The word “Christmas” and the date 25th December are not mentioned in the Bible. So how much of this festival is just human tradition and thus rather pointless? How much is Scriptural and as such, must be believed?
Christmas evokes strong feelings. It is believed by many to be the holy season. It is regarded by others as the silly season of drunken revelry. Often it is a time of rejoicing to cement family ties but is also a time of mourning to grieve the mad death toll on our roads. It is a time of giving and spending as it is one of the biggest economic splurges of the year, followed by a time of financial scarcity in January. Many people feel obligated to over-spend on Christmas gifts.
Penetrating this veil of intense emotional feelings is not easy as there is a sad lack of Scripture and a scary amount of pagan tradition that occupies the stage. So what is truly based on Scripture and what is simply human imagination cooked up by people in the past?
Salvation is God telling us what to believe by following the Bible. These Scriptural beliefs are usually not popular with people and the Bible remains the most unread book in peoples’ homes. Religion is man trying to please God by inventing human traditions. These made-up traditions are usually immensely popular with people and thus religion ( Churchianity ) replaces Truth ( Christianity ). Mysticism versus the Bible. The long search begins.
The precise year of Jesus’ birth is strongly debated as different historians place it between 7 BC and 1 AD, depending on who you listen to. 4 BC is a popular choice. Thus, trying to establish the year of His birth is already very controversial, so imagine the guesswork involved in trying to establish the day of His birth.
If the Bible did not mention the day of Christ’s birth, should we try to guess it?
If no godly person in the Bible ever celebrated his or her birthday, do we do God a favour by trying to celebrate Christ’s birthday? Salvation is God’s rules coming down to us to tell us how to get saved by grace through faith in His Word. Religion is man making up rules and traditions to try to impress God with our zeal and sincerity. But, sadly, there is no salvation in religion. God is not impressed with human thinking.
“Christ’s Mass” is derived from the Middle English Cristemasse, which is from the Old English Crīstesmæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038.
So the word “Christmas” can only be traced back to the year 1038 AD. The word Christmas may well have been used before this but there is no document to prove this. “Christ’s mass” makes it clear that the doctrine is a Roman Catholic festival. Protestants do not subscribe to any of the Catholic ceremonies that are classified as a “mass”. Christmas appears to be the one exception. Why?
Jude 1 : 3 …and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.
Romans 10 : 17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
The last church age which we are living in can only find direction if we return to the teachings of the first church age which was started by the apostles who had been trained by Jesus and wrote the Truth as the New Testament. We will lose our direction if we start following the traditions of the pagans because nothing they believed had any eternal value. The word “Christmas” never appears in the Bible and thus was not something that the early church believed. The 25th December is not a Scriptural date.
Galatians 4 : 9 … how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements…?
: 10 Ye observe days and months and times and years.
: 11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
Paul was not in favour of stressing some day.
Christmas is a tradition that has borrowed different ideas from different cultures over the ages. It is a conglomeration of different ideas that have come from different sources. Let us consider some of the more modern additions to this tradition.
The Origin and History of Santa Claus – How Santa Claus got his name!
“The History of Santa Claus dates back many hundreds of years. The history of Santa Claus started with a man called Nicholas, who became a saint – Saint Nicholas, the Patron Saint of children. The Feast of Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, is celebrated by the Dutch on December 6th. On the eve of his feast day (December 5th) Sinterklaas is celebrated by exchanging gifts. The evening is called “sinterklaasavond” and is especially for children. In America Sinterklaas developed into the name of Santa Claus.”
So Santa used to give out presents to children on 5 December. But we so liked this idea that we hijacked him and made him work on the 24th December, Christmas eve, which never was his original date.
Santa was originally just a giver of gifts to children and had nothing to do with the birth of Jesus.
Origin and History of Santa Claus – Sinterklaas or Sinter Klaas
“The modern traditions and history associated with the Dutch Sinterklaas are believed to originate from the illustrated children’s book ‘Sint Nicolaas en zijn knecht’ (Saint Nicholas and his helper) which was written in 1850 by a schoolteacher named Jan Schenkman (1806–1863). This book introduced the concept of Sinterklaas delivering presents through the chimney and riding the roofs of houses.”
