Family Life · Holidays

The Pagan Roots of Christmas…Part 3 of Our Christmas Series

“Thus saith the Lord, learn not the way of the heathen…for the customs of the people are vain.”

Jeremiah 10:1-3

When I left off in part 2 of this series, I explained why I believe that Christ’s birth should not be honored on December 25th.  Here is a recap:

Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival honoring  the deity of Saturn (which is…an idol) around the winter solstice.  The holiday was celebrated with a sacrifice at the Temple of Saturn in the Roman Forum and a public banquet, followed by private gift-giving, continual partying, and a carnival atmosphere that overturned Roman social norms.  The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and as the until the Roman Empire came under Christian rule.  Emperor Constantine desired for the Roman Empire to become Christianized, but the people still wanted their pagan holidays.  The solution?  Change the names and “meanings” of the festival to Christian themes, so everybody wins.  For example:

  • Jesus Christ was presented as the Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2) replacing the sun god, Sol Invictus.
  • Prior to the celebration of Christmas, December 25th in the Roman world was the Natalis-Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, which in honor of the sun god Mithras.  In 375 A.D., the Church of Rome merely announced that the birth date of Christ had been “discovered” to be December 25th, and the faithful would recognize it as such.

In Acts 15, the Apostles were wondering what to tell the Gentiles who had become Christians to abstain from.  Verse 20 says, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood.  We are told to turn from idol worship, not “redeem or rename” it.

I would love to share a few things I’ve learned about Christmas symbols and their meaning.

The name “Christmas” (Christ’s Mass)

As a protestant, I do not believe that mass (especially the Roman Catholic mass, from which Christ’s Mass originated from), is biblical. “Catholics always believed that the Sacrifice of Calvary is renewed on the altar at the Holy Mass. By means of the sacrificing priest, the bread and wine is changed into the very Body and Blood of Our Lord at the moment of the Consecration. The words that the priest says at this moment constitute the Transubstantiation, a change of substance.”  credit  In Roman Catholicism, the pope is the “Vicar of Christ,” meaning, as the original notion a vicar is of “earthly representative of God or Christ” but also used in sense of “person acting as parish priest in place of a real parson” credit

As a protestant, I fully reject this teaching.  Unfortunately, I have also fully accepted and embraced the term, “Christmas” for the past 33 years of my life!  This quote is from Charles Spurgeon (prior to preaching a sermon about the birth of Christ…the birth of Christ can be and should be taught at anytime of the year.  However, given the history of December 25th, I hope that more pastors would begin preaching this message at other times of the year as well.)

 “We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority.”
-Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Dec. 24, 1871

If we abhor the thought of our Lord and Savior’s very Body and Blood being partaken by a congregation, and for the Sacrifice of Calvary to be renewed time and time again as the Roman Catholic church sees to it, why do we delight in the word Christmas (Christ’s Mass)?

Santa Clause

The concept of “Santa Clause” has evolved from many different cultures throughout time.  The roots of Santa are not only grounded in Saint Nicholas as you might have heard in the past.  I’m sharing a video below, and please watch it if you would like to get a better grasp on Santa Claus.

I would also like to touch on another one of Santa’s names, Kris KringleFor example, Santa sings these words in the well-loved classic, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.

“Jingle, jingle, jingle.  You can hear those sleigh bells ring.  I am old Kris Kringle.  I’m the king of jingling.”

The name Kris Kringle is derived from the word Christkind, who is Austrian and German gift-giver, and means “Christ Child.”  I find this to be blasphemous to our Lord and Savior’s name.  Kris Kringle is also the main character’s name in the film, Miracle on 34th Street.

The Christmas Tree

Evergreen trees have been used in pagan worship since the beginning of time.  There is more information on this in the video below.  I would like to add however, this verse from Isaiah:

The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, The cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, To beautify the place of My sanctuary; And I will make the place of My feet glorious.

Isaiah 60:13

In this verse, the Lord speaks of evergreen trees beautifying His sanctuary.  From this we can take that trees in themselves are not bad, but rather what we do with them.

