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Pagan Roots of Christmas

  

The Holiday season has snuck up on us again. A time of year when… well you know. This was a popular video last year that made the rounds in our circles and since we are creatures who tend to forget, I thought it might warrant re-viewing. It sums up the origins of many of the Christmas traditions as we know them now and exposes where we got them from. (note: the first two minutes of the video are an advertisement…feel free to fast forward)

    Some questions we may ask ourselves after we watch are:

  1. Should we “Christianize” a pagan Holiday?
  2. If we do, should we leave out the old pagan elements?
  3. How does God feel about us practicing pagan traditions to celebrate the miraculous birth of his son?
  4. Are we “punishing” our children if we refuse to take part in a popular pagan holiday?
  5. What is the difference between this and Halloween, another holiday that has its roots in paganism that was Christianized (albeit based on a false doctrine) and is popular in the Christian world.
  6. And last… Should we contribute to the obvious practice of covetousness that is associated currently with this holiday?

57 Responses to “Pagan Roots of Christmas”

  1. on 07 Dec 2007 at 10:12 amThom Riley

    Although I may not agree with all of this author’s points, I do think that he offers some insightful and well balanced perspective. Especially part IV of his article.

    You can check it out at:

    http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrmas_pagan1.html

    -Thom

  2. on 07 Dec 2007 at 10:23 amLeah

    Every year I go round and round with myself about these very issues. The thought of Christianising a pagan holiday is revolting to me, yet we are surrounded with loved ones who think – or don’t think – otherwise. Plus, it’s a time of good cheer and optimism, something I need more of. If I criticise, I am told that we don’t worship the pagan deities, but rather Christ, that our gifts are given in love. But can’t give gifts any other time during the year?
    The adoption of a pagan holiday began as a church-and-state thing. Under the Emporer Constantine, Christianity became the religion of the Roman state. The Saturnalia at the winter solstice was widely celebrated and was made the basis for celbrating Christ’s birth. All this is well known and has been discussed by more knowledgible heads than mine. Over time it has become so ingrained in our culture as both westerners and Christians that the syncretion has solidified.
    I don’t think God likes it, but I suspect it is one of those iniquities that he “winks at”. After all, it’s the spirit of the celebration that matters. And how many ordinary, nominal Christians have bothered to check out its true origins?
    My downstairs neighbours, some of my dearest friends, are evangelicals who love Christmas. They have a beautiful tree and even I have laid recently-received gifts under it. For them, it’s a family thing, and as a single, I am grateful for the oppportunity to share the good cheer with them. But I am under no illusions. As soon as discussions arise concerning “who’s-getting-what-from-whom”, the covetous fir begins to fly, subtly at first, as these folks are trying to follow our Lord, but it’s there nonetheless. Never a good outcome. And the kids, being the least well developed spiritually, are the worst. I was too, when young. How can we say this is a holiday for the kids? Is this what we want for our children? This is perhaps the issue that concerns me the most.

  3. on 07 Dec 2007 at 10:25 amJohn Paul

    I had somewhat of an epiphany last night. (I actually wrote this artilce a few days ago)
    What is the difference between Halloween and Christmas?
    I notice many similarities.
    1. Pagan high holiday
    2. both were “Christianized” by the church
    3. Both currently have pagan or otherwise customs that have there roots in ungodly ideas
    4. Both have become holidays that have been extremely commercialized and are practiced in a way that usually at best is on the edge of covetousness.
    im sure that there is more, but i haven’t had my morning caffeine Fix yet.

    The differences I can see are
    1. Halloween celebrates a false resurrection while christmas just has a bunch of rituals that honor other Gods and
    2. Christmas has the word Christ in it, and pretends to be about Jesus.

    It is this second difference that people cling to. I know so many christians that seriously reject Halloween but will continue to practice many of the traditions noted in this video to have roots in very devilish meanings.

    Why not start from scratch? Say to yourself I am not going to conform the this world and start building your personal holiday traditions from there?

    Jesus’s Birth, ok though it clearly didn’t happen this time of year, we can celebrate it together if we are keeping it about Christ.

    But with the other traditions ask yourself not so much if you want to get rid of your traditions, because you are a new person in Christ, you really taking on traditions all over again. So pick and chose which ones carefully and ask yourself if your really honoring Christ birth with them or if your honoring these old worldly traditions with pagan concepts in there origins.

    Again I think you should ask yourself overall though, What is the difference between this and Halloween?

  4. on 07 Dec 2007 at 4:44 pmKaren

    Oh for goodness’ sake. Most people celebrate Christmas because it’s a wonderful time of family togetherness, delicious smells, good food, and some great music. It has become, for many, a de facto secular American holiday, like Thanksgiving. Those of us who believe can honor Christ at this time of year by giving more than we receive, singing in Handel’s ‘Messiah’, attending a Christmas Eve service, and above all by not being Scrooge-like about the holiday.

    Because I’m in a mixed marriage, spiritually speaking, I get a tiny little potted tree and we don’t make a big deal out of the day. You all perhaps have the luxury of choice, but I don’t…and I wish I could have a big, beautiful tree with lights and ornaments that have been handed down for generations. Count yourselves fortunate.

  5. on 07 Dec 2007 at 6:20 pmJohn Paul

    Thom,
    That was a pretty good article and says some things that need to be said in this kind of conversation, however I think it kind of missed the point. It never addressed the adoption of pagan traditions and incorporating them into the celebration of Christ’s Birth. If we found out that we have very good reason to believe that Jesus was born Oct 31st I would celebrate the birth of the lord that day, but I wouldn’t do it by dressing up in a costume and asking strangers for candy.
    Back to the article, I think it makes some good points for people who can be quick to condemn others for celebrating Jesus’ birth that day. It’s something I have seen and don’t like.

  6. on 09 Dec 2007 at 2:15 amWikfgang

    Hi John Paul,

    what would your epiphany have to say concerning whether or not these principles of truth from Rom 14 may be applicable here?

    Rom 14:1-3
    1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
    2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
    3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.

    Does what is stated here not apply in principle and solely pertain eating various foods? or is this indeed addressing “strong in the faith” and “weak in the faith” and how they ought to be dealing with each other concerning matters where they have different thoughts? Should those who (think they are) strong in the faith deal differently with those who (they think are) weak in the faith deal differently with the matter of celebrating a particular day of the year with different emphasis as they would or should with the matter of eating different foods?

    Cheers,
    Wolfgang
    Cheers,
    Wolfgang

  7. on 09 Dec 2007 at 10:49 pmJohn Paul

    Should those who (think they are) strong in the faith deal differently with those who (they think are) weak in the faith deal differently with the matter of celebrating a particular day of the year with different emphasis as they would or should with the matter of eating different foods?

    Wikfgang,
    Can you reword that somehow please? I have reread it several times and am having a difficult time figuring out what you are trying to ask/say. I even asked a friend to read it and explain it but they couldn’t.

    As to how my comparison of Christmas and Halloween relates to that section in Romans, i don’t see it. I do see how that post relates to the broader subject at hand maybe. But ill refer to my comment in post five when i said:

    “I think it makes some good points for people who can be quick to condemn others for celebrating Jesus’ birth that day. It’s something I have seen and don’t like.”

    I really don’t think people should be condemned for this or judged harshly. I have personally been convicted when it comes to this subject though.

