The following is a well written article by
Charles Halff, Director of the Christian Jew Foundation
Should a Christian Celebrate Christmas?
What a Christian Jew has to say about Christmas...
Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? Up until 25 years ago, I used to celebrate Christmas as much as - or even more than - any Gentile. You might think that is strange since I was born and raised in a Jewish home. But my family always had a Christmas tree every year because it was the popular thing to do. We had ornaments, mistletoe, holly wreaths, presents and everything else that goes along with the Christmas celebration.
You see, Jewish people celebrate Christmas today, not because of Christ's birthday, but because it is popular tradition and part of our present-day culture. It's as American as apple pie and hamburgers. And I observed Christmas for nearly 22 years of my life, until God opened my eyes to see the falseness of this pagan holiday.
It's not because I'm a Jew that I don't celebrate Christmas now. That has nothing to do with it. Let me tell you the real reasons why I no longer observe this pagan holiday.
Christmas Not a Bible Doctrine
In the first place, Christmas is not a Bible Doctrine. If our blessed Lord had wanted us to celebrate His birthday, He would have told us when to celebrate it and how to celebrate it. But Christ never told anyone to celebrate His birthday. Furthermore, we know from the Bible and from church history that the apostles and the early church never celebrated Christ's birthday.
The Bible is God's complete and final revelation to man, and it tells us everything we need to know for our spiritual lives (II Timothy 3:16). We don't have to go outside the Bible for anything. God's Word tells us how we're to worship, how we're to give money for the support of the Lord's work, how to evangelize the lost, how to observe the Lord's Supper and everything else pertaining to the Christian life. But not once in the Bible does God tell us to celebrate Christmas! We're told to remember the Lord's death, but nowhere are we told to celebrate His birth.
God's people are supposed to be Bible people. We are supposed to live by the teaching of the God's holy Word. So the very fact that Christmas is never mentioned in the Bible is sufficient reason for us not to have anything to do with it. But that's not all.
Christ Not born on December 25
The second reason I don't celebrate Christmas is that Christ was not born on December 25th. Notice:
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night." Luke 2:8
Don't miss the point: the shepherds WERE IN THE FIELDS taking care of their flocks on the night Jesus was born. As the shepherds were watching their sheep, the message came to them of the birth of Jesus.
It's a well known fact that December falls in the middle of the rainy season in Palestine, and the sheep were kept in the fold at that time of the year. The shepherds always corralled their flocks from October to April. They brought their sheep from the mountainsides and the fields no later than October 15th to protect them from the cold, rainy seasons that followed that date. So the birth of Christ could not have taken place at the end of December.
Secondly, Luke 2:1, 3 tells us that at the time of the birth of Jesus it was decreed that, "all the world would be taxed...And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city." This couldn't have taken place in the winter. Caesar Augustus, the ruler of Rome, would certainly not call for such a taxing in the depth of winter. Travel at this time of the year is extremely difficult; hence, it would be virtually impossible for everyone to comply with the decree if it had been given then. The Lord Himself testified to the rigors of traveling in winter, for He told the people to pray that their flight at the end of this age would not be in winter (Matthew 24:20).
No one knows the exact day when Jesus was born, but in all the probability He was born sometime during the first part of October. We can be reasonably sure of this because His earthly ministry lasted 3 1/2 years, and He was crucified on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, which corresponds to our April (John 19:31, Leviticus 23:5). If we go back 3 1/2 years to the time when Jesus was 30 years old - when He began His public ministry - we come to the month of October. This was probably the month when our blessed Lord was born into the world.
However, let's remember that it's not the date of Jesus' birth that's important. The important thing is that He was born and that He died for our sins. We're not worshipping a helpless infant lying in a manger. We are worshipping a risen and exalted Christ who has all power in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18).
Origin of Christmas
Where do you suppose Christmas originated? Certainly not with God! Christmas started with the sun worshipers in the time of Nimrod, the man who supervised the building of the tower of Babel. And that's another reason why I don't celebrate Christmas.
Thousands of years before Jesus was born, heathens in every country observed December 25th as the birthday of a god who was called the sun-god. Semiramis, the widow of Nimrod, was his mother. She claimed to be the queen of heaven. And she had a son who was supposed to have been born on December 25th; his name was Tammuz.
According to all the heathen religions of that time, Tammuz had a miraculous birth; and for centuries his birthday was celebrated with feasts, revelry and drunken orgies. The heathen celebrated Tammuz' birthday according to the very example he set for them. He was the world's greatest lover of women, strong drink, dirty jokes and other sensual fun. It is said that he loved everybody and that everybody loved him. And it was on December 25th that all the pagan religions celebrated the birthday of Tammuz, the son-god.
This is all clearly brought out in Alexander Hislop's great book, "The Two Babylon's." Any reputable encyclopedia will also verify these facts.
It's plain to see, isn't it, that Christmas is a pagan holiday that came out of old pagan Babylon. As born-again believers, let's have nothing to do with it.
Christmas: A Catholic Holiday
The fourth reason I don't celebrate Christmas is because Christmas is a Catholic holiday. Why should I steal Christmas from the Catholics? They got it from the pagans, and I'm happy to let them keep it.
Notice what Encyclopedia Americana has to say about Christmas and Catholicism.
"Christmas – it was according to many authorities NOT celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian churches as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth. A feast was established in memory of the birth of the Saviour in the FOURTH CENTURY. In the Fifth Century the Western Church (Roman Catholic) ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol. The holly, mistletoe, the yule log and the wassail bowl are of pre-Christian times. The Christmas tree has been traced back to the Romans. It went from Germany to Great Britain."
Encyclopedia Britannica has this to say about Christmas:
"Christmas (i.e., the Mass of Christ) was not among the earliest festivals of the church."
After Constantine became the Emperor of Rome, he forced all the pagans of his empire to be baptized into the Christian Church. Thus pagans far outnumbered true Christians.
Since the church worshiped the Lord Jesus as the Son of God, when the 25th of December rolled around and the pagans wanted to worship Tammuz, their sun-god, Constantine knew that he would have to do something. So he had the church combine the worship of Tammuz with the birthday of Christ, and a special mass was declared to keep everyone happy. Thus pagan worship was brought into the Christian church and called "Christ-mass."
Every time we say "Merry Christmas," we're actually mixing the precious and holy name of Christ with paganism. This is not right. God says in Ezekiel 20:39, "Pollute ye my holy name no more."
