Let me start this by sharing that I am a practicing Christian. My children and I belong to a church, my children are very active in our church, and we believe that God ?guides our every step. Which is why I feel so?passionately?about the topics I’m bringing up below. We actually love Christmas, but we don’t celebrate it as a Christian holiday, but as a beloved tradition. I firmly believe that Christians who observe this as Christ’s birth — something he did not command us to do — are misguided. Why, then, is this tradition so interwoven into the fabric of our lives? Simply put, this knowledge wasn’t common knowledge to most people prior to the information age. Knowledge is power, however, so let’s get started.
When was Jesus Born?
Let’s begin with the most obvious and the most commonly accepted myth: Jesus was NOT born on December 25th. The New Testament gives no date or year of His birth. Most historians and theologians have determined that Jesus was most likely?born in the fall, though some theologians place His birth ?around the time of Passover in the spring. ?What any person with the least bit of education knows for certain is that He was not born on December 25th. ?It drives me crazy to see the ?Keep Christ in Christmas? memes. He’doesn’t?belong in Christmas at all.
I’ll say this. It’s nice to have a celebration of Christ’s birth. Our discussions and teachings are centered on his life and death. And for the uneducated masses who want to place his birth as December 25th, more power to them. ?As for me and my house, we enjoy Christmas for what it is: a fun holiday. We know that we are celebrating some ancient pagan rituals. I don’t hate Christmas, but we don’t talk about it being Christ’s birth.
I hate even going to church during the month of December. I know that any minister with advanced degrees in biblical studies knows the truth and is probably somewhat uncomfortable with the rituals but has to appease his congregation.
Why December 25th?
Roman pagans introduced the holiday of?Saturnalia, which was a week of lawlessness that was celebrated December 17th?through December 25th. Courts were closed and law dictated that people?couldn’t?be punished for any crime during this time. The festival as described by Lucian, a Greek poet and historian, included intoxication, singing naked in public, rape, and the consuming of cookies (or biscuits) shaped like humans, a tradition still practiced in some European nations today, and in the United States in the tradition of ?Christmas cookies?.
In the fourth century CE, Christian leaders integrated some pagan practices into the Christian church in attempts to convert the pagan masses to Christianity. Allowing them to continue to celebrate their traditional festivals made the conversion more appealing to them.?December 25th?is the Winter Solstice in the Julian calendar, and was widely celebrated and observed in pagan cultures. The church tied this date to Christ’s birth to appease the pagans they wished to recruit and convert.?Just like ministers today, they had to please the masses. The more things change, the more they stay the same, eh?
The date was?Natalis Solis Invincti, which roughly translates to ?Birthday of the Invincible Sun God.”
In 1687, Reverend Increase Mather of Boston said ?the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens.”
The Christmas Tree
Early Christians also did all that they could to convert?worshipers?of the?Asheira cult. One way that they did this was to allow Christmas trees. Pagans?worshiped?trees and brought them into their homes and decorated them at the time of the Winter Solstice, which, as stated above, falls on December 25th.
The Bible specifically says NOT to have a Christmas tree:
Hear the word that the Lord speaks to you, O house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: ?Learn not the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens because the nations are dismayed at them, for the customs of the peoples are vanity. A tree from the forest is cut down and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move. Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.
There is a handy little ?disclaimer,? embraced by most Christians, and permission on the?Our Redeemer Lutheran Church?website:
Christians should know that they can use a Christmas tree with a good conscience. It is unfortunate and wrong when well-meaning Christians call something sin that is not sin, and enslave the consciences of their fellow believers with imaginary sin! Shame on such Christians! Those who continue to believe that the Christmas tree is pagan and sinful, even after having their conscience correctly informed, should not use them. For it is not right to sin against conscience. This is regrettable, however, since there is absolutely nothing wrong with using a Christmas tree.
This is simply a case, widely practiced, as we all know, of picking and choosing which parts of the Bible we want to accept and which we selectively choose to ignore. I love a Christmas tree. What a beautiful tradition! But does this, and wreaths, and other symbols (idols) have a place in a house of God?
The nobility of the time that all of this other stuff was going on demanded that subjects give gifts to the nobility upon celebration of the Winter Solstice (AKA now Christmas). The practice became widespread to the populace. It is falsely reported that we give gifts to celebrate the gifts of the Magi, though it can be interpreted that way. If we do interpret it that way, why are we giving gifts to each other and not to the Christ child?
Nicholas was born in 270 AD and later became a Catholic bishop. He’s known for his role in the?First Council of Nicea, which declared the Jews to be the ?Children of the Devil.? But wait. Jesus was a practicing Jew who?celebrated Hanukkah, as quoted in the Bible.
The Festival of Dedication then took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in Solomon’s portico.
Nicholas also played a large role in the gift giving tradition. He often threw purses of gold into the homes of poor people so that they?wouldn’t?have to sell their daughters into prostitution.
In the 1800s, Nicholas was given sainthood by the Catholic church and became Saint Nicholas.
Mistletoe was a medicinal herb used by the Druids in rituals. Kissing under the mistletoe is based on a pagan and Druid belief that mistletoe helped increase fertility. The white berries on mistletoe were considered drops of the sun god’s semen.
To pagans and witches, ?red holly was a symbol of the menstrual blood of Diana, the queen of heaven. Holly wood was used by the witches to make wands.?Holly and mistletoe were hung in the doorways of the temples and homes to give fertility to people who kissed under the mistletoe. This practice was believed to cause the gods and goddesses to enter the kissing couple and help make them fertile.
These are just a few of the pagan rituals that we have embraced in our Christian holidays. There is nothing wrong with pagans. As a liberal and a member of the Christian Left, I respect and embrace people of any religion and spiritual belief, and even, for that matter, people with no spiritual beliefs. But for our religion, as followers of Christ, we are specifically commanded to NOT observe the rituals of other religions. To do so knowingly, willingly, and eagerly goes against all that we believe, and indeed, it goes against many of the specific commandments given to us by God and Christ.
I truly have no problem with Christmas. We celebrate it as a family. But we leave Christ OUT of Christmas. He doesn’t belong there, and while I hesitate to give my opinion of what the word of God would be on this issue, the fact is, He gave us his opinions himself via the 10 commandments ?Worship no other God before me,? and the verse in Jeremiah 10:1-25.?I personally believe that if Christ walked the earth today, he’d consider us well-intentioned heathens and be especially appalled that we bring pagan idols into our churches.
Know what you practice, and educate yourselves. Carrying out traditions for reasons unknown to you is ridiculous. And for God’s sake, leave Christ out of Christmas.
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Tiffany Willis is a fifth-generation Texan and the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America. An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she has spent most of her career actively working with ?the least of these? and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles. To stay on top of topics she discusses,?like her?Facebook page,?follow her on Twitter, or?connect with her via LinkedIn. She also has?a?grossly neglected personal blog?and a?literary quotes blog that is a labor of love. Find her somewhere and join the discussion.