Christmas: Strictly a Pagan Celebration
From the book 'A World Deceived'
December 25 is the day designated on our calendars as the day of Christ’s birth. But is this really the day on which He was born? Are today’s customs at this season of Christian origin? Or is Christmas another example of mixture between paganism and so-called Christianity?
A look at the word “Christmas” indicates that it is a mixture. Though it includes the name of Christ, it also mentions the “Mass”. When we consider all of the elaborate ceremonies, prayers for the dead, transubstantiation rites, and complicated rituals of the Roman Catholic Mass, can any truly link this with the historical Jesus of the Gospels? His life and ministry were uncomplicated by such rituals. Like Paul, we fear that some have been corrupted “from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor 11:3) because of pagan influence upon such things as the Mass. Looking at it this way, the word “Christ-mas” is self-contradictory.
It is not essential that we know the exact date on which Christ was born, the main thing being, of course, that He was born! The early Christians remembered the death of Christ during the breaking of the bread (1 Cor 11:26), not His birth. The Catholic Encyclopedia says, “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church.” Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts. Later, when churches at various places did begin celebrating the birthday of Christ, there was much difference of opinion as to the correct date.
It was not until the latter part of the fourth century that the Roman Church began observing December 25. Yet, by the fifth century, it was ordering that the birth of Christ be forever observed on this date, even though this was the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, one of the names of the sun-god!
Says Frazer in The Golden Bough: “The largest pagan religious cult which fostered the celebration of December 25 as a holiday throughout the Roman and Greek worlds was the pagan sun worship – Mithraism. This winter festival was called “The Nativity” – the Nativity of the Sun.
Was this the pagan festival responsible for the December 25 day being chosen by the Roman Church? We will let The Catholic Encyclopedia answer. “The well-known solar feast of ‘Natalis Invicti’ – the Nativity of the Unconquered Sun – celebrated on December 25, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date.”
As pagan solar customs were being christianized at Rome, it is understandable that confusion would result. Some thought Jesus was Sol, the sun-god! “Tertullian had to assert that Sol was not the Christian’s God; Augustine denounced the heretical identification of Christ with Sol. Pope Leo I bitterly reproved solar survivals – Christians, on the very doorstep of the Apostles’ basilica, turning to adore the rising sun.”
The winter festival was very popular in ancient times: “In pagan Rome and Greece, in the days of the Teutonic barbarians, in the remote times of ancient Egyptian civilization, in the infancy of the race, East and West and North and South, the period of the winter solstice was ever a period of rejoicing and festivity.” Because this season was so popular, it was adopted as the time of the birth of Christ by the Roman Church.
Some of our present-day Christmas customs were influenced by the Roman Saturnalia. “It is common knowledge”, says one writer, “that much of our association with the Christmas season – the holidays, the giving of presents and the general feeling of geniality – is but the inheritance from the Roman winter festival of the Saturnalia … survivals of paganism.”
Tertullian mentions that the practice of exchanging presents was a part of Saturnalia. There is nothing wrong in giving presents, of course. The Israelites gave gifts to each other at times of celebration – even celebrations that were observed because of mere custom (Esther 9:22). But the church sought to link Christmas gifts with those presented to Jesus by the wise men. This cannot be correct. By the time the wise men arrived, Jesus was no longer “lying in a manger”, but was in a house (Matt: 9-11). This could have been quite a while after his birthday. Also, they presented their gifts to Jesus, not to each other!
The Christmas tree, as we know it, only dates back a few centuries, though ideas about sacred trees are very ancient. An old Babylonish fable told of an evergreen tree which sprang out of a dead tree stump. The old stump symbolized the dead Nimrod, the new evergreen tree symbolized that Nimrod had come to life again in Tammuz. Among the Druids the oak was sacred, among the Egyptians it was the palm, and in Rome it was the fir, which was decorated with red berries during the Saturnalia. The Scandinavian god Odin was believed to bestow special gifts at yuletide to those who approached his sacred fir tree. In at least ten Biblical references, the green tree is associated with idolatry and false worship (1 Kings 14:23, etc).