    And don’t forget the other way around (pertaining to the verses,) not to despise me or others who feel similarly about these issues.

  8. on 09 Dec 2007 at 10:53 pmJohn Paul

    Actually Wolfgang,
    Im very glad that you have brought those verses up in this thread, because I think people can be caught up in either direction despising or Judging on both sides.
    But at the same time I still think its something that should be discussed, not ignored.

    Bless God.

  9. on 19 Dec 2008 at 9:51 pmGeorgie

    Well yes Christmas is all very nice, for most people it evokes wonderful memories and there are many pleasant things about it. The reality is it is a pagan holiday.

    Does God in the scriptures ask us to remember the birth of His son? Not from what I have seen. He does however ask us to remember his death and resurrection. Although I’m sure not with eggs and bunny rabbits!

    Look in the Bible to see who and how a birthday was celebrated. It is quite a shock!

  10. on 20 Dec 2008 at 2:27 pmMark C.

    God does not ask us to remember the birth of His Son. But since so many people in the world do, the choice is between ignoring it or making the best of it. I’d say it’s better to use it as an occasion to acknowledge the birth of Christ than to go on about the pagan origins of it.

    Many things in our culture had pagan origins, but have been secular and non-religious for so long that most people don’t observe them in any way that honors pagan gods. For example, the days of the week all come from pagan gods – should we quit calling them by their recognized names?

    The beauty of the New Covenant is that there are no hard and fast rules, but rather we go by what’s in the heart. I think God would rather someone celebrate the birth of His Son with an attitude of love and joy and giving, than be judgmental towards people who despite the historical origins of Christmas are not practicing pagans.

    We do need to avoid the greed and commercialism though, which I think is a more relevant problem than the paganism issue. If I hear one more TV ad say “‘Tis the season to save” I’m gonna hurl!

  11. on 20 Dec 2008 at 6:11 pmSean

    Out of curiosity…what does the tree represent from a Christian perspective? From a pagan perspective the tree probably had to do with fertility since the pine tree doesn’t loose its leaves. But, Christians, it seems, are in the business of breathing Christian meaning into old pagan symbols. I think that is fine, but what does the tree mean?

  12. on 20 Dec 2008 at 6:14 pmSean

    well…JP’s link above is apparently retired. Here is a new one I found…haven’t watched it yet so you’ll have to let me know if it is similar to what was above before

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7606420729663402952&hl=en

  13. on 20 Dec 2008 at 6:36 pmBrian

    I was listening to something recently (I have no recollection what) and it was mentioned that one of the things that the tree represents (being in a sense a triangle) is the trinity–yikes!

  14. on 20 Dec 2008 at 6:57 pmJohnE

    Out of curiosity…what does the tree represent from a Christian perspective?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas_tree#History has some ideas; in the culture I’m coming from it is said that the pine is always green, thus never dying – so it is related to the idea of immortality. This actually makes sense, the romans were celebrating this time of year the “invincible sun”, because it seemed to loose its energy and dying, and then regaining its strength again in the spring, it was reborn. I’ve read somewhere they were starting big fires to give the sun power to continue to live. No wonder in some cultures, people do exactly the same, at Christmas they light up fires – but if you ask them why they can’t answer you…

    The round wreath that you see hanging on people’s door this time of year is related to immortality as well, because a circle has no end. In some cultures people would buy these round wreaths for funerals, immortality being the substrate again.

  15. on 20 Dec 2008 at 8:34 pmGeorgie

    Sean,

    Hello, isn’t the tree something to do with helping the sun god recover as they believed as the days got shorter the god was dying and in an effort to help him recover they bought branches of the evergreen tree into their homes. Eventually in Germany (I think) they then brought in the whole tree.

    As for the Christian perspective – well it is somewhere to put the star or the angel. 🙂

  16. on 20 Dec 2008 at 9:44 pmMark C.

    As for the Christian perspective – well it is somewhere to put the star or the angel. 🙂

    …and something to put presents under!

  17. on 20 Dec 2008 at 9:56 pmGeorgie

    Mark C. and John Paul.

    Hello Mark. You don’t want people banging on about the pagan origins of Christmas, but that is what this blog is about. I came here to see if I could get some insight from others who are I assume, seeking first the kingdom of God. If you don’t want to hear people going on about it why read a blog titled, Pagan Roots of Christmas? From what I read here no one is being judgmental but rather trying to come to terms with some things that might warrant change.

    I want to gain entrance into the kingdom and this whole Christmas thing is something I think I might need to change because we as Christians should not subscribe to the ‘if it feels good do it theory ‘ and follow the masses. See Matt 7:13, 14. So am asking questions and was hoping to get help from others who are maybe questioning it too.

    Yes John Paul, what is the difference between Christmas and Halloween. Probably not much when you get down to the bare bones.

    No matter how we dress it up and shake it about the whole thing of Christmas is pagan. It started off as pagan and Christianity was dragged into to give it validity. Easter on the other hand was about Christ’s death and resurrection and became polluted with the pagan regeneration/spring bunnies and eggs.

    In Gen 46 God gives an example of how Pharaoh celebrated his birthday by hanging his chief baker and in Matt 14 and Mark 6 we see how Herod celebrated his birthday by having John the Baptist beheaded. See, I think the who and the how and the reason is significant. If these pagan wicked people are an example of what not to do then we need to take note and change. Do I want to celebrate my birthday if it is all a pagan ritual and offensive to God? Mother’s Day is pagan and I don’t want my children to partake in that any more.

    The birth of Christ is something to be thankful for, should we do it at Christmas time and do away with as many pagan rituals as possible or should we not celebrate it at all? Because we are not asked or commanded to, but the disciples were asked to do certain things in remembrance of him. (Luke 22 and 1Cor 11) I think it is significant that the scriptures do not ask us to remember Jesus’ birthday but to remember him giving his life.

    We are not to love the world and the things in it. Is the lovely feeling of Christmas (no matter how it is disguised), one of those things?

    Something that struck me as odd last week was the contents of the traditional Christmas dinner here in the USA. Ham to celebrate the birth of a nice Jewish boy!

    In our family we have always started Christmas day in the scriptures and Santa has never been part of the day. This year as we are learning, growing and changing, we have decided not to have a tree. It is not easy because it is so pretty and we have always enjoyed having one. Maybe next year we will have more understanding about whether to celebrate it at all. Because ultimately we endeavor to do God’s will.

    I look forward to hearing from anyone who has more insight and understanding in these matters.

  18. on 20 Dec 2008 at 11:50 pmSean

    Georgie,

    I recently saw an Atheist and a Catholic arguing on Fox News about Christmas. The point the atheist was making was that Christians stole/hijacked Christmas from the pagans. I was thinking about it an idea occurred to me. Why not steal a ritual from pagans (non-Christians) and then infuse it with Christian meaning? Obviously that requires some discernment…like we wouldn’t want to start bowing before a statue/idol and say it was saint or something. But, why not cut a tree down and put it in the house? Obviously Christians don’t worship the true or do it to revive the sun god or in worship to Mithras. Even so, for me, it is important to have a Christian meaning for things. …And for the life of me I can’t figure out what possible meaning could be attached to the tree. I’m still up in the air on this one and won’t have to decide for at least another year because as it is right now we go to my parents each year and my wife and I have never had a tree.

