Tags

, , , ,

 

I’ve been hearing a lot of things about Christmas having pagan origins, from Santa’s elves starting out as demons to the Roman winter solstice celebration of Saturnalia morphing into Christmas. Are these things true, and, if so, should Christians be celebrating Christmas?

There’s an old story about a woman who made a ham every year for Christmas dinner. As she was preparing it one year, her daughter asked, “Mom, why do you cut off the end of the ham before you put it in the oven?” The woman answered, “That’s the way my mom taught me to do it.” The woman thought about her daughter’s question all day long, and finally decided to call her own mother to ask about it. When the woman got her mother on the phone, she asked, “Mom, why did you teach me to cut off the end of the ham before putting it in the oven?” The woman’s mother said, “That’s the way my mom taught me to do it.” Intrigued, the woman called her grandmother and asked once again, “Grandma, why did you cut off the end of the ham before putting it in the oven?”. Her grandmother replied, “Because I didn’t have a roasting pan large enough for a whole ham.”

Human beings are creatures of habit and tradition, so it’s always important to examine why we do the things we do. As Christians, whether it’s putting up a tree every year, a beloved hymn we’ve been singing since we could talk, or the annual church picnic, our brains should never be on autopilot, unquestioningly taking part in activities by rote.

Do some aspects of the celebration of Christmas find their origin in millennia-old paganism? Possibly. But are you participating in that paganism if you put up a tree or give gifts at Christmas? Probably not. The “Christmas is pagan” lore is so ancient and uncertain that most people aren’t even aware of it. How could you possibly be participating in paganism if a) you’re not even aware of its existence, b) you have no intention of participating in it, and c) it has nothing to do with your reasons for celebrating? Did you know that many of our days of the week and months of the year were originally named for pagan idols and gods? “Sun”day was originally a pagan Roman holiday, and the sun was an object of worship for many ancient peoples. Should we stop having church on Sunday because of that? Are we somehow participating in paganism by holding the Christian day of worship on an ancient pagan feast day? Of course not. Ancient pagans don’t own certain days on the calendar or any particular object or symbol. The Bible tells us, “The earth is the Lord‘s and the fullness thereof.” When godless people take a day or an object God has created and use it for evil, they are the ones in the wrong, not godly people who come after them and want to use that same day or object for a godly purpose. To say that Christians can’t use a certain day or object for celebrating Christmas because pagans used that day or object for pagan purposes is to give those ancient pagans power over Christians. Power they have no business holding.

Furthermore, just because pagans used a day, an object, or a symbol for their wicked practices hundreds or thousands of years ago does not mean those days, objects, or symbols carry the same meaning today. Think about the way a mere word can change meanings in such a short time. The 1890’s were known as the “Gay Nineties.” The song, “Deck the Halls” contains the phrase “don we now our gay apparel.” The primary meaning of the word “gay” – just 100-150 years ago in our own country – was “happy, merry, or festive.” Now it means “homosexual.” But the “Christmas is pagan” folks would have us believe we’re supposed to attach centuries old definitions and foreign cultural practices surrounding Christmas and other winter observances to our 21st century American celebrations? Santa may have had demon elves hundreds of years ago in another country and culture, but in our culture today, they’re just his happy little helpers – no demonic strings attached. The meanings of cultural practices and symbols change over time.

Certainly, there’s no biblical requirement for Christians to observe Christmas in any way, so if you don’t want to celebrate, you don’t have to. Conversely, there’s nothing in the Bible that says you can’t celebrate Christmas, so Christians are free to do so as long as we aren’t violating any of the clear commands and principles of Scripture. But whatever conclusion you come to, make sure it’s based on God’s Word correctly applied to your actions and motivations, not supposed connections between Christmas and paganism. There are probably dozens of objects in your home, traditions you observe, and days on the calendar that can, if you go back far enough and look hard enough, be traced back to one pagan religion or another. Don’t be ruled by that. Christians are ruled by God’s Word, not fears and superstitions.

So take some time and examine your Christmastime traditions. Why do you put up a Christmas tree every year? What do you tell your children about Santa Claus? What do the words of those Christmas carols mean? Are you doing anything that conflicts with Scripture? If so, stop, repent, and make sure “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Because it’s not about what pagans did centuries ago a world away, it’s about what you’re doing today, why you’re doing it, and whether or not it glorifies God.

Scriptures to Consider:

Romans 14

1 Corinthians 10:23-33

Colossians 2:16-23

Additional Resources:

Myths on the Myths of Santa Claus at When We Understand the Text

Other Christmas Myths at When We Understand the Text

Can Christians Celebrate Christmas? at CARM

Christmas at Got Questions

Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday? at Ligonier

Pastor Mike Fabarez explains why you can celebrate this Christmas season/Did Jesus celebrate man-made holidays? on Wretched Radio

The Bible reveals Xmas day on the 25th-not from paganism by Agustin Astacio

Christmas Is Not Pagan at Christian Answers for the New Age


If you have a question about: a well known Christian author/leader, a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Advertisements