Christmas - It's Not What It Seems To Be
Christmas celebration is noted for its joy and exuberance. It is a time of family togetherness, feasting, gifts, and warm fuzzy feelings. Singing Christmas carols, going to parties and Christmas pageants are common fare. It has grown into an entire month of Christmas shopping, parties, Santa Clauses and merry Christmas's.
Of course, everybody knows there is a dark side to Christmas as well. Family stress increases, resulting in increased domestic violence. Cases of depression and suicide increase. There are those for whom Christmas is a time of excessive drinking and revelry. Every year there are homes and apartments that burn due to unwise use of Christmas lighting. And, of course, rampant commercialism prompts people to blow their budgets buying gifts that they often cannot really afford.
But there is another, almost invisible, facet of Christmas that people tend to put out of their minds. When folks are giddy with the "high" of Christmas celebration, they are not concerned with the why of it. They are so wrapped up in its celebration that they don't take time to consider where it came from. To Christians it is considered the most holy time of the year, the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Even secular folks often get involved in the religious aspect of "the birth of the savior", attending Christmas services, pageants, cantatas, etc. Christmas celebration is simply a given and we are not open to any discussions of its dark origins. We choose to ignore clear historical accounts that it is a relic of an ancient pagan celebration that has been appropriated as the most holy celebration of the western world, though it perpetuates ancient idolatrous practices that we would shun if we only recognized them for what they are. There is no dearth of information that this December 25th holiday was practiced long before the birth of Jesus. It represents something that is greatly at odds with Christian teaching, yet we go on blindly observing it, pretending that it means something else. When we stumble across the truth about its origins, we simply choose to go on about their business as if nothing has happened, dismissing it from our minds as irrelevant.
It is well known that the origins of Christmas are questionable and that the trappings of it are much the same as they were centuries before Jesus was born. December 25th was once known throughout the Roman empire as the celebration of the rebirth of the sun, observed at the time of the winter solstice. To the ancients it was a time of drunken revelry (much the same as now) to entice the sun to return from its descent in the southern sky and bring spring once again. Homes were decorated with garlands, holly and little sun shaped ornaments (much the same as now), and folks sang by the yule log and kissed under the mistletoe (much the same as now). Of course, it has come to be considerably less orgiastic. But other than that, only the name has been changed. It is now supposedly celebrated in honor of Christ. Few stop to think that Jesus, being a devout Jew who shunned idolatry, would have had nothing to do with such a pagan celebration in his time. It was the very antithesis of what he stood for. How ironic it is that Jesus' name would become indelibly attached to this festival in the centuries that followed. To many, of course, Christmas is a mostly secular holiday, but even the secular often take time out from their partying to go to church and take part in the quasi- heathen observances of Christmas and Easter.
The simple truth about Christmas
1. Jesus was not born on or anywhere near December 25th according to the New Testament narrative .
2. The apostles and the early church never celebrated December 25 nor any other day as the birthday of Jesus.
3. Though the events surrounding the birth of Jesus were prominent in the New Testament, they were never associated in Bible times with any annual celebration of his birth.
4. Rather, the only celebration kept in honor of Jesus was the celebration of his death. Further, that observance did not coincide with the pagan observance of Easter, (the name comes from Ishtar, or Astarte, the ancient goddess of spring", as is done today, but it was on the day of the Jewish Passover as is well documented in the Bible.
5. The pagan festivals known an Saturnalia and Brumalia, associated with December 25th, were being celebrated during the time of Jesus's life and for centuries before. It would have been considered outright pagan for Jesus or his disciples to celebrate December 25th.
6. Saturnalia was celebrated very much like Christmas is celebrated today, with the decoration of homes and trees and garlands, round orbs, crosses, mistletoe, yule logs, wreaths, etc. It was all done, however, in honor of Mithras, the sun god.
7. Ancient Rome derived its pagan religious activities from even earlier forms of paganism in Egypt and in Babylon, condemned widely in the Bible as the worship of Baal.
8. These pagan practices were incorporated into the church in the 4th century, by the Roman emperor Constantine to further his political agenda. The church that emerged from that period was a travesty and the church of today is nothing like that of the first century.
