Have you ever wondered about Christmas? From the time you first found out there really was no Santa Claus, did you ever question other aspects of this incredible holiday ? Did you ever wonder where Christmas came from? Why have a Christmas tree? Where did the idea of Santa Claus originate? Why is this day celebrated on the 25th of December? What do all these symbols and festivities really mean? What is God ‘s perspective on these things? If you were surprised when you first discovered the truth about Santa Claus, you will be even more surprised by the rest of the story.
Christmas Is Not Christian!
As shocking as it might sound, there is nothing Christian about Christmas. It was men who created the word “Christmas” from the phrase “Mass of Christ.” In this way, Christ’s name came to be associated with this holiday and millions have come to believe it is a Christian observance. The truth is that this holiday, with the same symbols and ceremonies, was practiced many centuries before Jesus was ever born. In fact, it did not become a part of professing Christianity until hundreds of years after the Savior’s crucifixion and ascension to heaven.
This truth is confirmed by the testimony of both religious and secular authorities. The 1911 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia illustrates that Christmas did not originate in Palestine but rather in Egypt.
Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church…the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt… Pagan customs centering around the January calends gravitated to Christmas.
The celebration of Christmas was not embraced during the days of the apostles or the early New Testament church. Consider the words of the Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 edition which states:
Christmas… was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth.
The Origin of Christmas
Biblical authorities and secular historians agree that the celebration of Christ’s birth did not enter the church until hundreds of years after Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It was not until the fifth century that the Roman Catholic Church ordered this day to be celebrated. Furthermore, the church directed this celebration to take place on the same day as the pagan festival dedicated to worshiping the sun god.
The connection between Christmas and a variety of pagan practices is thoroughly documented. Not only the day, but its symbols are intimately connected to religious practices embraced by the pagan world. William Walsh, a recognized authority on Christmas, writes:
…the Christmas festival…is a gradual evolution from times that long antedated the Christian period… It was over laid upon heathen festivals, and many of its observances are only adaptations of pagan to Christian Ceremonies. (The Story of Santa Klaus p. 58)
…It was on or about December 21st that the ancient Greeks celebrated what are known to us as the Bacchanalia or festivities in honor of Bacchus, the god of wine. In these festivities the people gave themselves up to songs, dances and other revels which frequently passed the limits of decency and order. (The Story of Santa Klaus p. 65)
…the Saturnalia, held in honor of Saturn, the god of time, began on December 17th and continued for seven days. These also often ended in riot and disorder. Hence the words Bacchanalia and Saturnalia acquired an evil reputation in later times. (The Story of Santa Klaus p. 65)
Why December 25?
Today, most of the world celebrates Christmas on the twenty-fifth of December. Werner Keller writes in The Bible as History:
December 25 is referred to in documents as Christmas day in A.D. 324 for the first time. Under the Roman emperor Justinian [in the 500’s] it was recognized as an official holiday. An old Roman festival played a major part in the choice of this particular day. December 25 in ancient Rome was the ‘Dies Natali Invictus,’ ‘the birthday of the unconquered sun,’ the day of the winter solstice and at the same time, in Rome, the last day of the Saturnalia,…a week of unbridled carnival… (p. 331)
It is clear from the record of history that Christmas originated during pre-Christian times and was celebrated by the pagan world for centuries after the death of Christ. This day then became embraced by the Roman Catholic Church in the fifth century. Where did the pagans get their ideas regarding such a celebration?
Through her politics and the use of her son’s Nimrod’s name, Semeramis became the queen of Babylon, the home of the Chaldee Mysteries. She was also regarded as the “queen of Heaven” and “the mother of the divine son.” After generations of these idolatrous practices and traditions, Nimrod came to be considered the son of Baal, the sun god. He and his mother became the chief entities of worship as a Madonna and child.
This belief and practice spread to Egypt, where the names of the gods were Isis and Osiris. The son Osiris was born December 25. In Asia it was Cybele and Deonius. In Rome they were called Fortuna and Jupiter. Throughout the world we still find the remnants of mother and child worship to this day. It is no surprise that this same system still exists at the end of the age. It is called “Mystery Babylon” (Revelation 17:5). Shockingly, it is disguised as Christianity and is still practiced in Christmas.
From Paganism to Christianity
The great historian Will Durant described how paganism actually took upon itself Christianity and converted it to pagan purposes.
Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it… From Egypt came the idea of a divine trinity… [and] the adoration of the Mother and Child… From Phrygia came the worship of the Great Mother… The Mithraic ritual so closely resembled the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass that Christian fathers charged the Devil with inventing these similarities to mislead frail minds. [Modern day] Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world. (The Story of Civilization, p. 595)
It is clear that a wide range of pagan practices became assimilated into the Roman Catholic Church. It began with embracing the birthday of the sun god and establishing the date of this celebration as December 25.
It is interesting to note that the practice of sun worship began in early Egypt. There the priests would make a round wafer to represent the sun. The celebrants would eat the wafer, symbolizing the sun god’s life and the nourishment of man’s soul.
Clearly, the church was embracing paganism in an attempt to increase its numbers and draw in a non-believing world. In reality, it was the church being absorbed by those who practiced beliefs totally contrary to Christianity. In his book The Two Babylons Alexander Hislop characterized it this way:
Long before the fourth century, and long before the Christian era itself, a festival was celebrated among the heathen at that precise time of the year, in honor of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven; and it may fairly be presumed that, in order to conciliate the heathen, and to swell the number of the nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church, giving it only the name of Christ. This tendency on the part of Christians to meet paganism half-way was very early developed… (p. 93)
The church eventually adopted and merged several different pagan ceremonies to eventually end up with the modern day practice of Christmas and the New Year celebrations we witness today.
Christmas Through History
During the latter part of the third century, Deus Sol Invictus became the official deity of the Roman Empire. At that time, a great temple was built in honor of the sun and the sun’s birthday was officially set as December 25. This date was chosen because it was the accepted date of the winter solstice. Less than 100 years later, Emperor Constantine came to power in Rome. At the beginning of Constantine’s rule, it was a violation of Roman law to practice Christianity. Christians were hated by the state and were subjected to great persecution.
However, Constantine saw something in Christianity he believed could be very valuable in holding the empire together. Despite great persecution, Christians remained dedicated to their faith. This commitment so impressed Constantine that he issued “The Edict of Toleration” in 313 A.D. and made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire. As a result, state persecution of Christians stopped. However, the news was not all good. Because Christianity became the state religion, the church became very political and the doctrines embraced by the church were watered down and seriously compromised. Jesse Hurlbut describes this period in his book, The Story of the Christian Church.
…the establishment of Christianity as the state religion became a curse… Everybody sought membership in the church, and nearly everybody was received. Both good and bad, sincere seekers after God and hypocritical seekers after gain, rushed into the communion. Ambitious, worldly, unscrupulous men sought office in the church for social and political influence…
The services of worship increased in splendor, but were less spiritual and hearty than those of former times. The forms and ceremonies of paganism gradually crept into the worship. Some of the old heathen feasts became church festivals with change of name and of worship.
Legalizing Christianity solved one problem for the church, but it caused another. Millions of pagans were suddenly made “Christians” literally overnight. These pagans had no desire to give up their pagan practices, however. Try as it would, the church could not prevail on the people to give up the paganism that they embraced. The church’s answer was to finally “Christianize” numerous pagan practices.
This adopting of pagan festivals was not without opposition however. While many professing Christians welcomed the liberty to celebrate these pagan practices, others objected. Many at the time understood that such practices were rankly pagan, ungodly practices which should never have been brought into the church. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.
Despite opposition by Christians committed to pursuing the teachings in scripture, pagan influence simply overwhelmed the church, transforming it into something far different from that raised up by Jesus through Peter and the apostles. This fact is confirmed by The Encyclopedia Americana which states:
Christmas… according to many authorities, was not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian Church… In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman Feast of the birth of Sol.
As you can see, ancient rites practiced by the pagan world were eventually grafted into Christianity. Rome had been pagan centuries before the birth of Christianity and it simply was not going to abandon its false religion. When Emperor Constantine ordered Christianity placed on equal footing with paganism, people preferred their old ways. They enjoyed those things they had always known, and simply adapted the old to appear to conform to the new.
They changed from worshiping the “sun” to worshiping the “Son” and this was done retaining all their old practices.
Most people today know little or nothing of the pagan origin of Christmas. They are unaware that faithful Christians first opposed these heretical practices. Additionally, most Christians today don’t understand that believers dedicated to keeping the truth of God were forced to go underground, some suffering martyrdom rather than allowing themselves to participate in such things.
The Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree is arguably the most prominent symbol of this season. Millions of people bring an evergreen tree into their homes and decorate it with beautiful glass balls, tinsel, and lights. These same millions would never think of the Christmas tree as an idol which God abhors.