The World and Christmas
That brings me to the next reason why I don't celebrate Christmas. Christmas is of the world, and we're commanded, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." I John 2:15 The very fact that the world which hates Christ and His blood atonement for sin makes more fuss about Christmas than any other holiday proves to me that Christmas is not of God. If December 25th were truly the birthday of the blessed Son of God, the world would have nothing to do with it!
You don't have to be a Christian to celebrate Christmas. Even in non-Christian countries like Japan, Czeckoslovakia, Poland and Russia the people celebrate Christmas.
People throughout the world, who for the most part have no awareness of the Bible or Jesus Christ, eat up the Christmas celebration. To take Christmas from the world would be harder than taking candy from a child.
Let's face it, the world is married to the idol of Christmas. In fact, more people get drunk at Christmas than any other time of the year. There are more big parties and more selfish spending than any other season. Doesn't that prove that it's not of God?
The world loves Christmas, but it hates Christ.
Another reason why I don't celebrate Christmas is that it's filled with unscriptural tradition. The exchanging of gifts, the Christmas tree, the singing of carols and Santa Claus are all pagan origin. These all crept into the church during or after the Fourth Century.
There are many unscriptural traditions that have cluttered up the story of the birth of our wonderful Saviour. For instance, many people believe that the wise men of East and the shepherds were together in Bethlehem at the time our Lord was born. But nothing could be further from the truth. The shepherds came to Bethlehem to see Jesus at His birth. The wise men came to Nazareth to see Jesus when He was almost two years old (Matthew 2:16).
Furthermore, the Bible says nothing about three wise men, nor does it say that they were kings. The fact is the Bible does not give their number at all but merely states that they were wise men.
Perhaps the worst part of the Christmas celebration is thousands of parents will teach their children the falsehood of Santa Claus. Children are taught that Santa Claus makes his home at the North Pole, and once each year he fills his sled with toys for the boys and girls who have been good throughout the year. If they are good, he brings them toys on Christmas Eve, and if they are bad, he passes them by.
Is it any wonder that many times when children grow up and learn the truth, they question whether Christ is also a myth?
The Bible says in Colossians 3:9, "Lie not one to another,". We are commanded in Ephesians 4:25 to put "away lying," and to "speak every truth with his neighbor."
Now I know that some of you loving mothers are saying, "Don't you think we should give the children a good time? They don't understand all the paganism behind Christmas."
Let me ask you a question, mother. Is it necessary to drag the holy name of our blessed Lord down to the low level of fleshly gratification and drunkenness to show the kiddies a good time? A thousand times, no! Let's teach our children the truth about Christmas. God's Word says that we should bring up children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Why should we dishonor the name of Christ in such a manner under the pretense of showing the children a good time? There are 364 more days in the year during which we can give gifts to our children.
Merrymaking and Exchanging Gifts
Without question, the most important part of Christmas for most people is buying and exchanging gifts. I don't celebrate Christmas because exchanging gifts has nothing to do with Christ's birthday.
Perhaps some of you are asking, "Didn't the wise men give gifts to Jesus?" They certainly did, but they didn't give them to one another. And their gifts were not birthday gifts because the wise men did not come to visit Jesus until He was nearly two years old (Matthew 2:16). The shepherds came to visit Jesus as His birth, but the wise men came to see Him nearly two years later.
Did you know that giving gifts to a king was common custom in the Far East? That's the reason why the wise men brought gifts to Jesus – because He was born to be King of the Jews. But they were not birthday gifts. So there is no connection between Christmas and the birthday of Jesus in this respect.
One final word before leaving the matter of exchanging gifts. Let me point out that even this is a part of Satan's antichrist program. The greatest Christmas celebration yet to come will be during the awful days of the tribulation. During the antichrist's reign all hell will be loose. The two witnesses who God shall send to the people of the earth will be killed when God is finished with them. Can you guess who will kill them? The antichrist will put them to death. Listen to God's Word:
"And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them." Revelation 11:7
It is under antichrist's reign that the last and greatest Christmas celebration shall take place. As a result of the death of these prophets of God, the world will be so delighted and thrilled that they will exchange gifts with one another. Here is what the Bible says,
"And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and a half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in the graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwell on the earth." Revelation 11:9-10
What further proof do we need that Christmas celebration is not of God? Truly the Lord's people should not celebrate Christmas. It is anti-God, anti-Christ, Satanic, and unscriptural. The call of God is, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate...and touch not the unclean thing." II Corinthians 6:17. God's command to all His people is, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them." Ephesians 5:11
Christmas Condemned by the Puritans
The pagan history of Christmas has been well known throughout history. In fact, at one time the celebration of this pagan custom was forbidden by law in England. In 1644, Parliament declared Christmas to be unlawful; and, consequently, it was abolished. The English Puritans looked upon the celebration of Christmas as the work of Satan
At one time in early American history, the observance of Christmas was illegal. A law was adopted in the general court of Massachusetts about 1650, which required that those who celebrated Christmas were to be punished. The statue read, "Whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas, or in any other way...shall be subject to fine of 5 shillings." The law's preamble explained its purpose was "for preventing disorders...(by) observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other countries to the great dishonor of God and the offense of others." After the Mayflower pilgrims landed in 1620, the first December 25th was spent in labor and cutting down trees "in order to avoid any frivolity on the day sometimes called Christmas."
Opposition to the observance of Christmas continued just past the second half of the Nineteenth Century. An article in the December 26, 1855 edition of the New York Daily Times stated,
"The churches of the Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists were not open on December 25 except where some mission schools had a celebration. They do not accept the day as a holy one, but the Episcopalian, Catholic and German churches were all open. Inside they were decked with evergreens."
The Puritans knew the truth about Christmas and regarded it as a pagan holiday. It would be good if all believers followed their example.
What About the Christmas Tree?
Another reason why I don't observe Christmas is because the Christmas tree is condemned by the Bible. Notice: "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 the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it may not move. But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock is a doctrine of vanities." Jeremiah 10:2-4, 9
Here you have a perfect description of the Christmas tree, called by God "the way of the heathen." We are commanded not to learn that way or follow it! The Christmas tree is also viewed in this passage as idolatry. The fifth verse says that these tress cannot speak-cannot walk-must be carried. Some people misread this to make it say that there is no harm in having a Christmas tree, but that is not what it says at all. Rather, the Prophet Jeremiah tells us that it is vanity and foolishness and says, "Learn not the way of the heathen."
Some people will be up all night to work on an old dead tree. They'll trim it all up and stand off a little ways and admire their handiwork. Then many of them will sit up all night and look at that old Christmas tree.
I hope some of you preachers will get up in the middle of the night and throw out that old tree out of your house and out of your church right at Satan's head. I realize that some of you will just gnash your teeth and call me "narrow minded." Well, you can call me anything you want, but I'm just giving you the Word of God.