Stockings

Again, there are many different theories about the origin of stockings.  One such story, is that there was a widower who had three daughters.  They were poor, and the father was in despair because his daughter’s could not marry without dowries.  One night after the daughters hung their stockings over the fireplace to dry, St. Nicholas stopped by and threw gold into their stockings so they could marry.  *One a side note, I’ve found a few stories that state that the daughter’s were to go into prostitution without a dowry.  I’m not sure if this is the accurate tale or not.

Yule Log

“In Northern Europe, Winter festivities were once considered to be a Feast of the Dead, complete with ceremonies full of spirits, devils, and the haunting presence of the Norse god, Odin, and his night riders. One particularly durable Solstice festival was “Jol” (also known as “Jule” and pronounced “Yule”), a feast celebrated throughout Northern Europe and particularly in Scandinavia to honor Jolnir, another name for Odin. Since Odin was the god of intoxicating drink and ecstasy, as well as the god of death, Yule customs varied greatly from region to region. Odin’s sacrificial beer became the specially blessed Christmas ale mentioned in medieval lore, and fresh food and drink were left on tables after Christmas feasts to feed the roaming Yuletide ghosts. Even the bonfires of former ancient times survived in the tradition of the Yule Log, perhaps the most universal of all Christmas symbols.

The origins of the Yule Log can be traced back to the Midwinter festivals in which the Norsemen indulged…nights filled with feasting, “drinking Yule” and watching the fire leap around the log burning in the home hearth. The ceremonies and beliefs associated with the Yule Log’s sacred origins are closely linked to representations of health, fruitfulness and productivity. In England, the Yule was cut and dragged home by oxen or horses as the people walked alongside and sang merry songs. It was often decorated with evergreens and sometimes sprinkled with grain or cider before it was finally set alight.” source

This makes you think twice before saying “Yuletide Greetings!“, doesn’t it?

Mistletoe

“From the earliest times mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious,  and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow  life and  fertility; a protection against poison; and an aphrodisiac.   The mistletoe of  the sacred oak was especially sacred to the ancient Celtic Druids. On the sixth  night of the moon white-robed Druid priests would cut the oak mistletoe with a  golden sickle. Two white bulls would be sacrificed amid prayers that the  recipients of the mistletoe would prosper.  Later, the ritual of cutting the mistletoe from the oak came to symbolize the emasculation of the old King by his successor. Mistletoe was long regarded as both a sexual symbol and the “soul” of  the oak. It was gathered at both mid-summer and winter solstices, and the custom of using mistletoe to  decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian  traditions.” source

Giving Gifts

As Christians, we oftentimes believe that the tradition of gift giving on Christmas is in remembrance of God’s gift to us, or the gifts the Wise Men gave to Christ.  In actuality, the tradition dates back to the Roman festival Saturnalia, where revelry and debauchery took place to honor their sun god.

Christmas Carols

Please be mindful of Christmas Carols that do not teach the truth of our Savior’s birth.  For example in The First Noel, it is stated that shepherds were keeping their sheep, “on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.”  Is this scriptural?  No.   What about the songs that talks about three wise men?  Scripture talks about three gifts, but never mentions how many magi gave them.

 Friends, this is how human tradition gets entangled with scriptural truth.

Please find below a 30 minute video that a commenter graciously shared on my last post below, titled, “Why Was Christmas Banned in America until 1820?”  (Yes, even the Puritans despised this holiday, and made it illegal in Massachusetts.)  If you have further questions about this topic, please take the time to watch this video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZAL80TMLaE

Finally, I know that you might be asking yourself this question…What is wrong with celebrating Christmas, if I am doing so to celebrate Christ’s birth only, and with the purest of intentions?

In Deuteronomy 12, the Lord is warning His people about false gods.

…take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods…

Deuteronomy 12:30-31

Friends, no matter what our intentions, the Lord very clearly states that He does not want to be worshipped in the same manner as pagans have worshipped their gods.  When we celebrate Christmas as a holiday (holy day) for Him, what are we doing?

I would also like to share this brochure titled XMAS by A.W. Pink.  It is a good read.  Pink was an English Christian evangelist and theologian who known for his reformed teachings in an era dominated by opposing theological traditions.

