Chunking Pagan Wet Blankets At Christmas Time
We love to celebrate Christmas, and for good reason. God gave the gift of His Son for our salvation. Why would we not want to celebrate that? But the pagans want to throw a wet blanket on our celebrations. Well, let’s talk about that tonight. In sum, there are two things we will discuss. Christianity overtook paganism and some of the things found in pagan celebrations are found in our Christmas celebrations. But Christmas is not a pagan holiday, nor is the celebration mostly pagan. Those silly pagans have claimed too much, so go and celebrate Christmas with vigor.
Christianity Dominates The Pagans And Takes Their Stuff
I want to begin by saying that I really have no problem with Christmas having formerly been a pagan holiday. I have no problem with parts of Christmas having formerly been a pagan holiday. And the reason is, as I heard one person put it, “we were all once pagan”. And so, the fact that pagan symbols have been conquered and coopted into our Christmas celebrations means little more to me than that it’s one more sign that we’re winning.
So, I want to begin with a passage of Scripture from Zechariah.
“And on that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more. And also I will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness.” (Zechariah 13:2 ESV)
Simply put, there are many instances of this happening in our lives. And I have no problem with it. One of those is our days of the week. The days of the week that we use all the time were named after pagan gods or pagan ceremonies.
- Sunday-“Sun’s Day”, was named after the sun god.
- Monday-“manandaeg”, it means “moon’s day” and was again a celebration of the moon god and came from Anglo-Saxon paganism.
- Tuesday-“Tiu” (Tuia)-a god of war and sky, it comes from the Norse god “tiu”
- Wednesday-“Woden’s Day”-Norse god “Odin”
- Thursday-“Thor’s Day”-norse god of thunder
- Friday-“Freya”, wife of Woden and fertility goddess
- Saturday-“Saturn’s Day”-Roman god “Saturn” who was associated with wealth and plenty
Because the idolatry of these pagans has been conquered, we no longer associate the days of the week with the false gods they were named after. And I have no problem with that. In fact, I rejoice that this is the case. I take it as a sign of Christian world domination that has been taking place for many, many years.
But people claim things that are simply not true.
Unthinking Right Side of the Road Drivers
In a society that does not read or think through matters, does not understand their roots or know their history, is easily deceived. We just don’t know why we do certain things. Therefore, it is easy to be persuaded by a young person on a video or convinced that they are right, even if they are completely off.
For instance, why do Americans drive on the right side of the road? The rest of the world drives on the left side of the road. I could make up any story right now and you would likely believe it. We’ve just done it for so long that the past few generations have not even given it any thought. We just drive on the right side of the road.
By the way, it was probably because of the use of Conestoga Wagons and the desire to let women and children on the safe side of the road. Cars were first thought of as gas powered wagons. And, you probably don’t know if I’m being truthful because you have been unthinkingly driving on the right side of the road for years.
Well, the same thing happens when we consider our Christmas celebrations. We don’t know where or when exactly they came from, so any old story looks convincing. Let’s look at a few of them.
The Unconquered Son That Is Relegated To Irrelevance
It is argued that Christians supplanted a pagan festival called Sol Invictus. It’s a favorite pagan wet blanket, but it’s also a ludicrous one. Sol Invictus means, “the Unconquered Son”, at times you will also hear folks call this a celebration about Mithras. It is often stated that we celebrate the birth of Christ at this time because it is Sol Invictus.
To this I have two responses. The first one is akin to putting my nose on my thumb and sticking out my finger. And it goes like this. The Unconquered Son has been conquered by the Eternal Son of God and the memory of the Unconquered Son has been wiped from the face of the Earth. The second response is that there is literally no evidence for this.
It is much more likely that Sol Invictus began to squash the festivities of those pesky Christians. Sol Invictus began in 274 AD and was established by the emperor Aurelian. But the first celebrations of Christmas are seen around 250-300 AD. And the first mention of this date is 200 AD. This is fascinating because Christianity was a growing belief system in Rome despite all the persecution. By 313 AD Constantine granted Christianity legal status throughout the Roman Empire. This means that only 39 years before Constantine’s decree Sol Invictus began.
Around 200 AD, Tertullian put forward the December 25th date for reasons we may scoff at today. The idea was that Jesus was perfect and his conception and death would have occurred on the same day. There were some reasons in Jewish writings used to come to this conclusion. But the idea is simple. Based on the day they believe Jesus died, he was conceived on that same day. And by traveling 9 months after that date they came up with the December 25th date. And we know that the Donatists, who were a Christian sect that ceased to exist in 312, celebrated the Christmas feast.
With all of this being the case, what is more likely? Would it be that a pagan emperor instituted a holiday to stop the growing Christians, or the growing Christians instituted a holiday to stop pagans?