Did you know that the green tree is mentioned 14 times in the Bible, and in every instance it is likened with idolatry? There isn't one place in the Bible where God commends the use of the "green tree" in connection with true worship.
Perhaps you're wondering why people have a Christmas tree during the Christmas celebration. You can search the Bible through and through, but you won't find a reason for it there. The first decorating of any evergreen tree began with the heathen Greeks and their worship of their god Adonis, who allegedly was brought back to life by the serpent Aesculapius after having been slain. And each Christmas multitudes of people will secure an evergreen tree and dress it up with bright glitter, lights and tinsel, not realizing that they are following the tradition of a pagan festival in honor of a false god!
No doubt there are many sincere Christians who think that they are honoring Christ by having their Christmas tree when, in reality, they are dishonoring Him by having anything to do with a heathen festival that God hates.
As you read these lines perhaps you say, "I have my Christmas tree but I don't worship it, and consequently, I see nothing wrong with it." Let me remind you, however, that you don't determine what is right and what is wrong. God determines what's right and wrong. If the Christmas tree is not an idol to you, why are you so reluctant to give it up? What are you doing down on your knees when you place your gifts under it?
We're not worshiping a dead Christ or a helpless infant lying in a manger, but we're worshiping a real living Christ who lives all year round.
Sometimes well-meaning people will make the statement, "Let's put the Christ back into Christmas." This sounds very good on the surface...but beloved, how can you put Christ back into something when He was never there?
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous English preacher of the last century, said,
"We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas...we find no scriptural word whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and consequently, it's observance is a superstition, because (it's) not of divine authority...probably the fact is that the 'holy days' (were) arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals...how absurd to think we could do it in the spirit of the world, with a Jack Frost clown, a deceptive worldly Santa Claus, and a mixed program of sacred truth with fun, deception, and faction."
While the world celebrates Christmas with its gift swapping and wild parties, what should be our attitude? God's Word makes it plain that we should have nothing to do with this pagan holiday. Let's not associate the birth of the holy Son of God with the pagan traditions of men. Let us heed God's command; "Be ye separate, O my people." II Corinthians 6:17
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Christmas On Trial!
Is It The Truth Or Is It A Lie?
Compiled by Dale Collins December 22, 2012
The following section was copied from http://www.christiananswers.net/christmas/mythsaboutchristmas.html
The typical story we hear repeated is: “It’s about 2000 years ago, the evening of December 25. Mary rides into Bethlehem on a donkey, urgently needing to deliver her baby. Although it’s an emergency, all the innkeepers turn them away. So they deliver baby Jesus in a stable. Then angels sing to the shepherds. Afterwards, they all join three kings with camels in worshipping the quiet, newborn.”
The problem is, this story may be almost entirely wrong. The events surrounding the birth have been retold so many times and in so many ways—in plays, poetry, books and movies—that most people have a distorted view of the true events. The only accurate record is found in the Holy Bible, God’s Word.
Did Mary ride a donkey to Bethlehem? Perhaps, but there are various other possibilities. The Bible doesn’t say how she got to Bethlehem. It only says that she came with Joseph.
Additional info on this subject provided by http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/9691295/Nativity-donkeys-and-cattle-are-a-myth-says-Pope.html
Nativity donkeys and cattle are a myth, says Pope
With just over a month to go before Christmas, the Pope has declared that the presence of animals like cattle and donkeys in traditional Nativity scenes is based on little more than a myth. As churches and families around the world prepare to dust off their Nativity figures for the festive season, Benedict writes in a new book on Christ that contrary to popular belief, Jesus's birth was not presided over by oxen, asses, camels or indeed any other beasts. "There is no mention of animals in the Gospels," he wrote.
Did Mary arrive in Bethlehem the night she gave birth? The Bible does not suggest this. They could have arrived weeks earlier. God’s Word simply states, “while they were there [in Bethlehem], the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6). Arriving in town well before her due date would make more sense.
Did Joseph or Mary talk to any innkeepers? Perhaps, but there is no solid, biblical reason to believe that they did. Although innkeepers play a prominent part in many Christmas plays, no innkeeper is actually mentioned in the biblical record of Christ’s birth. Furthermore, it is likely that Mary and Joseph actually stayed in a house with relatives, not behind some kind of Bible-times hotel. (See below)
Was Jesus born in a stable? Or a barn? Or a cave? The Bible does not mention any of these three places in connection with Christ’s birth, only a manger. Scripture simply reports that they laid Jesus in a manger because there was no room for him in the guest room. The Greek word used in Scripture is kataluma, and can mean guest chamber, lodging place or inn. The only other time this word was used in the New Testament, it means a furnished, large, upper story room within a private house. It is translated guest chamber, not inn (Mark 14:14-15). According to our Bible archaeology experts, Jesus was probably born in the house of relatives, but outside (under) the normal living and guest quarters. (Learn more: Was Jesus born in a stable? / What is a manger? / What is an inn?
“Away in a manger the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes.” Although this is part of a beautiful song, we cannot be sure that Jesus did not cry. The Bible does not report this.
Did angels sing to the shepherds outside of Bethlehem? Perhaps, but the Bible doesn’t specifically say that the angels sang. It says that first an angel appeared and spoke, and then appeared “a multitude of the heavenly host praising God” (Luke 2:13).
Additional info on this subject provided by http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/9691295/Nativity-donkeys-and-cattle-are-a-myth-says-Pope.html
The Pope also sounded a note of caution over the popular belief that angels sang to the shepherds to proclaim Christ's birth, as recalled in the Christmas carol "Hark! The herald angels sing, Glory to the new-born King."He writes that when the gospels refer to the "heavenly host" of angels "praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest", they in fact spoke the words rather than sang them. "According to the evangelist, the angels "said" this," Benedict writes. "But Christianity has always understood that the speech of angels is actually song, in which all the glory of the great joy that they proclaim becomes tangibly present."
Were angels present at the birth? It seems logical to assume that they were, however, Scripture does not report it, and there is no evidence that angels were visible to Mary and Joseph at this time.
Did three kings riding camels come to Jesus’ birth? The Bible does not say that any kings or camels visited young Jesus.
It does report wise men (“magi”) came, but it does not say how many. None of the early Church Fathers, suggested the magi were kings. Since the word “magi” used in the Bible is plural, there were apparently at least two, and there could have been more—even several more. The Bible simply mentions three costly gifts they presented—gold, frankincense and myrrh, but this does not necessarily indicate the number of magi. There is also no proof of what country these men came from.
