The Origin of Christmas
Every December, the whole world, regardless of
faith celebrates Christmas. Since childhood, I have also loved the festive atmosphere, the
Christmas carols, the gift giving, the colourful display of lights and everything
that is associated with it-- long breaks from work and school, family reunions,
parties, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, mistletoes, and then followed by the
celebration of the New Year. It is truly the grandest and longest feast of the
year. No wonder, almost everybody is captivated by this celebration, however,
blindly. Since I was a child, I didn't question the origin of Christmas since I
enjoyed it. But if we are celebrating the Holiday season as the birthday of
Jesus Christ, is it biblical? Will God accept this as an honour to Him? Let us
find out. The facts below are from
I. When was Jesus born?
Popular myth puts his birth on December 25th in
the year 1 C.E.
The New Testament gives no date or year for Jesus’
birth. The earliest gospel – St. Mark’s, written about 65 CE – begins with the
baptism of an adult Jesus. This suggests that the earliest Christians lacked
interest in or knowledge of Jesus’ birthdate.
The year of Jesus birth was determined by
Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, “abbot of a Roman monastery. His
calculation went as follows:
In the Roman, pre-Christian
era, years were counted from ab urbe condita (“the founding of the City”
[Rome]). Thus 1 AUC signifies the year Rome was founded, 5 AUC signifies the
5th year of Rome’s reign, etc.
Dionysius received a
tradition that the Roman emperor Augustus reigned 43 years, and was followed by
the emperor Tiberius.
Luke 3:1,23 indicates that
when Jesus turned 30 years old, it was the 15th year of Tiberius reign. If Jesus
was 30 years old in Tiberius’ reign, then he lived 15 years under Augustus
(placing Jesus birth in Augustus’ 28th year of reign).
Augustus took power in 727
AUC. Therefore, Dionysius put Jesus birth in 754 AUC.
However, Luke 1:5 places
Jesus’ birth in the days of Herod, and Herod died in 750 AUC – four years before
the year in which Dionysius places Jesus birth.
Joseph A. Fitzmyer – Professor Emeritus of
Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, member of the Pontifical
Biblical Commission, and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association –
writing in the Catholic Church’s official commentary on the New Testament,
writes about the date of Jesus’ birth, “Though the year [of Jesus birth is not
reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1. The Christian era,
supposed to have its starting point in the year of Jesus birth, is based on a
miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus.”
The DePascha Computus, an anonymous document
believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus birth
on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was
born on November 18. Based on historical records, Fitzmyer guesses that Jesus
birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE.
II. How Did Christmas Come to Be Celebrated
on December 25?
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.
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).
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
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.
Christians had little success, however, refining
the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the
University of Massachusetts, 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 carolling), etc.
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.
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.”
As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the
18th and 19th centuries 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 Anti-Semitic 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.
III. Can Christ be Honoured by Christmas?
The most common justification that one will hear
regarding Christmas is that people have replaced old pagan customs and intents
by asserting that they are now “focusing on Christ.” I have heard many say that
they are “honoring Christ” in their Christmas-keeping. The problem is that God
does not say this is acceptable to Him! Actually, He plainly commands against
it! Keeping Christmas dishonours Christ! He considers everything about it to be
an abomination! We will soon see why.
Christ said, “But in vain they do worship Me,
teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9). Christmas is
not a command of God—it is a tradition of men. Christ continued, “Full well
you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition”
(Mark 7:9). Every year, throughout the world, on December 25th, hundreds of
millions do just that!
We will see that God plainly commands, “Follow 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 obey or
disobey God! But woe to those who ignore the plain Word of God!
IV. Was Christ Born on December 25th?
Christ was born in the fall of the year. Many have
mistakenly believed He was born around the beginning of winter—December 25th!
They are wrong! Notice the Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 370, New York
edition: “It was custom among Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts about
the Passover [early spring], and bring them home at the commencement of the
first rain.” The first rains began in early-to-mid fall. Continuing with this
same quote: “During the time they were out, the shepherds watched them night and
day. As…the first rain began early in the month of March-esvan, which answers to
part of our October and November [begins sometime in October], we find that the
sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole summer. And as these
shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument
that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was not
born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could
He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields
by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The
feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact…See the
quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot.”
Luke 2:8 explains that when Christ was born,
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping
watch over their flock by night.” Note that they were “abiding” in the
field. This never happened in December. Both Ezra 10:9-13 and the Song of
Solomon 2:11 show that winter was the rainy season and shepherds could not stay
on cold, open fields at night.
Numerous encyclopaedias plainly state that Christ
was not born on December 25th! The Catholic Encyclopaedia directly confirms
this. In all likelihood, Christ was born in the fall! A lengthy technical
explanation would prove this point.
