PAGAN ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS
Christmas is the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, who is considered the Son of God, and the savior of all people. With the birth of Christ, Christianity essentially begins; thus, Christmas also celebrates the beginning of Christianity.
Though Christmas is normally celebrated on the 25th of December, strong evidence suggests that Jesus may have in fact been born in the spring. Though many Christians date Christ’s birth as the end of the “Before Christ” or BC era, most believe Christ’s birth can actually be dated to 4 BC. This is a bit ironic, since the Christian era is thought to begin with the birth of Christ, but actually begins later.
Some of the images inexorably tied with Christmas are things like shepherds in the snow, and the fierce cold of a winter night when Jesus was born. This is an unlikely scenario, though it is quite possible that the Jews participating in the census and taxation were extremely crowded in Bethlehem.
Sextus Julius Africanus, a third century Christian missionary, is believed to have first espoused the theory of Christ’s birth as December 25th. This worked well when the Romans later largely converted to Christianity because Christmas could be tied to pagan winter rituals, making it more palatable. Historical records suggest some forms of Christmas celebrations dating back to the early 4th century CE.
Some, however, argued that Christmas should not be celebrated as a feast date, because of the divine nature of Christ. This position is still held by some minority Christian groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Though most see Jolly Old England as the source for many modern Christmas traditions, England actually banned celebration of Christmas from 1647-1660 in an effort to free the holiday of what was viewed as its pagan trappings and the excess and corruption of the Roman Catholic Church. This, however, was not a popular decision. England reinstated Christmas as a celebratory holiday, though tensions still ran high between the Anglican and the Roman Catholic Church.
Charles Dickens must be mentioned as inspiring many of the traditions we now regularly practice as part of Christmas celebrations. His phenomenal classic The Christmas Carol published in 1843 changed Christmas to a moderate, family oriented holiday. This differed from past celebrations which often verged on the anti-Christian, and which involved pursuing hedonism with graceless abandon.
Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” firmly established the Christmas/ Santa Claus connection. Actually many Christmas traditions are based in Germanic pagan rituals predating Christianity. Many consider Thor to be a frontrunner as an early Santa Claus figure, and the Christmas tree was once a sacrificial tree to the gods, hung brightly with dead animals.
The above narrative is from a Christian website regarding the history of Christmas. As one can see even today’s Christians acknowledge the pagan origins of there holiday. Let’s take a further look at some of the so called Christmas traditions:
The Source of Holly Wreaths, Yule Logs and Mistletoe
The Encyclopedia Americana states, “The holly, the mistletoe, the Yule log…are relics of pre-Christian time.” In other words, paganism! The Yule log was commonly used in a rite of Teutonic nature worship.
Frederick Haskin further states, “The use of Christmas wreaths is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan customs of decorating buildings and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as Christmas.”
The Encyclopedia Britannica, under “Celastrales,” exposes the origin of the holly wreath: “European pagans brought holly sprays into their homes, offering them to the fairy people of the forests as refuge from the harsh winter weather. During the Saturnalia, the Roman winter festival, branches of holly were exchanged as tokens of friendship. The earliest Roman Christians apparently used holly as a decoration at the Christmas season.”
Christmas is incomplete to many unless it involves “kissing under the mistletoe.” This pagan custom was natural on a night that involved much revelry done in the spirit of drunken orgies. Just like today, this “kissing” usually occurred at the beginning of any modern Saturnalia/Christmas celebration. I will never forget having to always kiss my friends’ mothers upon entering each of their houses every Christmas. It was the first thing that we did. I hated it—but it was something I “had to do”! Mistletoe was considered to have special powers of healing for those who “reveled” under it.
The Encyclopedia 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 that 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. It 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.”
The Origin of the Christmas Tree
No booklet about Christmas is complete without some explanation of the “Christmas tree.” We have touched on it without directly focusing on it. 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 demonstrates what the Babylonians believe 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! 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!” (Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs, p. 242).
Frederick J. Haskin’s Answers to Questions states, “The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christmas Era.” Did you know this—that the Christmas tree long preceded Christianity?
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 directly mentioned in the Bible! Turn to Jeremiah 10:2-5, “Thus says the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen…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, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.”
This plain description of the modern Christmas tree is clear. God directly refers to it as “the way of the heathen.” Just as directly, He commands His people to “learn not the way of the heathen,” calling these customs “vain.”
What About the Santa Myth?
According to Langer’s Encyclopedia of World History, (article “Santa”), “Santa” was a common name for Nimrod throughout Asia Minor. This was also the same fire god who came down the chimneys of the ancient pagans and the same fire god to whom infants were burned and eaten in human sacrifice among those who were once God’s people.
Today Santa Claus comes from “Saint Nicholas.” Washington Irving, in 1809, is responsible for remaking the original old, stern bishop of this same name into the new “jolly St. Nick” in his Knickerbocker History of New York. (Most of the rest of America’s Christmas traditions are even more recent than this.) “Old Nick” has long been recognized as a term for the devil.
In Revelation 2:6 and 15, we read about a “doctrine of the Nicolaitanes,” which Christ twice tells His Church “[He] hates.” Let’s analyze the word Nicolaitane. It means “follower of Nicholas.” Nikos means “conqueror, destroyer.” Laos means, “People.” Nicolaitanes, then, are people who follow the conqueror or destroyer—Nimrod.
Is It Scriptural to Exchange Gifts?
Merchants regularly report that over 60% of their annual retail sales occur during the Christmas shopping season. This represents a tremendous amount of gift buying. Most today believe that gift-giving comes from the Bible example of the “three wise men” (the Bible gives no number) presenting gifts to Christ. Is this true? Where did exchanging gifts come from, and what does God’s Word say about it?
The Bibliotheca Sacra states, “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” (Vol. 12, pp. 153-155).
Like every other aspect of Christmas, the shocking truth is that even this supposed Christian custom does not come from the Bible. It is an irony that people love to believe they are following the custom of the wise men giving to Christ, when actually they are giving almost exclusively to each other! The Bible actually teaches that Christians should not keep birthdays. Numerous scriptures make this principle clear.
May Allah keep protect us from following the ways of the kuffaar and give us the strength to stay firm on His Deen. Ameen!
MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIAN HOLIDAYS
PAGAN ORIGINS OF CHRISTMAS