Since all trees are green at least part of the year, the special mention of “green” probably refers to trees that are evergreen. “The Christmas tree… recapitulates the idea of tree worship… gilded nuts and balls symbolize the sun… all of the festivities of the winter solstice have been absorbed into Christmas day… the use of holly and mistletoe from the Druid ceremonies; the Christmas tree from the honors paid to Odin’s sacred fir.”
Taking all of this into consideration, it is interesting to compare a statement of Jeremiah with today’s customs of decorating a tree at the Christmas season. “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 the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not” (Jer 10:3,4). The people in the days of Jeremiah, as the context shows, were actually making an idol of the tree, the word “workman” being not merely a lumberjack, but one who formed idols (cf. Isaiah 40:19,20; Hosea 8:4-6). And the word “axe” refers here specifically to a carving tool.
In the sixth century, missionaries (false apostles) were sent through the northern part of Europe to gather pagans into the Roman fold. They found that June 24 was a very popular day among these people and sought to “Christianize” it. By this time December 25 had been adopted by the Roman church as the birthday of Christ. Since June 24 was approximately six months before December 25, why not call this the birthday of John the Baptist? John was born, it should be remembered, six months before Jesus (Luke 1:26,36). Thus June 24 is known on the papal calendar now as St. John’s Day!
In Britain, before the adoption of “Christianity”, June 24 was celebrated by the Druids with blazing fires in honor of Baal. Herodotus, Wilkinson, Layard, and other historians tell of these ceremonial fires in different countries. When June 24 became St. John’s Day, the sacred fires were adopted also and became “St. John’s fires”. These are mentioned as such in the Catholic Encyclopedia. “I have seen the people running and leaping through the St. John’s fires in Ireland,” says a writer of the past century, “…proud of passing through unsinged … thinking themselves in a special manner blest by the ceremony.” It would seem that such rites would sooner honor Molech than John the Baptist!
June 24 was regarded as being sacred to the ancient fish god Oannes, a name by which Nimrod was known. In an article on Nimrod, Fausset says: “Oannes the fish god, Babylon’s civilizer, rose out of the red sea…” In the Latin language of the Roman church, John was called JOANNES. Notice how similar this is to OANNES! Such similarities helped promote the mixture of paganism into “Christianity”.
A day which in pagan times had been regarded as sacred to Isis and Diana, August 15, was simply renamed as the day of the “Assumption of the Virgin Mary” and right up to our present time is still highly honored.
Another day adopted from paganism, supposedly to honor Mary, is called “Candlemas” or the “Purification of the Blessed Virgin” and is celebrated on February 2nd. In Mosaic Law, after giving birth to a male child, a mother was considered unclean for forty days (Lev 12). “And when the days of her purification according to the Law of Moses were accomplished”, Joseph and Mary presented the baby Jesus in the temple and offered the prescribed sacrifice (Luke 2:22-24). Having adopted December 25 as the nativity of Christ, the February date seemed to fit in well with the time of purification of Mary.
But what did this have to do with the use of candles on this day? In pagan Rome, this festival was observed by the carrying of torches and candles in honor of Februa, from whom our month February is named.
The Greeks held the feast in honor of the Goddess Ceres, the mother of Proserpina, who, with candle-bearing celebrants, searched for her in the underworld. Thus we can see how adopting February 2nd to honor the purification of Mary was influenced by pagan customs involving candles, even to calling it “Candlemas” day. On this day, all of the candles to be used during the year in Catholic rituals are blessed. Says the Catholic Encyclopedia. “We need not shrink from admitting that candles, like incense and lustral water, were commonly employed in pagan worship and in rites paid to the dead.”
If the apostle Paul were to preach to today’s generation, we wonder if he would not say to the professing church, as he did to the Galatians long ago, “Ye observe days and months and times, and years, I am afraid of you, lest I bestowed upon you labor in vain” (Gal 4:9-11).
The context shows that the Galatians had been converted from the pagan worship of “gods”. When some had turned again to their former worship, the days and times they observed were evidently those which had been set aside to honor pagan gods! Later, strangely enough, some of these very days were merged into the worship of the “professing church” but, in truth, they have nothing to do whatsoever with the true church of saints, believers in the true and living God.