Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

Christmas: Pagan or Christian?

on December 27, 2011

Christianity sprung from the roots of the Jewish people and the gentiles some years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The first ‘Church’ was

Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the S...
Announcement of Christ’s Birth to the Shepherds

not really a church in the way that we think of it today, but a collection of people who believed in Jesus and looked to the disciples for leadership. Just as any organization instituted in modern times, this collection of people had to develop the mission, goals, traditions, celebrations, teachings and so forth of the early church and organize it in a meaningful way. After all, if it were empty and disorganized, it would have been stale and died like a diseased flower.

These were the people who first believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the people who established the beginnings of the first Christian church. During this time, it was not only the Jews who formed this first church. The gentiles were also converted. Just as a good friend explained to me once, a gentile is another word for non-Jew or even pagan.

It is only logical that the people establishing this new religion would not abandon everything familiar to them when they chose to follow Christ. It is from these roots that the people established the traditions and symbolism of Christianity. But why are people so surprised and outright disgusted when presented with the history of various Christian traditions, celebrations and symbols? We should rejoice in the rich history and culture of our religion, not deny its existence. After all, everything has a beginning.

I believe that realizing and accepting this is a step in the correct direction to help those outside the faith to understand that it is not ignorant people who follow religion blindly, but wonderful, smart, analytical people. People who have taken to the time to think through their beliefs and are prepared to defend the faith to the skeptics.

It is on this basis that I present a brief history of Christmas day and the Christmas tree. However, don’t take my word for it. Click on my references and search for answers so that you can know for yourself as well. Take possession of your faith.

Christmas Day

World Calendar

A World Calendar

It was not until around the year 273 AD that Christ’s birthday was pinned to the calendar to be celebrated on December 25. In fact, there was much argument as to whether Christ’s birthday should be celebrated at all because celebration of the gods’ birthdays was a pagan practice. The actual day of Christ’s birth was unknown—it had never been recorded. The early Christians were left to debate on the date that his birth should be celebrated. The favored dates were January 2, April 18, April 19, April 20, May 20, May 28, March 21, March 25, November 17, and November 20. December 25 hosted two other pagan festivals, one for the Roman god Saternalia, “Unconquered Sun”, and another for the birthday of the Iranian god Mithras, “Sun of Righteousness”. It was fitting that the birth of the one true “Unconquered Sun” and “Sun of Righteousness” was celebrated instead of the pagan gods.


Additional Reading:

Christmas Tree

candlelit Christmas tree

Tree Lit with Candles

Along with morphing the birthday of the pagan sun gods into the birthday of the true God, some of the pagan traditions were absorbed into Christianity, such as the Christmas tree. Plants and trees that remained green all year had been the symbol of life because winter could not conquer them. The early church and pagans believed that these plants had special powers to keep away evil entities and sickness. Many different pagan religions used the evergreen plants in worship of their gods. In particular, the Romans decorated a tree with lit candles for their god Saternalia, “Unconquered Sun”. The decorating of the Christmas tree as it is today was not until the 16th century in Germany (legend credits Martin Luther) and nearly four centuries passed before America caught onto the idea. The symbolism of the Christmas tree is much the same as the way the Romans used it except with a Christian twist—a reminder of the miracle of the birth of the true Unconquered Son.


Additional Reading:

What do you think? When we celebrate Christmas on December 25 or decorate a Christmas tree, are we celebrating pagan traditions?


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