Christmas PLUS SEE

December 25- Birthday of the Sun

The Christmas super-holiday is the standard for popular observances today. Families will gather on December 25, gorge themselves on ham and turkey, stare at a decorated tree while a swooning Bing provides the ambience, and exchange billions of dollars in gifts, many of them unwanted. A crescendo of months of retailer hype will climax on one grand day of thhe Savior’s supposed birth.

But hold on. Amid the bells and booze, frolicking elves and fruitcake, many sense that something isn’t right. If Christmas is a celebration of the birth of the Savior at Bethlehem, who came to bring peace on earth and good will toward men, why isn’t there more peace and good will in our world? With so many millions observing this holiday, should not our world be changing for the better? Is this not what a “religious” observance is supposed to accomplish?

Maybe the problem is simply that people fail to catch and hold the “spirit of Christmas.” Or could the holiday itself be flawed? Why do so many people sense an emptiness at this time of year, a major letdown amid the torn gift-wrapping and crushed ribbon bows?

                                                                                                                     Where’s the Scriptural Christmas?

Christmas, after all, is supposed to be rooted in the Bible. It is assumed to honor the birth of the Savior of men in a manger at Bethlehem. (Its name is a contraction for “Christ’s Mass.”) But the overblown rites of Santa Claus, tinsel, Rudolph, gift exchanging, and football mostly obscure any religious overtones of the observance.

A revealing survey would be to poll frantic Christmas shoppers to find out how many know the origins of Christmas. Do you know what Christmas is all about? Are you mildly amused each year with newspaper and magazine articles detailing the strange, irreverent customs of Christmas? On the other hand, maybe you have found these facts somewhat troubling. Isn’t it time you honestly investigated the matter? If Christmas is that significant – the biggest holiday of the year demanding a great deal of your time and money — shouldn’t you at least know what it is actually all about? This is especially serious considering the religious flavor of Christmas. The Creator in heaven may just have a definite opinion about the observance of this holiday that you need to discover.

Do you observe Christmas because you believe it is in the Bible? Try as you might, you will not find a hint of Christmas anywhere in the Scriptures. There is neither a call to observe it nor an example where anyone in the Bible did so. Shocking? Millions are oblivious to this simple fact. As one authority puts it, “There is no historical evidence that our [Savior’s] birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or early post-apostolic times,” Christmas, p. 47, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Another writer makes this astounding statement: “The day was not one of the early feasts of the Christian church. In fact the observance of birthdays was condemned as a heathen custom repugnant to Christians,” The American Book of Days, by George W. Douglas.

What a revealing statement! The single most important religious holiday observed today in Christianity would have been FORBIDDEN in early New Testament times. Many historians and Biblical scholars corroborate this fact. Now read a candid admission from The New Catholic Encyclopedia, “Inexplicable though it seems, the date of the [Messiah’s] birth is not known. The Gospels indicate neither the day nor the month,” vol. 3, p. 656. And the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature says, “The fathers of the first three centuries do not speak of any special observance of the nativity. No corresponding festival was presented by the Old Testament ... the day and month of the birth of [the Messiah] are nowhere stated in the Gospel history, and cannot be certainly determined,” Christmas, p. 276.

Celebrating birthdays was never sanctioned in the Scriptures, nor is a birthday party ever mentioned that didn’t end in someone’s death. If Christmas is as popular and pervasive a religious holiday as retail sales indicate, why isn’t it found anywhere in the Bible? Why aren’t we told the month —let alone the day— of  the Savior’s birth?

“But what about the manger scene with shepherds and wise men?” you ask. Yes, the manger is described in the Bible, but it was never provided as a focus for the continued observance of the birthday of the Savior. Shepherds came to the manger, but the wise men visited a house up to two years later. Here’s the account of these wise men, right from Matthew 2:11, “And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary [Miriam] his mother, and fell down and worshiped Him.” 

And then there is the timing. Usually during Christmas plays someone will read the account in Luke 2:8: “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Is this describing a cold December scene? According to Jeremiah 36:22, December is wintry in the Holy Land, cold and rainy, and on occasion snow covers the ground (see Daily Life in the Time of Jesus by Henri Daniel-Rops).

Luke, however, says that sheep were still in the open fields. This had to be before the cold winter rains and snows began to fall. The livestock had not yet been moved to shelters. Notice: “It was a custom among Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts about the Passover [early spring], and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain” (Clarke’s Commentary by Adam Clarke, vol. 3, p. 370). Clarke says the first rain commences in October or November. He adds, “As these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, conse-quently, our Savior was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields ...the [Bible says] flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground the nativity in December should be given up.”

Another indication that the Savior was born in the fall rather than in winter is the fact that Caesar Augustus had declared a census or tax be made of the empire, and each citizen had to report to his hometown to register, Luke 2:1-5. Ordering the people of the empire to travel great distances in the dead of winter would have surely incited a revolt, at least among the Jews in the Holy Land. No right-minded king would have requested such a thing. He more likely would have called a census in early fall after the crops were harvested and the people had money and time to travel before bad winter weather set in.

Various prophetic Scriptures indicate that Yahshua the Messiah was born at the time of the fall Feast of Tabernacles. That may have been one reason that the inn was full when Joseph came to Bethlehem, as the city had swelled with Feast observers.


Sun (Not Son) Worship           

If Christmas is not in the Bible, where did it come from? The answer is found in every encyclopedia and in many newspapers or magazines appearing around December 25. What they say about the roots of Christmas should shock every honest Bible believer into taking a serious look at the annual observance and what it really celebrates.

Historians do not hide the fact that Christmas was an invention of the Roman church, designed to compete with the heathen Roman feast of Saturnalia in honor of the sun deity Mithras. Mithras bore remarkable similarity to the Biblical Messiah. The Mithraic feast, like Christmas, was celebrated to commemorate his birth. Notice the remarkable parallels, as detailed by Joscelyn Godwin, professor at Colgate University. She writes that Mithras was “the creator and orderer of the universe, hence a manifestation of the creative Logos or Word. Seeing mankind afflicted by Ahriman, the cosmic power of darkness, he incarnated on earth. His birth on 25 December was witnessed by shepherds. After many deeds he held a last supper with his disciples and returned to heaven. At the end of the world he will come again to judge resurrected mankind and after the last battle, victorious over evil, he will lead the chosen ones through a river of fire to a blessed immortality,” Mystery Religions in the Ancient World, p. 99. Godwin remarks, “No wonder the early Christians were disturbed by a deity who bore so close a resemblance to their own, and no wonder they considered him a mockery of [the Messiah] invented by Satan.”

These two popular movements were vying for dominance in the Roman Empire – one being  pagan sun worship, the other Christian. Historian and archaeologist Ernest Renan once wrote, “If Christianity had been halted in its growth by some mortal illness, the world would have been Mithraist” (Marc Aurele, p. 597). Caught in the middle were the Roman emperors, who wanted to unify and solidify their diverse empire. They didn’t need divisive religious factions. For political reasons, the Roman rulership saw great advantage in synchronizing and harmonizing these religious beliefs into one.

So today, much of what is accepted as Bible-based tradition is the direct result of compromising and mixing with heathen religion. Roman Emperor Constantine, a former pagan himself, gave the most significant push to the Christian-pagan blending of teachings like Christmas. Among other things, he would decree that worship for Christianity switch from the seventh day Sabbath to the first day of the week – Sun-day – the day superstitious heathens worshiped the sun.

“This tendency on the part of Christians to meet Paganism half-way was very early developed,” says Alexander Hislop in The Two Babylons, p. 93. Interestingly, Hislop notes that the pagans gave up precious little of their own beliefs and practices. “And we find Tertullian, even in his day, about the year 230, bitterly lamenting the inconsistency of the disciples of [Messiah] in this respect, and contrasting it with the strict fidelity of the Pagans to their own superstition.”                                                        

Hislop quotes Tertullian, the most ancient of the Latin church fathers whose works are extant, as he decries the early church observances: “By us who are strangers to Sabbaths and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to [Yahweh], the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia, and Matronalia are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year’s day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar.”


Why a Death Celebration Honoring a Birth?

A mass is a celebration of the Eucharist or the emblems of the death of the Savior. Yet, “Christ-mass” is an observance supposedly in honor of His birth. Why? The answer is found with the secular ancients. Mithras was known as the Sun Deity. His birthday, Natalis solis invicti, means “birthday of the invincible sun.” It came on December 25, at the time of the winter solstice when the sun began its journey northward again. Pagan peoples were overly concerned with life and fertility. They saw life fading in the darkness of winter and so held festivals in honor of and to beckon back the sun to give life and light to the earth once more. The Dictionary of the Middle Ages explains how a funeral mass came to be celebrated as the supposed birthday of the Savior:

“In patristic thought [the Messiah] had traditionally been associated with light or the sun, and the cult of the Sol invictus, sanctioned as it was by the Roman emperors since the late third century, presented a distinct threat to Christianity. Hence, to compete with this celebration the Roman church instituted a feast for the nativity of [the Messiah], who was called the Sol iustitiae .... Usually when Christians celebrated the natalis of a saint or martyr, it was his death or heavenly nativity, but in this case natalis was assigned to be [the Messiah’s] earthly birth, in direct competition with the pagan natalis,” pp. 317-318. (That is, it was to compete with the birthday of Mithras.) So confused were some about what or whom they were worshiping that Pope Leo I (440-461) chastised Christians who on Christmas celebrated the birth of the sun deity!

The sun cult was particularly strong at Rome about the time Christmas enters the historical picture, according to the New Catholic Encyclopedia. “The Feast is first mentioned at the head of the Depositio Martyrum in the Roman Chronograph of 354. Since the Depositio was composed in 336, Christmas in Rome can be dated that far at least. It is not found, however, in the lists of Feasts given by Tertullian and Origen,” vol. 3, p. 656.

Where did Mithraism come from, this Roman religion that venerated the sun deity and influenced Christianity so greatly? Kenneth Scott Latourette in A History of Christianity, traces Mithraism to the mystery religions of Egypt, Syria, and Persia. “Almost all the mystery cults eventually made their way to Rome,” he notes. “They were secret in many of their ceremonies and their members were under oath not to reveal their esoteric rites. Numbers of them centered about a savior-god who had died and had risen again. As the cults spread within the Empire they copied from one another in the easy-going syncretism which characterized much of the religious life of that realm and age,” pp. 24-25.


Nimrod: The Grandfather of Paganism

Clearly, Christmas as the observance of the Savior’s birth did not come into existence immediately. It was not observed for at least three centuries after His birth. 

But Christmas as a pagan holiday traces back thousands of years to a man named Nimrod, founder of ancient pagan Babylon. Forefather to Mithras, Nimrod began a counterfeit religion in the Book of Genesis that was to compete with the True Faith of the Bible in every conceivable way down through the centuries. The Bible refers to it as the religion of Mystery Babylon — the mother of false religion that will be destroyed when the Savior Yahshua comes to set up His throne on earth, Revelation 18. Babylon’s false worship is found today in some aspect in nearly all religions, including  churchianity.

The Madonna and child theme, which is universal or evident in hundreds of religions down through the centuries, had its origin in Babylon. Nimrod’s wife was Semiramis, the first deified queen of Babylon. She is also known variously as Diana, Aphrodite, Astarte, Rhea, and Venus. Her son was Tammuz, also called Bacchus, Adonis, and Osiris. He was the supposed reincarnated Nimrod. He came back to life when the dead yule log was cast into the fire and the evergreen tree appeared as the slain king-deity reborn at the winter solstice (The Two Babylons, p. 98). The similarities with Biblical elements found among pagan religions is not simply coincidence. It is the design of the Adversary to sidetrack seekers of truth into believing they are worshiping Scripturally.


Saturnalia – Forerunner of Modern Christmas

Tammuz, the Babylonian sun deity, was the first counterfeit savior. Yahweh in Ezekiel 8:14-18 condemns ancient Israel for adopting worship of Tammuz, which included sun worship and the asherah (phallic symbol).

“Then he brought me to the door of the gate of Yahweh’s house which was toward the north; and behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz. Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these. And he brought me into the inner court of Yahweh’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of Yahweh, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of Yahweh, and their faces toward the east; and they worshiped the sun toward the east. Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch [asherah] to their nose. Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them.”