9. Christmas celebration was exclusively a Catholic practice until as late an the early 1800s. Legends concerning Santa Claus and others have been layered upon the earlier observance since 1830 to produce the quasi-secular holiday that has become popular in our time among the protestants and the secular.
For millions of people who take their faith seriously this information should represent a major paradox. I fully support the principles of freedom of choice and freedom of religion. Anyone who wishes to honor pagan deities is certainly entitled to do so. But to perpetuate such practices and mask them in a cloak of biblical teaching, and to teach others to do so is reprehensible. Those who love truth and detest hypocrisy should begin to examine the underlying origins and teachings that are associated with these popular religious holidays. We should not kid ourselves that we are living in accord with biblical principals while we perpetuate practices that are condemned in the Bible.
Jesus was not born on December 25th
There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. (Luke 2:8)
The simplest proof of the season of Jesus's birth lies in the fact that shepherds did not have their flocks in the fields in December. Their usual custom was to send the flocks out about the time of Passover (March-April) and bring them back at the season called the first rain, approximately mid-October. In Mat. 24:20 there is a remark indicating the severity of the winters there. Therefore, Jesus' birth must have occurred during that period of warmer weather rather than in December.
But there is more. Most scholars agree that Jesus' ministry lasted approximately three and on half years (Adam Clarke's Commentary. Vol. V, p. 916). We are told in Luke 3:23 that Jesus began his ministry as he was approaching 30 years of age. The Jews considered the age of 30 to be the full age of manhood and the age which priests must attain before beginning their service (Num 4:3). We know from the scripture that Jesus died on the day of the Passover, which always occurs on the 14th of Nisan, just 2 weeks after the Spring Equinox. In the Hebrew calendar, Passover occurred exactly six months after the Fall Holy Day season which begins at the fall equinox, starting with the Feast of Trumpets, and ending with the Feast of Tabernacles. Putting this information together, we must conclude that Jesus was born approximately during the fall festival season, rather than at the time of the winter solstice.
We still have further proof. This concerns the time of birth of John the Baptist, who preceded Jesus by about six months (Luke 1.26,36). In the beginning of the account of John the Baptist, we read:
There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest of the course of Abijah... While he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course according to the custom of the priest's office... (Luke 1:5-9)
This is an important chronological indicator. The courses of the priesthood were initiated by king David because there had become far more priests than were required to perform their service. David appointed 24 courses of Priests who were to serve for one week at a time from sabbath to sabbath, each course serving twice a year. During the three Holy day seasons, all 24 courses served, filling out the complete year (Sukkah, 55b). I Chronicles 27 shows that the course of Abijah served during the 9th and 10th week after Passover. Bear in mind that all 24 courses served the week of Passover, so the first course served the following week. The 9th week was the week of rotation for the Course of Abijah, and that course was obliged to continue the following week because of the feast of Pentecost.
Zacharias the priest was told that he would bear a son (John the Baptist) and that he (Zacharias) would be unable to speak until he was born. The first opportunity he had to be with his wife would have been the middle of the month of Sivan, answering to mid-June on the gregorian calendar. After nine months of gestation, we would expect John to be born at the time of Passover the following year. If Jesus was born six months later, he would have been born at the time of the feast of Trumpets, consistent with the other evidence I have cited.
The Apostles never celebrated Christmas or Easter
Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 edition., article:Christmas says "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church." The Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 ed., says "It 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 [Jesus' birth] in the fourth century." Rather than celebrating Christmas, the early church celebrated the Jewish Holy Days. This is abundantly clear in the New Testament (Acts 2:1, 12:3, 18:21, 20:16, 27:9, I Cor. 16:8). And though Jesus birth was not celebrated, his death was. It occurred on the day of the passover (I Cor. 5:7). As time passed there came to be a strong movement among some Christians toward Rome and Roman customs. Eventually there was a schism that developed concerning the date of the celebration of Jesus' death and resurrection. It centered around the personalities of Bishop Anicetus of Rome and Polycarp of Antioch, who was a disciple of the Apostle John in the year 159. This episode was know as the quarto-deciman controversy (see Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, chapters 4-5. The issue came to a head in 325 at the council of Nicea when the Emperor Constantine decreed the observance of Easter over Passover (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., article -Easter). Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Valentines day, all our popular quasi-religious holidays, had similar origins.