  19. on 21 Dec 2008 at 4:29 amMark C.

    Hello Mark. You don’t want people banging on about the pagan origins of Christmas, but that is what this blog is about. I came here to see if I could get some insight from others who are I assume, seeking first the kingdom of God. If you don’t want to hear people going on about it why read a blog titled, Pagan Roots of Christmas? From what I read here no one is being judgmental but rather trying to come to terms with some things that might warrant change.

    I want to gain entrance into the kingdom and this whole Christmas thing is something I think I might need to change because we as Christians should not subscribe to the ‘if it feels good do it theory ‘ and follow the masses. See Matt 7:13, 14. So am asking questions and was hoping to get help from others who are maybe questioning it too.

    It’s not that I don’t want people going on about the pagan roots of Christmas. And I’m not saying anybody on this blog is being judgmental. But there are Christians who make a big deal about it and feel more “righteous” because they shun things they consider pagan, and look down on other Christians who celebrate Christmas.

    The thing is, God looks at the heart. There are very few rules in the New Covenant that say “X is evil; avoid it at all costs.” Real life is not usually that black and white. That’s why we have the holy spirit rather than the letter of the Law. That’s also why Paul wrote in Romans that those who think something is bad should not partake in it, but if someone else thinks it’s OK, those who think it’s bad should not judge them. Some things are bad for one person and not for another, depending on how they deal with it in their own mind and heart.

    If you think celebrating Christmas is bad, or is something you don’t want to do, then you shouldn’t do it. But that doesn’t mean that it is evil in and of itself just because its origins were pagan. If someone else chooses to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and does so with a pure heart of love, and is not worshiping pagan gods, there’s nothing wrong with that. If we were to avoid everything that had pagan origins, as with trying to avoid all sinners, we would have to go out of the world (I Cor. 5:9-10).

    So why not have a balance? Educate people about the pagan origins of holidays, but also about how the traditions have changed and taken on other meaning since their origin. Then let people decide for themselves.

  20. on 21 Dec 2008 at 4:33 amMark C.

    P.S. – Just found the other verse I wanted to reference in my last post but couldn’t find it.

    Rom. 14:14 – “I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.”

  21. on 21 Dec 2008 at 6:28 pmJohnB

    Read Jeremiah 10:1-5 for God’s perspective on Christmas trees.

  22. on 21 Dec 2008 at 8:11 pmBrian

    JohnB

    I’m not so sure that Jeremiah 10 is talking about Christmas trees. I believe that it refers to cutting a tree and using the stump to overlay it with silver and gold so it looks like the rich peoples idols.

    The question is, Are you worshiping your tree?

    If you have a painting or a statue, are you worshiping it?

    By the way, I do not have a tree, or a wreath or lights or anything like it in my house. But I am not going to assume that because someone has a tree they are participating in idolatry.

    Sean,

    I’m not so sure one can infuse Christian meaning into pagan things. The Old Testament is fairly full of examples of what God’s thinking is about dealing with idolatry and infusing Judaic meaning is not the usual answer. I look at Christmas as neither a pagan event nor a Christian event. It is a cultural event. Sort of like celebrating birthdays. Setting aside the aforementioned examples of birthdays in the Bible, most folks in this country recognize birthdays and give gifts. This is not Christian per se nor is it pagan, it is cultural and if done with the right heart is fine to do.

    I do believe that the idolatry of covetousness is the greatest temptation to sin this time of the year.

  23. on 22 Dec 2008 at 11:54 amJohnB

    Brian,

    While Jer 10 is mainly talking about idols I believe it sounds a lot like a Christmas tree. Actually a Chistmas tree could be considered an idol or rather an altar for idols. The process of putting gifts under a tree is similar to placing sacrifices on an altar to a false god (Santa Claus); the cookies would count as sacrifices too. While nobody worships the tree or Santa Claus (although some love Santa more than God), it is the similarity to pagan pratices which I think are wrong. God says to not learn the ways of the pagans. On the other hand it would be hard to avoid anything that is similar to any kind of pagan practice. Also, I know it is a bit of a stretch to equate gifts under a tree to sacrifices on an altar but it’s something to think about.

    I would actually be more OK with Christmas if the religous aspect of it was removed. If it was just a commercial holiday in December and Jesus’ birth was celebrated in September(11th or 29th; I have seen evidence for both) when he was actually born then more people could enjoy both ‘holidays’.

  24. on 22 Dec 2008 at 2:23 pmSean

    Brian,

    Christmas trees are pagan. There is no question on that. So, either we infuse the pagan symbol with a Christian meaning or we don’t reject it outright. Though the original pagan meaning of the tree is not known by most people, the ritual persists. So, which to do? It certainly strikes me as odd to cut down a random pine tree and set it up in the house for a week and decorate it? I just don’t get it. Though it does smell nice. Should we just do it because everyone else does it? I don’t know. I just don’t think we can ignore the pagan roots of these things though I’m not particularly swayed to start a crusade on this issue either.

  25. on 22 Dec 2008 at 6:26 pmBrian

    Sean,

    Pine trees in and of themselves are not pagan–just like a statue in and of itself is not pagan. Yet either one can become pagan based upon the mindset of the individual. What god is being worshiped by those who bring a pine tree into there home? I am aware that it’s background is pagan, but that doesn’t make it so now. If you believe that you are sinning against God by having a decorated pine tree in your home, then it would be wrong for you to do so, but I would be hesitant to demand that anyone who wishes to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ desist from the practice. I agree that it seems like a ridiculous thing to do–people can do some pretty irrational things sometimes, but thankfully that doesn’t necessarily qualify it as sin. It’s been a number of years since we have done any kind of tree–although we like the look of lights to brighten things during the shortest days of the year. I think the last time we had a tree is when we had a woman living with us who had been dealing with cancer for a number of years and she was someone who grew up in a family that always had a tree so we thought that it would be a blessing and comfort for her as she continued to deal with the effects of cancer in her life. I share this to point out that it our decision making was based on our love for this person as opposed to thinking that we were or were not participating in a pagan ritual. In the end it’s just not that big a deal to us one way or the other. It is a time of the year that folks talk a little more about the birth of Jesus, but we know that he wasn’t really born around this time of year. If the opportunity to talk about my lord presents itself because of this, that’s great. Every day I am thankful for his birth, his life, his sacrifice, his teaching, his resurrection and the hope of his return.

    I think 1 Corinthians 8 pertains to this subject:

    1Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

    4Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

    7However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

  26. on 22 Dec 2008 at 7:32 pmSean

    Brian,

    I was thinking about the fact that Christmas trees smell nice when I thought of incense smelling nice as well. The early Christians were sometimes required on pain of death to offer incense to Caesar. Did they respond by saying, “well, we know that Caesar is not really a god since for us there is only one God–the Father, besides the incense will smell nice” or did they say, “precisely because Caesar is not a god I must not offer incense to him.”

    Agreed, pine trees are not pagan. But there is no question that it is a pagan ritual to cut down a pine tree during the middle of the winter solstice, set up in the house, and decorate it with shiny stuff. Perhaps this is like offering a pinch of incense to Caesar.

    Of course, I think we probably agree more than disagree on this issue. Neither of us set up Christmas trees, nor do either of us go on a rampage calling all Christians to cease this activity. And I do admire your care of the woman with cancer…that is a prime example of Christian hospitality. Even so, I know that if she asked you to erect a statue of Zeus in the living room because she was raised that way you would gentle deny her dying wish.