Nicholas may have been real and given some presents to certain children. But riding over the roofs with flying reindeers and going up and down chimneys showed how quickly the whole story was becoming wrapped up in human imagination and make-belief. No one can compete with the giving of gifts to children. So, emotionally, Christmas is here to stay. But how do we establish truth? From our emotions and traditions or from Scripture?
Saint Nicholas sounds good. Here is a person who gave gifts to children. Is that not just like the wise men who gave gifts to Jesus when He lay in the manger in the stable? So people absorbed this giving of gifts to children into the Christmas festival. Then it spread to giving gifts to family and friends and business partners and clients etc.
But wait, the Bible says in Matthew chapter 2 and verse 11 that the wise men went into a house, not a stable. So the wise men never attended the birth of Jesus.
Matthew 2 : 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
Jesus was a child, not a baby. Joseph was not even present.
But wait, that then threatens the whole business side of Christmas. No gifts given on His birthday! The gifts were given some two years later when He was no longer a baby. ( That is why Herod killed all the babies below the age of two ).
Our business world relies on the financial boost it gets from Christmas spending. We dare not oppose big business as money is the god that we pursue in our modern world. So people keep producing Christmas cards about wise men going to the stable. Play acting the nativity scene of when Christ was born always has shepherds in the stable ( which was true ) as well as three wise men in the stable ( which was not true ). Modern Churchianity is an intricate mix of truth and error. Keep repeating an error for long enough and eventually enough people will believe it.
“History moved on and in 1931 an illustrator named Haddon H. Sundblom started working for the Coca-Cola company. From 1931 – 1964 he produced Santa pictures every Christmas depicting Santa in his red coat as part of the Coca-Cola Christmas advertising campaigns. These Santa pictures by Haddon H. Sundblom captured the merry spirit of Christmas by copying the chubby, cheerful face of one of his friends. The pictures caught the imagination of the public and added to the history of Santa Claus.”
The Dutch Sinterklaas wore a green jacket according to legends. His name was changed to Santa Claus and his jacket changed from green to red.
Coca-Cola insisted on the red jacket as Coke tins are branded a bright red.
So Coca Cola now plays a part in our beliefs. You puzzle out how far we have come from Jude’s advice that we should be “contending for the faith that was once delivered to the saints”.
Christmas cards were first printed in 1843 in England and cost 1 shilling each. They were a commercial flop. By the 1860’s mass production lowered the costs and the idea caught on. In 2012 Great Britain’s sales of 900 million Christmas cards was a business that raked in 364 million British pounds. So mid Victorian Britain commercialised Christmas cards and gifts of dried fruits and nuts ( because there was no refrigeration in those days to preserve food ).
Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, brought the modern Christmas traditions to England from Germany. The British eagerly followed her example. In 1848 the Illustrated London News published a picture of the Royal family of Victoria and Albert with their children standing around a fir tree. Christmas trees immediately became a must have. In 2013 six million Christmas trees were sold in Britain.
Christmas crackers were invented in 1847 by Tom Smith who was a London sweet maker. In 2013 the British company Swantex sold 25 million crackers by itself.
The British empire dominated about one quarter of the world in 1850. So Queen Victoria’s embracing of these Christmas traditions spread rapidly especially when there was so much money to be made out of the whole idea. Her interest in Christmas traditions sparked a revival of interest in Christmas throughout the British empire. From here it spread world wide. Even Moslems and Hindus have been known to celebrate Christmas.
“Christmas” is not in the Bible. December 25 is also not in the Bible.
How did Christians arrive at the 25th December?
Christians began speculating with this kind of guesswork by the year 220 AD .
Guess 1 : The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary on 25th March. Don’t ask for Bible proof as there is none. But that day was the spring equinox when day and night are both 12 hours. God, according to them, was so impressed with equal days and nights ( I’m not sure why ) that He acted on that day.
Guess 2 : Then her pregnancy was exactly 9 months long, to the day, so Jesus was born on 25th December.
Again, this is just an unsubstantiated speculation. Today Christians call these unsubstantiated speculations “faith”. If it is not in the Bible, modern Christians will believe it. Just do not ask them to believe what is in the Bible, like the wise men going into a house. The Bible does not say they went into the stable, so Christians will obviously believe that they did go into the stable. Strange.