Elements of this worship are still found in today’s Christmas rites. The Romans worshiped Tammuz as the sun deity Mithras in a special observance called the Saturnalia. The Saturnalia was named for Saturn, otherwise known as Cronus. Cronus is an alias for Tammuz. His wife and mother was Rhea (Semiramis). The Saturnalia, therefore, was just another observance for Tammuz, the Babylonian, counterfeit redeemer. The Romans kept the Saturnalia in December, at the time of the winter solstice, in honor of the returning sun. The festival lasted seven days. “All classes exchanged gifts, the commonest being waxed tapers and clay dolls,” says the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition.

Legend has it that the Saturnalia was instituted by Romulus under the name Brumalia (from bruma, rneaning winter solstice), Britannica, p. 232. “The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence,” notes the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, p. 48.

And so the church established the birthday of the Savior to coincide with the heathen feast day. “...the Latin Church, supreme in power, and infallible in judgement, placed it on the 25th of December, the very day on which the ancient Romans celebrated the feast of their goddess Bruma. Pope Julius I was the person who made this alteration” (Clarke’s Commentary).

This fact is supported by the New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, p. 223:     “December 25 was the date of the Roman pagan festival inaugurated in 274 as the birthday of the unconquered sun which at the winter solstice begins again to show an increase in light. Sometime before 336 the Church in Rome, unable to stamp out this pagan festival, spiritualized it as the Feast of the Nativity of the Sun of Righteousness.” Hislop observes, “That Christmas was originally a Pagan festival, is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, and the ceremonies with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin,” The Two Babylons, p. 93.

This blending of observances only served to confuse worshipers. By the middle of the fifth century, Pope Leo the Great rebuked his over-cautious flock for paying reverence to the Sun on the steps of St. Peter’s before turning their backs on it to worship inside the westward-facing basilica. Even some bishops, like Troy, continued to pray to the sun. He eventually went back to sun worship entirely (from The Early Church, by Henry Chadwick).


Protestants Object to Christmas Observance

As the Roman Empire grew and as merchants traveled, the customs of Christmas spread also. Cultures in northern Europe contributed some of their own traditions, or twists on some unbiblical themes, nearly all of which had a basis in Babylonian paganism. The decorated tree, St. Nick, yule log, wreaths, cookies, berries, mistletoe, bonfires, roast goose, roast pig, wassailing, caroling, and other familiar fixtures were added or embellished for the Christmas-Saturnalia in various countries.

When the Protestant movement attempted to rid itself of the excesses and sins of Roman Catholicism, there also came an opposition to Christmas that almost obliterated it entirely in England. “In England, for example, the Puritans could not tolerate this celebrating for which there was no biblical sanction. Consequently, the Roundhead Parliament of 1643 outlawed the feasts of Christmas, Easter, Whit-suntide, along with the saints’ daaays,” Celebrations, p. 312.

For a period of 12 years the staunch Puritans kept the shackles on Christmas, making it an ordinary day of business and even a day of fasting. Yet “with the Restoration in 1660 the citizens reclaimed Christmas, but it was a different festival from what it had been. The religious aspects were often neglected, with the result that the secularization of the holiday was well under way,” ibid.

In America, strong religious antagonism to the feast of Christmas lasted from 1620 to 1750 – 130 years! In 1776 General George Washington surprise-attacked the German Hessians on December 25, winning a critical Revolutionary War battle by defeating the Christmas-celebrating, drunken German mercenaries. Obviously, Christmas was not an important celebration for the father of our country!

Henry Ward Beecher, clergyman and lecturer, wrote in 1874 of his boyhood in New England, “To me Christmas is a foreign day, and I shall die so. When I was a boy I wondered what Christmas was. I knew there was such a time, because we had an Episcopal church in our town, and I saw them dressing it with evergreens, and wondered what they were taking the woods in church for; but I got no satisfactory explanation. A little later I understood it was a Romish institution, kept up by the Romish Church.” Eventually the major Protestant denominations accepted Christmas, “although they reacted violently against the corruption of the Christkindl, the Christ Child, into ’Kriss Kringle,’ ” Celebrations, pp. 315-316.


Thanks for the Memories?

Can anyone who sincerely seeks to worship in purity and truth continue practicing a legacy from rank Mystery worship?

“But Christmas gives so many memories,” some may argue. “What’s so wrong with giving the children happiness and joy at this time of the year?” From a purely human standpoint, probably nothing. If Christmas existed apart from a Creator who has very clear expectations for worship, then no harm would be done to celebrate it.

Christmas, however, is a religious holiday as well as a secular observance. Its pagan rites Almighty Yahweh outright and forcefully condemns in the Scriptures. Because of that fact alone we must heed when He thunders, “Learn not the way of the heathen!” Jeremiah 10:2.  Nor is it acceptable to the Father in heaven to take only what seems to be properly religious about Christmas and downplay the pagan attributes.

Those seeking True Worship cannot mix the holy with the profane. Paul writes, 14: “Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? 2Corinthians 6:14. We simply cannot pretend to be worshiping in truth while partaking in pagan worship rites that the Bible condemns.


They Worshiped Trees

Space prohibits us from detailing all of the customs of Christmas and their origins in the mystery religions of ancient peoples, but the Christmas tree deserves special note because of its prominent role. In Old Testament times an indispensable part of Baal worship involved the asherah, a sacred tree stem or pole (from which we get the May pole and totem pole). The asherah was a carryover of even more ancient tree worship. These asherah were used by the Canaanites in what the King James Version calls “groves.” Typically asherah sites included an altar and a stone pillar (a survivor of even older stone-worship).

Some historians believe asherahs were connected with phallic worship. “At first [asherah] may have been living trees (Deut. 16:21), but in later usage were wooden poles, perhaps erected to represent a tree,” Eerdman ’s Bible Dictionury, p. 93. Rather than condemn and destroy this rite of Canaanite Baal worship that they found in the Promised Land, the Israelites, as was their custom, chose instead to indulge in it. And because of that Almighty Yahweh allowed Israel to be taken into captivity and nearly destroyed. Read 2Kings 17:9-11.

The “green tree” is mentioned 13 times in Scripture and in every instance it is linked with idolatry! Can we find much difference between idolizing trees anciently and  adoration of Christmas trees today? Notice what the prophet Jeremiah wrote in connection with tree-idol worship: “Thus says Yahweh, learn not the way of the heathen ... for the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go ...” Jeremiah 10:2-5.

Although based in mystery worship, the modern Christmas tree traces to Europe. “...tree worship is well attested for all the great European families of the Aryan stock. Amongst the Celts the oak-worship of the Druids is familiar to everyone. Sacred groves were common among the ancient Germans, and tree-worship is hardly extinct among their descendants at the present day” (The Golden Bough, p. 58).

The ancients were very concerned about the dead vegetation in December and the waning of the sun. Fir trees were always green, symbolic of life, and to the ancients represented immortality in a dead world. They were often set on fire to portray and beckon back the sun, hence the modern practice of stringing trees with Christmas lights and round bulbs and balls. Ultimately, the Christmas evergreen springs from that old Babylonian, Nimrod. It represents the resurrected and reincarnated man-deity. “Now the Yule Log is the dead stock of Nimrod, deified as the sun-god, but cut down by his enemies; the Christmas tree is Nimrod redivivus – the slain god come to life again,” The Two Babylons. p. 98. He was reborn as his son Tammuz.

Yule (from huel meaning wheel) was a Germanic and Celtic sunfeast in the period December-January which became absorbed into Christmas. It commemorated the turn of the sun and the lengthening of the day.  The Christmas tree wasn’t found in America until 1821, brought by the Pennsylvania Germans. Christmas itself wasn’t recognized until 1836, when Alabama became the first state in America to make it a legal holiday.

Virtually every Christmas custom is connected with some man-made rite or heathen tradition that has little or nothing to do with the Bible or True Worship.  


The Right Alternative: True Bible Holy Days

In the final analysis, how could Almighty Yahweh expect His people to observe Christmas, which is so thoroughly steeped in heathen ritual? He kept the month as well as the day of the Savior’s birth hidden. The answer is obvious and clear – He never wanted it to be observed! If He did, He would have told us when and how it was to be kept, just as He did for those days He commanded in His Word.

Clearly, if Christmas were commanded in the Bible, few would be observing it — as opposed to the vast millions around the world who indulge in this ritual today. That should be proof enough that Christmas is not Scriptural. What Yahweh commands, man ignores; what He prohibits, man indulges in.

Once we are enlightened to the truth of Christmas, we find the holiday not only distasteful but totally unacceptable to Yahweh. Israel was condemned for sun worship in Ezekiel 8. Similar rites based in sun and fertility worship come alive each December 25.  

Now that you know the truth, you must make a decision. Do I continue keeping a nonBiblical observance that Yahweh condemns? Or do I start honoring the very days He commands in His Word for all True Worshipers?

His seven annual Feasts are found in Leviticus 23, the only “holidays” sanctioned in the Scriptures. These Feasts were kept by Israel, the patriarchs, the Messiah and His apostles, and will be kept worldwide in the  coming Kingdom (see Isa. 66:2-3, Ezek. 45, Zech. 14:16-18).

 The choice is yours, and so is the promise of salvation for all who obey and follow the Truth--

Second Article



by Richard A. Davis

edited by Avram Yehoshua

If we were to ask several people the meaning of Christmas, 80% of them would say, 'The birthday of Christ, of course.' Most of the others would say, 'The day we celebrate the birthday of Christ, since we really don't know just when He was born.' Several years ago that would have been my answer too.

About 23 years ago, just before Christmas, my family and I had returned from church and were listening to a well-known evangelist on the car radio. He was saying, 'Let's put Christ back into Christmas.' The thought appealed to me and I thought, 'Yes, let's put Christ back into Christmas.' I was surprised to hear a small Voice within me say, 'How can you put Christ back into something He was never in?!

This not only surprised me, but alarmed me as well. What was the meaning of this? I had been raised in a Christian home and all my life I had been taught that December 25th was the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ. I had accepted that without question. Now though, I was being challenged about it. So, I set about trying to prove what I believed.

First of all, I re-read the accounts in the Scriptures concerning the birth of our Lord. I didn't immediately find anything there that told when He was born. I went next to the library to research 'Christmas'. This is what I found:

'Christmas (i.e. the Mass of Christ) was not among the earliest festivals of the Church, and before the 5th century there was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come on the calendar, whether on January 6th, March 25th or December 25th.' (Encyclopedia Britannica)

'In Britain, December 25th was a festival long before the conversion to Christianity, for Bede relates that "the ancient peoples of the Anglo began the year on December 25th when we now celebrate the birth of the Lord; and the very night which is now so holy to us, they called the mother's night, by the reason we suspect of the ceremonies which in the night long vigil they performed.'" (Encyclopedia Britannica)

'It was according to many authorities not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian Church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons, rather than their birth' (Encyclopedia Americana)

'It is unknown just when it originated, but surely December 25th was not generally observed as the date prior to Chrysostom's time (4th century) in the Eastern Church, although much earlier in the the Western Church. There was no uniformity in the period of observing the Nativity among the early churches. Some held the festival in the month of April or May, others in January. January 6th was the usual date for the feast of the Nativity in the Eastern Church and still continues to be the date in the Armenian Church.

It is impossible to establish any date as the exact time in the year of the birth of Christ. It is often objected that December 25th cannot be the true date, for it is then the rainy season in Israel, when shepherds would hardly have been watching their flocks by night in the fields...' (The New International Encyclopedia)

This much of my research had pointed out two things. One, the encyclopedias didn't seem to have the information as to when Christ was born. And two, that December 25th didn't seem to be that time. What they did point out however, was that it was not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian Church. And that when it began to be celebrated, the date varied among the churches. This concerned me.

A question arose. If God had wanted us to celebrate the birth of His Son, wouldn't He have made the date known to us in His Word? My studies so far had told me what it was not, now to find out the original reason for the celebration of December 25th.