    So, I think the question needs to be asked and answered: is it ok to redefine pagan things as Christian things? I say yes. Let’s create a new meaning for the tree and then it won’t be a problem. Or should completely abstain from setting up the tree even though it is pretty, smells nice, and everyone else does it? I just don’t like the idea of practicing a pagan ritual because it is what we’ve always done.

  27. on 22 Dec 2008 at 10:18 pmMark C.

    I was thinking about the fact that Christmas trees smell nice when I thought of incense smelling nice as well. The early Christians were sometimes required on pain of death to offer incense to Caesar. Did they respond by saying, “well, we know that Caesar is not really a god since for us there is only one God–the Father, besides the incense will smell nice” or did they say, “precisely because Caesar is not a god I must not offer incense to him.”

    They did not offer incense to Caesar. But does that mean they never burned incense for any other purpose? I don’t know the history well enough to answer that, but the point is that there’s obviously nothing wrong with burning incense in and of itself, it’s the “to Caesar” part that made it idolatry.

    Agreed, pine trees are not pagan. But there is no question that it is a pagan ritual to cut down a pine tree during the middle of the winter solstice, set up in the house, and decorate it with shiny stuff. Perhaps this is like offering a pinch of incense to Caesar.

    Cutting down a tree and decorating it may or may not be traced to pagan ritual (see the link below), but even if it was, I’d say today the vast majority of people doing it are not doing it as a pagan ritual, or worshiping other gods. And the wide spread in popularity of the custom in the last two centuries was as a predominantly Christian symbol.

    You say it’s OK to redefine pagan things as Christian, and I agree. I think it has already been done, to a large extent. I found some interesting online articles about the origins of the Christmas tree and other holiday customs. Apparently it’s not as completely pagan as some claim, and some customs developed so far over time that they bear almost no relation to their pagan origins. One of the best articles I found on this is here:
    http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrtree.html

    There are a number of variations in the meaning of the tree, from evergreens as a symbol of rebirth, the Paradise tree as a symbol of both sin and redemption, a reminder of the tree on which Christ was crucified to overcome sin (Gal. 3:13), and Christmas lights representing Christ the light of the world.

    Furthermore, regardless of what was done a few hundred years ago, what matters is what’s in the hearts of people who do it now. And I think if you ask the majority of people who have Christmas trees what they think the significance is, they would say that the ornaments and lights are symbols of joy and celebration, and a time of giving and fellowship, even if they don’t know the history. Few if any would say they had it because of its pagan meaning.

    But as has been said, it’s a matter of choice. It’s neither commanded nor forbidden in the Bible, and nothing is evil of itself. Whether you have a tree or don’t, do whatever you do in the name of the Lord Jesus.

  28. on 22 Dec 2008 at 10:23 pmSean

    Mark,

    I largely agree with what your saying and I’d like to check out the link when I get a moment, but I feel like you missed my Caesar/incense analogy. Obviously the Christians did not believe that Caesar was a god so by the same logic we use to justify x-mas trees we could advise our brothers (if we were alive at that time) to offer the required incesne offering to the statue of Caesar because, after all, he’s not god and we know that. Even so, the Christians were willing to be tortured in unspeakable ways rather than perform the obligatory and non-controversial offering. Would we buy a figurine incense holder and use it to sweeten the air in our houses today? I dare say yes. And in this confession comes the crunch.

  29. on 22 Dec 2008 at 10:30 pmJohnE

    I wonder how this 1 Co 8 may fit in this discussion?

    1 Corinthians 8:1-13

    1 Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies.

    2 If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know;

    3 but if anyone loves God, he is known by Him.

    4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. [We know the pine is not something pagan]

    7 However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

    8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. [We are neither the worse if we put a pine in our house and decorate it, nor the better if we do not do that]

    9 But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

    10 For if someone sees you, who have knowledge [that the pine is not something pagan], dining in an idol’s temple [having a pine in your house], will not his conscience, if he is weak, be strengthened to eat things sacrificed to idols?

    11 For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died.

    12 And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.

    13 Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

  30. on 23 Dec 2008 at 12:05 amMark C.

    Sean,

    I see your point. That’s why the Christians would not have burnt incense (even a little) to Caesar, but may not have a problem with incense in other contexts. Similarly, even the smallest touch of idolatry in holiday celebrations should be avoided, but I believe a Christian can celebrate Christ’s birth and have a tree without it being idolatrous. The tree, like the incense, could be used either in idolatrous practices or not. It’s what’s in the heart of the users that makes the difference.

    As JohnE pointed out, “We are neither the worse if we put a pine in our house and decorate it, nor the better if we do not do that.” The only other thing to be careful of is whether or not we may cause a brother to stumble by our actions. I liked what Brian said about having a tree for the sake of the woman living with them. That’s the real heart of the passage in I Corinthians, IMO.

  31. on 23 Dec 2008 at 7:20 amSean

    Mark,

    Sorry to bang on about this, but I just wanted to make one more clarification. You keep saying that early Christians would not be anti-incense so long as it was not offered to Caesar or other gods. I completely agree with this. Furthermore, you go on to make an analogy to the pine tree. This also makes sense to me. But, then you extend the pine tree to the pagan ritual which includes
    a. cutting down a pine tree a few days before the winter solstice
    b. setting it up in the house
    c. decorating it with shiny stuff
    This is a ritual. And to my knowledge, this was a pagan ritual whose intent was to worship other gods. So, it is more like we are burning incense to Caesar in our houses but not believing Caesar is god. Do you see what I mean?

  32. on 23 Dec 2008 at 8:56 amMark C.

    Yes, I see what you mean. But the traditions that developed about the tree were not exclusively pagan rituals. The article I linked to in my previous post deals with that. I think you’ll find it interesting.

  33. on 23 Dec 2008 at 9:42 amSean

    ok…I’ll take a look at it…if the tree is not actually pagan then my whole point is moot

  34. on 23 Dec 2008 at 12:13 pmJohnB

    From the evidence that I have seen, the first people to use the tree ritual were pagans so it was originally a pagan practice. But, there are other pagan practices we use. The ritual drinking of wine is used by Christians all the time even though it was orginally a pagan ritual but this was commanded by Jesus that we do it in his name. So is it OK if we practice the tree ritual in his name? Well, the reason we are debating this is because there is no clear evidence one way or the other. The Bible does not command it nor does it explicitly forbid it (although Jer 10 is more explicit than other verses people try too use for other viewpoints).

  35. on 23 Dec 2008 at 4:25 pmGeorgie

    Sean,
    Regarding post 12 and the link, we watched it, Christmas and almost all it’s traditions are steeped in ancient pagan rituals. It was not pleasant to realize and see where these rituals come from and I say ritual because I think it communicates much better than tradition or custom. It lead us to another link which bought it back to the scriptures. This really did help. So thanks for that first link which gave us the history and here is the link that brought this matter back to the scriptures.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1558783145525879786&hl=en

    Things have become cultural but what is behind it all? If it started out un-Godly as worshiping idols, and pagan rituals then just because everyone does it now, doesn’t make it right or acceptable to God. We don’t worship the tree or offer Christmas dinner to idols but that was the original purpose of it all. Christianizing it does not change what is really behind it all. A wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing is still a wolf. A pagan ritual dressed up in Christian disguise is still a pagan ritual.

