, Jehovah’s Witnesses and many religions around the world refrain from celebrating birthdays due to the custom’s pagan origins and its connections to magic and superstitions.
On a happier note - The song “Happy Birthday to You” was composed by two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill, in 1893, but the original words were “Good Morning to You”.
Let’s look at the date of Christmas and how it came to be the birthday of Jesus, the Son of God.
The Bible doesn’t tell us the date Jesus was born, but biblical scholars say with virtual certainty that it wasn’t December 25th. The Bible tell us that the shepherds and their sheep were out in the fields that night. In Israel the month of December is usually cold and rainy - 30s and 40s sometimes in the teens. During that time, shepherds normally keep their sheep penned up. In Luke it says that Joseph and Mary made their trip to Bethlehem to register for taxes to the Roman government. Such registrations weren’t decreed during the cold winter months because travel was difficult.
So why December 25?
In the first-century AD Rome celebrated Saturnalia in December to mark the end of the autumn planting season in honor of Saturn. The wealthy were expected to pay the month’s rent for those who couldn’t afford it, masters and slaves to swap clothes. Family households threw dice to determine who would become the temporary Saturnalian monarch. The poet Lucian of Samosata (AD 120-180) has the god Cronos (Saturn) speak in his poem, Saturnalia:
‘During my week the serious is barred: no business allowed. Drinking and being drunk, noise and games of dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping … an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water – such are the functions over which I preside.’
Saturnalia was a two-day affair starting on December 17th but grew to a seven-day event. Changes to the Roman calendar moved the climax of Saturnalia to December 25th, around the time of the date of the winter solstice. The Roman state cancelled executions and refrained from declaring war during this festival.
The conversion of Emperor Constantine to Christianity in AD 312 ended Roman persecution of Christians and began imperial patronage of the Christian churches…
Christmas like Saturnalia started in Rome, and spread to the eastern Mediterranean. The earliest known reference to it commemorating the birth of Christ on December 25th is in the Roman Philocalian calendar of AD 354.
However Saturnalia had a rival contender as the forerunner of Christmas: the festival of dies natalis solis invicti , ‘birthday of the unconquered sun’. The Philocalian calendar also states that December 25th was a Roman civil holiday honouring the cult of sol invicta .
With its origins in Syria and the monotheistic cult of Mithras, sol invicta certainly has similarities to the worship of Jesus. The cult was introduced into the empire on December 25, 274 AD by Emperor Aurelian (214-275), who effectively made it a state religion, putting its emblem on Roman coins.
Sol invicta succeeded because of its ability to assimilate aspects of Jupiter and other deities into its figure of Mithras the Sun King, reflecting the absolute power of ‘divine’ emperors. Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, better known as Constantine I, was brought up in the Mithras cult,
Constantine sought to blend Christianity with the two Roman pagan cults. The first, starting on December 17 and lasting seven days, honored Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture and the second, starting on December 25 and lasting through January 1, commemorated the birth of Mithras, the Persian god of light. Constantine merged many of the traditions from these festivals with the Nativity story in the Bible and Christmas was born. From its beginning, Christmas was a holyday, gifts were exchanged, families and friends gathered to feast, and a birth Jesus or Mithras was celebrated; just like in the Roman and Persian festivities. The first mention of December 25 as the date of Jesus’ birth is found in an early Roman calendar from A.D. 336.
A few years later Pope Julius I went along with Constantine’s date of December 25 in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival and Mithras’ birthday. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century. By the end of the eighth century, the celebration of Christmas had spread all the way to Scandinavia. Today, in the Greek and Russian orthodox churches, Christmas is celebrated 13 days after the 25th, which is also referred to as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day. This is the day it is believed that the three wise men finally found Jesus in the manger.
By holding Christmas at the same time as the traditional winter solstice festivals, church leaders increased the chances that Christmas would be popularly embraced, but gave up the ability to dictate how it was celebrated.