Further research brought more light upon the subject:

'In the 5th century, the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed. Among the German and Celtic tribes, the winter solstice was considered an important turning point of the year. They held their chief festival of Yule to commemorate the return of the burning wheel. The holly, mistletoe, Yule log and the wassail bowl are relics and symbolic of pre-Christian times...(Encyclopedia Americana)

'The early church was eager to replace pagan festivals by Christian ones. As Christianity spread, the feast of winter solstice, the time when the day begins to increase and light to triumph over darkness was easily turned into the feast of Christ, the light of life. Many of the great beliefs and usages of the old German and also Romans, relating to this matter, passed over from heathen practice into Christianity and have survived to the present day.' (The New International Encyclopedia)

Now I had found that since no one seemed to know just when Christ was born, Christianity had adopted someone else's birthday. Who was this Sol anyway upon which so much honor had been bestowed? And who or what was this burning wheel? Here was a 'chief festival' held in his honor and it had come down from pre-Christian times, and had survived to this present day. I had to know who this was that held so much honor.

'The early Church Fathers probably chose December 25th because the feast of the sun, or winter solstice, was a familiar Roman feast celebrating the victory of light over darkness. This idea was easily turned from a pagan to a Christian one since Christians consider Christ as the light of life.' (The World Book) 'The real birthday of Christ is unknown. In Rome it was kept on December 25th from about 330 AD onward, when to the 'birth of the unconquered sun' or winter solstice was opposed that of the 'sun of justice' (Christ); it can scarcely date from the 3rd century, for the earliest Christians did not keep birthdays.' (Collier's Encyclopedia)

Oh, there was the answer. The birth of the 'unconquered sun.' That didn't sound too good. Not only was December 25th not the birthday of our Lord, but it was the time that the ancient peoples celebrated the birth of the sun!

This opened up another study for me, that of sun-worship. Further study on the subject of sun-worship took me all the way back to ancient Babylon.

It seems that shortly after the Flood, man realized that the sun traveled southward for a certain length of time, during which time the days became shorter and shorter. Then, they noted that there was a day when a noticeable change was observed, and the 'return of the burning wheel' was celebrated. Light began once again to triumph over darkness; the sun was 'born again.' And so the 'Nativity of the Sun' became the chief winter festival.

There were several other aspects of worship involved which also included the other celestial bodies, but the sun was considered 'chief.' It was the sun that was thought to rule the heavens and the earth. It was the thing which they thought, gave them life.


Then I wondered how the Christmas tree and other Christmas favorites were associated with this winter festival. The World Book, under Origin of Christmas Tree related this:

'Several scholars believe the Christmas tree began in early Rome. It appears in Germany in literature in 1604. Tree worship was common in Scandinavian countries. The Swedes and Norwegians still place a small fir tree or a branch on the ridge-pole of a newly built house for good luck. When the pagans of northern Europe became Christians, they made their sacred evergreen trees a part of the Christian festivals and decorated the trees with gilded nuts, candles (a carry-over from sun worship), and apples to stand for the stars, sun and moon.'

Opening the World Book under Yule, I read this:

'The early pagans of Scandinavian countries held Yule festivals near the end of each year. After Christianity was introduced into Europe, these festivals became Christian celebrations. The custom of burning a Yule log started in pagan times. The early Norsemen honored Thor, their god of war by burning a Yule log with great ceremony during the Yule season.'

This really didn't tell me the origin of these things. However, it did say that they were a 'carry-over from sun worship.' My studies again took me back to ancient Babylon. It was nearly 4,000 years ago that these things originated. During the winter months when vegetation died and things looked bleak, it was noted that there were some things which stayed green. Among them were the evergreen trees (the fir, palm, holly, etc.) and the mistletoe.

The mistletoe was generally found in trees that were not themselves evergreen, so it was quite noticeable. The ancient peoples thought that those things that stayed green all winter somehow had the substance of the gods in them (of which the chief was the sun). So, they began to worship these ever-green things in relation to their great Sun god. They even took new born babes and tied them to the branches of evergreen trees. If they survived the night, they were dedicated to the sun god.

As these practices came down from Babylon to Egypt, Greece and Rome, they took on different names. But the practices remained the same. December 25th was claimed to be the birthday of the chief gods from Babylon to Rome, regardless of their different names.

The names of the gods seemed to vary in accordance with the name of the person ruling the people. Each succeeding ruler of the people wanted to be deified. The original Babylonian festival started when Semiramis, the wife of Nimrod, claimed that overnight, an evergreen tree sprang up from a dead tree stump beside his grave. The dead stump supposedly symbolized her dead husband Nimrod. The new evergreen tree was Nimrod come to life again in the person of the god Tammuz.

So, the practice of burning the dead stump began and the following morning (it was said) the evergreen tree had appeared; the god had been 'born again' from the dead tree stump in the form of the evergreen tree. The stump or Yule log, represented the dead stock of Nimrod and the Christmas tree was Nimrod revived, deified as the Sun god or the 'son of the Sun.'


By now my head was in a spin. All of this was so new to me. I had truly believed that December 25 was the birthday of the Lord Jesus Christ. To find that it wasn't really bothered me. To find that it was a carry-over from sun worship bothered me even more.

It is not an easy thing to discard from one's mind, that which had been put into it from childhood. At this point I began to justify and said, 'Oh, it doesn't really matter whether it is the birthday of Jesus or not. We are honoring Him and that's all that really counts.'

Then just before the next Christmas, I was sitting by the fire one evening reading the Bible. My wife was putting up lights around the windows and was in the process of decorating the Christmas tree. She wanted me to come and help her and got a bit upset when I didn't do so right away. She fell from the ladder and that really upset her. I checked to see if she was hurt and helped her up and then asked her to come and sit beside me. I was reading in Jeremiah 10:2-5:

'Thus says the Lord: Learn not the way of the heathen and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven. For the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are vain. For one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold. They fasten it with nails and with the hammer that it moves not. They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not. They must be lifted to go anywhere, because they cannot walk on their own. Be not afraid of them. For they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.'

The words just seemed to leap out at me. My wife said, 'Oh, but we are not worshiping the tree like they did then.' But the words 'Learn not the way of the heathen' began to burn themselves in my mind. And I couldn't help but see the connection between how God felt about the tree cut out of the forest and decked with gold and silver, and our Christmas tree. I began to feel uneasy about what we were doing 'for Jesus.'

The Christmas lights were not strung up that year and the tree remained undecorated. Then one day, while reading in Deuteronomy 12:29-32 I saw:

'When the Lord your God has cut off before you the nations whom you are about to enter to dispossess them, when you have dispossessed them and live in their land, take care that you are not snared into imitating them, after they have been destroyed before you. Do not inquire concerning their gods, saying, "How did these nations worship their gods? I also want to do the same." You must not do the same for the Lord your God, because every abhorrent thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods. They would even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.You must diligently observe everything that I command you. Do not add to it or take anything from it.'

These Scriptures came alive for me. I began to see how I was caught in a snare not of my own making. I was imitating the rituals for the pagan gods of Babylon and offering it to my dear Jesus.

I was worshiping Jesus the way the pagans worshiped their gods. I saw that God did not desire it. That it was not pleasing to Him.When Christmas came around again, we found ourselves not putting up the tree or exchanging presents. It was a little strange and there was a pull to participate, but we knew that it wasn't of God. I did not want to sin against Jesus.

I have found since then that there is so much anxiety attached to Christmas. Getting presents for everyone, while it seems that the whole world is doing the same thing, is no longer missed. There is such a relief, where there was so much pressure before. Not that pressure is bad, if it is from God. But we could see that Christmas pressure was not His.


Another thing we realized quite early that had to be discarded was Santa. Regardless of where he came from, I knew he had to go. In Deuteronomy 4:25, the Lord talks about the Children of Israel making 'a graven image' to provoke Him.

Some of the meanings of the word 'image' are, 'a mental picture of anything not actually present to the senses; a picture drawn by the imagination; a symbol.' When a man dresses to look like an imaginary figure (Santa), it's still an image.

The practice of teaching children that Santa is the judge of their behavior, giving them gifts if they're good, or withholding them if they're not, is unbiblical and a lie. We set up an image in their minds as to who is watching them. Where does God ever tell us to lie to our children, so they can feel good? And how many times have we been told and in turn tell our children, that Santa will bring them gifts?

How many times have you heard well meaning pastors proclaim from their pulpits that Jesus was born on December 25th? Or that we're doing it to honor the birth of Jesus. Where in God's Word does He tell us to honor the birth of His Son? Because if He does not tell us, then by whose authority are we as Christians proclaiming a holy day (Christmas) to ourselves and the world?

Do we have authority to create a holy day unto the Lord? And if we did, why pick a day of pagan sun-worship? I believe that if Jesus wanted us to celebrate His birthday, we would find it somewhere in the New Testament. If not, then it's sin.

When they finally come to the truth about Santa not being real, what will they think about this Jesus that you've been telling them? How can a child trust us if we lie to them? Would you really trust someone if they continually lied to you?

You might say, 'I do it for my children. Their faces are so glad. How could I take that away from them? Did you ever think that you could give them presents once a month? Out of a love for them, not associated with pagan things? Why must it be at Christmas?

Your children will give you everlasting thanks for telling them the truth and walking in it. Truth does have its reward also. It's called Life. God's Life and Light is not in illusion. Illusion may appear as light, but has no true Light in it.


When we realize that all of these practices originated in Babylon, we are reminded of another Scripture in Revelation 18:1-2, 4-5:

'And after these things I saw another angel come down from the Heavens, having great power and the earth was lit by his glory. He cried mightily with a strong voice saying, "Babylon the Great has fallen, has fallen and has become the habitation of devils..." And I heard another voice from the Heavens saying. "Come out of her My People, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached unto the Heavens and God has remembered her wickedness."'

The Scriptures are referring to those same practices and customs that originated in ancient Babylon. In 1st Kings 12:33, Jeroboam, King of the northern Kingdom of Israel, ordained a feast. It was in the eighth month, even in the month that he devised in his own heart.

In 1st Kings 14:14 it states: 'And God will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin and made Israel to sin.' The golden calf that Jeroboam made was associated with sun worship. Does God change His Mind? Does He destroy a people at one point in time for doing something, and allow another people later to do it?

We have more knowledge than they did in many things. The Scriptures tell us that to whom much is given, much is required. If they could not worship God any way that they wanted to, how can we? If King Jeroboam could not ordain a feast, if he could not make a day holy that God hadn't spoken of, then how can we think that we can take a pagan day, rename it Christmas, the 'birth of Christ' and that it would be alright with God?

The early Christian Church refused these practices. But over time, these pagan practices were baptized with the name of 'Christian' and they gained acceptance. But this is nothing less than a tradition of man. And we know what Jesus had to say about those in authority teaching for the commandment of God, the traditions of men.

If God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ had wanted us to celebrate His birthday or His being born, don't you think that it would be found somewhere in the New Testament?

You might say that there is good in Christmas. But what I have seen is that Christmas time is a season where the carnal man runs around 'doing good.' If that is not the case, then why does the world get involved with Christmas? Since when does the world follow God? I'm saying that we need to get back to worshiping Jesus the way He would want to be worshiped. Christmas is man giving to God, worship He does not desire. Christmas is sin. It is an offense to our Creator and Savior. It has no biblical leg to stand on and reeks of paganism.

As you decide (hopefully) not to keep Christmas, seek the Lord for wisdom in how to relate this to others. Many are not ready for this. We need to be loving and Christ-like in sharing this truth with others. As for me and my house, we will worship the Lord...the way He chooses.


The Two Alexander Hislop

The Ancient E.O. James

The Mother Goddess E.O. James

Babylon Mystery R. Woodrow


Third Article—


Christmas. The Christian feast of Jesus' birth, celebrated on 25 DEc. Its observance is first attested in Rome in 336. Probably the date was chosen to oppose the feast of the 'birthday of the unconquered sun' on the winter solstice.

From John Bowker, ed., The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (2000). Text © Oxford University Press.

Christmas. The word for Christmas in late Old English is Cristes Maesse, the Mass of Christ, first found in 1038, and Cristes-messe, in 1131. In Dutch it is Kerst-misse, in Latin Dies Natalis, whence comes the French Noël, and Italian Il natale; in German Weihnachtsfest, from the preceeding sacred vigil. The term Yule is of disputed origin. It is unconnected with any word meaning "wheel". The name in Anglo-Saxon was geol, feast: geola, the name of a month (cf. Icelandic iol a feast in December).


Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the "birthdays" of the gods.

Alexandria. The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I, xxi in P.G., VIII, 888) says that certain Egyptian theologians "over curiously" assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ's birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus. [Ideler (Chron., II, 397, n.) thought they did this believing that the ninth month, in which Christ was born, was the ninth of their own calendar.] Others reached the date of 24 or 25 Pharmuthi (19 or 20 April). With Clement's evidence may be mentioned the "De paschæ computus", written in 243 and falsely ascribed to Cyprian (P.L., IV, 963 sqq.), which places Christ's birth on 28 March, because on that day the material sun was created. But Lupi has shown (Zaccaria, Dissertazioni ecc. del p. A.M. Lupi, Faenza, 1785, p. 219) that there is no month in the year to which respectable authorities have not assigned Christ's birth. Clement, however, also tells us that the Basilidians celebrated the Epiphany, and with it, probably, the Nativity, on 15 or 11 Tybi (10 or 6 January). At any rate this double commemoration became popular, partly because the apparition to the shepherds was considered as one manifestation of Christ's glory, and was added to the greater manifestations celebrated on 6 January; partly because at the baptism-manifestation many codices (e.g. Codex Bezæ) wrongly give the Divine words as sou ei ho houios mou ho agapetos, ego semeron gegenneka se (Thou art my beloved Son, this day have I begotten thee) in lieu of en soi eudokesa (in thee I am well pleased), read in Luke 3:22. Abraham Ecchelensis (Labbe, II, 402) quotes the Constitutions of the Alexandrian Church for a dies Nativitatis et Epiphaniæ in Nicæan times; Epiphanius (Hær., li, ed. Dindorf, 1860, II, 483) quotes an extraordinary semi-Gnostic ceremony at Alexandria in which, on the night of 5-6 January, a cross-stamped Korê was carried in procession round a crypt, to the chant, "Today at this hour Korê gave birth to the Eternal"; John Cassian records in his "Collations" (X, 2 in P.L., XLIX, 820), written 418-427, that the Egyptian monasteries still observe the "ancient custom"; but on 29 Choiak (25 December) and 1 January, 433, Paul of Emesa preached before Cyril of Alexandria, and his sermons (see Mansi, IV, 293; appendix to Act. Conc. Eph.) show that the December celebration was then firmly established there, and calendars prove its permanence. The December feast therefore reached Egypt between 427 and 433.

Cyprus, Mesopotamia, Armenia, Asia Minor. In Cyprus, at the end of the fourth century, Epiphanius asserts against the Alogi (Hær., li, 16, 24 in P. G., XLI, 919, 931) that Christ was born on 6 January and baptized on 8 November. Ephraem Syrus (whose hymns belong to Epiphany, not to Christmas) proves that Mesopotamia still put the birth feast thirteen days after the winter solstice; i.e. 6 January; Armenia likewise ignored, and still ignores, the December festival. (Cf. Euthymius, "Pan. Dogm.", 23 in P.G., CXXX, 1175; Niceph., "Hist. Eccl,", XVIII, 53 in P.G., CXLVII, 440; Isaac, Catholicos of Armenia in eleventh or twelfth century, "Adv. Armenos", I, xii, 5 in P.G., CXXII, 1193; Neale, "Holy Eastern Church", Introd., p. 796). In Cappadocia, Gregory of Nyssa's sermons on St. Basil (who died before 1 January, 379) and the two following, preached on St. Stephen's feast (P.G., XLVI, 788; cf, 701, 721), prove that in 380 the 25th December was already celebrated there, unless, following Usener's too ingenious arguments (Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, Bonn, 1889, 247-250), one were to place those sermons in 383. Also, Asterius of Amaseia (fifth century) and Amphilochius of Iconium (contemporary of Basil and Gregory) show that in their dioceses both the feasts of Epiphany and Nativity were separate (P.G., XL, 337 XXXIX, 36).

Jerusalem. In 385, Silvia of Bordeaux (or Etheria, as it seems clear she should be called) was profoundly impressed by the splendid Chilhood feasts at Jerusalem. They had a definitely "Nativity" colouring; the bishop proceeded nightly to Bethlehem, returning to Jerusalem for the day celebrations. The Presentation was celebrated forty days after. But this calculation starts from 6 January, and the feast lasted during the octave of that date. (Peregr. Sylv., ed. Geyer, pp. 75 sq.) Again (p. 101) she mentions as high festivals Easter and Epiphany alone. In 385, therefore, 25 December was not observed at Jerusalem. This checks the so-called correspondence between Cyril of Jerusalem (348-386) and Pope Julius I (337-352), quoted by John of Nikiu (c. 900) to convert Armenia to 25 December (see P.L., VIII, 964 sqq.). Cyril declares that his clergy cannot, on the single feast of Birth and Baptism, make a double procession to Bethlehem and Jordan. (This later practice is here an anachronism.) He asks Julius to assign the true date of the nativity "from census documents brought by Titus to Rome"; Julius assigns 25 December. Another document (Cotelier, Patr. Apost., I, 316, ed. 1724) makes Julius write thus to Juvenal of Jerusalem (c. 425-458), adding that Gregory Nazianzen at Constantinople was being criticized for "halving" the festival. But Julius died in 352, and by 385 Cyril had made no change; indeed, Jerome, writing about 411 (in Ezech., P.L., XXV, 18), reproves Palestine for keeping Christ's birthday (when He hid Himself) on the Manifestation feast. Cosmas Indicopleustes suggests (P.G., LXXXVIII, 197) that even in the middle of the sixth century Jerusalem was peculiar in combining the two commemorations, arguing from Luke 3:23 that Christ's baptism day was the anniversary of His birthday. The commemoration, however, of David and James the Apostle on 25 December at Jerusalem accounts for the deferred feast. Usener, arguing from the "Laudatio S. Stephani" of Basil of Seleucia (c. 430. -- P.G., LXXXV, 469), thinks that Juvenal tried at least to introduce this feast, but that Cyril's greater name attracted that event to his own period.

Antioch. In Antioch, on the feast of St. Philogonius, Chrysostom preached an important sermon. The year was almost certainly 386, though Clinton gives 387, and Usener, by a long rearrangement of the saint's sermons, 388 (Religionsgeschichtl. Untersuch., pp. 227-240). But between February, 386, when Flavian ordained Chrysostom priest, and December is ample time for the preaching of all the sermons under discussion. (See Kellner, Heortologie, Freiburg, 1906, p. 97, n. 3). In view of a reaction to certain Jewish rites and feasts, Chrysostom tries to unite Antioch in celebrating Christ's birth on 25 December, part of the community having already kept it on that day for at least ten years. In the West, he says, the feast was thus kept, anothen; its introduction into Antioch he had always sought, conservatives always resisted. This time he was successful; in a crowded church he defended the new custom. It was no novelty; from Thrace to Cadiz this feast was observed -- rightly, since its miraculously rapid diffusion proved its genuineness. Besides, Zachary, who, as high-priest, entered the Temple on the Day of Atonement, received therefore announcement of John's conception in September; six months later Christ was conceived, i.e. in March, and born accordingly in December.

Finally, though never at Rome, on authority he knows that the census papers of the Holy Family are still there. [This appeal to Roman archives is as old as Justin Martyr (Apol., I, 34, 35) and Tertullian (Adv. Marc., IV, 7, 19). Julius, in the Cyriline forgeries, is said to have calculated the date from Josephus, on the same unwarranted assumptions about Zachary as did Chrysostom.] Rome, therefore, has observed 25 December long enough to allow of Chrysostom speaking at least in 388 as above (P.G., XLVIII, 752, XLIX, 351).

Constantinople. In 379 or 380 Gregory Nazianzen made himself exarchos of the new feast, i.e. its initiator, in Constantinople, where, since the death of Valens, orthodoxy was reviving. His three Homilies (see Hom. xxxviii in P.G., XXXVI) were preached on successive days (Usener, op. cit., p. 253) in the private chapel called Anastasia. On his exile in 381, the feast disappeared.

According, however, to John of Nikiu, Honorius, when he was present on a visit, arranged with Arcadius for the observation of the feast on the Roman date. Kellner puts this visit in 395; Baumstark (Oriens Chr., 1902, 441-446), between 398 and 402. The latter relies on a letter of Jacob of Edessa quoted by George of Beeltân, asserting that Christmas was brought to Constantinople by Arcadius and Chrysostom from Italy, where, "according to the histories", it had been kept from Apostolic times. Chrysostom's episcopate lasted from 398 to 402; the feast would therefore have been introduced between these dates by Chrysostom bishop, as at Antioch by Chrysostom priest. But Lübeck (Hist. Jahrbuch., XXVIII, I, 1907, pp. 109-118) proves Baumstark's evidence invalid. More important, but scarcely better accredited, is Erbes' contention (Zeitschrift f. Kirchengesch., XXVI, 1905, 20-31) that the feast was brought in by Constantine as early as 330-35.

Rome. At Rome the earliest evidence is in the Philocalian Calendar (P. L., XIII, 675; it can be seen as a whole in J. Strzygowski, Kalenderbilder des Chron. von Jahre 354, Berlin, 1888), compiled in 354, which contains three important entries. In the civil calendar 25 December is marked "Natalis Invicti". In the "Depositio Martyrum" a list of Roman or early and universally venerated martyrs, under 25 December is found "VIII kal. ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeæ". On "VIII kal. mart." (22 February) is also mentioned St. Peter's Chair. In the list of consuls are four anomalous ecclesiastical entries: the birth and death days of Christ, the entry into Rome, and martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul. The significant entry is "Chr. Cæsare et Paulo sat. XIII. hoc. cons. Dns. ihs. XPC natus est VIII Kal. ian. d. ven. luna XV," i.e. during the consulship of (Augustus) Cæsar and Paulus Our Lord Jesus Christ was born on the eighth before the calends of January (25 December), a Friday, the fourteenth day of the moon. The details clash with tradition and possibility. The epact, here XIII, is normally XI; the year is A.U.C. 754, a date first suggested two centuries later; in no year between 751 and 754 could 25 December fall on a Friday; tradition is constant in placing Christ's birth on Wednesday. Moreover the date given for Christ's death (duobus Geminis coss., i.e. A.D. 29) leaves Him only twenty eight, and one-quarter years of life. Apart from this, these entries in a consul list are manifest interpolations. But are not the two entries in the "Depositio Martyrum" also such? Were the day of Christ's birth in the flesh alone there found, it might stand as heading the year of martyrs' spiritual natales; but 22 February is there wholly out of place. Here, as in the consular fasti, popular feasts were later inserted for convenience' sake. The civil calendar alone was not added to, as it was useless after the abandonment of pagan festivals. So, even if the "Depositio Martyrum" dates, as is probable, from 336, it is not clear that the calendar contains evidence earlier than Philocalus himself, i.e. 354, unless indeed pre-existing popular celebration must be assumed to render possible this official recognition. Were the Chalki manuscript of Hippolytus genuine, evidence for the December feast would exist as early as c. 205. The relevant passage [which exists in the Chigi manuscript Without the bracketed words and is always so quoted before George Syncellus (c. 1000)] runs:

He gar prote parousia tou kyriou hemon he ensarkos [en he gegennetai] en Bethleem, egeneto [pro okto kalandon ianouarion hemera tetradi] Basileuontos Augoustou [tessarakoston kai deuteron etos, apo de Adam] pentakischiliosto kai pentakosiosto etei epathen de triakosto trito [pro okto kalandon aprilion, hemera paraskeun, oktokaidekato etei Tiberiou Kaisaros, hypateuontos Hrouphou kai Hroubellionos. -- (Comm. In Dan., iv, 23; Brotke; 19)

"For the first coming of Our Lord in the flesh [in which He has been begotten], in Bethlehem, took place [25 December, the fourth day] in the reign of Augustus [the forty-second year, and] in the year 5500 [from Adam]. And He suffered in His thirty-third year [25 March, the parasceve, in the eighteenth year of Tiberius Cæsar, during the consulate of Rufus and Rubellio]."