    Exd 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
    Mat 19:17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? [there is] none good but one, [that is], God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.

    So we continue to live and learn and grow and change in our endeavors to love God above all else, to seek first His kingdom, to remain good ground and enter in at the strait gate.

    Thank you all.

  36. on 24 Dec 2008 at 8:18 amMark C.

    The videos linked in posts 12 and 35 are only one side of the argument, and contain some historical inaccuracies. In rereading the thread, I noticed that Thom Riley in post #1 had a link to an article from the same site as the one I posted in post #27. The same guy (Dr. Richard P. Bucher) also did an article about Jeremiah 10 which has been mentioned here. Dr. Bucher presents a good case, using thoroughly researched and documented sources. I recommend all of these articles. Here are the links all in one place:

    The Origin and Meaning of the Christmas Tree –
    http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrtree.html

    Christmas is Not Pagan –
    http://www.orlutheran.com/html/chrmas_pagan1.html

    Jeremiah 10 and the “Pagan” Christmas Tree –
    http://www.orlutheran.com/html/jer10.html

  37. on 24 Dec 2008 at 10:14 amSean

    According to this Bucher apologist trees were used for Pagan purposes all the way back to the days of the Roman empire, but Christmas trees originated differently for a play that had a “paradise tree” in it in the 16th century. Though he mentions the connection to Yule he says it is a mere coincidence. I’d be curious if there is a Yule connection.

    Wiki says:
    Although the earliest definite historic records of its use date only to the 16th century, the Christmas tree, like many other Christmas traditions such as the Christmas ham, the Yule Goat, the stuffing of stockings, and the figure of Santa Claus with his nocturnal ride through the sky[1], is widely believed to derive from pre-Christian Germanic paganism.

    Also, I like the idea of giving meaning to the x-mas tree. Apparently Bucher says that the tree represented both the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (which is why is was decorated with apples) and also the tree of life. Then he goes on to say it represents the cross (hence the communion wafers that hung on it). While at first blush this symbolism doesn’t grip me apparently it is the only game in town.

  38. on 24 Dec 2008 at 1:09 pmJohnB

    Here is another good video. It has a little more background on some of the Christmas rituals.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3645112363868619851&ei

  39. on 25 Dec 2008 at 1:29 amMark C.

    This video is yet another undocumented collection of views which partly contradict other theories on the pagan origins of Christmas, and also contain some historical inaccuracies. Considering what evidence we do have (which isn’t a lot) it seems more likely that the church decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on Dec. 25th, not to “confuse” pagan and Christian tradition while “ignoring” Biblical evidence against Christ being born in December, but rather to present an alternative to Saturnalia, and counteract the pagan celebrations.

    From Christmas is Not Pagan – Part IV By Dr. Richard P. Bucher:

    “Though there is no direct evidence that proves that the Church of Rome deliberately chose December 25 so that Christ’s birth would replace “the birthday of the sun,” [ nor is there direct evidence that they chose it to whitewash the pagan aspects and make it Christian] we do have sermons from fathers of the church who soon after this used this line of reasoning. For example, Augustine (354-430) in his sermon 202 and Leo the Great (440-461 — PL 54 Sources chrtiennes 22) give this line of reasoning.

    “Therefore, the second theory seems to be the probable one. December 25 was chosen not because it had somehow been proven from extra-biblical sources that Christ was definitely born on December 25. Rather the date was chosen to counteract a very popular pagan holiday that already had been occurring on this date.”

  40. on 25 Dec 2008 at 9:23 amJohn734

    This past month my wife and I have become really concerned about “Just what is Christmas really all about and why do we celebrate it” For years we have taught that Jesus was not born on Dec 25 but still used this time to be thankful for his first coming and remnd ourselves again that he will return.
    This all sounds very nice and comfortable, and mayby that what you do aswell, but the more I have looked into the many traditions that have become a part of Christmas there is not a single tradition that truely comes from God. Every single one is at best humanist and at worst pagen.

    I have been through those emotions where you say to yourself “But if feels so good and so nice and everything looks so pretty” And deep down what your saying is that you dont want to give it up, and I beleive this is the struggle we go through, and I do believe its a struggle!
    As in all things its only when we honestly go to the scriptures that we can truley get the answer, and the true godly answer is that its got nothing to do with God however we slice it and dice it and however hard you look God just is not there. I am reminded of
    Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

    I remember reading many years ago that after Rome was “Christianised” they took a statue of Zeus – pagen false God and covered up the name Zeus and wrote Peter (as in the Apsotle). Really that just about sums up Christmas.

    I may sound like Scrooge – bar-humbug 🙂 but really not giving in to all the worldy sentiment and endevoring to put and keep God first according to scripture had made this the most peaceful December I can remember.
    please also consider Mark 7:1-13 ; Roman 12:1,2 ; 1 Peter 1:18; Romans 14:5-8 ; Hebrews 3:13; Hebrews 13:8 ; Psalms 118:24

  41. on 25 Dec 2008 at 11:25 pmMark C.

    This all sounds very nice and comfortable, and mayby that what you do aswell, but the more I have looked into the many traditions that have become a part of Christmas there is not a single tradition that truely comes from God. Every single one is at best humanist and at worst pagen.

    If by tradition that “truly comes from God” you mean a tradition that God instructed us to follow, then no. There is no command to observe the birth of Christ. But as has been pointed out, there is no command not to either. If Christians choose to celebrate the birth of Christ, it doesn’t make them less Christian just because others choose to celebrate something else on the same day.

    I agree it is wrong to choose the traditions of men over the Word of God, if those traditions contradict God’s Word. But if the traditions do not go against God, and add to one’s devotion to Christ, there is nothing wrong with them.

    I remember reading many years ago that after Rome was “Christianised” they took a statue of Zeus – pagen false God and covered up the name Zeus and wrote Peter (as in the Apsotle). Really that just about sums up Christmas.

    I don’t know whether that’s true or not. But even if it is, labeling a statue as Peter has nothing to do with Christmas.

    Regarding the other Scriptures you referenced:

    Mark 7:1-13 refers to “setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition,” which would be wrong. But one can celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas without doing so.

    Roman 12:1,2 speaks of not being conformed to this world. It is important that we don’t get caught up in the worldly and pagan practices that have gotten mixed with Christmas. That’s part of why celebrating the birth of Christ instead of the winter solstice was a good alternative.

    1 Peter 1:18 “…knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers.” I’m not sure how this verse applies.

    Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
    Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
    Psalms 118:24 “This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
    – Again, I’m not sure how these verses apply to the subject we’re discussing.

    But Romans 14:5-8 says exactly what I’ve been talking about. “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. …He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord…” There is no set commandment about whether or not we should observe Christmas as the birth of Christ. “Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.”

  42. on 27 Dec 2008 at 1:49 pmJohn734

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comments,
    I will try to take the points you make and give my reasoning behind referencing the verses I used.
    In my last post I tried to be economical with words, (which is against my nature 🙂 so let me try and share the why’s and wherefores behind what I said and why I said it.