December 25th was the time of the most popular Pagan Roman Festival
When Jesus came on the scene there already existed a long standing festival at the time of the winter solstice. The winter solstice in those times occurred on December 25th. Due to drift and other changes in the calendar the solstice now occurs on December 21 or 22. The ancient Romans engaged in wild orgiastic feasting to entice Mithras, the sun god, to cease his slow departure in the southern sky and begin moving higher in the sky to bring warm weather and good crops once again. Two contiguous festivals actually, the Saturnalia and the Brumalia, were times of great revelry and drunkenness. They was celebrated with the familiar trappings that we associate with Christmas today, such as garlands and candles, yule logs and round orblike decorations, crosses and wreaths. It was a celebration of the rebirth of the sun.
Much of traditional Christianity came from sun worship
Most people are not aware of the similarities between the worship of Mithras and Christianity. This is what Franz Cumont, professor at the University of Ghent, Belgium wrote:
The adepts of both formed secret conventicles...gave themselves, the name of brothers...purified themselves with baptism; received by a species of confirmation the power to combat the spirits of evil; and expected from a Lord's Supper salvation of body and soul... [The Mithraists] held Sunday sacred, and celebrated the birth of the sun on the 25th of December, the same day on which Christmas has been celebrated, since the fourth century at least. They both preached a categorical system of ethics, regarded asceticism as meritorious, and counted among their principal virtues abstinence and continence, renunciation, and self control. Their conceptions of the world were similar. They both admitted the existence of a heaven inhabited by the beatified ones, situate in the upper regions, and of a Hell peopled by demons, situate in the bowels of the earth They both placed a Flood at the beginning of history; they both assigned the source of their traditions a primitive revelation; they both, finally, believed in the immortality of the soul, in the last judgement, and in a resurrection of the dead, consequent upon a final conflagration of the universe.[The Mithraists] made of Mithra a "mediator" equivalent to the Alexandrian Logos... an intermediary between the celestial father and men, and like [Christ] he was also one of a trinity. (The Mysteries Of Mithras, Franz Cumont, The Open Court Publishing Co. 1910)
Even the most casual student of religion would recognize the amazing similarity of Mithraism and traditional Christianity. What may not be so obvious, is that many of those features that are widely accepted in modern Christianity were not a part of the normative Christianity of the early church in New Testament times. Rather they were part and parcel with pre fourth century pagan practices that were adapted to be a part of the official Roman endorsed version of Christianity.
Areas of Conflict between Traditional Christianity and Original Christianity
There are many aspects of the glaring differences between traditional Christianity and original teachings of the fllow of Jesus:
Secret societies Baptism practices and requirements Lord's Supper separate from the Passover observance Observance of Sunday as opposed to the Sabbath Time of Jesus birth, and obligation to observe it Asceticism and issues associated with it View of Heaven and Hell The doctrine of the trinity The immortality of the soul The resurrection of the dead The final conflagration of the world Avoidance of idolatrous customs and practices The symbol of the cross
It is not within the scope of this article to document and prove these points here. I expect that many readers who view this from the traditional modern Christian perspective will not understand the conflicts that I mention, since these issues are accepted as normative today. T hat is exactly the point that I wish to make.
Even the simple practices of the early Jesus movement have been displaced by Mithraic ritual. It has become a mongrel religion bearing the name of Christ, all the while being laced with elements and doctrines of paganism. What we want to show is that a vast amount of belief and practice has been borrowed from Mithraism or other non biblical sources. Something took place in the fourth century to cause the Christian movement of the day to become seriously corrupted by the influx of paganism. History tells us how and when it happened.
The Fourth Century - The Paganization of the Church
For the first two or three centuries the early church remained relatively simple as it shared its place in the world with the normative Judaism of the day. When Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed both became dispersed. There was a period of settling out as the generations passed. More and more there was a subtle move among some church leaders to become less Jewish and more Roman. This tendency seemed to be proportional to both time and distance from first century Jerusalem. Rome began to assert its dominance in doctrinal matters. Jewish custom began to be suppressed, even though it was also the historic custom of the early church. In its place Roman custom prevailed, even though its roots were in idolatrous paganism. The process was a mere trickle until the fourth century, when the Roman emperor Constantine found in the Christian church the answer to his political ambitions.