By the Middle Ages, Christianity had replaced most pagan religions. On Christmas, believers attended church, then celebrated in a drunken, carnival-like atmosphere similar to today’s Mardi Gras. Each year, a beggar or student would be crowned the “lord of misrule” and eager celebrants played the part of his subjects. The poor would go to the houses of the rich and demand their best food and drink. If owners failed to comply, their visitors would most likely terrorize them with mischief. Christmas became the time of year when the upper classes could repay their real or imagined “debt” to society by entertaining less fortunate citizens.
In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas.
Charles II was later restored to the throne and, with him the Christmas festival.
The pilgrims, that came to America in 1620, being devout in their Christian beliefs, actually outlawed Christmas in Massachusette. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. The Jamestown settlement on the other hand, reported that Christmas passed without incident.
The Protestants continued to shun celebrating the Christmas festival even after the American Revolution.
The flood of Irish Catholics in the 1800s brought life back to the unwanted festival and In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot. This caused citizens to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.
In 1819 Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status. Irving’s fictitious celebrants enjoyed “ancient customs,” including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Many historians say that Irving’s account actually “invented” tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.
Also around this time, Charles Dickens created the classic holiday tale, A Christmas Carol. The story’s showed the importance of charity and good will towards all humankind and struck a powerful chord in the United States and England and moved Christmas into a family occasion.
A monk named St. Nicholas who was born in Turkey around 280 A.D gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick, becoming known as the protector of children and sailors. In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore wrote a Christmas poem called “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” more popularly known today as: “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.” The poem depicted Santa Claus as a jolly man who flies from home to home on a sled driven by reindeer to deliver toys and the legend of St Nickolas was born.
Finally on June 26, 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the Unites States.
But Christmas is bigger than its history and has a true spiritual message direct from our Father. The meaning of that message lies in the gift of Love and Forgiveness given us by Jesus.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,” (John 15:13) Jesus indeed gave his life to give us Love and Forgiveness and that of course came with a preface –
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40) These Gifts of Love and Forgiveness are timeless as is our Father and they follow no date whether it be December 25 or any other. So it is only fitting that when we say to one another “Merry Christmas”, in our hearts we are saying, “I Love you as Jesus Loves me”.
So at the risk of being redundant I say to you now, Merry Christmas, I Love you all!
Jack, Thanks for sharing all that. You answered a lot of questions I wondered about.
For me, the lights, snow,trees, nativity scene, presents and food is a much needed time that brings us together with family and friends in a cold and dark time of the year. Let us enjoy the things of Christmas time that allow us to show our love for Christ and others. And may we all celebrate the love God showed for all mankind everyday. Merry Christmas to All.
God is Good to All. Fred Proch
Is it wrong to celebrate Christmas? I think the best answer to that question can be found in Romans 14:1-9 (ESV):
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
As I see it, if we celebrate Christmas to commemorate and celebrate the birth of Christ, then it is good for us to do so; when He was actually born matters less than that He was born, and December 25th is just as good as any other day. If we abstain from celebrating because we are bothered by the pagan roots of the holiday’s traditions or believe that Christmas has become too riddled with commercialism and intemperate behavior, then it is good that we do so. In both cases, we are seeking to honor God, which is what ultimately matters, especially in such cases where the answer in non-obvious. What would be bad, I believe, is if we tried to force our judgements on others, either by condemning Christians who chose to celebrate Christmas or else by getting caught up in a culture war in which we condemn others (particularly unbelievers) for not celebrating Christmas our way.
As for me, I choose to celebrate Christmas to commemorate Christ’s birth and as an occasion for giving to others, and while I don’t hold it in the same regard as I do Easter, I appreciate its liturgical value in keeping our worship regulated and orderly. I do not, however, waste time fighting against the “War on Christmas,” which, when all is said and done, is merely one symptom of a culture becoming more honest about a lack of belief that, in previous years, laid quietly under the surface of celebration merely for tradition’s sake.