Let us add up the days. Modern medicine claims that a pregnancy is usually 40 weeks from the start of the last cycle and 38 weeks from the time of conception.
38 x 7 = 266 days ( usually extending up to 270 days )
Now add the days from 25 March to 25 December :
7 + 30 + 31 + 30 + 31 + 31 + 30 + 31 + 30 + 25 = 276
March May July September November
By modern accounts, her pregnancy would be 6 to 10 days overdue.
A time scale for the length of pregnancy cannot be absolutely accurate as pregnancies vary by a few days. To use this method to determine a precise date cannot give us a useful or accurate answer. Especially since we do not know when the conception occurred.
So two guesses make an act of faith! It must be the 25th December. Not very convincing, is it ?
But this was only one of many speculated dates and 25 December was not commonly believed at that time. Clement, bishop of Alexandria, calculated it to be 18 November. An anonymous document from about AD 243 made it March 28. Fitzmeyer reckoned it was 11 December, etc.
A famous preacher Chrysostom in 380 AD in Antioch claimed that he had only heard of the 25 December as being Christ’s birthday when he had been told it some ten years before ( in AD 370 ). Chrysostom went on to become bishop of Constantinople in 398 and celebrated Christmas there.
As Weiser points out, “it was expressly stated in Rome that the actual date of the Saviour’s birth was unknown and that different traditions prevailed in different parts of the world”
(F. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs – New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1958, 61.).
After 200 AD speculations arose that pointed to the birthday of Jesus. The scholar Lupi has shown (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219) that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ’s birth.
There is no mention of birth celebrations in the writings of early Christian writers such as Irenaeus (c. 130–200) or Tertullian (c. 160–225). Origen of Alexandria (c. 165–264) goes so far as to mock Roman celebrations of birth anniversaries, dismissing them as “pagan” practices because only two birthdays are mentioned in the Bible, Herod and Pharaoh, both of whom committed murder on their birthdays.
Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the “birthdays” of the gods…..
The 25 December feast only reached Egypt between 427 and 433 AD.
The Catholic Encyclopedia thus lists prominent Christian leaders who did not believe in Christmas during the early years of Church history. These men lived between 130 AD and 254 AD.
The earliest record of Christ’s birth being observed on December 25, in Rome, is the Chronography in 354 A.D ( Philocalian Calendar of the year 354 ) which states that 25 December was the birthday of the unconquerable sun and the birthday of Jesus Christ. This document was based upon a calendar that dated to about 336
(Herman Wegman, Christian Worship in East and West, New York: Pueblo Publishing, 1985, 103).
The Chronography was a document of the Church of Rome that listed the various martyrs’ feasts for the year.
Around 350 AD Julius, the bishop of Rome, accepted December 25 because it was already a popular day for pagans to worship the birthday of their god. The birthday of the Son of God would provide an alternative festival for Christians and stop them celebrating the pagan festival of the sun god. Today many Hindus and Moslems celebrate Christmas as their religions offer no alternative celebration on 25 December.
Since 200 AD, many different dates for Christ’s birth were put forward but slowly over the next hundred years, 25 December became more widespread but so did January 6 as a rival claim. What was needed was a central church authority which could claim dominance over other churches and thereby compel them to accept one specific date. The churches needed a human leader who could make this unscriptural date into an official church doctrine. Bishop Julius of Rome began that process.
To understand Christmas we need to have an overview of Christian history which is divided into seven overlapping ages that are represented by the seven churches in the book of Revelation, chapters 2 and 3.
Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
These seven churches have long since disappeared. They would thus be of little value to us today unless they also refer, at a deeper level, to the characteristics that would unfold during seven different ages of our church history that has occupied the last 2 000 years.
Let us see if there is evidence to support this interpretation of Scripture.
The first church age was dominated by the teachings of the twelve apostles who gave people the New Testament and built up their faith on the Holy Scriptures. They were trained by Jesus and their whole focus was to get people to believe the Bible and stay away from human traditions. By the end of the Roman emperor Nero’s rule in 68 AD, apostles like James and Paul had already been killed. John was the longest surviving apostle and he died around the year 100 AD. Then the influence of the apostles began to wane as people became obsessed with their own cleverness and their own clever ideas as well as their love of being important.
III John warned against “Diotrephes who loveth to have the pre-eminence” in the church. Slowly the opinions of important and clever people took the place of Scripture verses.
