Christmas is an anti-christian holiday

Most people don’t know the history of the holidays we call Christmas, and most people disagree on either what it means today or what it should mean.

I didn’t misspeak, I said “the holidays we call Christmas” because we’re really dealing with two holidays on the same day, and both are a jumble of various traditions, some religious, some secular. Of the religious traditions, some are Catholic and some are Pagan.

To start with: no on in the 1st century celebrated the birth of Christ at all. Christians met every first day of the week to remember his death, but his birth was a historical, not memorial, event. It was not something they paid special attention to remember year after year.

In fact, the earliest written account of the idea of celebrating Christ’s birth is around the year 245, by the writer Origen, who denounced the concept. He said, “of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below.”

Evidently Origen believed that it was wrong to celebrate one’s own birthday. That doesn’t make it wrong, because what he said isn’t scripture. But it does shed light on what people thought about celebrating birthdays back then.

So by 245ish, despite opposition by leading theologians of the time, people had at least thought about celebrating the birth of Christ as a feast day. And of course this is 200 years after the church began, and during that time it had already departed from the teachings that Jesus and the apostles laid down, in many, many ways.

Now the next question is this: why December 25?

The Bible of course does not record the date of Jesus’ birth, nor do any early writings. So people started to speculate.

Basically, they began to just take a guess about when they thought it could have happened.

Clement of Alexandria was in favor of May 20, others argued for April 18, April 19, and May 28. Hippolytus liked January 2. Others went for November 17, November 20.

Eventually December 25 is chosen, and a big part of that was because it was already a day celebrated by pagan sun worshippers.

That’s right, December 25 is the Winter Solstice under the Julian calendar, and that’s when the pagans celebrated their sun gods. One such festival was Sol Invictus. A slightly earlier one was the festival of Saturnalia. The area of Persia celebrated Mithra.

The idea is that they could more easily convert pagans to “Christianity” if they didn’t have to give up their holidays. Just change the sun to God and there you go.

And in case you don’t know, the “yule” in “yuletide cheer” comes from the ancient pagan festival named Yule.

The word Christmas itself comes from “Christ’s mass” because it was a Catholic holiday. You sometimes see it abbreviated Xmas, that’s because the X looks like the Greek letter CHI which was the first letter in Christ.

When was Jesus really born? We have no idea. We can speculate it was more likely the springtime since the shepherds were out and about, and I don’t think they really did that in the dead of winter. But we don’t know, because it really isn’t important.

To sum up:

1. Christians aren’t commanded to celebrate Jesus birth
2. We don’t know when it is anyway
3. The ones who started the whole thing did so because of apostasy and paganism

It’s easy to conclude then, that christians (by the Bible definition of the term) should not celebrate December 25 as any kind of a religious observance. That means no special worship services, no special collections, no nativity displays. (By the way the nativity displays are both idolatry as well as completely inaccurate).

We ought not to decorate our houses with religious symbols like crosses and pictures of angels. (And by the way, that’s also idolatry and most likely inaccurate, because angels didn’t look like what everyone things they do, but that’s another lesson.)

So, it seems obvious that we just shouldn’t celebrate Christmas, right?

Well, first I want to talk about the other Christmas.

See, there’s another holiday called Christmas, which is when people give gifts and celebrate family and such. It should be obvious that things like Santa Claus, toys, candy canes, indoor trees, magical talking snowmen, and the like have nothing, and I mean nothing to do with even the apostatized celebration of Jesus’ birth.

This Christmas is a completely secular holiday, celebrated by many people regardless of their religious beliefs.

The American Santa Claus is loosely inspired by the real-life Byzantine Saint Nicholas, who gave gifts to the poor, and Father Christmas, the original British version of the gift giver. The elements such as flying reindeer come from Germanic folklore and pagan religious elements.

It was the mid 1800’s that Santa Claus was really invented. Though a few elements come from religion, on the whole he is a completely secular figure. Elves, gingerbread men, north pole, candy canes, reindeer, snowmen, Christmas trees, tinsel, etc, all of these things are purely secular and have nothing to do with the religious holiday except that they occur on the same day.