Interpolation is certain, and admitted by Funk, Bonwetsch, etc. The names of the consuls [which should be Fufius and Rubellius] are wrong; Christ lives thirty-three years; in the genuine Hippolytus, thirty-one; minute data are irrelevant in this discussion with Severian millenniarists; it is incredible that Hippolytus should have known these details when his contemporaries (Clement, Tertullian, etc.) are, when dealing with the matter, ignorant or silent; or should, having published them, have remained unquoted (Kellner, op. cit., p. 104, has an excursus on this passage.)

St. Ambrose (de virg., iii, 1 in P. L., XVI, 219) preserves the sermon preached by Pope Liberius I at St. Peter's, when, on Natalis Christi, Ambrose' sister, Marcellina, took the veil. This pope reigned from May, 352 until 366, except during his years of exile, 355-357. If Marcellina became a nun only after the canonical age of twenty-five, and if Ambrose was born only in 340, it is perhaps likelier that the event occurred after 357. Though the sermon abounds in references appropriate to the Epiphany (the marriage at Cana, the multiplication of loaves, etc.), these seem due (Kellner, op. cit., p. 109) to sequence of thought, and do not fix the sermon to 6 January, a feast unknown in Rome till much later. Usener, indeed, argues (p. 272) that Liberius preached it on that day in 353, instituting the Nativity feast in the December of the same year; but Philocalus warrants our supposing that if preceded his pontificate by some time, though Duchesne's relegation of it to 243 (Bull. crit., 1890, 3, pp. 41 sqq. ) may not commend itself to many. In the West the Council of Saragossa (380) still ignores 25 December (see can. xxi, 2). Pope Siricius, writing in 385 (P. L., XII, 1134) to Himerius in Spain, distinguishes the feasts of the Nativity and Apparition; but whether he refers to Roman or to Spanish use is not clear. Ammianus Marcellinus (XXI, ii) and Zonaras (Ann., XIII, 11) date a visit of Julian the Apostate to a church at Vienne in Gaul on Epiphany and Nativity respectively. Unless there were two visits, Vienne in A.D. 361 combined the feasts, though on what day is still doubtful. By the time of Jerome and Augustine, the December feast is established, though the latter (Epp., II, liv, 12, in P.L., XXXIII, 200) omits it from a list of first-class festivals. From the fourth century every Western calendar assigns it to 25 December. At Rome, then, the Nativity was celebrated on 25 December before 354; in the East, at Constantinople, not before 379, unless with Erbes, and against Gregory, we recognize it there in 330. Hence, almost universally has it been concluded that the new date reached the East from Rome by way of the Bosphorus during the great anti-Arian revival, and by means of the orthodox champions. De Santi (L'Orig. delle Fest. Nat., in Civiltæ Cattolica, 1907), following Erbes, argues that Rome took over the Eastern Epiphany, now with a definite Nativity colouring, and, with as increasing number of Eastern Churches, placed it on 25 December; later, both East and West divided their feast, leaving Ephiphany on 6 January, and Nativity on 25 December, respectively, and placing Christmas on 25 December and Epiphany on 6 January. The earlier hypothesis still seems preferable.


The Gospels. Concerning the date of Christ's birth the Gospels give no help; upon their data contradictory arguments are based. The census would have been impossible in winter: a whole population could not then be put in motion. Again, in winter it must have been; then only field labour was suspended. But Rome was not thus considerate. Authorities moreover differ as to whether shepherds could or would keep flocks exposed during the nights of the rainy season.

Zachary's temple service. Arguments based on Zachary's temple ministry are unreliable, though the calculations of antiquity (see above) have been revived in yet more complicated form, e.g. by Friedlieb (Leben J. Christi des Erlösers, Münster, 1887, p. 312). The twenty-four classes of Jewish priests, it is urged, served each a week in the Temple; Zachary was in the eighth class, Abia. The Temple was destroyed 9 Ab, A.D. 70; late rabbinical tradition says that class 1, Jojarib, was then serving. From these untrustworthy data, assuming that Christ was born A.U.C. 749, and that never in seventy turbulent years the weekly succession failed, it is calculated that the eighth class was serving 2-9 October, A.U.C. 748, whence Christ's conception falls in March, and birth presumably in December. Kellner (op. cit., pp. 106, 107) shows how hopeless is the calculation of Zachary's week from any point before or after it.

Analogy to Old Testament festivals. It seems impossible, on analogy of the relation of Passover and Pentecost to Easter and Whitsuntide, to connect the Nativity with the feast of Tabernacles, as did, e.g., Lightfoot (Horæ Hebr, et Talm., II, 32), arguing from Old Testament prophecy, e.g. Zacharias 14:16 sqq,; combining, too, the fact of Christ's death in Nisan with Daniel's prophecy of a three and one-half years' ministry (9:27), he puts the birth in Tisri, i.e. September. As undesirable is it to connect 25 December with the Eastern (December) feast of Dedication (Jos. Ant. Jud., XII, vii, 6).

Natalis Invicti. The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti, celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date. For the history of the solar cult, its position in the Roman Empire, and syncretism with Mithraism, see Cumont's epoch-making "Textes et Monuments" etc., I, ii, 4, 6, p. 355. Mommsen (Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, 12, p. 338) has collected the evidence for the feast, which reached its climax of popularity under Aurelian in 274. Filippo del Torre in 1700 first saw its importance; it is marked, as has been said, without addition in Philocalus' Calendar. It would be impossible here even to outline the history of solar symbolism and language as applied to God, the Messiah, and Christ in Jewish or Chrisian canonical, patristic, or devotional works. Hymns and Christmas offices abound in instances; the texts are well arranged by Cumont (op. cit., addit. Note C, p. 355).

The earliest rapprochement of the births of Christ and the sun is in Cypr., "De pasch. Comp.", xix, "O quam præclare providentia ut illo die quo natus est Sol . . . nasceretur Christus." - "O, how wonderfully acted Providence that on that day on which that Sun was born . . . Christ should be born." - In the fourth century, Chrysostom, "del Solst. Et Æquin." (II, p. 118, ed. 1588), says: "Sed et dominus noster nascitur mense decembris . . . VIII Kal. Ian. . . . Sed et Invicti Natalem appelant. Quis utique tam invictus nisi dominus noster? . . . Vel quod dicant Solis esse natalem, ipse est Sol iustitiæ." - "But Our Lord, too, is born in the month of December . . . the eight before the calends of January [25 December] . . ., But they call it the 'Birthday of the Unconquered'. Who indeed is so unconquered as Our Lord . . .? Or, if they say that it is the birthday of the Sun, He is the Sun of Justice." Already Tertullian (Apol., 16; cf. Ad. Nat., I, 13; Orig. c. Cels., VIII, 67, etc) had to assert that Sol was not the Christians' God; Augustine (Tract xxxiv, in Joan. In P. L., XXXV, 1652) denounces the heretical indentification of Christ with Sol. Pope Leo I (Serm. xxxvii in nat. dom., VII, 4; xxii, II, 6 in P. L., LIV, 218 and 198) bitterly reproves solar survivals -- Christians, on the very doorstep of the Apostles' basilica, turn to adore the rising sun. Sun-worship has bequeathed features to modern popular worship in Armenia, where Chistians had once temporarily and externally conformed to the cult of the material sun (Cumont, op. cit., p. 356).

But even should a deliberate and legitimate "baptism" of a pagan feast be seen here no more than the transference of the date need be supposed. The "mountain-birth" of Mithra and Christ's in the "grotto" have nothing in common: Mithra's adoring shepherds (Cumont, op. cit., I, ii, 4, p. 304 sqq.) are rather borrowed from Christian sources than vice versa.

Other theories of pagan origin. The origin of Christmas should not be sought in the Saturnalia (1-23 December) nor even in the midnight holy birth at Eleusis (see J.E. Harrison, Prolegom., p. 549) with its probable connection through Phrygia with the Naasene heretics, or even with the Alexandrian ceremony quoted above; nor yet in rites analogous to the midwinter cult at Delphi of the cradled Dionysus, with his revocation from the sea to a new birth (Harrison, op. cit., 402 sqq.).

The astronomical theory. Duchesne (Les origines du culte chrétien, Paris, 1902, 262 sqq.) advances the "astronomical" theory that, given 25 March as Christ's death-day [historically impossible, but a tradition old as Tertullian (Adv. Jud., 8)], the popular instinct, demanding an exact number of years in a Divine life, would place His conception on the same date, His birth 25 December. This theory is best supported by the fact that certain Montanists (Sozomen, Hist. Eccl., VII, 18) kept Easter on 6 April; both 25 December and 6 January are thus simultaneously explained. The reckoning, moreover, is wholly in keeping with the arguments based on number and astronomy and "convenience", then so popular. Unfortunately, there is no contemporary evidence for the celebration in the fourth century of Christ's conception on 25 March.

Conclusion. The present writer in inclined to think that, be the origin of the feast in East or West, and though the abundance of analogous midwinter festivals may indefinitely have helped the choice of the December date, the same instinct which set Natalis Invicti at the winter solstice will have sufficed, apart from deliberate adaptation or curious calculation, to set the Christian feast there too.


The calendar. The fixing of this date fixed those too of Circumcision and Presentation; of Expectation and, perhaps, Annunciation B.V.M.; and of Nativity and Conception of the Baptist (cf. Thurston in Amer. Eccl. Rev., December, 1898). Till the tenth century Christmas counted, in papal reckoning, as the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, as it still does in Bulls; Boniface VIII (1294-1303) restored temporarily this usage, to which Germany held longest.

Popular merry-making. Codex Theod., II, 8, 27 (cf. XV, 5,5) forbids, in 425, circus games on 25 December; though not till Codex Just., III, 12, 6 (529) is cessation of work imposed. The Second Council of Tours (can. xi, xvii) proclaims, in 566 or 567, the sanctity of the "twelve days" from Christmas to Epiphany, and the duty of Advent fast; that of Agde (506), in canons 63-64, orders a universal communion, and that of Braga (563) forbids fasting on Christmas Day. Popular merry-making, however, so increased that the "Laws of King Cnut", fabricated c. 1110, order a fast from Christmas to Epiphany.

The three Masses. The Gelasian and Gregorian Sacramentaries give three Masses to this feast, and these, with a special and sublime martyrology, and dispensation, if necessary, from abstinence, still mark our usage. Though Rome gives three Masses to the Nativity only, Ildefonsus, a Spanish bishop, in 845, alludes to a triple mass on Nativity, Easter, Whitsun, and Transfiguration (P.L., CVI, 888). These Masses, at midnight, dawn, and in die, were mystically connected with aboriginal, Judaic, and Christian dispensations, or (as by St. Thomas, Summa Theologica III:83:2) to the triple "birth" of Christ: in Eternity, in Time, and in the Soul. Liturgical colours varied: black, white, red, or (e.g. at Narbonne) red, white, violet were used (Durand, Rat. Div. Off., VI, 13). The Gloria was at first sung only in the first Mass of this day.

The historical origin of this triple Mass is probably as follows (cf. Thurston, in Amer. Eccl. Rev., January, 1899; Grisar, Anal. Rom., I, 595; Geschichte Roms . . . im Mittelalter I, 607, 397; Civ. Catt., 21 September, 1895, etc.): The first Mass, celebrated at the Oratorium Præsepis in St. Mary Major -- a church probably immediately assimilated to the Bethlehem basilica -- and the third, at St. Peter's, reproduced in Rome the double Christmas Office mentioned by Etheria (see above) at Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The second Mass was celebrated by the pope in the "chapel royal" of the Byzantine Court officials on the Palatine, i.e. St. Anastasia's church, originally called, like the basilica at Constantinople, Anastasis, and like it built at first to reproduce the Jerusalem Anastasis basilica -- and like it, finally, in abandoning the name "Anastasis" for that of the martyr St. Anastasia. The second Mass would therefore be a papal compliment to the imperial church on its patronal feast. The three stations are thus accounted for, for by 1143 (cf. Ord. Romani in P. L., LXXVIII, 1032) the pope abandoned distant St. Peter's, and said the third Mass at the high altar of St. Mary Major. At this third Mass Leo III inaugurated, in 800, by the coronation of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire. The day became a favourite for court ceremonies, and on it, e.g., William of Normandy was crowned at Westminster.