Constantine was an ardent worshipper of Sol Invictus, the invincible sun god with whom Mithraism was intimately associated. Sol Invictus was the Roman form of the Sun god, whereas the worship of Mithras was native to the Zoroastrians of Persia. When Rome swallowed up the Persian territories, it also absorbed its culture and its religion. Both sun cults overlapped and co-existed and their customs merged.
When Constantine came to power in 305 the Roman Empire had become divided. He became co-emperor with Lucinius, ruler of the Western Empire. He was faced with consolidating his power to achieve control over both portions of the empire, a task he did not accomplish until 324. An astute politician, he selected the path that would insure his success. Whether he chose that path or whether he was simply the pawn of dark spiritual forces could easily be debated. In either case, what emerged was a clever plan to gain the support of the people at the expense of the integrity of the ever growing grass roots Christian faith.
Constantine claimed to have seen a vision of Sol Invictus in 310 in a grove of Apollo in Gaul. The sun god was believed to have been the companion of the Roman Emperor. A mere two years later, on the eve of battle, he claimed to have seen a vision of Christ who told him to inscribe the first two letters of his title, XP in greek, on the shields of his troops. This symbol, derived from the cross of Mithras, has found its way into modern Christian churches as a symbol for Christ. The following day, he is said to have seen the famous vision of the cross superimposed on the sun and the words "In this sign conquer".
Constantine's plan was clearly to capitalize on the growing popularity of the Christian faith and amalgamate it with the very popular sun cult into a stable base of support for his own ambitions. He nominally claimed to become a convert to Christianity. Perhaps a clue to the shallowness of his commitment was that he did not accept baptism until he was on his death bed many years later. He did not discard his pagan belief or it's symbolism. He did not set about to destroy pagan sun worship. Instead, he adopted a policy of tolerance toward sun worship allowing it to continue. He clearly did not change his own belief system. He only changed the name of his god. His subsequent actions were to intended to systematically gut the primitive Christian faith leaving in its place a mere travesty of its former self.
Constantine embraced Christianity, setting himself up as the chief apostle, the Pontifex Maximus of the church. He presided over the first ecumenical council of Nicea in 325. At this council he used his influence to saddle the church with theological baggage that it carries to this day, doctrines derived from paganism, doctrines that suppressed supposed Jewish practices, doctrines of convenience to further Constantine's personal agenda. He officially sanctioned Sunday, the day of the Sun, long the popular pagan day of worship in place of the seventh day sabbath that had unanimously been observed by the early church. He instituted the celebration of December 25th to be celebrated in honor of Jesus Christ, even though the day had been celebrated in honor of the sun god for centuries. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article: Christmas explains " the pagan Brimalia (Dec. 25th following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24)... 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 the Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and manner... Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival."
All the old symbolism and pagan paraphernalia of the Saturnalia was retained, but it was now called Christmas. At the same time the major spring pagan festival of Easter, a name that came directly from Ishtar, or Astarte of the ancient Babylonian Mystery religion, was also assigned to Jesus to supplant the practice of the early church of honoring Jesus' death at the time it actually occurred, on the Jewish passover. One has to wonder at the enormity of this affront to the name and memory of Jesus. These idolatrous practices were the very antithesis of what He stood for. They rejected the observance of the very day He died in favor of a overtly pagan holiday which He would have disdained.
Soon, the church was bending over backwards to accommodate nominal pagan converts. The masses were encouraged to convert to this newly defined, politically correct, Christianity. They could continue their same old practices, celebrate the same pagan holidays, believe in the same old things. They merely changed the name of their god to Jesus Christ. The church was swelling in popularity as was the popularity of Constantine. But the church was never to be the same.
Roman sun worship was derived from even earlier forms of Paganism
It is well known that, as Rome conquered the known world, it simply incorporated the gods of its captors into its pantheon. Only the names were changed. Zeus became Jupiter. Aphrodite became Venus. This, in fact, was the practice of earlier conquerors as well. It is simple to establish a linkage of Roman religion to Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian religion. It was simply the latest version of an old idolatrous system that seems to have originated in ancient Babylon with Nimrod, the first empire builder, who originated the use of idolatry to further his political agenda.