15 thoughts on “The Pagan Roots of Christmas…Part 3 of Our Christmas Series

  1. Years ago I researched Santa Claus and have been trying to tell people how children are innocently worshipping Satan in the form of Santa Claus. We don’t do Santa Claus, or put up a Christmas tree, or stockings. All of that does take away from what we should be celebrating. We do buy our children a few gifts but we don’t want the focus on what we can get as far as gifts. Our focus is on Christ who was born in the human form to die so that we might live. My pastor doesn’t do Christmas on December 25. I think they give gifts and so forth days before. Not sure if they always do that, but I think so.
    I agree with what you have said. There’s alot of holidays that we celebrate that also have figures like Santa Claus or the Easter bunny that tries to take the focus off of Christ and onto something else. And we just have to be careful that we are honoring our Lord in how we celebrate those holidays.

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    1. Hi Jessica,

      I implore you to reconsider your “modified Christmas”!

      Here’s the bottom line:

      The Bible never told us to celebrate Jesus Christ Birthday period. By exchanging gifts in the manner in which you will on December 25th you’re still acknowledging and participating in the evil pagan man-made custom that is Christmas …. do not let Satan decieve you. Please leave it all alone, every element of it especially gift exchanging on Dec. 25th. Dec 25th has been the day other gods were born before the existance of Christ.

      I challenge you to do more research on Christmas and scripture searching on celebrating the Savior’s birth. It doesn’t matter what your focus is, focus on God’s Holy Word doing this time which makes it clear for us to not engage in any evil pagan activity and don’t let it even appear that we do (1 Thes 5:22) and again exchanging gifts on Dec. 25th is of pagan origin. Mixing the Holy with the profane will always equals profane/evil/pagan.

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  2. Just as a note, Santa Claus actually derives from a fourth century saint whose anglicized name is Saint Nicholas, If memory serves he was a Greek bishop 🙂

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    1. That is one of the origins of Santa, and the legend actually goes further back then that. 🙂 The YouTube video I shared in this post talks about the origin of Santa in greater detail.

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  3. Today’s modern Santa was created from many different world cultures. Over the generations, he has evolved into what we have today.

    The folklore of Santa Claus in different regions has trickled down through the generations.

    Not all folklore is bad, even Aesop’s fables teach valuable lessons. The bible has many parables as well.

    Traditions and folklore are what the people make them to be. Whatever tradition draws you closer to one another and to God can be a good thing.

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  4. Wow! I watched that video and now I’m gonna have to show it to my husband so we can talk and pray about this. I’m not happy to find out that my favorite holiday is based on pagan traditions, and I don’t know what we’re going to do about it. But I DO want to walk in the light even if it involves giving up some of our beloved traditions. Christ must come first. I tend to be a very black-and-white person, like you, and my husband is not so much. So I’m always struggling not to be overly legalistic in shoving my views on him. I want to respect him and not try to take over his role of leading the home. But now, I’m wondering: 1. What things could we do as a family in place of celebrating Christmas? 2. Do we need to give up all Christmas music that references Christmas traditions? (This is a biggy for me, because we LOVE music!) 3. What to do about relatives who continue to observe traditions such as Christmas trees if we choose not to? I don’t expect answers to all of that, just thinking out loud:) it’s hard to know where to draw the line on this one, since the traditions are so deeply engrained.

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  5. Continuing in reading your series and will watch this video later, thanks! I would go one step further in regards to Santa Claus. Not only is all that you mentioned make it a reason not to celebrate Santa, I think Santa distorts the view of salvation. Children get gifts if they are “good” and not if they are “bad”. What a is a gift but something with no strings attached. The Bible says salvation is a GIFT of God. When my husband and I go soul winning and knock on people’s doors and tell them about Jesus, there are many people who think they are going to heaven because they are good and because they have faith. They say all the time that a gift isn’t 100% given of the giver. We have had many say you must be good to get a gift! I can see where Santa plays right into this mess.

    Secondly, I would add your list Mary worship. Mary was a godly woman but a sinner nonetheless. I LOVE singing Christmas songs but many of them have to do with Mary more than Jesus! Thanks again for this series.

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  6. I respect your beliefs on this topic. Many Christmas traditions do have pagan roots. However, the orginial Christ’s Mass was created to celebrate Christ’s birth. It was also in January and not at the same time as the Dec. 17-25 pagan party. Each person should seek the Word and learn for themselves what to do and not do, though.

