Summary: People of all ages have celebrated Christmas throughout the centuries, but where did it originate? Are the roots of Christmas really as Christian as many believe or are they pagan? Is Christmas really the day of Christ’s birth?
By: Donna J. Kazenske
People of all ages have celebrated Christmas throughout the centuries, but where did it originate? Are the roots of Christmas really as Christian as many believe or are they pagan? Is Christmas really the day of Christ’s birth?
If Christmas is truly a Christian holiday, then why isn’t it mentioned in the word of God? Did the apostles and disciples celebrate Christmas? The New Testament makes no mention of any birthday celebration regarding the birth of Christ.
Was Jesus born on December 25th?
Luke 2:8 – Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.
Shepherds in Bethlehem did not make a habit of living in the fields during the winter season. December – February were very cold months. The shepherds of Judea did not watch their flocks in the fields during the month of December. They usually stayed in the fields until sometime around the end of September or possibly October. Therefore, Christ could not have been born on December 25th.
Then why do we celebrate December 25th as the birthday of Christ?
December 25th was the birthday of the son-god, Mithra, a pagan deity whose religious influence was widespread in the Roman Empire during the first few centuries. Mithra was identified with the Semitic sun-god Shamash, and his worship spread from Asia to the west where he was worshipped throughout the Roman Empire as Deus Sol Invictus Mithras in the early centuries A.D.
In 313 AD, Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Toleration (Edict of Milan) which made Christianity a popular religion. This edict ended all policies of persecution toward Christians.
70 years later, Emperor Theodosius made Christianity compulsory. Sounds great doesn’t it? The fact of the matter is that many heathens adopted Christianity without true repentance. They remained heathen in their hearts, yet they came into the church with all of their idolatry and pagan ways. As a result, their pagan celebration of the day of the sun, December 25th, was brought into Christianity.
What about the Christmas tree?
Many legends exist today regarding the origin of the Christmas tree. One is the story of Saint Boniface, an English monk who organized the Christian Church in France and Germany. One day, as he traveled about, he came upon a group of pagans gathered around a great oak tree about to sacrifice a child to the god Thor. In order to stop the sacrifice and save the child’s life, Boniface felled the tree with one mighty blow of his fist. In its place grew a small fir tree. The saint told the pagan worshipers that the tiny fir was the Tree of Life and stood for eternal life of Christ.
Another legend holds that Martin Luther was walking through the forest one Christmas Eve and was awe-struck by the beauty of the stars glimmering through the branches of the evergreen trees. He was so taken by this beautiful sight that he cut down a small tree and took it home to his family. To recreate what he saw in the forest, he placed candles on all of its branches.
The Prophet Jeremiah condemned the cutting down of trees, bringing them into the home and decorating them. This practice was connected with idolatry and pagan worship.
Jeremiah 10:2-5 - "Thus says the LORD: Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves." (NKJV).
Some believe that the use of evergreens to decorate homes during the mid-winter festival have a pre-Christian origin. Some consider the Christmas tree to be a survival of pagan worship and trace it to Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs and ancient Rome.
Evergreens became a symbol of eternal life in Northern Europe because they did not die in the wintertime.
Merchants report a great increase of annual sales during the Christmas shopping season as a result of gift buying. Many people believe that gift giving is Biblical since the three wise men presented gifts to Jesus.
Is it Scriptural to exchange gifts?
Matthew 2:1-11 - “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?…..And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him (Jesus): gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”