Also, the wise men clearly did not visit Jesus when he was still lying in the manger, as is commonly shown on greeting cards and in plays. The magi did not arrive until sometime after Christ’s presentation in the Temple in Jerusalem (Luke 2:22-39).
At this time, Scripture calls Jesus a “child,” not a “baby.” It is possible that little Jesus was walking and talking by then. Based on the calculations of King Herod and the magi (Matthew 2:16), Jesus could been two years old or under. [Learn more: About the “wise men” (magi)]
Was Jesus born on December 25, or in December at all? Although it’s not impossible, it seems unlikely. The Bible does not specify a date or month. One problem with December is that it would be unusual for shepherds to be “abiding in the field” at this cold time of year when fields were unproductive. The normal practice was to keep the flocks in the fields from Spring to Autumn. Also, winter would likely be an especially difficult time for pregnant Mary to travel the long distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem (70 miles).
“A more probable time would be late September, the time of the annual Feast of Tabernacles, when such travel was commonly accepted. Thus, it is rather commonly believed (though not certain) that Jesus’ birth was around the last of September. The conception of Christ, however, may have taken place in late December of the previous year. Our Christmas celebration may well be recognized as an honored observation of the incarnation of ‘the Word made flesh’ (John 1:14).”
“…The probability is that this mighty angel, leading the heavenly host in their praises, was Michael the archangel; this occasion was later commemorated by the early church as Michaelmas (‘Michael sent’), on September 29, the same as the date of the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. It would have at least been appropriate for Christ to have been born on such a date, for it was at His birth that ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt (literally tabernacled) among us’ (John 1:14).
This would mean, then, that His conception took place in late December. Thus, it might well be that when we today celebrate Christ’s birth at what we call Christmas (i.e., ‘Christ sent’), we are actually celebrating His miraculous conception, the time when the Father sent the Son into the world, in the virgin’s womb. This darkest time of the year—the time of the pagan Saturnalia, and the time when the sun (the physical ‘light of the world’) is at its greatest distance from the Holy Land—would surely be an appropriate time for God to send the spiritual ‘light of the world’ into the world as the ‘Savior, which is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11)” [Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible (notes for Luke 2:8,13)].
(The word “Christmas” means “Christ mass,” a special celebration of the Lord’s supper—called a mass in the Roman Catholic Church and a Communion supper in most Protestant churches.)
Why do many Christians celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, if that is not when he was born?
The date was chosen by the Roman Catholic Church. Because Rome dominated most of the “Christian” world for centuries, the date became tradition throughout most of Christendom.
The original significance of December 25 is that it was a well-known festival day celebrating the annual return of the sun. December 21 is the winter solstice (shortest day of the year and thus a key date on the calendar), and December 25 is the first day that ancients could clearly note that the days were definitely getting longer and the sunlight was returning.
So, why was December 25 chosen to remember Jesus Christ’s birth with a mass (or Communion supper)? Since no one knows the day of his birth, the Roman Catholic Church felt free to chose this date. The Church wished to replace the pagan festival with a Christian holy day (holiday). The psychology was that is easier to take away an unholy (but traditional) festival from the population, when you can replace it with a good one. Otherwise, the Church would have left a void where there was a long-standing tradition, and risked producing a discontented population and a rapid return to the old ways.
The various misconceptions about Christ’s birth illustrate the need to always test everything we hear against God’s Word, no matter what the source. The Bible is the final authority.
Additional info on this subject provided byhttp://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm
How Did Christmas Come to Be Celebrated on December 25?
A. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the weeklong celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.
B. The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season).
C. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.
D. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.
E. Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, writes, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc.
F. The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. However, Christmas was and still is celebrated by most Christians.
G. Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.”
H. As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19thcenturies CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed.
The Origins of Christmas Customs
The Origin of Christmas Tree
Just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees”. Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.
The Origin of Mistletoe
Norse mythology recounts how the god Balder was killed using a mistletoe arrow by his rival god Hoder while fighting for the female Nanna. Druid rituals use mistletoe to poison their human sacrificial victim. The Christian custom of “kissing under the mistletoe” is a later synthesis of the sexual license of Saturnalia with the Druidic sacrificial cult.
The Origin of Christmas Presents
In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas (see below).
The Origin of Santa Claus
- Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.
Additional info on this subject provided by http://www.cnn.com/EVENTS/1996/christmas/history.html
“In 1969, the Roman Catholic Church dropped St. Nicholas' Feast Day from its calendar because his life is so unreliably documented.”
c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children's stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.
d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.
e. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.
f. In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.
g. Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.
h. The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock. Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was his red outfit.
i. In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.
The Christmas Challenge
· Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly. For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.
· Christmas is a lie. There is no Christian church with a tradition that Jesus was really born on December 25th.
· December 25 is a day on which Jews have been shamed, tortured, and murdered.
· Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents, and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth.
Many who are excitedly preparing for their Christmas celebrations would prefer not knowing about the holiday’s real significance. If they do know the history, they often object that their celebration has nothing to do with the holiday’s monstrous history and meaning. “We are just having fun.”
Where did Rudolph Come From?
Rudolph didn't become Santa's ninth reindeer until 1939 when an advertising writer for the department store Montgomery Ward created him.
Additional info on this subject provided by http://www.ucg.org/doctrinal-beliefs/biblical-evidence-shows-jesus-christ-wasnt-born-dec-25/
A careful analysis of Scripture, however, clearly indicates that Dec. 25 is an unlikely date for Christ's birth. Here are two primary reasons:
First, we know that shepherds were in the fields watching their flocks at the time of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:7-8
). Shepherds were not in the fields during December. According to Celebrations: The Complete Book of American Holidays, Luke's account "suggests that Jesus may have been born in summer or early fall. Since December is cold and rainy in Judea, it is likely the shepherds would have sought shelter for their flocks at night" (p. 309).
Similarly, The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary says this passage argues "against the birth [of Christ] occurring on Dec. 25 since the weather would not have permitted" shepherds watching over their flocks in the fields at night.
Second, Jesus' parents came to Bethlehem to register in a Roman census (Luke 2:1-4
). Such censuses were not taken in winter, when temperatures often dropped below freezing and roads were in poor condition. Taking a census under such conditions would have been self-defeating.
Given the difficulties and the desire to bring pagans into Christianity, "the important fact then . . . to get clearly into your head is that the fixing of the date as December 25th was a compromise with paganism" (William Walsh, The Story of Santa Klaus, 1970, p. 62).
If Jesus Christ wasn't born on Dec. 25, does the Bible indicate when He was born? The biblical accounts point to the fall of the year as the most likely time of Jesus' birth, based on the conception and birth of John the Baptist.