III JOHN 1:9
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
Human leadership began to replace Scripture. The first church was called Ephesus which means “aimed at” or “relaxed”. By the time of the year 200 AD the influence of the apostles and the written Word of God and the doctrines of the Apostles were being replaced by human leadership and human opinions, human likes and dislikes.
By 200 AD the first church age of being strictly Scriptural was thus over.
The second church age of Smyrna ( meaning bitterness and death as it is based on myrrh, a bitter spice used to bury the dead ) was launched. Roman emperors were to savagely persecute the Christians and about 3 million Christians were killed before the emperor Constantine stopped the slaughter in 313 AD with the edict of Milan and thereby launched the third church age of Pergamos ( which means thoroughly married ). The price that Christianity paid for their physical peace was to have to accept Constantine as the human head of the church and be dominated by his beliefs as this one man took power over all the churches. So Christianity became thoroughly married with politics which has a human head for the state. Now there was to be a human head for the church too. Constantine also wanted Christians and Pagans to unite and thus Christianity became thoroughly married with Paganism as Pagan ceremonies were adopted by giving them Christian names.
There is no record of Christmas or the 25th December during the first church age.
During the second church age in 274 AD December 25 was declared, in Rome, as the birthday of the sun god by the emperor Aurelian to celebrate his victory in re-uniting the Roman empire that had split into three sections.
Around 350 AD, during the third church age, Julius, the bishop of Rome, accepted December 25 because it was already a popular day for pagans to worship the birthday of their gods as it was also the winter solstice in those days, the shortest day of winter. ( Slight changes to the calender in the 1500’s by Pope Gregory 13 resulted in the winter solstice moving to the 21-22 December where the solstice remains in our era.) Around 350 AD and thereafter, Christians easily changed the birthday of the sun god to the birthday of the Son of God and so Christmas day emerged from the marriage of Pagan and Christian ideas.
Human leadership was taking over the churches in the second church age and the title of bishop was elevated to be the church leader of a city. Each city had its church leader, the bishop. History routinely accepted men as the bishop of Rome or the bishop of Antioch etc. Yet this use of the word bishop never occurred in the New Testament.
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:
Bishops are mentioned in the plural at the city of Philippi, named after king Philip who was the father of Alexander the Great. So there were many bishops in a city.
In the Bible, I Timothy 3 : 1 – 13, a bishop had the same qualifications as a deacon.
So a bishop is simply an elder in the church. Local elders were in charge of each local church as they occupied the positions of responsibility. This was the pattern that the original apostles established. Paul and Peter both addressed the elders as the leaders of the local churches.
Acts 20 : 17 – 38 And from Miletus he ( Paul ) sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church…verse 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves , and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, to feed the church of God which He hath purchased with His own blood….
I Peter 5 : 1 – 3 The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, …. Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.
So the local elders were placed in charge of each local assembly. This stopped one man dominating an assembly.
The word pastor is only mentioned once in the New Testament.
This certainly does not qualify a pastor to dominate an assembly.
Elders are often mentioned in Scripture, so that is where the true leadership lay.
During the second church age, a “bishop of a city” was a concept that moved away from any Bible precedence. Christians were drifting away from Bible truths and accepting human leadership. By the end of the second age, each city had its church leader, the bishop. This made it easy to start the third church age, where one man, the political emperor Constantine, also became the leader of all the churches. Things were drifting even further away from the New Testament pattern.
As time moved on, the 25th December also slowly became more and more accepted.
Though there 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,” we do have sermons from fathers of the church who soon after this used this line of reasoning.
For example, Augustine of Hippo (354-430) in his sermon 202 and Leo the Great (440-461) [ — PL 54 Sources chartiennes 22] gives this line of reasoning, so the date was chosen to counteract a very popular pagan holiday that had already been occurring on this date.
Christians have an unfortunate habit of copying popular ideas from the society that is around them. You cannot justify an easter egg or easter bunny or Christmas tree from the Bible. But these are very attractive ideas which Christians happily absorb into their beliefs. It was exactly the same after 312 AD. Constantine was the hero. He had stopped Christians getting persecuted. He wanted Christian and Pagan to unite in one empire. So Christians set out to win his approval by finding ways to link Christianity to Paganism. It was no longer “Come out of her My people” ( Revelation 18 : 4 ) . Now it was clever and politically correct to absorb pagan ideas into Christianity.