It seems obvious enough to me that the idea that the Pagan Emperor desired to put down the growing Christian influence in his empire.
Another thing said about Mithras is that the Christmas story is a knock off of his ancient pagan story. And the fact that people say it with such certitude is really funny. Mithras did have a virgin birth of sorts, if that’s what you call emerging from a rock with a torch and dagger in hand. We have the accounts of Jesus’s birth in the gospels. And we can trust them. And Jesus’s birth is nothing like crawling out of a rock.
These people are funny.
Winter Solstice Is Not On December 25th
A lot of holidays have centered around Winter Solstice throughout the ages. Some of them last for a week, some a month. But for all of these, the big moment is the day that is the Winter Solstice. Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year. From that day forward there will be just a little more daylight every day. This year it is today, December 21st. It falls somewhere between December 20th and December 23rd ever year. It never falls on Christmas Day. In other words, even though many claim it to be a replacement of Winter Solstice, that is just not the case. As has already been mentioned, some of these festivals do happen around this time.
One of the holidays was the festival of Saturnalia. It centered around the Winter Solstice. It was a weeklong festival that climaxed and ended on the Winter Solstice. And, as has already been seen, that is not on Christmas.
Yule is another holiday often associated with Winter Solstice. It was a pagan holiday in Germany. Since Christianity did not reach the German people until the mid to late 300’s, there is no possible way that it affected the dating of the Christmas Holiday. I do believe that people did take some of the Yule traditions and incorporate them into Christmas traditions, but even those are far fewer than people think.
In Which The Pagans Try To Throw Our Fun Into A Volcano
And now we discuss certain traditions that we do during Christmas time. These are fun and, for us, commemorate a lot of different things about Christmas. I will admit that it is quite likely that we took some of the traditions of this time period from different cultures, conquered that culture with the gospel, and baptized a few of their traditions. And again, I have no problem with that. God conquered their puny idols and now we own some of the fun stuff. But again, people claim that almost all of our Christmas festivities come from pagan celebrations. And again, they are wrong.
Many people claim that Santa Clause was Odin, the norse god. This, of course is ludicrous. But I do believe that as Jolly Old Saint Nick began to be celebrated he took on many of the mythical characteristics of Oden.
St. Nick existed. He is Nicholas of Myra who was a bishop in the early 300’s. Nicholas of Myra gave presents to little kids in his town that were poor. I am certain that much of his life became exaggerated, but we even get the idea of stockings and presents coming down the chimney from his life. Here is the legend, Nicholas found out that there was a poor man with three daughters who could not afford to pay the dowries for their marriage. These women were either going to stay home the rest of their lives or possibly worse. And Nicholas dropped a bag of cold coins down the chimney late at night on three different occasions. And, depending on which version of the story you read, the coins landed in a sock that was hung in the chimney to dry either one or three times. You can see in this the giving of secret gifts, stockings, and gifts coming down the chimney. Added to this, or so it seems, is that Odin flew around on an 8 legged deer to give gifts. It seems the pagan myth was added to Jolly Old St. Nick to give a little fun for kids in the story. And we understand that this giving of gifts is a celebration and remembrance of God giving the greatest gift to us.
Another claim is that the Christmas tree was stolen from pagan Winter Solstice festivals. The problem with this is that basically every culture has used trees at some point to symbolize different things. It’s simply weird to claim that one culture gave us the Christmas tree. Is it possible that it was taken from ancient pagan rituals, I guess but no direct route seems to be there. It’s all just a guess. It is possible that Christianity killed paganism in Europe and some of the Yule traditions were coopted, in fact I think that did happen with some things. But we do know where our modern Christmas tree came from.
Germany had what is called the Paradise Tree. They were hung in homes during a celebration of Adam and Eve. It was a fir tree that they hung apples from to represent the Garden of Eden. Later wafers were added that were eventually replaced with cookies of different shapes. Was the use of the fir tree taken from German pagans? Maybe. But we can definitely see the history of the Christmas tree as being very Christian. And if the pagans did use the fir tree, we conquered them and use it better. The same would be true for greenery and wreaths.
The fir tree, greenery, and wreaths have symbolized renewal during the harsh winter. It seems to me that Christ’s coming into the world is a greater renewal than anything these pagans were celebrating.
I want to end simply by saying what I said in the beginning of this. I have no problem with Christmas having formerly been a pagan holiday. And I have no problem with using parts of pagan holidays to celebrate Christmas. But there are a lot of untrue claims of this that we have not though through and just bought into completely.
So, go and celebrate Christmas. Have fun! Give gifts! Spend time with one another. And remember the reason for the season. And, don’t let the pagans spoil your good time.
R. Dwain Minor