Before you begin to read this, please understand that I know this is an extremely controversial subject, and so I ask that before you begin, you please take a moment to read the last few paragraphs on this page. It is neither my intent nor my desire to convict others regarding how they should live their lives, only to express what we do and believe.
Let us search out and examine our ways (Lam 3:40).
I’ve always loved to ask questions. I also love to listen to the questions of others. I love a good debate, and I especially love to ask myself the questions that are meant to be rhetorical by the people who ask them. For instance, someone may say: “tithing is an Old Testament commandment. Are we supposed to stop eating pork and start wearing tassels, too?” These are my favorite kinds of questions. I firmly believe in tithing, so when someone throws out an inquiry like this, rather than question whether I should be tithing, I question whether I should be eating pork and wearing tassels! My understanding of the Bible is always open to interpretation, and I’m always ready to be challenged by someone with an opposing view. So years ago, when I heard someone say they didn’t celebrate Christmas, I immediately wanted to know why. This began an intense period of research on the matter and I discovered many things that were disturbing to me.
“I applied my heart to know, to search and seek out wisdom and the reason of things” (Ecc 7:25).
Christmas originated as a pagan holiday. It has its origin in several ancient pagan festivals, including the Yule-feast of the Norsemen and the Roman Saturnalia (1). Many pagan religions kept December the 25th as the birth day of their gods, and the symbols associated with Christmas also have their roots in pagan worship. The holly, mistletoe, and Yule log are all relics of the festival of Yule which was celebrated by German and Celtic tribes (2), and the ancient Romans “ornamented their temples and homes with green boughs and flowers. The Druids gathered mistletoe with great ceremony and hung it in their homes; and the Saxons used holly, ivy and bay” (3). “When the pagans of Northern Europe became Christians, they made their sacred evergreen trees part of the Christian festival, and decorated the trees with gilded nuts, candles (a carry-over from sun worship), and apples to stand for the stars, moon, and sun” (4).
“Thus says the Lord: Do not learn the way of the Gentiles…. For the customs of the peoples are futile; For one cuts a tree from the forest with an ax. They decorate it with silver and gold, they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple” (Jeremiah 10:2-4).
Although Jesus Christ and the saints gradually replaced the pagan deities, it came under heavy criticism from the early church and “was long considered completely out of character with the Christian ideal” (5). The festival was too popular with the pagans to be abolished, however, and so “the [Catholic] Church finally granted the necessary recognition, believing that if Christmas could not be suppressed it should be preserved in honor of the Christian God” (6). In AD 601, Pope Gregory I gave the following instructions to missionaries: “Because they [the pagans] were wont to sacrifice oxen to devils, some celebration should be given in exchange for this. . . they should celebrate a religious feast and worship God by their feasting, so that still keeping outward pleasures, they may more readily receive spiritual joys” (7). In an effort to win over the pagan world, the church adopted the heathen worship of those around them and attempted to make it their own.
“Know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God?” (Jas. 4:4).
After learning these things (and much, much more), my husband and I were forced to come to a decision. We knew that we could attempt to honor Jesus through our celebration of Christmas. We even considered cutting out many of the pagan symbols associated with the day (although Christmas without a Christmas tree really looses a lot of it’s appeal.) But no matter which way we tried to work the situation, it just didn’t seem right to us.
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” (2 Cor 16:17.)
Could we really honor Jesus by celebrating His birth on a pagan holy day? Could we take the means and methods used in the veneration of other gods, and adopt them as a way to honor our Lord and Savior? If my husband were to celebrate my birthday on the day of his ex-wife’s birthday, how would I feel about that? What if it were easier for him? What if it had always been done that way? What if that was the best time for him to take a vacation from work and throw me a party? Would I be any less hurt by his actions? Furthermore, could we really yoke ourselves to idol worshippers by participating in their holy day?