So only in the third church age, some 300 years after Christ’s birth, did the idea of fixing a birthday for Him, begin to gain popularity. Midwinter in December, which was around 25 December in those days on Caesar’s new calendar, was a time of many varied Pagan festivals.
It was also the start of the new year for many pagan countries.
Thus it was a time of celebration anyway, so obviously that would be a good time for Christians to celebrate as well.
So claiming midwinter as Jesus’ birth, put Christianity in line with Pagan traditions.
December 25 was not specifically chosen to line up with Paganism. But because it did line up with Paganism, it brought many advantages with it. The Pagans would feel more at home inside the church. There would be no big break with their own beliefs, just a slight modification due to Christian names being introduced. The sun god becomes the Son of God. It was all very simple and effective in influencing the Pagans to become baptised Pagans. They did not really have much to change at all. Like the church today effectively grows their numbers by permitting worldly behaviour and dress.
Constantine’s approval of Christianity in 312 AD launched the third age of the church which is called Pergamos ( meaning “thoroughly married” ). He stopped the killing of Christians, so he was the hero of the hour and the Christians were more than happy to follow his leadership.
He took over the leadership of the church and because he wanted to unite both Christians and Pagans, he encouraged the Christianization of Pagan festivals. Church and state were united in one man. Religion and politics united to give human leaders tremendous authority over the people. The Roman bishop began to acquire more prestige as the bishop of the capital of the Roman empire. Constantine gave the Lateran palace to the bishop of Rome in 312 AD as his new dwelling place which enormously boosted the bishop’s prestige. Roman bishop Sylvester was also given huge wealth by Constantine which obviously made Sylvester obedient to Constantine, rather than to the Bible. If the Roman bishop accepted 25 December as Jesus birthday, his increasing prestige and authority would encourage many to believe the same. Around 350 AD, Roman bishop Julius bowed to pressure and accepted 25 December as the birthday of Jesus. Christianity was submerged into a tide of pagan traditions. These pagan traditions emerged, almost unchanged in practice, but with Christian names. Christianity changed a lot as it had to absorb pagan traditions. Paganism changed very little, apart from the new Christian names.
Julius Caesar, the dictator of Rome, changed the calendar in 45 BC. To make the calendar fit the seasons of the year, Caesar made the year 46 BC to be 445 days long by adding in 90 days, as the Roman calendar was 355 days long at that time. ( Yes, there were many howls of protest. It was called a year of confusion ). Midwinter was set by him at 25 December in those days, but Caesar’s calendar lost about three days every 400 years compared to the seasons. So slowly the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, began to slide down the month of December until it was about 12 days too soon. This was corrected by Pope Gregory 13 in 1582 who removed 10 days from the calendar which took midwinter back to a date that was a few days earlier than the original 25 December. Thus today we still have midwinter around 21 December.
But thanks to the earth’s wobble, as it spins on its axis, partly due to its uneven icecaps ( there is ten times more ice on the South pole than on the North pole ) and the gravitational influence of the planets on the earth, and the earth’s orbit not being a proper circle, the date for midwinter can vary slightly. Gregory added a leap year every hundredth year, only if it could be divided by 400 eg. 1600, 2000 etc. Not 1900 or 1800. So that our calendar no longer loses days. Gregory’s reform placed midwinter about December 21 where it more or less is today. So strictly speaking, the 25th of December which was midwinter in Caesar’s time is actually 21 December today.
No-one seems worried by this change in Date. It is just ignored.
But because the date of midwinter had been slowly slipping downwards in December by about 3 days in every 400 years, it was easier to keep the date of Christ’s birthday fixed at 25 December which became Christmas day and as such, had nothing to do with midwinter anymore.
Midwinter , when it was 25 December in Caesar’s time, was also the start of the new year for many pagan countries.
In Anglo-Saxon England, the year most commonly began on 25 December, which, as the winter solstice, had marked the start of the year in pagan times
“Solstice” means the sun (“sol” in Latin ) stands still as its path across the sky slowly sinks down closer to the horizon in winter as the days get shorter, then it stands still for one day on 21 December and then begins to rise up moving towards being overhead as the days get longer in summer. This is like armistice where peace is made and the armies must stand still and stop fighting.
