In 350 A.D, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25th, despite the fact that He was more than likely born in the spring and certainly, thanks to clues left in the Bible, no later than September. So why did Pope Julius deside that Christians from that moment on would celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior on this day? To try and convert pagans to Christianity.
Why is this important? After all, we have to celebrate his birthday some day, so why not December 25th? Does it matter that it was originally a pagan holiday? Honestly, I don’t know, but there are a few facts that I didn’t know until I started researching.
For instance, many of our traditions come from pagan holidays, not just Christmas, but Easter, Halloween, and Valentines day as well.
One of the reasons the Pope decided on December 25th was that he believed it would be easier to convert pagan belief to Christian if they were allowed to keep their tradition.
In ancient Babylon, December 25th was the day that the feast of the son of Isis was celebrated. Eating, drinking and gift giving were the traditions at this time of the year. In Rome, the Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, celebrated Saturn the god of agriculture. It began Dec. 17th and ran through Dec. 23rd. The tradition of Christmas Caroling comes from the Roman’s and the whole season they called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun, where costumed singers called mummers would travel from home to home, entertaining others.
In Europe, pagans had their own Solstice, the Yule. The pagan Sun god, Mithras, was symbolized by the yule log. It represented his birth and was celebrated on the shortest day of the year, December 21st. Mistletoe, considered a sacred plant, was also a part of the ritual. Kissing under the mistletoe was a fertility ritual. Evergreens were brought into the homes as a reminder that their crops would grow again and also represented fertility.
Are you seeing a common theme here…”Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you! Happy birthday to our god…god sun…goddess son, etc etc…” Only now Pagans were being told this would be a celebration of Jesus, the Son of God. Honestly, do you really think they fell for it? If someone told you that you were to start worshiping another god, what would you do? I can tell you what some Christians did when that happened to them. They were persecuted.
Daniel faced lions for his beliefs, and in the process convinced the King that his God was the one true God. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego went into a furnace for their beliefs…and convinced the King that their God was the one true God. There is story after story in the bible of Christians standing up for their beliefs and persevering. Even when they don’t persevere, and the end result is their death, they stood for God. They didn’t bow down and their story led to others believing. So I personally find it rather offensive that as Christianity spread through Rome, it was forced on those that didn’t believe. That isn’t the example God or His Son gave us. In this period of history, Christians went from being persecuted to being the persecuters. After all, what do you think happened to any pagan that refused to convert?
In the years 341, 345, 356, 381, 383, 386 and 391, Theodosian, the Emporer at the time, issued orders to "suppress all rival religions, order the closing of the temples, and impose fines, confiscation, imprisonment or death upon any who cling to the older Pagan religions. Christianity and Judaism became the only permitted religions at that time. Temples were destroyed or converted to Christian temples. Many people were either imprisoned or killed for their beliefs. I can only imagine the horror that must have been felt at that time, similar to the horror that Christians would have felt at being persecuted for their beliefs.
So, this is the legacy of Christmas. It has evolved over the years, the jolly man, known as Santa Clause taking up a lot of it and pushing baby Jesus out of the way. But now I wonder if He ever really was a part of Christmas. I know for me He is. Right on que I always cry when hearing the words to Oh Holy Night. His birth, eventual death and resurrection are a large part of my life. Without Him, I would be doomed. But I was given the choice to believe in Him, or not too. I am horrified at this part of our history and I can’t help but wonder, what does God think about it? Does Jesus feel honored when we celebrate His birth on a day that was used to celebrate another god? Does He feel honored when we use symbols that represent other beliefs?
Don't get me wrong though, I love Christmas! It is a fun and happy time of the year. I just think it is important that we know why we do what we do. It is our legacy and we should be aware of it, not try to deny our past. What we do affects how others see us and see God. With that, i would like to leave you with this poem.
Whether it was Christmas, or another time of year,
Jesus was born to dispel Death's fear.
Born to die and destined to live,
To all the world a gift was give,
The gift of forgiveness and eternal life,
Through God's Son, my Savior, Jesus Christ.
(He is my reason for the season.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!)