Dramatic presentations. The history of the dedication of the Oratorium Præsepis in the Liberian basilica, of the relics there kept and their imitations, does not belong to this discussion [cf. CRIB; RELICS. The data are well set out by Bonaccorsi (Il Natale, Rome, 1903, ch. iv)], but the practice of giving dramatic, or at least spectacular, expression to the incidents of the Nativity early gave rise to more or less liturgical mysteries. The ordinaria of Rouen and of Reims, for instance, place the officium pastorum immediately after the Te Deum and before Mass (cf. Ducange, Gloss. med. et inf. Lat., s.v. Pastores); the latter Church celebrated a second "prophetical" mystery after Tierce, in which Virgil and the Sibyl join with Old Testament prophets in honouring Christ. (For Virgil and Nativity play and prophecy see authorities in Comparetti, "Virgil in Middles Ages", p. 310 sqq.) "To out-herod Herod", i.e. to over-act, dates from Herod's violence in these plays.

The crib (creche) or nativity scene. St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 originated the crib of today by laicizing a hitherto ecclesiastical custom, henceforward extra-liturgical and popular. The presence of ox and ass is due to a misinterpretation of Isaias i:3 and Habacuc 3:2 ("Itala" version), though they appear in the unique fourth-century "Nativity" discovered in the St. Sebastian catacombs in 1877. The ass on which Balaam rode in the Reims mystery won for the feast the title Festum Asinorum (Ducange, op. cit., s.v. Festum).

Hymns and carols. The degeneration of these plays in part occasioned the diffusion of noels, pastorali, and carols, to which was accorded, at times, a quasi-liturgical position. Prudentius, in the fourth century, is the first (and in that century alone) to hymn the Nativity, for the "Vox clara" (hymn for Lauds in Advent) and "Christe Redemptor" (Vespers and Matins of Christmas) cannot be assigned to Ambrose. "A solis ortu" is certainly, however, by Sedulius (fifth century). The earliest German Weihnachtslieder date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the earliest noels from the eleventh, the earliest carols from the thirteenth. The famous "Stabat Mater Speciosa" is attributed to Jacopone da Todi (1230-1306); "Adeste Fideles" is, at the earliest, of the seventeenth century. These essentially popular airs, and even words, must, however, have existed long before they were put down in writing.

Cards and presents. Pagan customs centering round the January calends gravitated to Christmas. Tiele (Yule and Christmas, London, 1899) has collected many interesting examples. The strenæ (eacute;trennes) of the Roman 1 January (bitterly condemned by Tertullian, de Idol., xiv and x, and by Maximus of Turin, Hom. ciii, de Kal. gentil., in P. L., LVII, 492, etc.) survive as Christmas presents, cards, boxes.

The yule log. The calend fires were a scandal even to Rome, and St. Boniface obtained from Pope Zachary their abolition. But probably the Yule-log in its many forms was originally lit only in view of the cold season. Only in 1577 did it become a public ceremony in England; its popularity, however, grew immense, especially in Provence; in Tuscany, Christmas is simply called ceppo (block, log -- Bonaccorsi, op. cit., p. 145, n. 2). Besides, it became connected with other usages; in England, a tenant had the right to feed at his lord's expense as long as a wheel, i.e. a round, of wood, given by him, would burn, the landlord gave to a tenant a load of wood on the birth of a child; Kindsfuss was a present given to children on the birth of a brother or sister, and even to the farm animals on that of Christ, the universal little brother (Tiele, op. cit., p. 95 sqq.).

Greenery. Gervase of Tilbury (thirteen century) says that in England grain is exposed on Christmas night to gain fertility from the dew which falls in response to "Rorate Cæli"; the tradition that trees and flowers blossomed on this night is first quoted from an Arab geographer of the tenth century, and extended to England. In a thirteenth-century French epic, candles are seen on the flowering tree. In England it was Joseph of Arimathea's rod which flowered at Glastonbury and elsewhere; when 3 September became 14 September, in 1752, 2000 people watched to see if the Quainton thorn (cratagus præcox) would blow on Christmas New Style; and as it did not, they refused to keep the New Style festival. From this belief of the calends practice of greenery decorations (forbidden by Archbishop Martin of Braga, c. 575, P. L., LXXIII -- mistletoe was bequeathed by the Druids) developed the Christmas tree, first definitely mentioned in 1605 at Strasburg, and introduced into France and England in 1840 only, by Princess Helena of Mecklenburg and the Prince Consort respectively.

The mysterious visitor. Only with great caution should the mysterious benefactor of Christmas night -- Knecht Ruprecht, Pelzmärtel on a wooden horse, St. Martin on a white charger, St. Nicholas and his "reformed" equivalent, Father Christmas -- be ascribed to the stepping of a saint into the shoes of Woden, who, with his wife Berchta, descended on the nights between 25 December and 6 January, on a white horse to bless earth and men. Fires and blazing wheels starred the hills, houses were adorned, trials suspended and feasts celebrated (cf. Bonaccorse, op. cit., p. 151). Knecht Ruprecht, at any rate (first found in a mystery of 1668 and condemned in 1680 as a devil) was only a servant of the Holy Child.

Non-Catholic observances. But no doubt aboriginal Christian nuclei attracted pagan accretions. For the calend mumming; the extraordinary and obscene Modranicht; the cake in honour of Mary's "afterbirth", condemned (692) at the Trullan Council, canon 79; the Tabulæ Fortunæ (food and drink offered to obtain increase, and condemned in 743), see Tiele, op. cit., ch. viii, ix -- Tiele's data are perhaps of greater value than his deductions -- and Ducange (op. cit., s. vv. Cervula and Kalendæ).

In England, Christmas was forbidden by Act of Parliament in 1644; the day was to be a fast and a market day; shops were compelled to be open; plum puddings and mince pies condemned as heathen. The conservatives resisted; at Canterbury blood was shed; but after the Restoration Dissenters continued to call Yuletide "Fooltide".

From The Catholic Encyclopedia, 15 vols. (Robert Appleton Co., 1907-1912). Text in the public domain.

© 2005 Internet Encyclopedia of Religion, except where otherwise indicated. All rights reserved.

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For other uses, see Christmas (disambiguation).



Christmas tree in a Danish home, 2004

Also called

Christ's Mass
Winter holiday

Observed by

Christians around the world as well as by non-Christians who observe the secular aspects of the holiday.




traditional birthdate of Jesus


December 25
(January 7 in Old Calendarist Orthodox Churches)


religious services, gift giving, family meetings, decorating trees

Related to

Annunciation, Incarnation; Crucifixion; Advent, the four weeks preceding Christmas; and the period between the day after Thanksgiving and the Sunday after New Year's Day, the American holiday season

Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual Christian and secular holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus with many secular winter festival themes. It is traditionally observed on December 25. Eastern Orthodox Churches celebrate it on January 7, which corresponds to December 25 of the Julian calendar. These dates are merely traditional; the precise chronology of Jesus' birth and death is still debated. Christmas has many popular aspects, some religious and many secular, including the exchange of gifts, Santa Claus, decoration and display of the Christmas tree, and religious ceremonies.

Global spread of Christianity has led to Christmas being celebrated in most countries around the world. The holiday has also been vastly adopted by non-Christians as a secular winter festival, namely in Hong Kong and the PRC whereas there are small Christian populations. Examples of past winter festivals that have influenced Christmas include the festivals of Yule[1] and Saturnalia. Many of the traditions associated with the holiday have origins in these pagan winter celebrations.

Various local and regional Christmas traditions are still practiced, despite the widespread influence of American and British Christmas motifs disseminated by film, popular literature, television, and other media.




The word Christmas is derived from Middle English Christemasse and from Old English Cristes mæsse.[2] It is a contraction meaning "Christ's mass".

The name of the holiday is sometimes shortened to Xmas because Roman letter "X" resembles the Greek letter Χ (chi), an abbreviation for Christ (Χριστός).


Pre-Christian origins of holiday

Christmas has its origins in several pagan holidays. The celebration known as Saturnalia included the making and giving of small presents (saturnalia et sigillaricia). This holiday was observed over a series of days beginning on December 17 (the birthday of Saturn) and ending on December 25 (the birthday of Sol Invictus, the "unconquered sun"). The combined festivals resulted in an extended winter holiday season. Business was postponed and even slaves feasted. There was drinking, gambling, and singing, and nudity was relatively common. It was the "best of days," according to the poet Catullus.[3]

During the time in which Christianity was spreading throughout the Roman Empire, another similar religion known as Mithraism was also gaining widespread acceptance. The followers of Mithraism worshipped Mithras, a god of Persian origin, who was identified with Sol Invictus. [citation needed] The followers of Mithraism, consequently, adopted the birthday of Sol Invictus as the birthday of Mithras. In 274 AD, due to the popularity of Mithraism, Emperor Aurelian designated December 25 as the festival of Sol Invictus.

Christian origins of holiday

Around 220 AD, the theologian Tertullian declared that Jesus died on March 25, 29, but was resurrected three days later. Although this is not a plausible date for the crucifixion, it does suggest that March 25, nine months before December 25th, had significance for the church even before it was used as a basis to calculate Christmas. Modern scholars favor a crucifixion date of April 3, 33, which was also the date of a partial lunar eclipse (These are Julian calendar dates. Subtract two days for a Gregorian date.).[4]

By 240 AD, a list of significant events was being assigned to March 25, partly because it was believed to be the date of the vernal equinox. These events include creation, The Fall of Adam and Eve, and, most relevantly, the Incarnation.[5] The view that the Incarnation occurred on the same date as crucifixion is consistent with a Jewish belief that prophets died at an "integral age," either an anniversary of their birth or of their conception.[6][7]

The idea that December 25 is Jesus' birthday was popularized by Sextus Julius Africanus in Chronographiai (221 AD), an early reference book for Christians. This identification did not at first inspire feasting or celebration. In 245 AD, the theologian Origen denounced the idea of celebrating the birthday of Jesus "as if he were a king pharaoh." Only sinners, not saints, celebrate their birthdays, Origen contended.

As Constantine ended the Christian persecution and began the persecution of non-Christians, Christians began to debate the nature of Christ. The Alexandrian school argued that he was the divine word made flesh (see John 1:14), while the Antioch school held that he was born human and infused with the Holy Spirit at the time of his baptism (see Mark 1:9-11). A feast celebrating Christ's birth gave the church an opportunity to promote the intermediate view that Christ was divine from the time of his incarnation.[8] Mary, a minor figure for early Christians, gained prominence as the theotokos, or god-bearer. There were Christmas celebrations in Rome as early as 336 AD. December 25 was added to the calendar as a feast day in 350 AD.[8]

Medieval Christmas and related winter festivals

Christmas soon outgrew the Christological controversy that created it and came to dominate the medieval calendar.

The forty days before Christmas became the "forty days of St. Martin," now Advent. Former Saturnalian traditions were attached to Advent. Around the 12th century, these traditions transferred again to the "twelve days of Christmas" (i.e. Christmas to Epiphany).[8]

The fortieth day after Christmas was Candlemas. The Egyptian Christmas celebration on January 6 was adopted as Epiphany, one of the most prominent holidays of the year during the Early Middle Ages. Christmas Day itself was a relatively minor holiday, although its prominence gradually increased after Charlemagne was crowned on Christmas Day in 800 AD.

Northern Europe was the last part to Christianize, and its pagan celebrations had a major influence on Christmas. Scandinavians still call Christmas Jul (Yule), originally the name of a twelve-day pre-Christian winter festival. Logs were lit to honor Thor, the god of thunder, hence the "Yule log." In Germany, the equivalent holiday is called Mitwinternacht (mid-winter night). There are also twelve Rauhnächte (harsh or wild nights).[9]

By the High Middle Ages, Christmas had become so prominent that chroniclers routinely noted where various magnates "celebrated Christmas." King Richard II of England hosted a Christmas feast in 1377 at which twenty-eight oxen and three hundred sheep were eaten.[8] The "Yule boar" was a common feature of medieval Christmas feasts. Caroling also became popular, and was originally a group of dancers who sang. The group was composed of a lead singer and a ring of dancers that provided the chorus. Various writers of the time condemned caroling as lewd, largely due to overtones reminiscent of the traditions of Saturnalia and Yule).[8] "Misrule" — drunkenness, promiscuity, gambling — was also an important aspect of the festival. In England, gifts were exchanged on New Year's Day, and there was special Christmas ale.[8]

The Reformation and the 1800s

Santa Claus hands out gifts to Union soldiers during the US Civil War in Thomas Nast's first Santa Claus cartoon, Harper's Weekly, 1863.