V. Since we now know that December 25th was
nowhere near Christ’s actual birth date, where did the festival associated with
this date come from?
Now read this quote under “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” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th Edit. Vol. II, p. 903).
A final quote about the selection of December 25th
as the birth date of Christ is necessary. Note an article in The Toronto Star,
December 1984, by Alan Edmonds, entitled, “We owe a lot to Druids, Dutch”: “The
Reformation cast a blight on Christmas. By then, of course, clever
ecclesiastical politicians had adopted the Pagan mid-winter festival as the
alleged birthdate of Jesus, of Nazareth, and thrown in a few other Pagan goodies
to make their takeover more palatable.”
December 25th was not selected because it was the
birth of Christ or because it was even near it. It was selected because it
coincided with the idolatrous pagan festival Saturnalia—and this celebration
must be carefully examined. In any event, we do not know the exact date of
Christ’s birth. While God certainly could have made it known, He chose to hide
it from the world’s eyes!
VI. Who Was Saturn?
Previous quotes introduced the subject of the
Saturnalia. Let’s carefully study just exactly who Saturn was. Consider the
following quote from another large American newspaper, The Democrat and
Chronicle, Rochester, New York, December 1984: “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, chairman of the American
Museum of Natural History—Hayden Planetarium, further confirmed the original
name of Christmas with this quote on December 18, 1989, in a Westchester, New
York, newspaper, The Reporter Dispatch:
“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
“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.”
The Saturnalia, of course, celebrated Saturn—the fire god. Saturn was the god of
sowing (planting) 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 (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
(as Nimrod, resurrected in the person of his son), Molech or Baal (as did the
Druids). These were all simply the various names for Nimrod. Nimrod was
considered the father of all the Babylonian gods.
VII. 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. Read Jeremiah 10:3-5--
For the customs of the peoples are futile; For
one cuts a tree from the forest, The work of the hands of the workman, with the
ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; They fasten it with nails and hammers
So that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, And they cannot
speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be
afraid of them, For they cannot do evil, Nor can they do any good."
Of course people these days are no longer
worshipping the tree as a god. Nevertheless, having this kind of pagan custom
and practice in a Christian home is detestable to the Lord. Read Deuteronomy
The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not
covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you
will be ensnared by it, for it is detestable to the LORD your God. Do not bring
a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for
destruction. Utterly abhor and detest it, for it is set apart for destruction.
But people will say, 'It is just a decoration, a
custom, nothing intentional against God.' To them, God will say in keeping
traditions contrary to God's copmmand,
Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your
tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses
his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to
his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me
is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you
nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition . You hypocrites! Isaiah
was right when he prophesied about you:
"'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They
worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'"
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 flavour 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.
Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who
convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament. The
text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil” who sentenced
Jesus to death.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
VII. 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 celebrates the birth of the Christian
god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.” It is a 24-hour
declaration that Judaism is no longer valid.
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.” If God wants us to celebrate
His birth, He should have made it a command, and the date of His birth should
have been fixed in the Bible.
God hated our man-made feasts:
Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have
become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.
God will remove the feasts:
"The sorrows for the appointed feasts I will remove from you; they are a
burden and a reproach to you.
I will turn your religious feasts into mourning and all your singing into
weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will
make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter
It is the very
opposite, Jesus Christ commanded all Christians to remember His death rather
than His birth.
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus,
on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he
broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in
remembrance of me." In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying,
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood ; do this, whenever you drink it,
in remembrance of me." For whenever you eat this bread and drink this
cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
many times did the early Christians remembered Christ's death? They did it
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They
broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to
their number daily those who were being saved.
Because of the importance of remembering Jesus' death, God fixed the day (John
19:31), and even the time (Mark
15:33-37) of Jesus' death on the cross. It was during the Day of
Preparation, a day before the Special Sabbath, or the Day of Passover. Today, we
know it as our Holy Week. Jesus is the ultimate
Passover lamb. That was the main purpose of why He came to
earth in flesh, to become the Passover lamb. If ever we like to celebrate
Christmas, we should do it everyday as the early Christians did with purity and
simplicity with the mindset of celebrating His death and resurrection, the
victory of God in redeeming us from death. It is not the way we do today. If we
want blessings from God and if we want blessings and peace, worship God in Truth and
Spirit for He always seek people to worship Him that way. Christians today,
however, can take this opportunity to enlighten everyone about the true meaning
of Christmas and win many souls. We can be like them, weak like them to win some
of them but we must be very careful not to be taken away by the patterns of
this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Rom
12:2). Many Christians find it hard to shun away from this world's Christmas
practice, but that is how it is-- it is difficult to become pure, to conform to
God's standard. But if we know the Truth, then the Truth shall set us free!