    My motivation to look into these things is because I have seen that as I/we grow as a Christians there is a great deal of receiving of knowledge and learning to change so our belief’s line up with scripture and I think as we mature we notice things in our lives that need to be purged, thoughts, attitudes, things that we have taken for granted we can suddenly see them in a new light and realize that we need to repent of these and change, and I think that has what has happened to me regarding this subject of Christmas. I have always “thought” that we handled it “quiet well”, we have always held a family fellowship on Christmas morning, taught the word regarding different aspects of the birth and coming of Christ. We never allowed chaos to erupt when opening presents but kept thing decent and in order. So as I said before things were very “comfortable”. But this year something happened in our hearts to look and question in a very serious way just why do we bring a tree into our house along with all the other customs.
    I am growing in my understanding of my responsibility to live a holy life: Peter 1:13-16
    And with that desire to be respectful to God the more I have learned and continue to learn all tells me that I need to continue to let go of these customs and traditions.

    The video link someone posted earlier presented a lot of information regarding the origins of Christmas which were all rather disturbing but it also did not contain any answers. We found a video from the United Church of God who we learned do not celebrate Christmas but are advocates of the holy days and feasts God initiated at the time of the Exodus. (So that’s something to study) But I guess that helped us realize that really this never has had anything to do with God and all we were doing was putting a Christian name on a pagan event where we had all the same trappings.
    Here is another link that seemed like a comprehensive history on many customs.
    http://www.rapidnet.com/~jbeard/bdm/Psychology/xmas/celeb.htm

    Mark 7:1-14 In this example Christ exposed the religious leaders for their traditions regarding the raising of children which broke Gods commandment.
    And the comparison to me is that there are many traditions we have regarding Christmas where the “cosmetic trappings” we use like the tee, the wreath of holly, father Christmas, coming down the chimney and giving gifts to children, these all have their roots in one way or another in paganism and the worship of false gods, so from their inception they have broken the first and second commandment
    Deuteronomy 5:7-8 ( KJV ) 7Thou shalt have none other gods before me. 8Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:

    Now today we may not bow down and worship these items, and see them as only a thing that is made to look very pretty, but it made me think what is this like from Gods point of view, for over 5000 years he has had to endure man worshipping false Gods at this time of year, the names may have changed but the basic idolatry was still in place. So how right can it be to bring out all the same old trappings that have been used for 1000’s of years (for purposes of worshiping false gods) to bring them out and now just replace the names with “Christian names”?
    God did not even allow for a blemished lamb to be sacrificed and yet we think that all these Pagan trappings are acceptable.

    True the reference to the statue of Zeus has nothing to do with Christmas but I mentioned it because to me it typifies what we have done, that is to take what is ungodly and slap a godly name on it and think that’s OK, whereas God had nothing to do with the first statue (in fact he was/is very much against it) and so why would we think the renamed idol is any different. It might be different to you but my point is, that its no different to God – its still wrong.

    Romans 12:1,2 The word “renew” is the word “renovate” this gives me a mind picture of renovating an old house, which to do that you have to rip out many things and rebuild new ones, well we are to rip out the schemes of this world (this age) and replace them with Gods schemes which maybe to you is replacing the winter solstice with the birth of Christ which is certainly a lot better but my concern regarding that is that are we just “papering over the cracks”?

    1 Peter 1:18 Peter is addressing that fact that these believers inherited traditions from an ungodly source – there unbelieving Fathers who did not know Christ. Again we are talking about traditions, this goes back to Mark 7.

    The next 3 verses:
    Hebrews 3:13 “But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called To day so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
    Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
    Psalms 118:24 “This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
    I made reference to these verse because of the way people can get so wrapped up in all the things related to Christmas, its like building up to an emotional crescendo. Preparing so much food, buying so many presents, decorating not only the inside of the house but making the outside look like something that only a few years ago you would only have seen in a department store with all sorts of Christmas decorations that make the mind boggle.
    All these “things” detract peoples mind from the simplicity and the truth of Gods word, they don’t enhance it they don’t make you stop and cause you to be so thankful for Christ’s sacrifice so that we even have a chance of entering into Gods Kingdom.

    People may sincerely spend a hour being thankful attending a Christmas Eve service and remembering and taking note of the birth of our Lord but that’s compared to the multiple hours preparing for the revelry and gluttony and covetousness. That’s not a good balance.

    So I placed these verses to remind us that every day is a day to be thankful for all that God has done for us and not allow ourselves to be tricked into a false sense of euphoria on this one day just because that’s what the rest of the world does.

    Romans 14
    The main point I want to make here is that whatever you think of this day. Keep God first. Are you thankful to have Gods promises of salvation, Gods promise of peace, joy and fulfillment continue to be thankful for those and keep God and Christ alive in your mind and not pushed over to the side to make way for worldly reveling.

    God may not tell us “not” to observe Christmas, but there are lots of things God doesn’t tell us to do, God doesn’t tell us to “just say no to drugs” but we intrinsically know its wrong.

    As I was learning about these things this illustration came to mind and only your own conscience can answer:
    According to what I have read in Egypt 5000 years ago one of its winter solstice traditions was to bring bull rushes into the house (these were also evergreen through the winter months) and the bulrushes were Egypt’s equivalent to the fir tree. Now the Children of Israel who lived and grew up in Egypt, how many of them would have practiced this form of remembrance of the sun god? Realistically I imagine at lease some if not most because just like celebrations today is was accompanied by things that “feel good”. Anyway when under Moses leadership they left Egypt and received Gods commandments in the wilderness which included the 10 commandments the first 2 of which I referred to earlier, now imagine a family wanting to and going about repeating this custom in the wilderness. How far do you think they would have gotten before they were called before Moses? Several years ago as I began to learn the truth of the Bible with regard to the coming Kingdom of God I was literally shocked when the first person to break the Sabbath (a son who was collecting wood) was brought before Moses who in turn went to God and Gods judgment was to pronounce his death. As I was listening (it was on CD ) I was saying to myself, “I’m sure God will forgive him, this is all new and they have to get the hang of it. God will be gracious”, these thought sped through my mind and the account unfolded and I was so shocked at Gods verdict. So if death was the judgment for breaking the Sabbath what less could it be for erecting symbols of idolatry carried from Egypt. This taught me an important lesson which is that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” Prov 1:7
    As I said this is just an illustration that came to my mind, its not based on fact or bible just my imagination. God never specifically told Israel to not practice the winter solstice customs but the commandments he gave them certainly did not allow for its practice.

    Rightly dividing the word of truth requires both knowledge and practice and I pray that we continue to grow in our ability to right divide his word and our lives.
    God Bless
    John

  43. on 27 Dec 2008 at 11:54 pmMark C.

    John,

    I agree and I understand that we each have things we need to purge from our lives. There is no question that any idolatrous practices in the OT were not tolerated. If there is covetousness, gluttony, idolatry, etc. associated with celebrating Christmas, then it certainly should be gotten rid of. But what Christmas means and how it is celebrated differs greatly from one person or family to another.

    I had for a number of years believed what I read about the origins of Christmas traditions, and accepted it uncritically, even though most of what we read has little to no documentation to it. I have found recently that there is another side to the story, one which seems to have more documentable evidence to it.

    If it were truly a matter of slapping a Christian name on a purely pagan tradition I would reject it without hesitation. But there is a very good case for Christmas having been designated by the Christian church as a celebration of the birth of Christ as far back as the fourth or fifth century. It was so designated as an alternative to the pagan celebration at the same time, not just putting a Christian label on pagan rituals.