Santa Claus hands out gifts to Union soldiers during the US Civil War in Thomas Nast's first Santa Claus cartoon, Harper's Weekly, 1863.

During the Reformation, Protestants condemned Christmas celebration as "trappings of popery" and the "rags of the Beast". The Catholic Church responded by promoting the festival in a more religiously oriented form. When a Puritan parliament triumphed over the King, Charles I of England (1644), Christmas was officially banned (1647). Pro-Christmas rioting broke out in several cities. For several weeks, Canterbury was controlled by the rioters, who decorated doorways with holly and shouted royalist slogans.[10] The Restoration (1660) ended the ban, but Christmas celebration was still disapproved of by the Anglican clergy.

By the 1820s, sectarian tension had eased and British writers began to worry that Christmas was dying out. They imagined Tudor Christmas as a time of heartfelt celebration, and efforts were made to revive the holiday. The book A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens played a major role in reinventing Christmas as a holiday emphasizing family, goodwill, and compassion (as opposed to communal celebration and hedonistic excess).[11]

Father Christmas persuades the jury of his innocence in The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686) by Josiah King


Father Christmas persuades the jury of his innocence in The Examination and Tryal of Father Christmas (1686) by Josiah King

The Puritans of New England disapproved of Christmas and celebration was outlawed in Boston (1659-81). Meanwhile, Virginia and New York celebrated freely. Christmas fell out of favor in the U.S. after the American Revolution, when it was considered an "English custom". Interest was revived by several short stories by Washington Irving in The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon (1819) and by "Old Christmas" (1850) which depict harmonous warm-hearted holiday traditions Irving claimed to have observed in England. Although some argue that Irving invented the traditions he describes, they were imitated by his American readers.[1] German immigrants and the homecomings of the Civil War helped promote the holiday. Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the U.S. in 1870.

Irving writes of Saint Nicholas "riding over the tops of the trees, in that selfsame waggon wherein he brings his yearly presents to children."[12] The connection between Santa Claus and Christmas was popularized by the poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" (1822) by Clement Clarke Moore, which depicts Santa driving a sleigh pulled by reindeer and distributing gifts to children. His image was created by German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast (1840-1902), who drew a new image annually beginning in 1863. By the 1880s, Nast's Santa had evolved into the form we now recognize. The image was standardized by advertisers in the 1920s.[13]

Modern times

In the midst of World War I, there was a Christmas truce between German and British troops in France (1914). Soldiers on both sides spontaneously began to sing Christmas carols and stopped fighting. The truce began on Christmas Day and continued for some time afterward. There was even a soccer game between the trench lines in which Germany's 133rd Royal Saxon Regiment is said to have bested Britain's Seaforth Highlanders 3-2.

In modern times, the United States has experienced some controversy over the nature of Christmas, and whether it is a religious or a secular holiday. Because the US government recognizes Christmas as an official holiday, some have thought that this violates separation of church and state. This has been brought to trial several times, including Lynch v. Donnelly (1984) and Ganulin v. United States (1999). On December 6, 1999, the verdict for Ganulin v. United States (1999). declared that "the establishment of Christmas Day as a legal public holiday does not violate the Establishment Clause because it has a valid secular purpose." This decision was appealed, and upheld by the Supreme Court on December 19, 2000.

More recently, some Christians have protested against what is seen as a secularization of Christmas, leading some to believe that the holiday is under attack from a general secular trend or from persons and/or organizations with a deliberate or unconscious anti-Christian agenda; the attack on Christmas has also been blamed on political correctness. The evidence for this belief lies in what some call "taking the Christ out of Christmas." Specifically, the following items illustrate this trend.[citation needed]

  • Some businesses have forbidden their employees to say "Merry Christmas," and tell them to say "Happy Holidays" instead.[citation needed]
  • In many public schools in America, what were once called Christmas pageants are now often called holiday programs or winter programs.[citation needed]
  • Traditionally, schoolchildren sang Christmas carols at Christmas pageants; carols have increasingly been replaced with non-religious winter songs like Frosty the Snowman and White Christmas.[citation needed]
  • While nativity scenes were once commonly on public display during the Christmas season, they have become increasingly rare[citation needed], and even the subject of lawsuits.

The Nativity

Main article: Nativity of Jesus

Adorazione del Bambino (Adoration of the Child) (1439-43), a mural by Florentine painter Fra Angelico.


Adorazione del Bambino (Adoration of the Child) (1439-43), a mural by Florentine painter Fra Angelico.

The Nativity refers to the birth of Jesus. According to tradition, Jesus was born in the city of Bethlehem in a stable, surrounded by farm animals and shepherds, and Jesus was born into a manger from the Virgin Mary assisted by her husband Joseph.

Remembering or re-creating the Nativity is one of the central ways that Christians celebrate Christmas. For example, the Eastern Orthodox Church practices the Nativity Fast in anticipation of the birth of Jesus, while much of the Western Church celebrates Advent. In some Christian churches, children often perform plays re-creating the events of the Nativity, or sing some of the numerous Christmas carols that reference the event. Many Christians also display a small re-creation of the Nativity known as a Nativity scene in their homes, using small figurines to portray the key characters of the event. Live Nativity scenes are also re-enacted using Human actors and live animals to portray the event with more realism.

While Nativity scenes traditionally include the Three Wise Men (Balthassar, Melchior, and Caspar), and they are often referred to in songs and scripture, there is little or no historical evidence to support the tradition. [14]

In the U.S., decorations once commonly included Nativity scenes. This practice has led to many lawsuits, as some say it amounts to the government endorsing a religion. In 1984, the US Supreme Court ruled that a city-owned Christmas display, even one with a Nativity scene, does not violate the First Amendment.[15]

Economics of Christmas

Christmas display in a Brazilian shopping mall


Christmas display in a Brazilian shopping mall

Christmas is typically the largest annual economic stimulus for many nations. Sales increase dramatically in almost all retail areas and shops introduce new products as people purchase gifts, decorations, and supplies. In the U.S., the Christmas shopping season generally begins on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, though many stores start selling Christmas items in October/November (and in the UK, even September/October).

More businesses and stores close on Christmas Day than any other day of the year. In the United Kingdom, the Christmas Day (Trading) Act 2004 prevents all large shops from trading on Christmas Day.

Most economists agree, however, that Christmas produces a deadweight loss under orthodox microeconomic theory, due to the surge in gift-giving. This loss is calculated as the difference between what the gift giver spent on the item and what the gift receiver would have paid for the item. It is estimated that in 2001 Christmas resulted in a $4 billion deadweight loss in the U.S. alone.[16][17] Because of complicating factors, this analysis is sometimes used to discuss possible flaws in current microeconomic theory.

In North America, film studios release many high-budget movies in the holiday season, including Christmas films, fantasy movies or high-tone dramas with rich production values.

Santa Claus and other bringers of gifts

Main article: Santa Claus

Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas

In Western culture, the holiday is characterized by the exchange of gifts among friends and family members, some of the gifts being attributed to Santa Claus (also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Joulupukki, Kris Kringle, Saint Basil and Father Frost).

Father Christmas predates the Santa Claus character, and was first recorded in the 15th century,[18] but was associated with holiday merrymaking and drunkenness. Santa Claus is a variation of a Dutch folk tale based on the historical figure Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, who gave gifts on the eve of his feast day of December 6. He became associated with Christmas in 19th century America and was renamed Santa Claus or Saint Nick. In Victorian Britain, Father Christmas's image was remade to match that of Santa. The French equivalent of Santa, Père Noël, evolved along similar lines, eventually adopting the Santa image.

In some cultures Santa Claus is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, or Black Peter. In other versions, elves make the toys. His wife is referred to as Mrs. Claus.

The current tradition in several Latin American countries (such as Venezuela) holds that while Santa makes the toys, he then gives them to the Baby Jesus, who is the one who actually delivers them to the children's homes. This story is meant to be a reconciliation between traditional religious beliefs and modern day globalization, most notably the iconography of Santa Claus imported from the United States.

Christmas Tree and other decorations

Main article: Christmas Tree

Christmas decorations at The Myer Centre in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia


Christmas decorations at The Myer Centre in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

The Christmas tree is often explained as a Christianization of the ancient pagan idea that the evergreen tree represents a celebration of the renewal of life. The phrase "Christmas tree" is first recorded in 1835 and represents the importation of a tradition from Germany, where such trees became popular in the late 18th century.[18] Christmas trees may be decorated with lights and ornaments. Since the 19th century, the poinsettia has been associated with Christmas. Other popular holiday plants include holly, mistletoe, red amaryllis, and Christmas cactus.

Along with a Christmas Tree, the interior of a home may be decorated with garlands and evergreen foliage, particularly holly and mistletoe. In Australia, North and South America, and to a lesser extent Europe, it is traditional to decorate the outside of houses with lights and sometimes with illuminated sleighs, snowmen, and other Christmas figures.

Municipalities often sponsor decorations as well. Christmas banners may be hung from street lights and Christmas trees placed in the town square.

Although Christmas decorations, such as a tree, are considered secular in many parts of the world, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia bans such displays as symbols of Christianity.

In the Western world, rolls of brightly-colored paper with secular or religious Christmas motifs are manufactured for the purpose of wrapping gifts.

Regional customs and celebrations

Main article: Christmas worldwide

Many nations distribute stamps each year to commemorate Christmas. Austria, 1999


Many nations distribute stamps each year to commemorate Christmas. Austria, 1999

Christmas celebrations include a great number and variety of customs with either secular, religious, or national aspects which vary from country to country:

In the southern hemisphere, Christmas is during the summer. This clashes with the traditional winter iconography, resulting in oddities such as a red fur-coated Santa Claus surfing in for a turkey barbecue on Australia's Bondi Beach. New Zealanders also commonly celebrate Christmas at the beach, coinciding with the vibrant red flowering of the coastal Pohutukawa or "New Zealand Christmas Tree".

Japan has adopted Santa Claus for its secular Christmas celebration, but New Year's Day is a far more important holiday. While in South Korea, Christmas is celebrated as an "official" holiday, and in India it is often called bada din ("the big day"). Celebrations revolve around Santa Claus and shopping.

In Poland, Santa Claus (Polish: Święty Mikołaj) gives gifts on two occasions: on the night of December 5 (so that children find them on the morning of December 6), and on Christmas Eve (so that children find gifts that same day). In addition to the major observances of Christmas, German children also put shoes out on their window sills on the night of December 5, and find them filled with candy and small gifts the next morning. Santa Claus (Hungarian: Mikulás), or Father Winter (Hungarian: Télapó) also visits Hungary on December 6, bringing small gifts, and is often accompanied by a black creature called Krampusz; while on Christmas Eve (Holy Night - (Hungarian: Szenteste)) the Little (Baby) Jesus (Hungarian: Kisjézus or Jézuska) delivers the presents.

In Spain, gifts are brought by the Magi on Epiphany (January 6), and in Scotland, presents were traditionally given on Hogmanay, which is New Year's Eve. In recent times, both countries have also adopted gift-giving on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

The Declaration of Christmas Peace has been a tradition in Finland from the Middle Ages every year, except in 1939 (due to World War II). The declaration takes place in the Old Great Square of Turku, Finland's official Christmas City and former capital. It is broadcast on Finnish radio and television. Sauna bathing has an important role in Finnish Christmas, often after the visit of Joulupukki on Christmas Eve.

Saint Nicholas' Day remains the principal day for gift giving in the Netherlands while Christmas Day is a more religious holiday.

