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Friday, December 6, 2013

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

Photo by: Feelart

I was in the fabric store with two ladies attending me behind the long counter. The talk turned to Christmas, and one was fairly animated about her plans. I shared mine. Then, the other woman started educating me about Christmas being a pagan holiday, begun by the Romans because of the winter solstice. I remember saying something about that it’s true, the date isn’t known, but that Jesus’ birth is a fact, and I think it is good to celebrate.

Some Christian families don’t celebrate Christmas because of its pagan roots. They don’t put up a tree, citing Jeremiah 10:3-4, and they deem almost all the Christmas traditions as pagan.

Let’s explore this further. You can judge for yourself.

  • No one really knows the date of Jesus’ birth. Through the ages, scholars have suggested different dates, but no one knows. We do know that He was born during Herod’s reign (37-4 B.C.). No one knows the month nor the day. Because of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus’ escape into Egypt when Herod planned to kill the babies, many believe Jesus was born a year or two before Herod’s death in 4 B.C.
  • The ancient Romans celebrated a lewd and lawless holiday called “Saturnalia” from December 17-25. Its culmination was a human sacrifice on the 25th.
  • In the 500s, the Roman Catholic Church decided that it might attract more followers if the Church incorporated Saturnalia into its calendar. The problem was that there was nothing Christian about it, so the Church proclaimed December 25th to be the date of Jesus’ birth.
  • The Puritans in America banned the observance of Christmas from 1659 to 1681. However, at that time, most Christians celebrated the birth of Christ on December 25.
  • Most Christians today celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25.

There are good people on both sides of this question.
  • Some Christians refuse to celebrate Christmas because the date was originally a pagan holiday. They’re entitled to their opinion.
  • Others feel they can joyfully celebrate Jesus’ birth at this time, understanding that December 25th is a random date chosen for the celebration of Christmas. Many churches enjoy the Christmas season for outreach and emphasizing the coming of Jesus, so that He could later save us from our sins.
  • Jesus said, To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice (from John 18:37).
  • Speaking of Mary and the Baby Jesus, the Scripture says, And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

More facts to consider:

Jesus’ birth is important in Scripture. The birth of Jesus was foretold in great detail—town, what family, how, virgin birth, etc.—by no less than five different prophets (from Moses to Hosea). The New Testament reveals how exactly each of those prophesies was fulfilled when Christ was born.

God did amazing things (miracles) so that Jesus could be born. Both Mary and Joseph realized this.
  • Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. . . . But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:18, 20-21).
  • And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. . . . And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name (Luke 1:35, 46-49).

God announced Jesus’ birth with a multitude of angels telling the news. And the angel said unto them (the shepherds), Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2:10-14).

God fashioned a special star so that wise men would know of Christ’s birth and be able to find Him. Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. . . . When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy (Matthew 2:1-2, 9-10). Notice that somehow these men knew it was a special star that told of the new King’s birth. They also followed it, which seems to indicate that it moved and then hovered over the house where Jesus was.

The incarnation is one of the basic doctrines of the Bible.
  • For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
  • And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
  • Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7).
  • And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory (1 Timothy 3:16).
  • Jesus became flesh so that He could save people from their sins.

The whole issue of whether Christmas is a pagan holiday or not reminds me of the situation in 1 Corinthians 8 where some Christians thought it was perfectly fine to eat meat offered to idols—since idols of wood and stone weren’t anything but images after all. Others, though, preferred not to eat that meat, because they felt it was tainted, since it had been offered to idols. Their conscience wouldn’t let them. The Apostle Paul admonished those who ate not to judge those who didn’t, but rather to defer to them.

If you decide it’s fine to put up a Christmas tree, decorate your house, sing carols, and give gifts at Christmas; that is your right. If you decide you can’t in good conscience do those same things, that’s your right, too. There is freedom in Christ, and it’s for you to prayerfully decide. Whether you celebrate December 25th as Jesus’ birthday or choose to do it in March, that too is your prerogative.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ (Colossians 2:16-17).

Is Christmas a pagan holiday? You decide.


  1. En verdad, es difícil, saber en que fecha realmente nació Jesucristo. Yo pienso que si celebramos nuestros nacimientos, por que no hacerlo con el de nuestros Salvador y Señor. Eso es lo que pienso yo.

    1. Sí pues, es imposible tener una fecha, pero es un hecho. ¡Y qué bendición que Jesucristo vino a la tierra para salvarnos! Gracias, Tere, por tus palabras.

  2. Thank you for the details... very informative.

    1. Thank you for your visit, Jane. God bless!

  3. I have read in some missionary books that the Christians began having celebrations of their own during some of the pagan celebrations of their culture on purpose, for several reasons: so that they wouldn't feel lonely and pulled back in by the strong habits of their former life and by their culture, and to celebrate the new life and joy they had in Christ. So I don't have a problem turning what was a pagan holiday into a Christian one. As you so ably delineated, there are many wonderful reasons for celebrating the Savior's birth, but how we do so is left up to individual consciences.

    1. Thank you, Barbara. I am thankful for Jesus!


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