Christmas is thought to be a wonderful time, focusing participants on giving, family togetherness, beautiful music and decorations, feasting on special foods, and singing traditional carols. All of this is supposedly centered around the worship of Jesus Christ, and His birth on December 25.
Where did Christmas originate? What is the origin of Santa Claus—mistletoe—Christmas trees—holly wreaths—Yule logs—and exchanging gifts? Many seek to “put Christ back into Christmas.” Was He ever there? Surely the Bible instructs to do all these things. Or does it?
I grew up keeping Christmas, and it was a big event in our family every year. We left out none of the usual trimmings of this occasion. On Christmas Eve, excitement grew with every passing minute. After going to bed, I could neither sleep nor wait until morning to see all that “Santa” had brought me.
Christmas certainly felt wonderful to me. I trusted what my parents told me. I had no reason to doubt them. I was not taught to question the true origin of Christmas!
Most never reflect on why they believe what they believe or do what they do. We live in a world filled with customs, but few ever seek to understand their origin. We generally accept them without question. Most people basically do what everyone else does—following the crowd because it is easy!
Let’s look at the roots of Christmas. Let’s see why people follow the customs associated with it. Why is it kept on December 25? The early New Testament Church never kept it. Why?
This article introduces facts from history and Scripture that, when placed together, paint a complete picture. Let’s avoid all assumptions and only accept what can be proven!
The truth of this holiday celebration will shock you!
Nearly all aspects of Christmas observance have their roots in Roman custom and religion. We will look at many respected sources (all emphasis will be mine), starting with the following admission from The Buffalo News.
“The earliest reference to Christmas being marked on Dec. 25 comes from the second century after Jesus’ birth. It is considered likely the first Christmas celebrations were in reaction to the Roman Saturnalia, a harvest festival that marked the winter solstice—the return of the sun—and honored Saturn, the god of sowing. Saturnalia was a rowdy time, much opposed by the more austere leaders among the still-minority Christian sect. Christmas developed, one scholar says, as a means of replacing worship of the sun with worship of the Son.
“By A.D. 529, after Christianity had become the official state religion of the Roman Empire, Emperor Justinian made Christmas a civic holiday. The celebration of Christmas reached its peak—some would say its worst moments—in the medieval period when it became a time for conspicuous consumption and unequaled revelry.”
Think. It was 300 years after Christ when the Roman church began keeping Christmas!—and not until hundreds of years after this that it was mandated to be kept throughout the empire as an official festival honoring “Christ.”
Consider these admissions from the Catholic Encyclopedia, under “Christmas”: “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church…the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” Further, “Pagan customs centering around the January calends [the early days of each month] gravitated to Christmas.” Under the topic “Natal Day,” Origen, an early Catholic writer, admitted, “In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on [Jesus’] birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world.”
Encyclopedia Americana reveals: “Christmas…was not observed in the first centuries of the Christian church, since the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth…a feast was established in memory of this event [Christ’s birth] in the 4th century. In the 5th century the Western church ordered the feast to be celebrated [forever] on the day of the Mithraic rites of the birth of the sun and at the close of the Saturnalia, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”
Here are more facts from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, under the heading “Christmas”: “In the Roman world the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchanging of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness. On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain, and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian.”
Stunning information! I ask: Do you care?
Consider what The Democrat and Chronicle admitted regarding who mandated the celebration: “The Roman festival of Saturnalia, Dec. 17-24, moved citizens to decorate their homes with greens and lights and give gifts to children and the poor. The Dec. 25 festival of natalis solis invicti, the birth of the unconquered sun, was decreed by the emperor Aurelian in A.D. 274 as a Winter Solstice celebration, and sometime (later)…was Christianized as a date to celebrate the birth of the Son of Light.”
Dr. William Gutsch further publicly confirmed the true origin and nature of Christmas with this: “The early Romans were not celebrating Christmas but rather a pagan feast called the Saturnalia. It occurred each year around the beginning of winter, or the winter solstice. This was the time when the sun had taken its lowest path across the sky and the days were beginning to lengthen, thus assuring another season of growth.