Since Elizabeth (John's mother) was in her sixth month of pregnancy when Jesus was conceived (Luke 1:24-36)
It was during this time of temple service that Zacharias learned that he and his wife Elizabeth would have a child (Luke 1:8-13)
More info on Trees
According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "The use of evergreen trees, wreaths, and garlands to symbolize eternal life was a custom of the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews. Tree worship was common among the pagan Europeans and survived their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime." “By the 1870s, putting up a Christmas tree had become common in America.
Benjamin Harrison is the president credited with having the first Christmas tree insidethe White House. The year that a Christmas tree was first used is believed to be 1889. The tree was lit with candles.
Jer 10:1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Jer 10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. Jer 10:3 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 the axe. Jer 10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. Jer 10:5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. Jer 10:6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.
Rom 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Rom 1:19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. Rom 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Rom 1:21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Rom 1:22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, Rom 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man (Santa), and to birds, and fourfooted beasts (rain deer), and creeping things. Rom 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Rom 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. Rom 1:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: Rom 1:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. Rom 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in theirknowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
“A LOT OF THIS WORLD'S PROBLEMS TODAY STEM FROM THE FACT THAT MOST CHURCHES HAVE TURNED AWAY FROM THE TRUTH!”
1 John 2:21 I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.
Rev 21:27 And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life.
“The celebration of Christmas is one of the most evil things a person can do.”
Gal 4:16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
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Ten Christmas Customs with Pagan Roots
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Updated June 18, 2017
During the winter solstice season, we hear all kinds of cool stuff about candy canes, Santa Claus, reindeer and other traditions. But did you know that many Christmas customs can trace their roots back to Pagan origins? Here are ten little-known bits of trivia about the Yule season that you might be unaware of.
Christmas caroling came from the wassailing tradition. Image by Witold Skrypczak/Lonely Planet/Getty Images
The tradition of Christmas caroling actually began as the tradition of wassailing. In centuries past, wassailers went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. The concept actually harkens back to pre-Christian fertility rites -- only in those ceremonies, villagers traveled through their fields and orchards in the middle of winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might inhibit the growth of future crops. Caroling wasn’t actually done in churches until St. Francis, around the 13th century, thought it might be a nice idea.
ONE. THE CUSTOM OF WASSAILING
The tradition of wassailing (pronounced to rhyme with fossil-ing) is hardly a new one. In centuries past, wassailers went from door to door, singing and drinking to the health of their neighbors. The concept actually hearkens back to pre-Christian fertility rites -- only in those ceremonies, villagers traveled through their fields and orchards in the middle of winter, singing and shouting to drive away any spirits that might inhibit the growth of future crops.
As part of this, they poured wine and cider on the ground to encourage fertility in the crops.
Eventually, this evolved into the idea of Christmas caroling, which became popular during the Victorian era, and is still seen today in many areas. If you think your family or friends might enjoy starting up a new, musical tradition, why not gather them together to go out a-wassailing for Yule? The following are traditional, secular wassailing songs which were performed back as early as the days of King Henry VIII. Although some are Christian in background and make references to "God" in their original form, I've made Pagan-friendly substitutions in some places. You can always change these to accommodate a particular deity of your tradition.
Mistletoe is associated with a goddess of love. Image by Anthony Saint James/Photodisc/Getty Images
Mistletoe has been around for a long time, and has been considered a magical plant by everyone from the Druids to the Vikings. The ancient Romans honored the god Saturn, and to keep him happy, fertility rituals took place under the mistletoe. Today, we don't quite go that far under our mistletoe (at least not usually) but it could explain where the kissing tradition comes from. The Norse Eddas tell of warriors from opposing tribes meeting under mistletoe and laying down their arms, so it’s certainly considered a plant of peace and reconciliation. Also in Norse mythology, mistletoe is associated with Frigga, a goddess of love – who wouldn’t want to smooch under her watchful eye? Mistletoe: Myths, Mysteries and Medicine
A modern Druid blesses Christmas mistletoe in a celebration Tenbury Wells, England. Image by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images
MISTLETOE AS MEDICINE
In 50 C.E., the Greek physician Dioscorides wrote his Materia Medica, establishing himself a place in medical history. As one of the ancient world's most knowledgeable herbalists, Dioscorides found that mistletoe helped cure his patients of external tumors. He wrote that it “has the power to disperse, soften, drawing and assisting tumors of the parotid gland and other lesions…” Some forty or so years later, Pliny the Elder wrote of the treatment of sores and epilepsy with mistletoe in his Natural History.
He also described its use in magic and ritual.
THE DRUIDS AND ABUNDANCE RITUALS
Pliny wrote that Druid elders performed rituals in which they harvested mistletoe -- a botanical parasite -- from oak trees with golden sickles. It was collected under a waxing moon phase, and then fed to animals to guarantee their fertility. As part of the rite, a pair of white bulls were sacrificed, and if prayers were answered, prosperity would be visited upon the villages.
THOSE WILD ROMANS AND SATURNALIA
No one loves a party like the ancient Romans, and their festival of Saturnalia is one of the most well-documented celebrations of the Winter Solstice. This week-long bacchanal included exchanging of gifts, lots of food and wine, dancing and music. Slaves got the week off work, courts were closed, and all kinds of debauchery took place. This festival honored Saturn, of course, and he was an agricultural god.
To keep him happy, fertility rituals took place under the mistletoe. Today, we don't quite go that far under our mistletoe (at least not usually) but it does explain where the kissing tradition comes from.
JESUS AND THE NAUGHTY MISTLETOE
As the Roman Empire crumbled and Christianity spread, a rumor began in France that the cross upon which Jesus died was made of mistletoe wood.
As punishment for its involvement in the crucifixion, the plant was forbidden to grow out of the earth, and was demoted to being a botanical parasite. It now has to have a host plant, such as the oak or the ash, apparently more well-behaved and virtuous trees.
MISTLETOE AS MEDICINE ONCE MORE
During medieval times mistletoe was again recognized for its medicinal properties, and appears in several folk remedies. To ward off demons, twigs of mistletoe could be hung in bundles over a door. In some countries, springs were placed in the stable to protect livestock safe from local witches. Mistletoe was also known to rural people as the best cure for barren women; in fact, mistletoe seems to have been a cure-all for any problems with conception, because early societies were baffled by its method of propagation. Interestingly, the Cherokee people used the North American strain of mistletoe as an abortaficient.