Nimrod is a shadowy figure in the early history of civilization. The name is only mentioned once in the Bible. But other Hebrew writings reveal much more about this first cruel despot of human history. He is called the great hunter before the Lord in Genesis. Analysis of the Hebrew shows that he presumed to establish himself as one able to replace God. He was a rebel against God and the seven Noahic laws that God gave to all mankind after the flood. (An excellent discussion of these principles can be had on the Chavureth B'nai Noah Website on the world wide web). He cast off the natural patriarchal system of government and built an empire by conquering neighboring peoples. He built a great tower as a symbol of his ability to overcome the power of God if he were to send another flood on the land. He set himself up in the place of God and ultimately established a mystery religion to draw people away from the true God. He instituted his religion to control the people.
Many scholars have come to recognize that Babylonian religion as the source for the idolatrous religions of the ancient world. It was widely condemned in the scriptures as the worship of Baal and Ashtoreth (Astarte or Ishtar). In Egypt the main gods were Horus, whom some believe was initially Nimrod, and Isis his consort. After Nimrod's death he is said to have been transformed into the sun god. Isis was often depicted with her infant son Osiris in her arms, a sort of ancient madonna. It was a confusing teaching that incorporated many of the trappings that are now associated with Christmas, such as mistletoe, holly, garlands, stars, the yule log and orbs representing the sun (Christmas tree ornaments). It evolved into new forms as it spread from culture to culture. New gods and goddesses was steadily added until the vast pantheon of the ancients filled the world with paganism, but all ultimately were merely new forms of that original Babylonian religion.
The most casual reader of the Bible knows that it condemns the practices of idolatry. To most people that means bowing down before some stone or wooden image. We seem to think that the ancients believed that such images were truly their gods. In reality they knew that the images were not their gods but that they were only physical objects that represented their gods. Usually a newly made image would be subjected to a ceremony in which an invisible god was invited to occupy that image, thus sanctioning it for worship of the deity. An elaborate array of paraphernalia and religious ritual was raised up around the worship of the image. Such practices as ceremonies that were conducted at specified times, prophetic utterances by a priest or prophet, inquiry of the god about personal issues, sexual intercourse with temple prostitutes, ritual defecation, and the sacrifice of animals or in some cases humans. Most people today don't really think that such things go on in modern enlightened societies. While it is true that the more extreme of these things are usually not practiced, many of the accoutrements of such worship continue to this very day. They have become surreptitiously embedded in the liturgy and the ritual of the most respected churches of our time. They are simply regarded as normal, because they have been there for generations.
Certainly the use of images is pervasive. While most people associate it with Catholicism, the use of pictures of Jesus is almost universal in the protestant churches. If the churches are going to afford Jesus the status of God, why do they fail to see that a picture just as much is an image as a statue? It is a clear violation of the second commandment. Often relics of the saints are highly venerated in modern worship, churches are built around them. Objects attributed to the saints of the Bible are the subjects of worship themselves. They are admired with great devotion and emotion. Devout worshippers kiss them as objects of great holiness and adoration. The site of supposedly miraculous occurrences or visions become holy places, where thousands make pilgrimages each year. Miracles and healings are said to happen in their presence. In some circles prayer is deflected from God to dead saints. These things are idolatry pure and simple. Add to that the continuation of the many facets of ancient paganism that we have pointed out in this article, and there can be no doubt that traditional Christian churches today are the greatest purveyors of idolatry in the world today. Why does that not shock us?
What does the Bible say about these idolatrous practices?
Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven (Jeremiah 10:2). You shall not make unto you any graven images or ANY LIKENESS of ANY THING that is in heaven above or the earth beneath, or that is in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them (Ex. 20:4-5).
There is no doubt that the Bible condemns the practices of the ancient pagans. When Israel occupied their lands it was forbidden to copy their customs.
Defile not yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you, and the land is defiled. Therefore do I visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomits out her inhabitants (Lev. 18:24-25).
Unfortunately, Israel did not set a very good example in this regard. It struggled with pagan practices through all of its history. Finally, the Bible shows that it was destroyed because of them. Ezekiel records a scene in which
He [a heavenly messenger] brought me to the door of the gate of the Lord's house which was toward the north, and there were women weeping for Tammuz (Ez. 8:14).
