I was told a number of years ago that some of the practices and customs of Christmas had their origins in things that were not only not Biblical but actually came from pagan practices. I remember being surprised but not really challenged or affected by what was said. I feel like I really didn't believe that what was being said was true. After a few years I think, I heard again about the root of traditions like the Christmas tree, finding out later that even the date has its origins in false idol worship. This time I was given greater proof... but I remember thinking something to the effect of: "Well, I'm not doing these things for a pagan god, I'm doing them for Jesus"
After a year or so of ignoring these realities, I did a year of volunteer work in Houston where the focus of the year was to rethink what our view of the poor was as well as taking another look at what we value in our society. We watched a film called, "What Would Jesus Buy?" Which is a film that looks at, through a very satirical lens, consumerism in the West, especially the holiday of Christmas. It was sobering and eye opening to take a look at this holiday that is so beloved and see how the main focus of the celebration (giving extravagant gifts to children) is actually very damaging in quite a lot of ways. That really made me rethink gifts for that year at least.
I then did more research into what exactly the backgrounds of the traditions of Christmas are. Here are just a few things from probably not too good of resources, but are things that continually cropped up in my research:
"In Germany, people honored the pagan god Oden during the mid-winter holiday. Germans were terrified of Oden, as they believed he made nocturnal flights through the sky to observe his people, and then decide who would prosper or perish. Because of his presence, many people chose to stay inside... In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down... In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year. In the early years of Christianity, Easter was the main holiday; the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday... Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival." Taken from History Channels website
"The evergreen tree was an ancient symbol of life in the midst of winter. Romans decorated their houses with evergreen branches during the New Year, and ancient inhabitants of northern Europe cut evergreen trees and planted them in boxes inside their houses in wintertime. Many early Christians were hostile to such practices. The second-century theologian Tertullian condemned those Christians who celebrated the winter festivals, or decorated their houses with laurel boughs in honor of the emperor: 'Let them over whom the fires of hell are imminent, affix to their posts, laurels doomed presently to burn: to them the testimonies of darkness and the omens of their penalties are suitable. You are a light of the world, and a tree ever green. If you have renounced temples, make not your own gate a temple.'" Taken from a Christianity Today article
These were pretty surprising finds to me. I then thought, as I did before, "But I'm not doing these things for the purpose of worshiping pagan gods, I'm doing these things for the One True God!"I then decided to search the scripture, and I found these verses:
29 “When the Lord your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, 30 take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods?—that I also may do the same.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 “Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it.
Deuteronomy 12:29-32 ESV
I know that people might say that this was the Old Testament and things are different now. In once sense, yes things are different now, but I heard it put another way which I think has forever changed how I look at all these things.
Someone told me to look at it kinda in this way. So, when you give your LIFE away to the LORD, you are then in a relationship with Him. Say that you are married to someone and they ask to celebrate your birthday on the birthday of someone they can't stand. All the decorations used are also things that your spouse hates. You tell them that you love them so much and love to celebrate their birthday and that though these things originate from someone else that you are doing it all for them.
Now, people could make the argument that I am criticizing people who have been celebrating Christmas for years and years and being very disrespectful and condemning to people in the past who have celebrated this way. And to that I say again, this blog post is NOT to convert someone to my point of view but to state how I came to a conclusion myself. However, considering that topic I would in NO way condemn anyone of the past in this anyway! Simply because they didn't know the truth. It says in Daniel 12:4 that knowledge will increase in the last days, and it has! I hope I would NEVER, EVER hold somebody accountable to something that they did not know about or don't follow because of sheer ignorance.
But again, this blog post isn't about that, its about what I have come to believe. So all that to say, I am no longer into the Christmas traditions anymore at all. I have found l i f e in celebrating the Biblical feasts like Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles and others. Do I condemn people who celebrate Christmas and other holidays - N O. This is just what I believe the LORD has led me to do.
Phew that's over