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers…” (2 Cor 16:14)
Consider the following article, written by a self-proclaimed witch:
Our Christian friends are often quite surprised at how enthusiastically we Pagans celebrate the ‘Christmas’ season. Even though we prefer to use the word “Yule”, and our celebrations may peak a few days before the twenty-fifth, we follow many of the traditional customs of the season: decorated trees, caroling, presents, Yule logs, and mistletoe. We might even go so far as putting up a ‘Nativity set’, though for us the three central characters are likely to be interpreted as Mother Nature, Father Time, and the Baby Sun-God. None of this will come as a surprise to anyone who knows the true history of the holiday, of course.
In fact, if truth be known, the holiday of Christmas has always been more Pagan than Christian, with it’s associations of Nordic divination, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism. That is why both Martin Luther and John Calvin abhorred it, why the Puritans refused to acknowledge it, much less celebrate it (to them, no day of the year could be more holy than the Sabbath), and why it was even made ILLEGAL in Boston! The holiday was already too closely associated with the birth of older Pagan gods and heroes…
…Ultimately, of course, the holiday is rooted deeply in the cycle of the year. It is the Winter Solstice that is being celebrated, seed-time of the year, the longest night and shortest day. It is the birthday of the new Sun King, the Son of God – by whatever name you choose to call him. On this darkest of nights, the Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again gives birth. And it makes perfect poetic sense that on the longest night of the winter, ‘the dark night of our souls’, there springs the new spark of hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, the Coel Coeth.
That is why Pagans have as much right to claim this holiday as Christians. Perhaps even more so, as the Christians were rather late in laying claim to it, and tried more than once to reject it…
… Remembering that most Christmas customs are ultimately based upon older Pagan customs, it only remains for modern Pagans to reclaim their lost traditions. In doing so, we can share many common customs with our Christian friends, albeit with a slightly different interpretation. And thus we all share in the beauty of this most magical of seasons, when the Mother Goddess once again gives birth to the baby Sun-God and sets the wheel in motion again. To conclude with a long-overdue paraphrase, ‘Goddess bless us, every one!’ (8)
We want to live our lives according to the standards of God, as revealed to us in the Bible. We want to worship Him in “spirit and in truth.” We do not want to mix our worship and honor of God, Most High, with that of idols.
“Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow after [the nations], and 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 God which He hates they have done to their gods… Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it, you shall not add to it nor take away from it” (Deut 12:30-32).
Billy Graham was once asked why the handful of early disciples were able to “turn the world upside down” when millions of Christians can’t turn it “right side up.” He responded:
“The early Christians didn’t conform their faith to match the world; they changed the world to match their faith. They had the truth, and they refused to water it down. They held the faith that would not compromise…The words of the apostle Paul, ‘Be not conformed to this world,’ have tremendous significance and meaning for us today. These words cut like a sharp sword across our way of life. They are not comfortable words. They separate the weak from the strong. But they are words of inspiration and challenge, and we need to hear them and heed them today” (9).
“Be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)
1.) Man, Myth & Magic, 1995, Vol. 3, p. 418 (quoted in “Christmas: The Curious Origins of a Popular Holiday,” by Jerold Aust [http://www.ucgstp.org/lit/gn/gn055/christmas.htm])
2.) Encyclopedia Britannica (1961 ed.), 6:623
3.) Ibid, 5:643.)
4.) World Book Encyclopedia, (1955 ed.), 3:1425
5.) Man, Myth & Magic, 1995, Vol. 3, p. 418 (quoted in “Christmas: The Curious Origins of a Popular Holiday,” by Jerold Aust [http://www.ucgstp.org/lit/gn/gn055/christmas.htm])
6.) Ibid, p. 418
7.) Bede, Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, (quoted in Encyclopedia Britannica, (1961 ed.), 5:643
8.) Holidays and Sabbats,
http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Cafe/1614/Celtwicc/Wicca/Wicca04.htm9.) Billy Graham, Billy Graham Answers Your Questions, World Wide Publications, Minneapolis, Minnesota, pg 123-124