A more accurate translation is "causing Tammuz to cry". Tammuz was an idol made in such a way as to create the optical illusion that it was crying". The Tanach, Stone Edition, p. 1222. This is strikingly similar to reports of images of Jesus that are said to have been seen crying. Tammuz was worshipped by alternately weeping and rejoicing. The practice of Lent is associated with Tammuz.
"Among the pagans this Lent seems to have been an indispensable preliminary to the great annual festival in commemoration of the death and resurrection of Tammuz." ( The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop, p. 105).
Ezekiel continues his narrative:
Then he said unto me, Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn yet again and you will see greater abominations than these... at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the door of the altar, were twenty five men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they worshipped the sun toward the east (Ez. 8:15- 16).
These people were in the very temple of the Lord and they were engaging in sun worship. Notice that they were facing east. Similarly, modern Christians can be seen on Sunday (the day of the sun) morning before sunrise (waiting for the sun to rise), facing the east (where the sun rises). This scene is repeated by thousands every year at Easter (our second great religious holiday) pageants across the land. This is ostensibly done to celebrate Jesus' resurrection, but Ezekiel describes it as "sending their foul odor (flatulence) into their noses". God is quoted as saying:
Take heed... that you inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise. You shall not do so unto the Lord your God. For every abomination to the Lord, which He hates, they have done unto their gods." (Deut. 12:30-31).
Modern Christians think they are being righteous by perpetuating such practices, but God is quoted as saying
"all your righteousness is as filthy rags (menstruous cloth) (Is. 64:6).
God uses the most offensive language to show how He feels about these customs.
Christmas celebration in modern times
When Saturnalia was adapted in the fourth century as the celebration of the birth of Jesus, there was a lot of cleaning up to do. The Romans were accustomed to feasting and debauchery on this day. There was no way such revelry could be permitted in the name of Jesus. Romans wanted to continue the popular practices even after their "conversions". Constantine legislated against it but it was an uphill battle for centuries. St. Gregory in 389 warned against "feasting to excess". In mid 1600 England soldiers patrolled the streets sniffing the air. Anyone cooking a Christmas ham was arrested and their dinner confiscated. Similar laws were enacted in the American colonies such as this one in Massachusetts:
Whosoever shall be found observing Christmas, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, every such person shall pay as a fine five shillings to the county. (The Christmas Star, John Mosely, Griffith Observatory, p. 69-69).
Revelry and feasting were barely suppressed. Even today, in some circles, Christmas time, and its cognate festival, New Years Day, are the setting for some of the most drunken times of the year. You hear many ministers preaching about putting Christ back into Christmas. They seem not to realize that Christ in Christmas has always been a myth.
It was in comparatively modern times that Christmas became layered with other legends and practices. The practice of the Christmas tree seems to have been introduced in Northern Europe in the 1500s. Though some would trace the practice back to the tree that sprouted from the mythical yule log in ancient Babylonian mythology, there is simply no continuous tradition relating that practice to the Christmas tree. It appears to simply have been an innocuous practice that became imbedded in the matrix of Christmas. Ironically, one of the scriptural passages that has prompted many people to eliminate or modify their Christmas celebration, has been misinterpreted to condemn Christmas trees.
Learn not the way of the heathen and be not dismayed at the signs of the heaven... For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with an axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. (Jeremiah 10:2-4)
In king James English this description sounds remarkably like setting up a Christmas tree. This is perhaps true largely because the word "deck" reminds us of "deck the halls with boughs of holly". In reality the description of the scene here is one of cutting a tree for the purpose of making an idol out of it be carving it into an image and then plaiting it with a covering of silver and gold. While this could be argued to be similar in principle, this is not exactly a Christmas tree. But then, do people bow before their Christmas trees today? Think about Christmas morning when families are taking their presents from beneath the tree. Think about the carol O Tannenbaum. It sounds suspiciously like a song of worship and praise to the Christmas tree. I neither advocate nor condemn the Christmas tree. We must be honest about our evidence, and avoid misusing it simply to make our case. The fact is that, though the origin of the Christmas tree may be relatively benign in that it does not originate in paganism, it has come to be layered on an essentially pagan celebration, and has become part and parcel with it.