However, most of the western Europe countries began their numbered year on 25 December (the Nativity of Jesus), 25 March (the Incarnation of Jesus), or even Easter, as in France (see the Liturgical year article for more details)…
Countries began changing new year’s day to 1 January during the 1500s. ( Wikipedia ).
The third church age saw the rise of the Roman emperor as head of the church and as head of the state. When the Roman empire finally collapsed in the West in 476 AD there was obviously a power vacuum to oppose the barbarian invaders and people began to look up to the bishop of Rome as the human leader of church. Even the barbarians were impressed with the Catholic ceremonies and his claim to have the keys to Heaven as the successor of saint Peter. So by around 600 AD the fourth age of Thyatira ( meaning a dominating woman ) started. A woman refers to a church in the Bible as the true church is called the bride of Christ. After 600 AD the Catholic church began slowly to dominate Europe, both in religious doctrine and in political thinking.
Thus by 1800 AD people regarded 1 January as new year’s day and 21 December as midwinter and 25 December as Christmas day as these dates all had the approval of the Roman church. During the Dark Ages the Catholic church dominated Europe and the Catholic Church recognised universities, starting with Paris in 1160 AD and spreading through Europe. Scholars at these universities were about the only people who had access to learning and they formed a privileged elite that was heavily influenced by the teachings of the Roman church. These educated people tended to get the positions in government and the church. Thus the dominance of Europe by the Catholic church continued.
Pagan leaders gained prestige and authority by being Christianised and compelling their followers to follow them. Pagan leaders lived a turbulent and violent life of destruction and killing that was often brief, and were in awe of all things Roman because Rome had such a long history and such a clever and stable system of laws and a good knowledge of agriculture and industry. In 782 Charlemagne, the king of the Franks, beheaded 4 500 Saxons in one day who refused to get baptised. Thus pagan traditions slowly died out as the centuries passed. Fewer and fewer pagans stayed pagans and celebrated the birthday of the sun god on 25 December. More and more pagans got Christianised and celebrated Christmas on 25 December.
So midwinter was always a special day for the pagans because not only was it midwinter but many regarded it as the start of the new year. This made sense as the days began to get longer and warmer after this day. It was the only obvious change in Nature around that time that ordinary people could notice. Most pagans were illiterate so they had to rely on a natural event, the shortest day when the sun was lowest in the sky at midday, to introduce the new year.
Rome however clung to new year’s day as 1 January but nothing happens in nature to mark this day. Between 1500 and 1600 AD most western European countries adopted the new year of Rome as 1 January. Rome was so dominant in Europe that it was able to convince other nations to abandon 25 December as new year’s day.
Midwinter was a popular Pagan tradition which had their god cut down and killed and then he was reborn as a child and resurrected to life.
The yule log, usually an oak tree that was cut down, ( Yule means “little child” in Chaldee ) was burned in the evening in December before midwinter ( originally on 25 December until the date slid back before finally ending up as the 21st December where it now reasonably stays.
So the Yule log, which was very big, was burned for 12 days in a room with a fireplace ( hence the 12 days of Christmas legend ) until it was finally consumed on 24 December ( hence the importance of our Christmas eve ). The next day, they placed a decorated tree in the same room to demonstrate the resurrection from the dead. The yule tree, usually a large oak, was a symbol of their god who had been cut down to death by his enemies and then reborn as a child, symbolised by the decorated tree at midwinter, the 25th.
The burned log was an oak and the decorated tree that took its place on 25 December was usually a fir tree or a pine tree as these were evergreen trees that provided a splash of colour in the bleak winter landscape where all the other trees had lost their leaves and looked dead.
The completed cycle of death and rebirth was symbolised. The endless cycle of nature. Every ending represented a new beginning.
“Yule” is the Chaldee word for little child.
Yule or Yuletide (“Yule time”) is a religious festival observed by the Northern European peoples, later being aborbed into and equated with the Christian festival of Christmas. ( Wikipedia )
The Yule log, if big enough, was burned for 12 days before midwinter to signify the death of the old year. Many Christians still celebrate the 12 days of Christmas. The Christmas tree is an obvious link to paganism as it is rebuked by Jeremiah who tells us not to follow the ways of the heathens, however lovely they seem with their decorated trees which are so enchanting to look at.