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  7. The list of sources on the pagan origins of Christmas are endless. The reason that many Christians do not submit to GOD in this area is because they think they can “redeem” it or because people have been recycling this pagan holiday for so long already that it “no longer means the same thing”. What they fail to grasp is the principle throughout Scripture of not adding the new to the old, that there’s no patching GOD on to the things of Belial, no matter how long others have been doing it (i.e. Catholics). Speaking of Catholics, their whole religion is nothing but a patchwork of adding Christian things on to pagan beliefs. The same applies to so many areas such as music, etc. We can’t take the things of the world and stamp “Jesus” on them and then use them for our own pleasure. GOD killed people in the Bible for this. I’m so thankful that more and more believers are seeing this Biblical principle and are applying it to their lives and moving past traditions in the churches that are wrong, no matter how many years they’ve “always done it this way”. 🙂

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  8. After your first post, my husband and I began to reevaluate Christmas in our home. The pagan roots are really convincing. But as we made research we began to see that there is pagan roots for so many things that are today part of our life, like birthday, wedding and funeral traditions, the days of the week, Easter, the 7th day that is not really sunday, etc. For being honest in our journey, it would have mean to get rid of ALL pagan roots in our life, so it would have mean enormous changes. And we began to think : is it really the will of God to change everything, to make ourselves similar and as weird as the Jehovah witness in the eyes of others, will we be able to reach them for Christ or only scared them? We were really confuse at that point and we continue our searches. And he found some verses that help us to think otherwise.

    “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2, 16-17)

    “”Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” If some unbeliever invites you to a meal and you want to go, eat whatever is put before you without raising questions of conscience. But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake– the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for? So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God– even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Corinthians 10, 23-33)

    “As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. ” (Romans 14, 14)

    “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves. But the man who has doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.” (Romans 14, 22-23)

    So, we conclude that we can honor God by celebrating Christmas AND we can honor God by not celebrating Christmas. We decide to choose to continue to celebrate Christmas and not make a revolution in our different traditions. We live in Quebec, Canada where the christians are only 1% of the population and we live in a town where we are the only christian family. I think it would have been a scandal for the non-believers in our community to see our family not celebrate what they see as a christian celebration. I think it would have destroy our testimony by labelling us as “too weird”.

    So we decide to honor God in keeping Christmas as it was. We never attached any pagan or demonic signification to any Christmas traditions and we do not believe it has any power. We are still open to let God change our mind if he truly want us to do so.

    Thank you for your series, I learned a lot and I’m more aware of where things come from. It push my reflection farter, for Christmas, but in different area of my spiritual life.

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  9. Hi Melanie,

    I’m just going to get straight to the point here, we are to simply get rid of Pagan things that are an intentional homage (by the individual) to other gods and pagan customs that are “Christianized”.

    So the problem with Christmas is that people are acknowledging Jesus Christ in the way of the pagans. The inception and all the pagentry of Christmas is pagan derived. So professing “Christians” are using something that was dedicated to other false gods and giving it to the True and Living God … and that’s unacceptable and condemn in scriputre by so many passages. Namely Deut 12:29-32.

    Unfortunately you have it all wrong, you’re misusing scripture, and it will behoove you to get it right asap.

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  10. Hi Eric,

    I respect your opinion, but I disagree. I entered this reflexion with honesty and prayer. I was ready to get rid of whatever God show me to, because my primary concern is to honor my Savior. I took a lot of time in seaching and reading different articles on the subject, questionning God, reading my Bible, looking at what some pastors that I find radical and conservative tought of the subject. And I came at a different conclusion as you did.

    I don’t think that I misused scriptures (and if so it was not my intention). I read it in context and was really searching the face of the Lord through it. Maybe you can tell me in what I quote, what was misundestand or misused and why. But right now, you just anwered that I’m wrong, because I don’t think the same way as you.

    I don’t think that Deut. 12, 29-32 is a proove that we should not celebrate Christmas. In these verses, I think it adress the inclination of the heart, if we do have the curiosity or the desire to do the exact same things with the exact same motives. But I don’t. And we should not take a single verse to prove our point, because New Age do that too. I don’t reject Old Testament, but I think that it always should be seen with the light of the New Testament because Jesus came to accomplish it.

    I honor God with my best understanding of his Word and I’m sure you do too. And I think that is what’s matter the most.

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