MISTLETOE AS A PARASITE
The plant we know today as mistletoe has no roots of its own. What it does have is tiny extensions called holdfasts, that grip onto the bark of the host plant. They also serve as a sort of umbilical cord, and suck the nutrients from the host. Because of its dependence on the host, mistletoe is only found on living trees.
Mistletoe plants can be either female or male; only the female has the beautiful but highly toxic berries.
GROW YOUR OWN MISTLETOE
Because mistletoe is a parasite, you can grow your own fairly simply -- as long as you're willing to sacrifice another plant as a host. The kind available in the stores at Christmas is harvested while immature, so don’t bother trying to use those berries as starters for your plants. Instead, wait until spring, when you can pick some plump, white, mature berries.
Be sure to get one from a host plant similar to the one you wish to use as a host for the new growth. Choose a hardy branch on a healthy mature tree, and make a few small incisions in the bark. the further up you can go, the better -- it allows for more sunlight to reach your seedlings. Remove the skins from the seeds, and place them inside the tree bark.
Cover the seeds with some jute or other protective covering, or you'll end up with a big bird feeder and no mistletoe.
Plant lots of seeds, because you need both males and females to propagate the new growth, and only about ten percent of seeds actually germinate properly. It takes about five years, but eventually your mistletoe will reach berry-producing size.
Remember, mistletoe berries are poisonous. Consuming large quantities of leaves or berries can be fatal – especially to young children, who have been known to ingest berries. If someone is suffering from mistletoe poisoning, get them to an emergency room -- do not try to treat this yourself. Mistletoe should not be used by nursing moms or pregnant women.
The great thing about mistletoe is that if you use it magically, you don't have to worry about taking it internally. Considering all of its wonderful magical properties, it can be used in many different ways.
Witch puppets at the Christmas Fair on the Piazza Navona, Rome. Image by Jonathan Smith/Lonely Planet/Getty Images
Sure, we’ve all heard of Santa Claus, who has his roots in the Dutch Sinterklaasmythology, with a few elements of Odin and Saint Nicholas thrown in for good measure. But how many people have heard of La Befana, the kindly Italian witch who drops off treats for well-behaved children? Or Frau Holle, who gives gifts to women at the time of the winter solstice?
The Origins of Santa Claus
Santa Claus is a blend of an early Christian saint and the Norse god Odin, among other influences. Renphoto / Vetta / Getty
Ho ho ho! Once the Yule season rolls around, you can't shake a sprig of mistletoe without seeing images of a chubby man in a red suit. Santa Claus is everywhere, and although he's traditionally associated with the Christmas holiday, his origins can be traced back to a blend of early an Christian bishop (and later saint) mixed with Norse mythology. Let's take a look at where the jolly old guy came from.
EARLY CHRISTIAN INFLUENCE
Although Santa Claus is primarily based upon St. Nicholas, a 4th-century Christian bishop from Lycia (now in Turkey), the figure is also strongly influenced by early Norse religion. Saint Nicholas was known for giving gifts to the poor. In one notable story, he met a pious but impoverished man who had three daughters. He presented them with dowries to save them from a life of prostitution. In most European countries, St. Nicholas is still portrayed as a bearded bishop, wearing clerical robes. He became a patron saint of many groups, particularly children, the poor, and prostitutes.
In the BBC Two feature film, The Real Face of Santa, archaeologists used modern forensics and facial reconstruction techniques to get an idea of what St. Nicholas might have actually looked like. According to National Geographic, "The remains of the Greek bishop, who lived in the third and fourth centuries, are housed in Bari, Italy.
When the crypt at the Basilica San Nicola was repaired in the 1950s, the saint's skull and bones were documented with x-ray photos and thousands of detailed measurements."
ODIN AND HIS MIGHTY HORSE
Among early Germanic tribes, one of the major deities was Odin, the ruler of Asgard. A number of similarities exist between some of Odin's escapades and those of the figure who would become Santa Claus.
Odin was often depicted as leading a hunting party through the skies, during which he rode his eight-legged horse, Sleipnir. In the 13th-century Poetic Edda, Sleipnir is described as being able to leap great distances, which some scholars have compared to the legends of Santa's reindeer. Odin was typically portrayed as an old man with a long, white beard — much like St. Nicholas himself.
TREATS FOR THE TOTS
During the winter, children placed their boots near the chimney, filling them with carrots or straw as a gift for Sleipnir. When Odin flew by, he rewarded the little ones by leaving gifts in their boots. In several Germanic countries, this practice survived despite the adoption of Christianity. As a result, the gift-giving became associated with St. Nicholas — only nowadays, we hang stockings rather than leaving boots by the chimney!
SANTA COMES TO THE NEW WORLD
When Dutch settlers arrived in New Amsterdam, they brought with them their practice of leaving shoes out for St. Nicholas to fill with gifts. They also brought the name , which later morphed into Santa Claus.
The authors of the website for the St. Nicholas Center say, "In January 1809, Washington Irving joined the society and on St. Nicholas Day that same year, he published the satirical fiction, Knickerbocker's History of New York, with numerous references to a jolly St.
Nicholas character. This was not the saintly bishop, rather an elfin Dutch burgher with a clay pipe. These delightful flights of imagination are the source of the New Amsterdam St. Nicholas legends: that the first Dutch emigrant ship had a figurehead of St. Nicholas; that St. Nicholas Day was observed in the colony; that the first church was dedicated to him; and that St. Nicholas comes down chimneys to bring gifts. Irving's work was regarded as the "first notable work of imagination in the New World."
It was about 15 years later that the figure of Santa as we know it today was introduced. This came in the form of a narrative poem by a man named Clement C. Moore.
THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
Moore's poem, originally titled A Visit from St. Nicholas is commonly known today as Twas the Night Before Christmas.
Moore went as far as to elaborate on the names of Santa's reindeer, and provided a rather Americanized, secular description of the "jolly old elf."
According to History.com, "Stores began to advertise Christmas shopping in 1820, and by the 1840s, newspapers were creating separate sections for holiday advertisements, which often featured images of the newly-popular Santa Claus. In 1841, thousands of children visited a Philadelphia shop to see a life-size Santa Claus model. It was only a matter of time before stores began to attract children, and their parents, with the lure of a peek at a “live” Santa Claus."
FOUR. Deck Your Halls with Boughs of Green Things
Yule is a good time to bring greenery inside. Image by Michael DeLeon/E+/Getty Images
The Romans loved a good party, and Saturnalia was no exception. This holiday, which fell on December 17, was a time to honor the god Saturn, and so homes and hearths were decorated with boughs of greenery – vines, ivy, and the like. The ancient Egyptians didn't have evergreen trees, but they had palms -- and the palm tree was the symbol of resurrection and rebirth. They often brought the fronds into their homes during the time of the winter solstice. This has evolved into the modern tradition of the holiday tree.