Jermiah 10 : 2 – 5 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, ….. 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 gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
They are upright as the palm tree but speak not;
The Roman new year’s eve festival was celebrated by making a huge noise to scare off bad spirits. New year’s eve is still the noisiest festival proving our addiction to pagan traditions.
Not to mention Easter bunnies and Easter eggs. None of these ideas are from the Bible but have remained in the church ever since they entered during the third church age when Christians thought that they could please God by adopting colourful and interesting Pagan superstitions.
The tough green leaves of the holly and its bright red berries made a natural wreath that was worn on the heads of the Druid priests in midwinter when almost all the other vegetation was dried up. The wreath represented the cycle of the year, death and rebirth. Why is holly still involved in Christmas decorations? Evergreen holly and ivy decorated pagan homes during midwinter. This tradition still continues.
Pagan Wicca witchcraft still advocates yule time and midwinter on the world wide web.
The Pagan customs were so attractive that the Christians adopted them. Not a very wise move.
The Bible says “Come out of her my people” ( Revelation 18 : 4 ). It does not say enjoy yourselves with these Pagan traditions.
How did the 25th December become significant?
In the northern Europe, winter is harsh and people are snowed into their dark and dirty dwellings. At midwinter, which was set by Caesar as 25 December but has since shifted to 21 December, the sun reaches its lowest orbit and then begins to rise higher in the sky making the earth brighter and warmer. This is an obvious time for the Pagans to celebrate the death and resurrection of their gods; candles to make lights in the darkness ; food and drunken revelry to combat the boredom of short days spent inside because of the snow. Pagans came from all over and had these many interesting traditions. People could thus pick up many clever ideas from various sources as midwinter celebrations were a widespread practice in almost all nations. Christmas arose by Christians copying different Pagan traditions.
Let us focus on Rome as it had the largest empire.
Saturnalia was a festival in honour of the god Saturn. His festival was the 17th December. Then Julius Caesar changed the calendar around 45 BC and added two days to each of January, August and December so this holiday moved to the 19th December. The purists were unhappy as they still felt that the 17th was the right day. Augustus became emperor and solved the problem by including both days and the 18th as well as the Saturnalia holiday which now lasted three days, from the 17th to the 19th. A later emperor Caligula added on another two days to extend the holiday from the 17th to the 21st. Later on another two days were added and Saturnalia lasted from the 17th to the 23rd December. It was a time of much gift giving, especially on 23rd December. Saturnalia had a dark side of sexual immorality and drunken debauchery. ( Has anything changed? Why do we still have this compulsory obsession for buying presents at this time? )
Around the year 260 AD the Roman empire was disintegrating. In 270 AD a brilliant cavalry general Aurelian took over as emperor. He reconquered the eastern empire and then moved to Gaul (France) and took back the western empire as well. He returned to Rome in December 274 and wanted to give thanks to his favourite god, the sun god, by declaring a special day to commemorate the sun god. He chose the 25th December and declared it to be the birthday of the unconquered sun. This was a shrewd move as 25 December was the winter solstice, shortest day of the year, and after that the days get longer and brighter, so obviously the sun is growing up and getting stronger. This put the date in line with other pagan nations who celebrated midwinter festivals too. Most of western Europe also regarded 25 December as the start of the new year so that date was already a popular festival day amongst the people of Europe. January 1 became accepted as new year’s day mainly after 1500 AD. Rome itself held onto January 1 as new year’s day. As time went by, celebrating the sun god’s birthday became more and more popular as 25 December was already a popular festival as it represented the new year to many as well as being the midwinter rebirth of those pagan gods who had been killed and were now being reborn and resurrected back to life.
Under the emperor Constantine ( around 325 AD ) and the emperor Theodosius ( around 380 AD ) the church tried to unite with Pagan ceremonies in order to encourage or force the Pagans to join the church. So Christianity began to take on various aspects of the pagan beliefs.
This might sound strange but even today the church still takes on worldly beliefs, behaviour and dress. Church leaders’ obsession with politics such as the Dutch Reformed church condoning apartheid in 1948 is but one of many instances where the church adopted what the world offered. What about those awful Crusades in the Dark Ages where Crusaders murdered, robbed, looted and raped and covered their greed and lust in a facade of holy war, justified by Pope Urban. Wars are vicious and cruel, certainly not holy. War does not decide who is right, it just decides who is left.