The tradition of bringing a tree into the home and decorating it came from a fable regarding Saint Boniface. According to tradition, Saint Boniface cut down the “great oak of Jupiter,” a tree worshiped by pagan Teutons in Germany.
The story is that Saint Boniface came upon a band of heathens who were worshiping a huge oak tree. This band was about to offer a human sacrifice. Boniface intervened, stopping the sacrifice. He then ordered the tree cut down. Legend has it that a small fir tree sprang up in it’s place. Boniface proclaimed that this tree was the tree of life and represented Christ.
Careful examination of this story reveals striking similarities to the story of Nimrod and Semeramis. After the death of Nimrod, his mother Semeramis declared that Nimrod was reincarnated in the form of an evergreen tree which sprung up overnight. History reveals that the worship of trees and nature was a common practice among pagans and continues to this very day.
It is important to understand that such practices are abhorrent to God. The tenth chapter of the book of Jeremiah illustrates this point. Here, God commands his people to “learn not the way of the heathen.” He then goes into great detail describing a tradition in which the heathen cut a tree out of the forest and decorate it. God goes on to characterize this tree as a graven image (Jer. 10:1-2).
Although many argue that Jeremiah is not referring to the Christmas tree, in these verses, their argument misses the point. What God revealed through Jeremiah is that His children are to avoid practices that resemble those embraced by the pagan world. He did not say that it was appropriate to modify their practices and call them Christian. The Christmas tree is clearly a symbol of a faith that was vastly different from anything advocated by the scriptures.
The Christmas tree’s origin in paganism is thoroughly supported by the testimony of history. Consider the words of Alexander Hislop.
The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt. In Egypt that tree was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm tree denoting the Pagan Messiah, as Baal-Tamar, the fir referring to him as Baal-Berith.
The Christmas tree… recapitulates the idea of tree worship…gilded nuts and balls symbolizing the sun…all the festivities of the winter solstice have been absorbed into Christmas day…the use of holly and mistletoe to the Druidic ceremonies; the Christmas tree [ It is clear that the Christmas tree is a powerful symbol and conjures many images concerning the celebration it pictures. However, there is one thing the Christmas tree is NOT – it is not Christian. Everything about the Christmas tree can be traced to beliefs that are strongly condemned in scripture. There is no connection between the Christmas tree and the birth of Christ. It is a pagan symbol that God condemns.
In 1974, United Press International, one of the world’s leading press agencies, carried an article regarding the origin of the Christmas tree. This article spoke volumes about this symbol that has come to be strongly embraced by the Christian world.
Toward the middle of winter, as the sun began setting further in the south, and the nights grew longer, ancient pagan priests put candles which they called fairy lights on trees in an attempt to lure the sun back toward the north. (December 17)
Today, millions of Christian homes around the world are adorned with evergreen trees every Christmas. Tragically, people fail to understand what these trees picture because they simply don’t ask.
One of the most prominent images associated with Christmas is that of Santa Claus. Every year, children around the world long for his arrival, for he is the giver of gifts. Today, Santa Claus is depicted as a lover of children and a true giver. During the Christmas season, people are even encouraged to join his great army of elves so that children around the world can be touched by his goodness. So popular is Santa Claus that adults tell children stories of his exploits. These stories are conveyed with such conviction that children believe them without question. But who is Santa Claus? And where did his story begin?
Many articles and books have been written to explain that Santa Claus was a bishop by the name of Nicholas who lived in Asia Minor during the fourth century. It is true that such a bishop did exist but much of what is attributed to him is untrue.
The second Vatican council formally stated that while there was a Roman Catholic bishop named Nicholas, they acknowledged that many concepts associated with him actually came from pagan sources. William Walsh wrote:
Santa Claus comes from Saint Nicholas, the saint whose festival was celebrated in December and the one who in other respects was most nearly in accord with the dim traditions of Saturn as the hero of the Saturnalia. (The Story of Santa Klaus, p.70)
Tony Van Renterghem writes the following in his book, When Santa Was a Shaman: The Ancient Origins of Santa Claus & the Christmas Tree:
In the newly Christianized areas where the pagan Celtic and Germanic cults remained strong, legends of the god Wodan were blended with those of various Christian saints; Saint Nicholas was one of these. There were Christian areas where Saint Nicholas ruled alone; in other locations, he was assisted by the pagan Dark Helper. In other remote areas… ancient pockets of the Olde Religion controlled traditions.