    And the various traditions that have gradually come to be associated with Christmas come from many different sources, not all of them pagan. The Christmas tree, for example, can be traced to Christian symbols in medieval times, rather than pagan. Rather than simply white-washing pagan symbols, many were Christian symbols, and have been for several hundred years.

    Still, what’s most important is how each of us, as an individual, views it. If the holiday means mainly revelry and excess, then it should be avoided. For me though, I grew up in the RC Church viewing Christmas as the birth of Christ. Then when I was a “Jesus freak” in the early ’70s it took on even greater meaning. It wasn’t until I was in another organization that I was taught about the supposed pagan origins, and gradually rejected the whole scene.

    Only this year have I discovered that there is greater historical probability that Christmas was indeed a celebration of Christ’s birth for hundreds of years, and that while today there are some worldly and pagan influences mixed in, there are some legitimate Christian symbols and customs as well.

    So as we have been saying, it is up to every individual to examine what is behind his traditions this time of year. If there is anything that is truly carnal, it should indeed be avoided. But I don’t believe it is necessary to avoid everything about Christmas, once you find what the true history is. Like with any claim (especially on the internet) we should be careful not to simply accept assertions that are not backed up with evidence. We should examine both sides and then we can make an informed decision.

  44. on 28 Dec 2008 at 2:58 pmJohnE

    It is obvious that some view Christmas in a negative way. They see it as a pagan ritual which crept into Christian practice by simply being labeled as Christian.

    I for one, do not celebrate Christmas. But if I would, and if I knew some of my brothers have certain concerns about it, that it is really just a pagan custom clothed in Christian garments, I would simply stop celebrating it and arguing against their arguments. I think it’s wiser look at this through Paul’s lens:

    1 Corinthians 10:23-24; 8:23 All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. […] Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

  45. on 28 Dec 2008 at 8:20 pmMark C.

    Good point, although I think there is a difference between a brother having concerns about it and a brother being caused to stumble. In the long run, it certainly is not worth being divided over.

  46. on 29 Dec 2008 at 1:01 pmJohnB

    It has been said on here by some (myself included) that the Bible does not say anything against Christmas. I just realized (not sure why it took me so long) that the books of the Bible were written way before the church adopted Christmas/Saturnalia. So we shouldn’t expect to see Chistmas condemned in the Bible because it didn’t exist yet! However, God did say not to adopt pagan practices. Since Saturnalia was a pagan practice before the name was changed to Christmas, it seems to me that we should not partake in it. I don’t believe the Bible needs to specifically name every pagan practice we are to avoid; we should be able to learn and discern what is pagan and what is not.

  47. on 29 Dec 2008 at 3:40 pmMark C.

    JohnB,

    Obviously the day called Christmas would not have been mentioned in the Bible since it didn’t exist. The point that was made is that nothing in the Bible either commands or condemns the celebration of Christ’s birth.

    It is true we should discern what is pagan and what is not, and avoid pagan practices. But contrary to what we frequently hear repeated, there is more evidence that Christmas was actually designated as a celebration of Christ’s birth, and not just an adoption of pagan practices or a renaming of Saturnalia. Please read the articles I linked in post #36 for more details.

  48. on 29 Dec 2008 at 6:41 pmJohnB

    But since the celebration of Jesus’ birth is not mentioned in the Bible it either was not very important or not observed at all. And if they did observe it they would have done it much closer to the correct time of year, not the pagan’s most important day of the year. It’s just like the Christian ‘trinity’ which is not mentioned by name and the concept is not in the Bible, which either means it was not important (so unlikely it is beyond absurd) or it was not something the writers of the Bible knew anything about. I’m sure some of them knew of the various pagan trinities and so it would have been easy to relate it to a Christian trinity if it was true. So just like the pagan trinity idea was adopted by the church, the pagan day for the ‘birth of the sun/son’ idea was adopted as well.

  49. on 29 Dec 2008 at 8:44 pmJohnE

    JohnB,

    I agree. As far as I know, the Hebrews did not celebrate birthdays, and neither did the 1st century Christians – at least, there’s a complete silence on this. It seems it never crossed their minds to celebrate Christ’ birth.

    The only two characters presented in th Bible as celebrating their birthdays are two non-Jews: the Pharaoh and Herod. Both birthdays are presented in a bad light – on both occasions somebody is executed: Pharaoh’s chief baker is hanged, John the Baptist is beheaded.

  50. on 30 Dec 2008 at 3:36 amMark C.

    JohnB,

    Most likely celebrating the birthday of Jesus was not an issue in the first couple of centuries of the Christian era. By the third century it was not known for sure when Jesus was born. The date was chosen as an alternative to the Saturnalia.

    True, neither Christmas nor the Trinity is mentioned in the Bible, but the difference is that the Trinity contradicts things that are clearly stated in Scripture, while celebrating the birth of Christ at Christmas does not.

    Besides, there was a lot more to the development of the Trinity than just “the pagans have a trinity so we want one.” And once again, there is no hard evidence that they just adopted Saturnalia and changed its name. Did you read the articles by Richard Bucher?

    JohnE,

    Since they didn’t celebrate birthdays in the Bible, is it logical to conclude that therefore we should not observe one either? Should we not celebrate our own birthdays? I don’t think it’s correct to conclude that anything not mentioned in the Bible should be avoided. That’s the kind of logic that causes some groups to not use electricity or cars.

    Remember Romans 14 – One person regards one day over another and another one doesn’t. Either is fine as long as they are devoted to the Lord (paraphrased).

  51. on 30 Dec 2008 at 7:20 amkevin lewis

    hi, can we not know from scripture when the birth of christ was. thanks

  52. on 30 Dec 2008 at 4:19 pmMark C.

    Kevin,

    The Bible doesn’t specifically say when Jesus was born, although some approximate deductions can be made from Scripture.

    Ernest Martin made a good case for it being on Sept. 11, 3 BC (which was adapted in VP Wierwille’s Jesus Christ Our Promised Seed). His theory was based on a combination of Scripture and scientific deduction from historical records and astronomical data. (Read about it on his website: http://www.askelm.com/star/index.asp. Scroll down to read The Star That Astonished the World online.)

    Nevertheless, the scientific assessment of astronomical data was not available till recent years, so for most of the Christian era it has been the consensus that we don’t know exactly when Jesus was born.

  53. on 30 Dec 2008 at 5:13 pmkevin

    hi, mark,

    Thank you

  54. on 30 Dec 2008 at 11:00 pmJohnE

    Mark,

    Since they didn’t celebrate birthdays in the Bible, is it logical to conclude that therefore we should not observe one either?

    Kind of. They were certainly aware of the practice among the pagans. Why didn’t they celebrate it themselves? Is it too far-fetched to conclude that they thought something was wrong with celebrating it? To answer this, I think we should take into account the historical context.