So the church has always leaned towards what the outsiders are doing simply because they find these ideas to be attractive as they boost church membership. The Zodiac signs were thought up by the Babylonians almost 4 000 years ago. Today one struggles to find a newspaper or magazine that does not have a section devoted to horoscopes and their predictions of your future. Many Christians continue to read, and believe, this literature. So Christians keep getting attracted to the world and finding very plausible excuses to introduce these non Biblical practices. Same sex marriages and allowing people to live in sin would be another example as to worldly wisdom establishing the standards for the church. When the National party in South Africa introduced apartheid, the Dutch Reformed church which was their official church proved from the Bible that apartheid was God’s will. When F.W de Klerk had the courage to start dismantling apartheid, the Dutch Reformed church suddenly proved from the Bible that apartheid was all wrong. So Christians are swayed by politics as well as worldly influences. Popularity is the name of the game.
When Theodosius became emperor in 378 AD he passed a cruel law in 381 AD whereby Pagans would be persecuted. So they desperately began to cloak their Pagan beliefs with a veneer of Christian words. Thus in this century it is easy to see how the statues of the Pagan gods became called by the names of famous Christians so that these idols would then be left alone. If the idol was Jupiter it would be destroyed. Call it saint Peter and it survived. Pagan temples became churches. Steeples, modeled on the tower of Babel, became essential church fixtures. The birthday of the “sun god” which was on 25 December became the birthday of the “Son of God” if you also believed that Jesus was born on 25 December.
The earliest record of Christ’s birth being observed on December 25, in Rome, is the Chronography in 354 A.D. This document recorded both the birthday of the sun god and the birthday of Jesus. So the acceptance of 25 December as Jesus birthday was catching on as time went by. Clever men interwove Christianity and paganism in a very plausible and attractive manner because none of them took the Bible as their reference.
The Bible is our light. Tamper with a light and it goes out. Is it any wonder that the next church age, Thyatira ( which means a dominating woman ), plunged the world into the dark ages as the Catholic church dominated Europe.
Was Jesus born in midwinter?
Jesus said “pray ye that your flight be not in winter” ( Matthew 24 : 20 ) because December and January are piercingly cold at night. Joseph would not take a heavily pregnant wife out in midwinter when they had no accommodation for the nights as they travelled because all the inns were full. In Israel, shepherds do not take their flocks out at night after October, it is simply too cold. But shepherds were with their flocks and came to worship Jesus. Of all the months to choose for the birth of Jesus, midwinter ( December in the northern hemisphere ) is the worst.
The wise men did not go into the stable. They went into a house and only saw Jesus and Mary. No mention was made of Joseph. But the Roman midwinter gift giving frenzy needs presents to be bought and given away. Money was involved and so the rumour spread that the wise men went into the stable to give their gifts. Today business spins around gift buying for Christmas so even good Christians are convinced that the wise men went into the stable to justify their gift buying ( a Saturnalia tradition, because the 23rd December was the last day of Saturnalia and thus its main gift giving day).
Christians do not know what is in the Bible ( that the wise men went into a house ) but they know what is not in the Bible : the wise men went into the stable, there were three wise men and their names were Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar. None of these claims have any Scriptural backing.
Is it a wonder that the last church age ( Laodicea, meaning people’s rights ) is described as being blind.
Revelation 3 : 14 – 17 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write : ….I know thy works that thou art neither cold nor hot : ……. So then because thou art lukewarm, …..
Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing : and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked :
Blind means that we are not seeing that we believe things that are of Pagan origin.
Naked. Not a bad description of today’s flesh-revealing dress fashions.
People’s rights, the right to marry anyone you like. Even if that person is of the same sex as yourself.
Today there is a huge emphasis on people’s rights to live how they like, impatient with any restraint or rules. We don’t even want to obey traffic laws if we think we can get away with it. Drink and drive. People want to do that. Hence the mad slaughter on our roads that leaves so many wretched and miserable grief-stricken families over the December holidays.
What about God’s rights to tell us how to live and behave and believe?
Where do we stand with God today?