Here the Dark Helper ruled alone. Sometimes in a most confusing manner, using the cover name of Saint Nicholas or ‘Klaus,’ without in any way changing his threatening, Herne/Pan, fur-clad appearance.
By absorbing such pagan feasts and traditions, the Christian Church turned Herne into Saint Nicholas’ captive, chained Dark Helper; none other than Satan the Dark One, symbolic of all evil…
The Worldbook Encyclopedia provides some interesting insights into some of the traditions regarding Santa Claus.
Some of Santa Claus’s characteristics date back many centuries. For example, the belief that Santa enters the house through the chimney developed from a Norse legend. The Norse believed that the goddess Hertha appeared in the fireplace and brought good luck to the home.
Other traditions from the Druidic time suggest that Santa’s red suit is a leftover from the times when ancient peoples worshiped the god of fire. Tradition has it that this fire god came down the chimney. Consider too, that in ancient times, Druid homeowners would leave a treat consisting of milk and pastries to appease this god who came down the chimney into their fireplace. This is how the tradition of leaving milk and cookies out for Santa began. The idea of placing stockings on the fireplace mantel also comes from this legendary pagan practice. It is clear that the modern Santa traces his origins back to ancient pagan traditions.
Most people believe the tradition of giving Christmas presents comes from the Bible. The assumption is that the wise men gave gifts to Jesus, therefore it is appropriate for us to give gifts to each other.
However, careful examination of this tradition will reveal that gift giving has nothing to do with Magi or the gifts they presented to Christ. Both religious and secular history reveal a clear connection between giving gifts during the Christmas season and pagan practices. Consider the following insights concerning this practice.
The interchange of presents between friends is a like characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the Pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows. (The Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 12, p. 153)
Tertullian wrote in his work, On Idolatry that during the pagan feast of the Saturnalia which was celebrated in December, gifts were “carried to and fro.”
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, exchanging gifts at this time of the year may have been influenced by similar customs practiced by the pagans on January 1.
“Gifts are exchanged by the French on January 1, by the Spanish and Italians on January 6, and by other nationalities on December 25. In most parts of Europe it was the Christ Child who brought the gifts. After the Reformation, the day itself was personified, and the figure of Father Christmas was later combined with St. Nicholas, [who later became] Santa Claus.” (p. 659)
William Walsh provides additional insights into the tradition of exchanging presents.
Christmas gifts themselves remind us of the presents that were exchanged in Rome during the Saturnalia. In Rome, it might be added, the presents usually took the form of wax tapers and dolls – the latter being in their turn a survival of the human sacrifices once offered to Saturn. It is a queer thought that in our Christmas presents we are preserving under another form one of the most savage customs of our barbarian ancestors. (The Story of Santa Klaus, p.67)
Gifts to a King
It is important to understand that the wise men did not give gifts to each other. Additionally, the gifts they brought to Christ were not birthday presents. Jesus did not receive toys from these visitors, but rather unusual offerings that many believe carry great significance.
It has been suggested that gold was is a gift given to a king, frankincense a gift given to a priest and myrrh-a spice used in preparing a body for burial-was a gift that was given to a condemned man. It is clear that the wise men presented gifts to Jesus because they understood Him to be a great King. The protocol at that time was to never approach the presence of kings or dignitaries without bearing a gift. Adam Clark’s commentary expresses it this way:
“The people of the east never approach the presence of kings and great personages without a present in their hands.” (Vol. 5, p. 46)
The truth is that gift giving at this time of year is not scriptural and has no basis in the story of the wise men. The giving of gifts at this time of year came from the practice of the ancient Saturnalia. Today, this worship of Saturn has merged with the worship of Mammon, the god of money.
Commercialism, Not Christianity
Over the centuries the practice of giving gifts at this time of year has amplified to become big business! Hallmark, one of the nation’s top three wrapping paper manufacturers, announced that during one Christmas season, it will produce over 24,000 miles of wrapping paper and Americans will spend over seven billion dollars on children’s toys during the Christmas season.
Collectively, agencies and photo studios suit up and ship out as many as 20,000 Santa Clauses to malls, parades, and parties every year. It has been estimated that retail stores can generate $35,000 in additional income simply by having a photographer and a rented Santa Claus for the season. It is also estimated that mall traffic increases by 15% when a Santa Claus is in one of the big stores.
In the city of Los Angeles alone the number of Christmas trees sold tops 1.1 million. In addition, 3000 letters addressed to Santa Claus will go through the Los Angeles Post Office and this county will also consume over ten million kilowatt hours of electricity to support its Christmas lights. This is the average monthly usage for many third world countries and this is just one City of thousands across the U.S.