So the question is: if a christian cannot celebrate the religious holiday of Christmas, can we still celebrate the secular holiday?

In other words, is there anything wrong with having a tree and giving gifts?

That’s where liberty comes in. I may say that I know that having a tree and giving presents is not lending any credence to false religion. And therefore I can partake in that.

But my liberty ends if it causes someone else to stumble (1 Corinthians 6). If someone is confused about this, and believe me, having two holidays with the same name on the same day can’t help but be extremely confusing, then I might cause them to stumble by my actions.

On the other hand, while we should be absolutely willing to give up whatever is necessary to keep others from stumbling, we also have a duty to educate them so they can have the same knowledge and not stumble because they have a fuller understanding.

In my family we always celebrated Christmas as just a secular holiday. We had a tree and opened presents. I personally don’t have a problem continuing to do this in my family now, provided that I am not harming anyone else.

I have a few more things to talk about before I close. One is that I said the Christmas with Santa Claus and the Christmas that’s supposed to celebrate Jesus’ birth are 2 separate traditions, and that is true, but many don’t understand that.

Some celebrate the religious holiday but not the secular: these are the “let’s all remember the true meaning of Christmas” folks. They consider the religious holiday real and the secular one to be an imposition, even though our study of history has shown there is no “true” meaning of Christmas because it’s mishmash of traditions and beliefs from many different cultures and it changed and grew over the years.

Some people celebrate the secular holiday but not the religious one, either because they don’t believe in Jesus or because they do, but they don’t believe in the Catholic/Pagan traditions observed on Christmas.

But many celebrate both and that’s where it gets confusing.

In fact, it’s gotten so confused, that I have read that some Latin American countries, primarily Catholic, such as Venezuela, actually teach that Santa Claus makes the toys but gives them to the Baby Jesus to deliver.

So remember, just because you might understand about Christmas, doesn’t mean everyone does. Let’s all take care in how you present your celebrations to others.

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2 Comments

  1. Tracy from Hatrack:

    Well, this essay mirrors very much one I wrote back in high school. I was raised in a faith that considered it a great offense to acknowledge the celebration of Christmas at all (for the same three reason your summary outlined). I was the “bah-humbug” of my little small town school, and refused to have anything to do with any celebration, and made my opinions very vocal.

    As I’ve gotten older, I realize there is nothing inherently wrong with using any day of the year just to acknowledge the incarnation of Christ, sing very pretty songs, and wish others well. I have realized that now, for most people, Christmas is more about family and tradition than anything else, and I shouldn’t try to snatch away from them what is an important part of their family identity. It would be like them telling me to stop observing Thanksgiving (an important family holiday in my family, just because of our own traditions).

    I still don’t put up a tree, or lights, and rarely give gifts on Christmas. But that is just because my family never had such a tradition (as per the first paragraph of my comment). I now attend a mainstream church that observes Christmas, and I enjoy their service, and participate, but it has no personal traditional meaning to me.

    I’ve learned to respect others desire to find more meaning in it than I do, and I’ve tried to keep myself focused away from self, and toward more compassion for others. I think that has struck a good balance in every way. I’m not out hitting people over the head with the “facts” anymore, crushing what it means to them; but I’m not trying to adopt their own traditions as mine, either. It’s all about, again, focusing on others; which I think is appropriate all year long.

  2. GreNME:

    I hate to be the one to break this to you, dude, but you’re placing a lot of trivia (some of it untrue) together as if it were empirical fact. This is really no different than every other esoteric wannabe-historicity arguments I have been discussing with others at great length in various locations. Indeed, there is an internet movie calling itself ‘Zeitgeist’ that makes similar (but not the same) errors in presenting trivia in a correlative manner to imply a factual thesis, and this posting of yours seems very similar to that.

