Year after year, I hear nauseating debates and arguments between Christians concerning the origins of Christmas; especially its apparent pagan roots. Some Christians see it as a topic in which they need to fight for the purity of their perceived theological persuasion. Other Christians fear that all along they have been secretly and unknowingly worshipping a pagan god, thus condemning themselves.
No one knows what day Jesus Christ was born on. In fact, my wife does not know the day she was born on either, so she just made one up. August 15. Why? Was it because of the fact that it fell on a Buddhist “Sul” ritual worship day? Of course not. She just picked a day that was convenient for her. From the biblical description, some historians believe that his birth probably occurred in September, approximately six months after Passover. However you can find “historians” who would select and defend an argument for nearly any day of the year. And they would have a 1 in 365 shot if getting it correct. So why do we celebrate Christ’s birthday as Christmas, on December the 25th?
Was it because in ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25? They celebrated with crazy parties, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving were traditions of this feast. Hmm, sound familiar?
Or was it because in Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated many years before the birth of Christ. The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the God of Agriculture. In January, they observed the Kalends of January, which represented the triumph of life over death. This whole season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun. The festival season was marked by much merrymaking. It is in ancient Rome that the tradition of the Mummers was born. The Mummers were groups of costumed singers and dancers who traveled from house to house entertaining their neighbors. Is this why we do caroling?
Or maybe it was because in northern Europe, many other traditions that we now consider part of Christian worship were begun long before the participants had ever heard of Christ. The pagans of northern Europe celebrated their own winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born, and was observed on the shortest day of the year. Huge Yule logs were burned in honor of the sun. Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant, and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual. Hollyberries were thought to be a food of the gods. Oh, no! All these years, were we accidently worshipping the sun God of the Scandinavians?
The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again. Evergreen boughs were sometimes carried as totems of good luck and were often present at weddings, representing fertility. The Druids used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies while surrounding and worshipping huge trees.
In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity. Since 1870 the US Government made Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ, a national holiday: not Kwanzaa, not Hanukkah, not Eid nor any other religious or non-religious substitute day.
So what happened, I might ask, to Isis, or the worship of Saturn, or Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, or pagan Yule worship to Mithras, or Druid evergreen worship? Gone. What is Christmas, mistletoe, caroling, hollyberries, Christmas trees and a myriad of other symbols represent today? The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Was it on December 25? Probably not, but who cares. For 1659 years, and probably much longer, billions and billions of people have been celebrating Jesus Christ on Christmas! Millions come to know Jesus as their savior on Christmas every single year in the more than 230 counties which officially celebrate Christmas as the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. The entire calendar was changed and is used in 238 countries around the world as the way of marking time, all from the birth of Jesus Christ.
All of us at one time came from pagan ancestors. I would imagine I have devil worshippers, those who did human sacrifice to other gods, and worshippers of all kinds of strange things in my ancestry. Does that make me a devil worshipper? No, I worship Jesus Christ alone! By choice we as believers in Jesus have come to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our one true God. So, we celebrate his birth. Jesus main purpose to even be born as a man was to redeem us from our lives of sin and lead us to a path of righteousness found only in him. Christmas is a testimony of the redeeming power of Jesus Christ to change pagan worship into symbols pointing to Jesus Christ. Another perfect example of symbols redeemed to worship of Jesus Christ is the cross. Once a symbol of death and execution, it is not the most recognized symbol of Jesus Christ.
So celebrate Christmas with as much joy, fun and expressions as love as you possibly can. Celebrate the birth of Jesus by demonstrating Jesus to as many people as you can, from family, friends and neighbors to complete strangers. This tradition is unique only to Christians! Be proud of it and go ahead and celebrate with the other 2.4 Billion Christians in the world and the other 4 billion who love it too! And when we turn our calendars all over the world to 2010, we can know that it was because Jesus was born 2010 years ago that we recognize it. AD 2010 (Anno Domini: In the Year of Our Lord).