Here come those Romans again! At Saturnalia, celebrants often hung metal ornaments outside on trees. Typically, the ornaments represented a god -- either Saturn, or the family's patron deity. The laurel wreath was a popular decoration as well. Early Germanic tribes decorated trees with fruit and candles in honor of Odin for the solstice. You can make your own ornaments to bring the spirit of the season into your life.
The fruitcake has its origins in ancient Egypt and Rome. Image by subjug/E+/Getty Images
The fruitcake has become the stuff of legend, because once a fruitcake is baked, it will seemingly outlive everyone who comes near it. Stories abound of fruitcakes from winters past, magically appearing in the pantry to surprise everyone during the holiday season. What’s interesting about the fruitcake is that it actually has its origins in ancient Egypt. There’s a tale in the culinary world that the Egyptians placed cakes made of fermented fruit and honey on the tombs of their deceased loved ones – and presumably these cakes would last as long as the pyramids themselves. In later centuries, Roman soldiers carried these cakes into battle, made with mashed pomegranates and barley. There are even records of soldiers on Crusades carrying honey-laden fruitcakes into the Holy Land with them.
The exchange of gifts is rooted in Roman tradition. Image by Paul Strowger/Moment/Getty Images
Today, Christmas is a huge gift-giving bonanza for retailers far and wide. However, that’s a fairly new practice, developed within the last two to three hundred years. Most people who celebrate Christmas associate the practice of gift giving with the Biblical tale of the three wise men who gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newborn baby Jesus. However, the tradition can also be traced back to other cultures – the Romans gave gifts between Saturnalia and the Kalends, and during the Middle Ages, French nuns gave gifts of food and clothing to the poor on St. Nicholas’ Eve. Interestingly, up until around the early 1800s, most people exchanged gifts on New Years’ Day – and it was typically just one present, rather than the massive collection of gifts that we’re inundated with each year in today’s society
Christianity hardly has a monopoly on the theme of resurrection, particularly around the winter holidays. Mithras was an early Roman god of the sun, who was born around the time of the winter solstice and then experienced a resurrection around the spring equinox. The Egyptians honored Horus, who has a similar story. While this doesn’t mean that the tale of Jesus and his rebirth was stolen from the cult of Mithras or Horus – and in fact, it’s definitely not, if you ask scholars - there are certainly some similarities in the stories, and perhaps some carryover from the earlier Pagan traditions.
Christianity hardly has a monopoly on the theme of resurrection, particularly around the winter holidays. A couple of thousand years ago, followers of a god named Mithras celebrated rebirth in much the same way as the followers of Jesus do today. Mithras was an early Roman god of the sun, who was born around the time of the winter solstice and then experienced a resurrection around the spring equinox.
The cult of Mithras was a mystery religion, like that of Cybele and many other Roman Pagan beliefs. Author Ceisiwr Serith describes the cult's temples, or Mithraea, as being relatively small, and typically hidden underground. He also points out that it was only open to men, and very secretive, so it's unlikely that it was truly a big rival to the incoming Christian belief system.
In one legend, Mithras, who was popular amongst members of the Roman military, was ordered by the Sun to sacrifice a white bull. He reluctantly obeyed, but at the moment when his knife entered the creature's body, a miracle took place. The bull turned into the moon, and Mithras' cloak became the night sky. Where the bull's blood fell flowers grew, and stalks of grain sprouted from its tail. Mithras himself ascended to the light, and spent the rest of eternity hanging out with the Sun.
British author and poet Rudyard Kipling, who was fascinated by Mithraism, wrote Song to Mithras, which concludes as follows:
Mithras, God of the Midnight, here where the great bull dies,
Look on thy children in darkness. Oh take our sacrifice!
Many roads thou hast fashioned--all of them lead to the Light:
Mithras, also a soldier, teach us to die aright!
Ceisiwr Serith has a great essay on his website about why Christianity isn't stolen from the cult of Mithras, and it's one well worth reading.
If you're interested in more about Mithras, check out his Mithraism Index.
The Holly bush is associated with the gods of winter. Image by Richard Loader/E+/Getty Images
For those who celebrate the spiritual aspects of Christmas, there is significant symbolism in the holly bush. For Christians, the red berries represent the blood of Jesus Christ as he died upon the cross, and the sharp-edged green leaves are associated with his crown of thorns. However, in pre-Christian Pagan cultures, the holly was associated with the god of winter – the Holly King, doing his annual battle with the Oak King. Holly was known as a wood that could drive off evil spirits as well, so it came in very handy during the darker half of the year, when most of the other trees were bare. In many Celtic-based traditions of neopaganism, there is the enduring legend of the battle between the Oak King and the Holly King. These two mighty rulers fight for supremacy as the Wheel of the Year turns each season. At the Winter Solstice, or Yule, the Oak King conquers the Holly King, and then reigns until Midsummer, or Litha. Once the Summer Solstice arrives, the Holly King returns to do battle with the old king, and defeats him.
In the legends of some belief systems, the dates of these events are shifted; the battle takes place at the Equinoxes, so that the Oak King is at his strongest during Midsummer, or Litha, and the Holly King is dominant during Yule. From a folkloric and agricultural standpoint, this interpretation seems to make more sense.
In some Wiccan traditions, the Oak King and the Holly King are seen as dual aspects of the Horned God. Each of these twin aspects rules for half the year, battles for the favor of the Goddess, and then retires to nurse his wounds for the next six months, until it is time for him to reign once more.
Franco over at WitchVox says that the Oak and Holly Kings represent the light and the darkness throughout the year. At the winter solstice we mark "the rebirth of the Sun or the Oak King. On this day the light is reborn and we celebrate the renewal of the light of the year. Oops!
Are we not forgetting someone? Why do we deck the halls with boughs of Holly? This day is the Holly King’s day - the Dark Lord reigns. He is the god of transformation and one who brings us to birth new ways. Why do you think we make “New Year’s Resolutions”? We want to shed our old ways and give way to the new!"
Often, these two entities are portrayed in familiar ways - the Holly King frequently appears as a woodsy version of Santa Claus. He dresses in red, wears a sprig of holly in his tangled hair, and is sometimes depicted driving a team of eight stags. The Oak King is portrayed as a fertility god, and occasionally appears as the Green Man or other lord of the forest.
HOLLY VS. IVY
The symbolism of the holly and the ivy is something that has appeared for centuries; in particular, their roles as representations of opposite seasons has been recognized for a long time. In Green Groweth the Holly, King Henry VIII of England wrote:
Green groweth the holly, so doth the ivy.
