The Evolution of Christmas

Every year, Christians around the world sing hymns in celebration of the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Today, Christmas is widely recognized as a season for charity, kindness, generosity and other virtues. Love is in the air and hearts are filled with joy. However, many would be surprised to learn that this season of love and good tidings has its roots in pagan traditions.
The Evolution of Christmas
It is believed that the origins of Christmas can be traced back to the ancient Roman pagan holiday Saturnalia and the pagan religion, Mithraism. Saturnalia was one of the most popular ancient Roman festivals, running one week-long, in the month of December. During this festival, Roman courts were closed, and lawlessness ensued as Roman law dictated that no one could be charged for property damage or assault during Saturnalia celebrations.

To initiate the festivities, each Roman community selected a victim to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” These individuals were forced to indulge in gluttony and more perverse physical pleasures for the duration of the festival. The peak of Saturnalia came on the final day of the festival, December 25. On that day, the individuals representing the “Lord of Misrule” were brutally murdered in a spectacle believed to destroy the forces of darkness (please see the article ‘Saturnaliain this issue).

Besides sharing the December 25 date, what could this pagan festival possibly have to do with Christmas and the birth of Christ? To answer this, we must look back to the 4th century Roman Empire. At this time, Mithraism was also a popular religion in Rome. Mithraism was a pagan religion that bears a striking resemblance to modern Catholicism. Mithra, the Persian god of light and sacred contacts, was born in a cave on December 25, assisted by shepherds. Interestingly, his adherents called him the “Redeemer,” “The Good Shepherd,” and “The Light of the World.” They also partook in communion and called their priests “Father.”

Rome was no stranger to pagan religions, but as Christianity spread throughout the empire, it took the interest of Roman leaders. It is believed that in an effort by the Empire to establish Christianity as Rome’s official religion, Roman leaders allowed the pagans to continue celebrating Saturnalia, Mithraism and other pagan festivals in order to win over as many pagan adherents as possible. To spawn mass appeal, rather than stamping out paganism, Christianity in Rome was merged with the popular pagan religions of the day.

As such, prior to the institution of Christmas, December 25, was already a high day in Rome through Mithraism, Saturnalia and various pagan religions, whose god’s celebrated their birthdays on December 25. Therefore, once Christianity became Rome’s official religion, setting December 25 as Jesus’ birthday was simply a strategic action to satisfy the pagans who were already celebrating on December 25.

Thus, Christmas was instituted (some 400 years after Christ’s birth). Previously, the birth of Christ was not celebrated by Christendom. Despite some efforts from the Church to Christianize December 25 by declaring it Jesus’ birthday, the first Christmas bore a striking resemblance to the degeneracy of Saturnalia. These activities included gift giving, feasting, and singing naked in the streets in addition to excessive drinking and sexual indulgence.

Historically, December 25, has been a day marked with sexual depravity, gluttony, drunkenness and some of the most horrible sins. Today, the world looks upon December 25 as a day of joy and celebration with no interest in what this day has meant in history or how it became “Christian.”

There is nothing intrinsically Christian about Christmas. December 25 is a birthday borrowed from pagan gods to appease the Roman masses when Christianity swept through ancient Rome. In fact, upon investigating the pagan roots of Christmas, the holiday was banned, and its observance made illegal by the Puritans in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681.

Church history cannot dispute the relationship between ancient pagan religions and the practices that were adopted by Christianity decades after Jesus’ death. Furthermore, The Catholic Encyclopedia admits that there is no evidence marking December 25 as the birthday of Jesus Christ. The date of His birth is not revealed in the Bible.

Christmas was not celebrated by the early church; it is not mentioned in the Bible, and there is no scriptural basis for its adherence today.

This Christmas, will you celebrate?

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