In Russia, Grandfather Frost brings presents on New Year's Eve, and these are opened on the same night. However, after the Russian Revolution, Christmas celebration was banned in that country from 1917 until 1992. Even today, throughout the U.S. and Europe, several Christian denominations, notably the Jehovah's Witnesses, Puritans, and some fundamentalists, view Christmas as a pagan holiday not sanctioned by the Bible.

Social aspects and entertainment

In many countries, businesses, schools, and communities have Christmas parties and dances in the weeks before Christmas. Christmas pageants may include a retelling of the story of the birth of Christ. Groups may visit neighborhood homes to sing Christmas carols. Others do volunteer work or hold fundraising drives for charities.

On Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, a special meal of Christmas dishes is usually served. In some regions, particularly in Eastern Europe, these family feasts are preceded by a period of fasting. Candy and treats are also part of Christmas celebration in many countries.

Another tradition is for people to send Christmas cards to their friends and family members. Cards are also produced with messages such as "season's greetings" or "happy holidays", so as to include senders and recipients who may not celebrate Christmas .

Christmas carol media

Gifts under a Christmas tree.


Gifts under a Christmas tree.

Christmas in the arts and media

"Now it is Christmas again" (1907) by Carl Larsson.


"Now it is Christmas again" (1907) by Carl Larsson.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas present, by John Leech. Made for Charles Dickens's novel A Christmas Carol (1843).


Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas present, by John Leech. Made for Charles Dickens's novel A Christmas Carol (1843).

Main articles: Christmas in the media and Christmas movies

Many fictional Christmas stories capture the spirit of Christmas in a modern-day fairy tale, often with heart-touching stories of a Christmas miracle. Several have become part of the Christmas tradition in their countries of origin.

Among the most popular are Tchaikovsky's ballet The Nutcracker and Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol. The Nutcracker tells of a nutcracker that comes to life in a young German girl's dream. Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the tale of curmudgeonly miser Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge rejects compassion, philanthropy, and Christmas until he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, who show him the consequences of his ways.

Some Scandinavian Christmas stories are less cheery than Dickens'. In H. C. Andersen's The Little Match Girl, a destitute little girl walks barefoot through snow-covered streets on Christmas Eve, trying in vain to sell her matches, and peeking in at the celebrations in the homes of the more fortunate.

In 1881, the Swedish magazine Ny Illustrerad Tidning published Viktor Rydberg's poem Tomten featuring the first painting by Jenny Nyström of the traditional Swedish mythical character tomte, which she turned into the friendly white-bearded figure and associated with Christmas.

Many Christmas stories have been popularized as movies and TV specials. Since the 1980s, many video editions are sold and resold every year during the holiday season. A notable example is the film It's a Wonderful Life, which turns the theme of A Christmas Carol on its head. Its hero, George Bailey, is a businessman who sacrificed his dreams to help his community. On Christmas Eve, a guardian angel finds him in despair and prevents him from committing suicide by magically showing him how much he meant to the world around him. Perhaps the most famous animated production is A Charlie Brown Christmas wherein Charlie Brown tries to address his feelings of dissatisfaction with the holidays by trying to find a deeper meaning in them. This special is noted for one of the characters retelling of the first Christmas. The humorous A Christmas Story (1983) in which the main character dreams of owning a Red Ryder BB Gun, has become a holiday classic and is even repeated for 24 hours straight starting on Christmas Eve night and going on through Christmas Day on US cable channel Turner Network Television or TBS.

A few true stories have also become enduring Christmas tales themselves. The story behind the Christmas carol Silent Night and the story Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus is among the most well-known of these.

Radio and television programs aggressively pursue entertainment and ratings through their cultivation of Christmas themes. Radio stations broadcast Christmas carols and Christmas songs, including classical music such as the Hallelujah chorus from Handel's Messiah. Among other classical pieces inspired by Christmas are the Nutcracker Suite, adapted from Tchaikovsky's ballet score, and Johann Sebastian Bach's Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). Television networks add Christmas themes to their standard programming, run traditional holiday movies, and produce a variety of Christmas specials.

See also

Find more information on Christmas by searching Wikipedia's sister projects:

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1.     ^ The Odinic Rite, Yule

2.     ^ "Christmas", The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913.

3.     ^ Sempronia, Julilla,"Ancient Voices: Saturnalia, AncientWorlds 2004.

4.     ^ Odenwald, Dr. Sten, "Can you date the crucifixion of Jesus Christ using astronomy?", 1997.

5.     ^ "The Feast of the Annunciation", Catholic Encyclopedia, 1998.

6.     ^ Duchesne, Louis, Les origines du culte chrétien: Etude sur la liturgie latine avant Charlemagne. Paris, 1889.

7.     ^ Talley, Thomas J., Origins of the Liturgical Year. Pueblo Publishing Company, New York, 1986.

8.     ^ a b c d e f Murray, Alexander, "Medieval Christmas", History Today, December 1986, 36 (12), pp. 31 - 39.

9.     ^ Reichmann, Ruth, "Christmas".

10.  ^ Durston, Chris, "Lords of Misrule: The Puritan War on Christmas 1642-60", History Today, December 1985, 35 (12) pp. 7 - 14.

11.  ^ Rowell, Geoffrey, "Dickens and the Construction of Christmas", History Today, December 1993, 43 (12), pp. 17 - 24.

12.  ^ Irving, Washington, History of New York, 1812.

13.  ^ Mikkelson, Barbara and David P., "The Claus That Refreshes",, 2006.

14.  ^ Culture and the Arts, The Three Kings

15.  ^ Lynch vs. Donnelly (1984)

16.  ^ "The Deadweight Loss of Christmas", American Economic Review, December 1993, 83 (5)

17.  ^ "Is Santa a deadweight loss?" The Economist 20 December 2001

18.  ^ a b Harper, Douglas, Christ, Online Etymology Dictionary, 2001.

  • Ganulin v. United States
  • "Christmas," The New Columbia Encyclopedia. New York and London, Columbia University Press 1975.
  • Restad, Penne L., Christmas in America: A History, New York, Oxford University Press. 1995. ISBN 0-19-509300-3

External Links

·      The History of Christmas

·      "A History of Christmas from the UCG"

·      Encyclopaedia Britannica, Christmas

·      "Christmas in South America".

·      Christmas in India

·      Heindel, Max, The Mystical Interpretation of Christmas 1920. ISBN 0-911274-65-0.

·      "The Japanese Christmas museum (Focusing on Christmas commercial culture)".

·      Christmas Day - Comprehensive site of Christmas Festival.


Retrieved from ""

5th Article Terms


in the context of early Christian teachings, before 313 A.D.

edited by Robert Nguyen Cramer (



The Christmas celebration as we know it today had its real beginnings with Constantine's reinvention of the Christian church after 313 A.D. (For details regarding Constantine's considerable influence on Christian practices, teachings, and institutions, see

In his excellent article on the origins of the Christmas celebration, Hendrik F. Stander (Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, Second Edition, edited by Everett Ferguson, NY: Garland Publishing, 1998, pages 249-250):

CHRISTMAS. From Old English "Mass of Christ," festival on December 25, celebrating the birth of Christ. This festival was not generally established before the end of the fourth century. The early Christians were far more concerned with the death and resurrection of Jesus, celebrated during Easter, than with his birth. Moreover, Origen said that Christians should not celebrate birthdays because it was a pagan custom, adhered to by unrighteous people, such as Pharaoh and Herod (Comm. in Mt. 10.22)...

The true roots of what we know as Christmas lie in a feast celebrating the baptism of Christ on January 6. The heretical Basilideans taught that the divine Christ first appeared on earth at the baptism of Jesus and was then temporarily united with the human Jesus. The festival on January 6 was accordingly called Epiphany ("Appearance"). The orthodox church regarded Christ's birth as the real appearing of Christ upon the earth, and thus January 6 came to mark both the baptism and the nativity of Christ.

The Council of Nicaea (325) condemned the doctrine that God himself did not become incarnate in Jesus at birth. This Christological dogma probably caused the festival of Christ's birth to be separated from the heretical custom of commemorating Christ's "appearance" at baptism. The festival of the birth of Christ ... was then transferred to December 25, to counter a pagan festival held that day in honor of Sol Invictus ("The Invincible Sun").

The nativity festival was probably separated from Epiphany in Rome between 325 and 354. The first evidence of the celebration of Christ's birth on December 25 comes from Rome in the year 336, although the older Epiphany festival continued to exist for some time in its original form.

...The strongest opposition, however, came from Christians in Jerusalem, and it was not until the middle of the sixth century that Palestinian Christians accepted the festival of December. The Armenian church continues even today to commemorate Christ's birth on January 6.

Karen B. Westerfield Tucker (Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, edited by Adrian Hastings, Alistair Mason, and Hugh Pyper, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) provides a few additional details in her article on "Christmas:"

...One theory for placing Christmas on 25 December suggests that the motivation for a Christian observance came from the pagan birthfeast of the unconquered sun (dies natalis solis invicti) which the Roman emperor Aurelian, in 274, ordered to be held annually throughout the empire on the day of the winter solstice, determined then to be 25 December. According to the 'apologetics' or 'history of religions' hypothesis, the church at Rome adopted the day of pagan festivities for its own purposes, providing a Christian alternative by celebrating instead the birth of the true 'sun of righteousness'; the heathen content of the festival was reinterpreted and its date retained...

The festival of Christmas spread quickly from the 4th century onwards. It allowed for a liturgical counterpart to the theological conclusion reached at the Council of Nicaea which, in condemning Arianism, affirmed that Jesus Christ was the eternal and only-begotten Son of the Father, humanly born of Mary (recognized by the Council of Ephesus as the 'God-bearer', Theotokos)...

So what did Christians prior to Constantine think of the types of celebrations that are now associated with Christmas? Below is a sampling from the Christian leader and theologian Tertullian, as presented in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More Than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers, edited by David W. Bercot (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998, page 342).

Addressing pagans:

On your day of gladness, we [Christians] neither cover our doorposts with wreaths, nor intrude upon the day with lamps. At the call of public festivity, you consider it a proper thing to decorate your house like some new brothel. ... We are accused of a lower sacrilege because we do not celebrate along with you the holidays of the Caesars in a manner forbidden alike by modesty, decency, and purity. [197 A.D., ANF 3:44]

The Roman traitors clad their doorposts with green and branching laurels. They smoked up their porches with lofty and brilliant lamps. [197 A.D., ANF 3:44]

Addressing Christians:

What less of a defilement does he incur on that ground than does a business ... that is publicly consecrated to an idol? The Minervalia are a much Minerva's as the Saturnalia is Saturn's. Yes, it is Saturn's day, which much necessarily be celebrated even by little slaves at the time of the Saturnalia. Likewise, New Year's gifts must be caught at. The Septimontium must be kept. And all the presents of Midwinter and the Feast of Dear Kinsmanship must be exacted. The schools must be wreathed with flowers.... The same thing takes place on an idol's birthday. Every ceremony of the devil is frequented. Who will think that these things are benefiting to a Christian teacher? [200 A.D., ANF 3:66]

The Saturnalia, New Year, Midwinter festivals, and Matronalia are frequented by us! Presents come and go! There are New Year's gifts! Games join their noise! Banquets join their din! The pagans are more faithful to their own sect... For, even if they had known them, they would not have shared the Lord's Day or Pentecost with us. For they would fear lest they would appear to be Christians. Yet, we are not apprehensive that we might appear to be pagans! [200 A.D., ANF 3:69]

The following are the biblical texts from the ESV that reference the birth of Jesus:

  • Mat 1:18-25 - The birth of Jesus

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

* See commentary at

  • Mat 2:1-12 - The visit of the Magi from the East to the infant Jesus

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 "' And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'" 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

* See commentary at

  • Luk 1:26-56 - The birth of Jesus is announced

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!" 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34 And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" 35 And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy- the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God." 38 And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." 46 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; 52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever." 56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

* See commentary at

  • Luk 2:1-7 - The birth of Jesus

1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

* See commentary at

  • Luk 2:8-20 - The visit of the shepherds to the infant Jesus

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!" 15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

* See commentary at

  • Gal 4:3-6 - Christ Jesus born of woman

3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"

* See commentary at


Topical index

Copyright 1996-2004 Robert Nguyen Cramer

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