“If many of the trappings of the Saturnalia, however, seem to parallel what so many of us do today, we can see where we borrowed…our holiday traditions. And indeed, it has been suggested that while Christ was most likely not born in late December, the early Christians—then still an outlawed sect—moved Christmas to the time of the Saturnalia to draw as little attention as possible to themselves while they celebrated their own holiday.”
Let’s understand. Saturnalia simply means “festival or celebration of Saturn.” Saturday derives from the name of this god, as do all the other days of the week from pagan gods—Sun’s day, Moon’s day, Tiws day, Woden’s day, Thor’s day, Frigga’s day, and Saturn’s day.
But who was Saturn? Saturn was the god of sowing—or planting—the fire god—because heat from the sun was required to allow for planting and growth of crops. He was also worshipped in this dead-of-winter festival so that he would come back (remember, he was the “sun”) and warm the earth again so that spring planting could occur. The planet Saturn was later named after him because, among all of the planets, with its rings and bright red color, it best represented the god of fire!
Virtually every civilization has a fire/sun god. The Egyptians (and sometimes Romans) called him Vulcan. The Greeks named him Kronos, as did the Phoenicians—but they also called him Saturn. The Babylonians called him Tammuz, Molech or Baal, as did the Druids. These were all simply the various names for Nimrod, the infamous biblical rebel of Genesis 10. Nimrod was considered the father of all the Babylonian gods.
There is no mistaking the origin of the modern Christmas celebration. And many more sources could be cited. Let’s tie in other facts.
The modern Christmas tree originated in Germany. But the Germans got it from the Romans, who got it from the Babylonians and the Egyptians.
The following quote from Curiosities of Popular Customs demonstrates what the Babylonians believed about the origin of the Christmas tree: “An old Babylonish fable told of an evergreen tree which sprang out of a dead tree stump. The old stump symbolized the dead Nimrod, the new evergreen tree symbolized that Nimrod had come to life again in Tammuz [a false god condemned in Ezekiel 8 as abominable]! Among the Druids the oak was sacred, among the Egyptians it was the palm, and in Rome it was the fir, which was decorated with red berries during the Saturnalia!”
The book Answers to Questions by Frederick J. Haskin states, “The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christian Era.” How many know the Christmas tree long preceded Christianity? Did you?
What the Bible Says
Most aspects of Christmas are not referred to in the Bible. Of course, the reason is that they are not from God—they are not part of the way He wants people to worship Him. The Christmas tree, however, is mentioned in the Bible! Read Jeremiah 10, verses 2-5, “Thus says 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 [I ask: why do countless millions ignore God and read their horoscopes every day?] For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne [carried], because they cannot go [of themselves]. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”
This description of the modern Christmas tree is plain. God directly refers to it as “the way of the heathen.” Just as directly, He commands: “Learn not the way of the heathen,” calling these customs “vain.” (Remember this word “vain.” It will return.)
Next, the Encyclopedia Americana states, “The holly, the mistletoe, the Yule log…are relics of pre-Christian times.” In other words, paganism! The Yule log was commonly used in a rite of Teutonic nature worship.
Frederick Haskin further states, “The use of the Christmas wreath is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan custom of decorating buildings and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as our Christmas.”
Britannica exposes the origin of the holly wreath, under the topic “Celastrales,” which are flowering plants: “European pagans brought holly sprays into their homes, offering them to the fairy people of the forests as refuges from the harsh winter weather. During the Saturnalia, the Roman winter festival”—how many times have we seen this celebration directly referenced in relation to Christmas?—“branches of holly were exchanged as tokens of friendship. The earliest Roman Christians apparently used holly as a decoration at the Christmas season.”
There are dozens of types of holly. Almost all come in male and female varieties—such as “Blue Prince and Blue Princess” or “Blue Boy and Blue Girl” or “China Boy and China Girl.” Female holly plants cannot have berries unless a nearby male plant pollinates them. It is easy to see why the holly wreath found its way into pagan rituals as a token of friendship—and fertility!
Christmas is incomplete to many unless it involves “kissing under the mistletoe.” This also pagan custom was natural on a night that involved much revelry during what were drunken sex orgies. Just like Christmas today, this “kissing” usually occurred at the beginning of the Saturnalia celebration. Mistletoe was considered to have special powers of healing for those who reveled under it.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica, under “Santalales,” states, “The European mistletoe is thought to have had special ritual significance in Druidical ceremonies and lives in folklore today, its special status as the Christmas mistletoe having come from Anglo-Saxon times.”