    Origen’s writing on the subject is considered the earliest example of a Christian ‘leader’ commenting on the solstice celebration by Christians, but the mistake you make is that there is absolutely nothing to imply that this was not a phenomenon that was already present being given commentary by Origen. In fact, the way in which the practice was described very much signifies that it was a regular practice in certain areas where the growing Christian movement had been gaining converts. Furthermore, your comment that Origen’s writing somehow is a commentary on what people thought of celebrating birthdays is both a non-sequiter and an assumption on your part with absolutely no substantiation whatsoever. Depending on the geographical parts of Rome during that time, birthday celebrations were common and varied depending the local population. Your claim to the contrary is ridiculous. If you’re interested, I will be happy to provide you with several sources on birthday celebrations in late Roman antiquity, as plenty of such sources exist.

    You mention Persia as celebrating on December 25th the birthday of Mithra. This is a clear sign to me that you truly have done no actual research on your own, and are instead parrotting the incorrect claims of others in order to support a pre-concieved conclusion. I strongly encourage you to actually follow-up on such claims when you hear them, instead of taking the assertations of people without question. As a matter of fact, the December festival you mistakenly spoke of happens on December 21st, not December 25th, and it is called Shab-e Yalda. This festival is still celebrated to this day among many people in Iran (formerly known as Persia). Yes, the celebration is to commemorate the birth of Mithra (‘yalda’ means ‘birth’), but unlike the later Roman and Hellenized solstice celebrations this Persian holiday was celebrated at the beginning of the solstice and not the end. Unfortunately, this misconception and historical / cultural ignorance has been repeated so often and with such religious fervor by individuals that it seems very few people understand the significant differences, most specifically the difference in date, and as such are causing an equal amount of ignorance as is often considered regarding the Christmas holiday. Please be aware that making claims so deliberately and claiming them as fact displays a cultural arrogance that is insulting and damaging.

    While we are on the subject of incorrect dates, let’s focus on another one you get completely wrong: Saturnalia. Your claim is not supported by historical data, which shows the Saturnalia celebration being observed in the middle of the month of December and eventually being extended to a days-long celebration that ended around the first days of the solstice (days before the 25th). The mistake you make is that you seem unaware that the later Sol Invictus celebration (for the Roman Mithras, who was based on the Persian Mithra) borrowed some of its ritual from the Saturnalia celebration, though even to claim this as a source for the Christian version of the holiday would be based on baseless conjecture, since the earliest references to Deus Sol Invictus– whether talking about Mithras, Aurelian, Septimius Severus, or others– do not appear in Roman history until AT LEAST the mid-third-century. In case you aren’t keeping score, this also happens to be about the same time you have Origen’s (and Tertullian’s) commentary on the practice of the celebrations during the time of winter solstice.

    Essentially, what I am telling you is that most of your historical claims are grossly incorrect, as well as assuming far too much in the way of motive without supporting evidence.

    To sum up:

    1. The last time I checked, there is no commandment against celebrating the holiday.
    2. Knowing the actual date is irrelevant to choosing a time for people who wish to hold a religious observance, since it is the event which is being observed and not the date. In case you weren’t aware, Greek and Russian Orthodox churches celebrate on a different date.
    3. Making claims regarding the motivations behind the holiday are the mark of someone spreading dogma and not of a scholarly evaluation of historical events. You can attempt to postulate the motives if you want, but with the multitude of factual errors you provide in your text I can guarantee you that the conclusion you form is not going to be backed by the historical information you are attempting to invoke.

    Also, just so you are aware: I’m not a Christian. As a matter of fact, I tend to be critical of the heavy politicization by some groups who identify as Christian. Perhaps you might not, but a common habit for those to whom I point out these errors is to label me a Christian, a Catholic, or some other variation of the same. I don’t personally have any religious stake in any of this. I just happen to be frustrated with the overabundance of these lists of factually incorrect and flawed claims regarding ubiquitous traditions that aren’t even necessarily completely a Christian observance any more. I wouldn’t have a problem with it if any of you who make these ridiculous sermons were historically accurate, but make no mistake that you are simply sermonizing and the conclusion you are drawing is mutually exclusive from the actual historical facts.

    Happy holidays.

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