Though winter blasts blow never so high, green groweth the holly.
As the holly groweth green and never changeth hue,
So I am, ever hath been, unto my lady true.
As the holly groweth green with ivy all alone
When flowers cannot be seen and greenwood leaves be gone
Of course, The Holly and the Ivy is one of the best known Christmas carols, which states, "The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown, of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown."
THE BATTLE OF TWO KINGS IN MYTH AND FOLKLORE
Both Robert Graves and Sir James George Frazer wrote about this battle.
Graves said in his work The White Goddess that the conflict between the Oak and Holly Kings echoes that of a number of other archetypical pairings. For instance, the fights between Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and between Lugh and Balor in Celtic legend, are similar in type, in which one figure must die for the other to triumph.
Frazer wrote, in The Golden Bough, of the killing of the King of the Wood, or the tree spirit. He says, "His life must therefore have been held very precious by his worshippers, and was probably hedged in by a system of elaborate precautions or taboos like those by which, in so many places, the life of the man-god has been guarded against the malignant influence of demons and sorcerers. But we have seen that the very value attached to the life of the man-god necessitates his violent death as the only means of preserving it from the inevitable decay of age.
The same reasoning would apply to the King of the Wood; he, too, had to be killed in order that the divine spirit, incarnate in him, might be transferred in its integrity to his successor. The rule that he held office till a stronger should slay him might be supposed to secure both the preservation of his divine life in full vigour and its transference to a suitable successor as soon as that vigour began to be impaired. For so long as he could maintain his position by the strong hand, it might be inferred that his natural force was not abated; whereas his defeat and death at the hands of another proved that his strength was beginning to fail and that it was time his divine life should be lodged in a less dilapidated tabernacle."
Ultimately, while these two beings do battle all year long, they are two essential parts of a whole. Despite being enemies, without one, the other would no longer exist.
Burn a Yule log to celebrate with your family. Image by Catherine Bridgman/Moment Open/Getty Images
Nowadays, when we hear about the Yule log, most people think of a deliciously rich chocolate dessert. But the Yule log has its origins in the cold winters of Norway, on the night of the winter solstice, where it was common to hoist a giant log onto the hearthto celebrate the return of the sun each year. The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice. As the Wheel of the Year turns once more, the days get shorter, the skies become gray, and it seems as though the sun is dying. In this time of darkness, we pause on the Solstice (usually around December 21st, although not always on the same date) and realize that something wonderful is happening.
On Yule, the sun stops its decline into the south. For a few days, it seems as though it’s rising in exactly the same place… and then something amazing and miraculous takes place. The light begins to return.
The sun begins its journey back to the north, and once again we are reminded that we have something worth celebrating. In families of all different spiritual paths, the return of the light is celebrated, with Menorahs, Kwanzaa candles, bonfires, and brightly lit Christmas trees. On Yule, many Pagan and Wiccan families celebrate the return of the sun by adding light into their homes. One very popular tradition – and one that children can do easily – is to make a Yule log for a family-sized celebration.
History and Symbolism
A holiday celebration that began in Norway, on the night of the winter solstice it was common to hoist a giant log onto the hearth to celebrate the return of the sun each year. The Norsemen believed that the sun was a giant wheel of fire which rolled away from the earth, and then began rolling back again on the winter solstice.
As Christianity spread through Europe, the tradition became part of Christmas Eve festivities. The father or master of the house would sprinkle the log with libations of mead, oil, or salt. Once the log was burned in the hearth, the ashes were scattered about the house to protect the family within from hostile spirits.
GATHERING THE SYMBOLS OF THE SEASON
Because each type of wood is associated with various magical and spiritual properties, logs from different types of trees might be burned to get a variety of effects. Aspen is the wood of choice for spiritual understanding, while the mighty oak is symbolic of strength and wisdom. A family hoping for a year of prosperity might burn a
log of pine, while a couple hoping to be blessed with fertility would drag a bough of birch to their hearth.
WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD ANY HONEST HEARTED
CHRISTIAN WANT TO COPY AFTER THE HEATHEN?
A brief history of the holiday
The first time the birth of Jesus Christ was attributed to the date December 25 was in the 4th century, according to early Roman history. Early celebrations of Christmas are thought to have derived from Roman and other European festivals that marked the end of the harvest, and the winter solstice.
Some customs from those celebrations that have endured include decorating homes with greenery, giving gifts, singing songs, and eating special foods.
The holiday developed further with the legend of St. Nicholas. Although much of his history is unconfirmed, the man who became St. Nicholas lived in the 4th century and is believed to have been a bishop in Asia Minor.
Many miracles attributed to him are dubious at best. Nevertheless, some countries named him their patron saint. He also is considered the patron saint of, among others, children (for protecting them), sailors (whom he reputedly saved at sea), and the poor (to whom he generously gave gifts).
In his honor, the Feast of St. Nicholas was marked on December 6 and gifts given the night before. The tradition was well established in many European countries by the 12th century. Eventually, because St. Nicholas' Day and Christmas Day are so close together, their traditions generally were combined.
St. Nicholas took on different personas in different countries. For example, The Netherlands have Sinter Klaas; Father Christmas gives gifts in Great Britain; Père Noël does the same in France; and in Germany St. Nicholas has had many names including Klaasbuur, Burklaas, Rauklas, Bullerklaas, and Sunnercla, although Father Christmas is becoming more popular. In the United States, the Dutch settlers' Sinter Klaas evolved into Santa Claus.
Other Christmas facts:
- The story of Jesus Christ's birth is told in New Testament's gospel of Saint Luke and Saint Matthew.
- Some Christians celebrate Jesus Christ's coming on January 6, the Epiphany, when they believe he was baptized.
- The song "The Twelve Days of Christmas" refers to the 12 days between Christmas and the Epiphany.
- The word Christmas comes from the Old English Cristes maesse, which means Christ's mass.
- The word Xmas is sometimes used instead of Christmas. In Greek, Xis the first letter of Christ's name.
- In 1969, the Roman Catholic church dropped St. Nicholas' Feast Day from its calendar because his life is so unreliably documented.
- The German word Christkindl, which means Christ child, eventually turned into Kriss Kringle.
- Santa Claus generally was depicted as an elf until 1931, when Coca-Cola ads portrayed him as human-sized.
- Rudolph didn't become Santa's ninth reindeer until 1939 when an advertising writer for the department store Montgomery Ward created him.
Sources: Encarta 96 Encyclopedia, World Book, Encyclopedia Brittanica