Mistletoe is a parasite that lives on oak trees. (Recall the Druids worshipped in oak tree groves.) The ancient Celtics—associated with the Druids—used to give mistletoe as an herbal remedy to barren animals to make them fertile. This herb is still referred to as “all healer” in Celtic.
Like mistletoe, holly berries were also thought to be sacred to the sun god. The original “sun log” came to be called the Yule log. “Yule” simply means “wheel,” which has long been a pagan representation of the sun. No wonder people today commonly speak of the “sacred yule-tide season.”
How interesting—and sobering!—are the facts of history.
The most common justification one will hear regarding Christmas is that people have replaced old pagan intents and customs by asserting that they are now “focusing on Jesus.” I have heard many say they are “honoring Christ” in their Christmas-keeping. The problem is that God does not say this is acceptable to Him! We saw He plainly commands against it! Keeping Christmas dishonors Christ!
First, Jesus made a stunning statement—but how many believe it? He said in Matthew, “But in vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (15:9). Christmas is not a command of God, it is a tradition of men—a vain one, meaning empty or useless. Christ added this in Mark: “Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition” (7:9). Every year, throughout the world, on December 25, hundreds of millions do just that! No wonder Jesus asked this in Luke: “Why call you Me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (6:46).
We saw God plainly commands, “Learn not the way of the heathen.” But most people do not fear God, and He allows them to make their own decisions. Human beings are free moral agents—free to learn or not learn what God instructs—free to obey or disobey Him!
Notice how specific God’s warning was to ancient Israel in Deuteronomy 12—and why His warning! “When the Lord your God shall cut off the nations from before you…and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them…and that you enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise. You shall not do so unto the Lord your God: for every abomination to the Lord, which He hates, have they done unto their gods…” (vs. 29-31).
Let this passage sink in. Then read Deuteronomy 20:18, which bluntly labels any practice of pagan customs to be sin. Many similar verses condemning the practices of false gods should be studied. Read Exodus 34:10-17 and chapter 23:23-33, as well as Leviticus 20:22-26, among others. These passages are so clear, so strong—and so many!
In the Second Commandment—forbidding all forms of idolatry—and in other passages, God declares He is a jealous God. He wants His people doing what HE commands, not what false gods say!
Men want to observe their own holidays—including New Year’s and Easter, Halloween and Valentine’s Day—in place of God’s annual Holy Days, and then tell themselves that they are pleasing and worshipping the true God.
Deuteronomy 12:32 makes clear that God does not want us to mix His ways with any false ways: “What thing so ever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.” In other words, do exactly what I say—nothing more, nothing less!
These are God’s plain words to all who say they can mix the horrible customs of outright paganism with a supposed “focus on Jesus.” Am I a scrooge for reporting the truth? Then what about God, who declares He hates the pagan customs associated with a pagan celebration? Will you listen to confused, deceived ministers—or to God?
The real Jesus Christ was never in and never will be in Christmas! Nor can He be put back into where He never was. You cannot re-enter a house you never entered. But the “god of this world,” Satan the devil (II Cor. 4:4), has always been in Christmas. In fact, he is seen to be its author!
The God of the Bible commands that His true worshippers “MUST worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). This does not mesh with all the pagan Christmas lies.
There is no “safety in numbers” for those who keep Christmas because Satan, the Bible states, “deceives the whole world”! (Read Revelation 12:9.) He is also called the “father of lies” (John 8:44). Recognize that Christmas is truly a testimony to the tremendous power of deception.
Christ was not born on or near December 25.
Jesus said twice that “you shall know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:16, 20). Everything that people say or do, good or bad, has fruits. The fruits of Christmas are terrible. Christmas is about getting for the self—and pure commercialism.
This season also leads the entire year in adultery, loneliness, jealousy, drunkenness and drunk driving, family arguments (and worse), and accumulation of debt that often lasts until March. This problem is so significant that almost all churches report that their incomes drop during this period as people recover from all their spending!
Obey God!—and save your money! Reject the falsehoods about the supposed right, purpose-driven Christmas. Do not be fooled by Christian-sounding names pasted over rank paganism and idolatry.