The average American family will receive 26 cards while 650 million Christmas packages will be sent to friends and loved ones through the mail during this season. The city of Beverly Hills will spend over one million dollars on their holiday decorations while See’s Candy will sell over 12 million pounds of candy.
In the United States, retailers have glamorized Christmas as no other holiday. They lavishly decorate their stores, pipe in special music and hire men in Santa Claus suits, all for one purpose: to lure shoppers into a spirit of consuming.
So important is Christmas to the economy of the United States that the absence of such a holiday could literally paralyze the country. It has been suggested that 50% of annual profits enjoyed by retailers is generated by Christmas-related sales. Recently, an executive of one of America’s largest retail chains suggested that 75% of their profits were generated between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Tragically, all of this vast spending does not really make people happy. During this time of the year 35% to 40% of Americans will become so depressed they will use alcohol or drugs to simply cope with the emptiness they feel at this professed “joyous” time. Reacting to this gross commercialism of Christmas, numerous religious leaders have been heard to exclaim, “We ought to put Christ back in Christmas.” But the truth is, Christ was NEVER in Christmas and He never will be!
Regardless of how Christmas has been packaged it is a pagan holiday that is wholly dedicated to materialism. It is sin wrapped in colorful paper, dressed up in a red suit and swathed in soft fuzzy angel hair. People may tell themselves that they are worshiping Christ when they celebrate it, but the truth be known that Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with the Savior of mankind and He will never have anything to do with it!
As benign as these symbols may appear, make no mistake about it: they are deeply rooted in practices God condemns throughout the scriptures. God does not need the Yule log, holly, mistletoe, or any other form of vegetation used in the worship of false gods. The Bible records that while speaking to a woman from Samaria, Jesus said that God must be worshiped in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24).
The belief that these symbols are legitimately connected to Christ’s birth is totally false. They are pagan to the core and should be forsaken.
The Birth of the Messiah
The belief that Jesus was born on or near December 25 has no basis in fact. Actually, this date has a very sullied past. It was the birthday of the sun god Mithra and of Nimrod and is connected with many vile practices associated with paganism. Virtually all credible records indicate that the early Church did not even celebrate birthdays.
The World Book Encyclopedia reveals the following:
The exact date of Christ’s birth is not known. The early Christians did not celebrate His birth, because they considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom. The first mention of the observance of Christ’s birthday appears about A.D. 200. For many years, several dates were used. December 25 was first mentioned in 336. (article “Christmas”)
Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?
It is undeniable that Christmas is the most anticipated time of the year for millions of Christians. It is a time of beautiful music, delicious food, bright colors, and family reunions. However, there is one thing Christmas is not; it is not now, nor has it ever been, Christian. The Puritans understood this vital point. William Prynne wrote the following during the time of King Charles:
Our Christmas lords of Misrule… were derived from the Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them. (Book of Christian Folklore, p. 8)
As innocent and appealing as this day may appear, it has at its very roots a dark and godless origin. Tom Flynn, in his book, The Problem with Christmas, provides a very interesting observation about the message Christmas sends.
If His purpose in coming was anything like what is supposed, then in celebrating His birthday each year Christians do violence, not honor, to his memory. For in celebrating a birthday at all, we sustain exactly the kind of tradition His coming is thought to have been designed to cast down. (p.42)
It is absolutely essential to understand that God hates a lie, no matter what form it takes. Satan himself was characterized as the father of lies (Jn. 8:44) and the deceiver of the whole world (Rev. 12:9). The scriptures also reveal that Satan appears as an angel of light. Is it any wonder that festivals honoring him would possess great beauty and appeal?
A Final Thought
Is Christmas Christian? The simple answer is “no;” it is an emphatic “no!” Christmas is not Christian; it is pagan to the core. Its images and symbols were embraced from pagan practices and should be abandoned by all true believers. While speaking to the children of Israel, God gave a strong admonition concerning the assimilation of false religions into the worshiping of Him.
Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before thee; and that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, “How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise.”
Thou shalt not do so unto the Eternal thy God: for every abomination to the Eternal, which He hateth, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods. What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it. (Deut. 12:30-32)
The Bible reveals that Jesus Christ will return to this earth and establish His millennial Kingdom. When He comes, will He find His children have returned to Egypt? And what about you? Will you accept the teachings of a world that embraces pagan practices and dresses them up as Christianity, or will you worship Him in spirit and in truth?