    I’ve read somewhere that the birthday has its roots in astrology, can’t remember where, but maybe somebody could look into this. Anyway, it seems pagan rulers were making a big deal out of celebrating their birthdays – at national level; there’s an interesting article here on what different rabbis thought about this here: http://rchaimqoton.blogspot.com/2007/04/happy-birthday.html

    One can find pro and contra birthday arguments there, but I’ve found this significant:

    In describing the date of the release of Pharaoh’s butler from jail, the Torah says, “It was on the third day, the birthday of Pharaoh, and he [Pharaoh] made a banquet for all his servant[9]…” The Targum explains[10] that “birthday of Pharaoh” in this context means Yom Genussa. Rashi explains[11] that “birthday of Pharaoh” literally means his birthday, the anniversary of his birth[12]. The Mishnah lists[13] Yom Genussa and the King’s Birthday as two separate idolatrous holidays. Rashi explains that on the King’s Birthday, a national holiday would be declared annually and the people would offer sacrifices to idols. Yom Genussa, according to the Talmud[14], is the day of the coronation of the king[15]. In this, Rashi is consistent with his opinion in his commentary to the Torah, but the explanation of the Targum requires explanation. The Jerusalemic parallel to this passage in the Babylonian Talmud concluded[16] that Yom Genussa is “birthday”. Then why is the King’s birthday also listed in the Mishnah if it is the same as Yom Genussa? The Jerusalemic Talmud[17] answers that the King’s Birthday is a national holiday celebrated by all of the king’s constituents on the anniversary of the king’s birthday, while Yom Genussa is a day celebrated by each man and his household on each man’s own personal birthday. From here, one clearly sees that the celebration of one’s birthday is an idolatrous practice. Although Rabbi David Altschuler explains[18] seems to understand that even Jewish monarchs celebrated their birthdays, this does not justify anything because in the context the Prophet is actually rebuking the nation for the celebration which consisted of drinking and other debauchery.

    If Jews in general were seeing birthdays as idolatrous because of what the Pharaoh did, I can understand why they wouldn’t celebrate them. Especially since God tells them not to adopt the customs of the nations. Incidentally, I was reading today about another pagan ruler making his birthday a national holiday: Augustus Caesar. Here’s what the Priene Inscription says:

    “Whereas the Providence which has guided our whole existence and which has shown
    such care and liberality, has brought our life to the peak of perfection in giving to us
    Augustus Caesar, whom it filled with virtue for the welfare of mankind, and who,
    being sent to us and to our descendants as a savior, has put an end to war and has set
    all things in order; and whereas, having become visible, Caesar has fulfilled the hopes
    of all earlier times . . . not only in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him
    but also in leaving to his successors no hope of surpassing him; and whereas, finally,
    that the birthday of the god (Augustus) has been for the whole world the beginning of
    the good news concerning him, therefore, let all reckon a new era beginning from the date
    of his birth, and let his birthday mark the beginning of the new year.

    Regarding this, here’s an interesting read: http://books.google.ca/books?id=G-Bgccv6VS8C&pg=PA53&lpg=PA53
    Read also page 58 where there’s talk about sacrifices being offered for Augustus Caesar’s birthday: http://books.google.ca/books?id=G-Bgccv6VS8C&pg=PA58&lpg=PA58&dq=birthday+celebrat+sacrifice+augustus

    and page 59 about Tiberius Caesar: http://books.google.ca/books?id=G-Bgccv6VS8C&pg=PA59&lpg=PA59&dq=birthday+god+sacrifices+gods+hymning

    I believe Christians were very much aware of these idolatrous practices associated with birthdays, and probably that’s why they wanted to have nothing to do with them. Could God view today’s birthday celebrations as idolatrous? I don’t know, but He certainly might. Isn’t the celebrated person put on a pedestal with this occasion? It kind of is.

    In short, I think we should stay away of traditions/practices that have pagan roots, as God told His people before they entered the promised land. For example, take the interesting interdiction:

    Exodus 23:19 You are not to boil a young goat in the milk of its mother.

    NAB says in a footnote:

    Boil a kid in its mother’s milk: this was part of a Canaanite ritual; hence it is forbidden here as a pagan ceremony.

    Could an Israelite say that “hey, I like the taste of a kid in its mother’s milk, and I am telling you, my doing it has absolutely no religious aspect to it, I just like its taste!”? I doubt God would approve that. But God would not give a big list of what’s allowed and what’s not. The principle is, “You shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you” (Leviticus 20:23). If you know something has rotten roots, avoid its fruits. I think that’s another way of not being part of this world.

  55. on 31 Dec 2008 at 11:39 amJohn Hawkins

    Hi all,
    I struggled a lot with Christmas as several other “Holy days”. My spouse does not share the same beliefs as I do so it makes these times even more challenging.

    The first thing I look at is do I consider this a Holy day? If so what does the Bible say about celebrating this Holy day. Well it does not say anything about it. Jesus told us to do 1 thing to remember him (See Luke 22:18-20). I do not read anyplace where we as Christians are to celebrate Christ’s birth.
    The second I look at, or for, are examples of where man has decided what is holy. I look at the incident of the Golden Calf where the Israelites created an Idol to worship God. I personally do not want to take the risk of doing the same.
    The last thing I look at is what is the basis of the holy day. Exchanging gifts, decorating with lights, taking little figurines and placing them all over the place, is that something that is based in the Bible? Is it something that the Apostles would have done? Most likely not. Granted there are good intentions with giving gifts to the poor, but most of the time I see rich to rich gifts. If folks want to get together and celebrate their family I think that is fine, trying to make something holy for the sake of justifying actions is not what I think God intends for us to do.
    May God continue to bless you all,

  56. on 27 Feb 2009 at 5:59 pmrobert

    why do we need anything
    isnt GOD perfect without
    why do we feel the need to make our GOD more glorious then our neighbors god.
    isnt it enough to know that our GOD is the ONE TRUE GOD and their god if it existed would have to bow down before our GOD no matter how glorious he seemed to be.
    this has been the problem with GOD’S people from the begining. most all times that GOD’S people created idols they thought they were glorifying GOD.if i have learned one thing about GOD it is he is perfect and needs nothing to be glorious. there is nothing on this earth that can make GOD more perfect. how many lessons does it take for man to understand this.
    Abraham loved GOD so much that he beleived every word spoken from god. this is where our blessing comes from. that blessing would be JESUS the only begotten son of GOD. as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his own son because GOD ask him to so now GOD offers his own son to fullfill his promise to Abraham to bless all of the nations.
    now we have JESUS who came to fullfill a promise to bless you and me and jesus did it so perfectly which no one has ever done and will ever do because he beleived every word his father spoke and was willing to die for us if that was how is father wanted it to be.
    now i find jesus perfect without anything else needed.
    what was the one thing both Abraham and JESUS had in common.it was Faith that block out the echos of the first lie told to man “Ye shall not surely die” from the time that was spoken to now it has been the biggest stumbling block to man.
    christanity has stumbled since JESUS with religion
    trying to make JESUS more glorious by creating traditions and giving symbols for him.
    i dont think the people who started all of this thought it was a bad thing and probably thought what could it hurt.
    i have one thing to leave you with
    what do you think EVE said after satan told her “Ye shall not surely die”
    my guess is
    WHAT WOULD IT HURT

    lets stick to what GOD commands of us and what JESUS meant to us

    ty

    robert

    ps.

    when who ever it was that decided GOD was 3 what was the words that allowed it to stay that way.
    now you can see what it hurts

  57. on 30 Mar 2014 at 10:02 pmMark M.

    @Mark C.

    Polycarp.net says you are DEAD wrong about the practice of burning incense to Caesar. By WHAT authority do you think you can just make bold FALSE statements and expect that to get accepted as truth? REPENT.

  

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