Much the same could be said of the legend of Santa Claus. Some writers try to make his origin in ancient Babylon in the person of Nimrod or Horus. They may try to make a connection with the "Nicolaitans" mentioned in Revelation 2:15. In truth, absolutely no historical connection can be demonstrated to support this. The simple historical fact is that the Santa Claus figure evolved from a bishop in the fourth century known as St. Nicholas, who was orphaned in his youth. As he grew older he became known for giving gifts to the needy (always at night). His charity became legendary and after his death, gifts were given in his name throughout Europe on the eve of the anniversary of his death, December 5th. It was much later that this innocuous practice was merged with the traditional Christmas celebration. Around the 11th century, elements of Norse legend were introduced and the mythical St. Nicholas was given a white beard and a white eight legged horse like the Norse god Odin. Other customs and legends were layered on the original. It was not until 1815 that an anonymous poem was printed in an east coast newspaper that the legend of Santa Claus was portrayed as leaving gifts in Christmas stockings. In 1821 he was shown in a book called "The Children's Friend" with sleigh and reindeer. In 1860 he first appeared in his traditional red and white attire. It was not until the 1930's that Santa was fully developed into the mythical creature we recognize today. The modern jolly Santa with his red, fur trimmed suit, and his white beard is said to have originated from a Christmas promotion by the Coca-Cola company, and the model for Santa was none other than the then president of that company. As such Santa Claus is perhaps the least offensive part of the modern Christmas tradition because it is not inherently pagan.
So, Santa Claus is merely another mythical element that has been layered the fabric of Christmas celebration. It may be argued that it is all harmless fun for the children, but many parents lie to their children by telling them that Santa Claus is real. I can't imagine the psychological harm that is done when a child first learns that his parents have deceived him, even about such a light hearted matter. Then, of course, there is the Easter bunny and the tooth fairy, also blatant lies in some homes. We are not doing our children a favor by teaching them cute fairy tales about mythical entities. Who hasn't seen a terrified baby being forced by a parent into the arms of Santa Claus simply to get a cute picture of the child with Santa Claus? That is cruelty, pure and simple. I suppose it would be an exaggeration to blame the ills of our youth in our modern society, on such "white lies", but one has to wonder if these may be seeds of the generation gap and poor communications between parents and children that seems to characterize modern society.
Parents argue that Christmas is for the kids, but should we not teach our kids better than this? Certainly, the warm fuzzy feelings that we associate with Christmas can be experienced in other ways and other times. We can give gifts to our children, friends and relatives any time we wish. We can participate in fun wintertime activities without resorting to idolatrous celebrations. We can (and should) participate in family activities often, without any special holiday observance. We can give money to feed the poor at other times of the year. We can have a generous and happy spirit without having a holiday for an excuse. Why should such things be limited to Christmas time. We could all benefit if there were more "Christmas" spirit throughout the year.
In this article I have clearly shown how Christmas, cherished though it is, is a barely veiled artifact of an ancient heathen celebration. I have demonstrated that it has little to do with genuine Christian observance. If you doubt what I have told you, I challenge you to check the references I have given. Your own encyclopedia will undoubtedly verify much of what I have presented here. The average American does not believe in the worship of the sun god so why should he continue to celebrate a holiday that is permeated with symbols of sun worship that have been stealthily shrouded in the guise of Christianity. I have written mostly about Christmas and I have touched on the similar situation with Easter. I have not even mentioned Halloween, a day that honors spooks, monsters, and disembodied spirits - a day that is one of the four annual celebrations of the world of witchcraft. Its meaning is not even concealed. No one believes in it, but we continue to celebrate it. Why?
Anyone should be able to see that our religious, quasi-religious and secular celebrations of our major holidays are infused with meanings and symbols that we neither endorse nor believe in.
My only purpose for this article is to provoke people to think for themselves and to examine things they have always taken for granted. You are free to agree with me or not. I'm not out to get you to join some movement. You don't have to get weird or religious. But isn't it time our society purged itself of these fraudulent exercises in paganism. We should let our celebrations reflect truth, rather than pagan mysteries that we do not believe in.
(c)Copyright 1996 by Wayne Simpson Biblical Research Foundation 629 Lexington Road Sapulpa, OK 74066 Reproduction and distribution are permissible provided this copyright notice remains intact on all copies.
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