Now that Christmas is over, maybe Bill O’Reilly and his fellow “war on Christmas” ilk will shut up about that topic for awhile. Until next year at least, when they need to increase their viewership and readership by pulling out this faux issue in order to bring the crazies out of the woodwork.
So what is the truth about Christmas, its origination, celebration, and the so-called “war” against it? As to its origination as a holiday, we find in the Catholic Encyclopedia that Christmas was not even observed until the last part of the fourth century, when the Church began observing December 25 as Jesus’ birthday. By the fifth century, the Catholic Church mandated that this date be forever observed as the official birthdate. At the time of this decree, the Church knew full well that the pagan religious cults throughout the Roman and Greek worlds celebrated the pagan sun god, Mithra, on this self-same day. This winter festival was known as the Nativity of the Sun. It was also known in the Roman Empire as Saturnalia, another name for sun worship.
The observation of this date actually pre-dated Christianity by hundreds of years by various pagan and nature worshipping cults. It loosely marked the return to longer days following the Winter Solstice, and symbolized the rebirth of the sun.
The winter festival was very popular in ancient times, and marked a time of rejoicing and festivity. Many of our present day customs involved in the Christmas season are a direct inheritance of the Roman winter festival of Saturnalia. These days involved gift giving, colored lights to ward off evil spirits, festive meals, and of course, decorated trees. The present day Christmas tree can be traced even further back to the worship of sacred trees in the ancient Babylonian system. The green evergreen symbolized the incarnate Baal coming to life through the incarnate baby Tammuz. The custom of decorating and worshipping trees spread throughout the known world, with the variety of tree used selected according to the natural growth of each area of the world. The Druids worshipped the oak tree, the Egyptians worshipped the palm tree, while in Rome it was the fir tree. There are at least ten references in the Bible warning that these green trees were associated with idolatry and pagan worship. Jeremiah 10:1-4 details the Israelites following the very pagan customs practiced today:”Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O House of Israel: Thus saith 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 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.”
It was noted by the pre-Christian Romans and other pagans, that daylight began to increase after December 22nd, when they assumed that the sun god died. These ancients believed that the sun god rose from the dead three days later as the new-born and venerable sun. Thus, they figured that to be the reason for increasing daylight. This was a cause for much wild excitement and celebration. Gift giving and merriment filled the temples of ancient Rome, as sacred priests of Saturn, called dendrophori, carried wreaths of evergreen boughs in procession.
In Germany, the evergreen tree was used in worship and celebration in observance of the resurrected sun god. The evergreen tree was a symbol of the essence of life and was regarded as a phallic symbol in fertility worship.
Witches and other pagans regarded the red holly as a symbol of the menstrual blood of the queen of heaven, also known as Diana. While the white berries of mistletoe were believed by pagans to represent droplets of the semen of the sun god. Both holly and mistletoe were hung in doorways of temples and homes to invoke powers of fertility in those who stood beneath and kissed, causing the spirits of the god and goddess to enter them. These customs transcended the borders of Rome and Germany to the far reaches of the known world.
Yule is the Chaldean name for ‘infant’ or ‘little child.’ In ancient Babylon, centuries before the birth of Jesus, the 25th of December was known as Yule day or the birth of the promised child day. This was the day of the birth of the incarnate sun, who appeared as a baby child to redeem a world bound in darkness. It was an essential belief of the Babylonian religious system, that the sun god, also known as Baal, was the chief god in a polytheistic system. Tammuz was also worshipped as the god incarnate, or promised baby son of Baal, who was to be the Savior of the world.
In 46 BC, when the Roman “Julian Calendar” was adopted, December 24th was the shortest day of the year. Therefore, December 25th was the first annual day that daylight began to increase. Thus, the origin of the rebirth or Annual Birthday of the Invincible SUN.
In accordance with the Roman “Julian calendar,” the “Saturnalia” festival appears to have taken place on December 17th; it was preceded by the “Consualia” near December 15th, and followed by the “Opalia” on December 19th. These pagan celebrations typically lasted for a week, ending just before the late Roman Imperial Festival for “Sol Invictus” (Invincible Sun) on December 25th.
In 1582 AD Pope Gregory the XIII caused the current “Gregorian Calendar” to be adopted, in order to eliminate the solar time shift error introduced by the “Julian Calendar.” By December 1582 AD the shortest day of the year had shifted 12 days on the Roman “Julian Calendar” to Wednesday, December 12, 1582. However, the Original December 25th ‘Birth Date’ was retained for all pagan Sun gods by the Roman “Saturnalia” and “Sol Invictus” traditions; which were now called the “Twelve Days of Christ Mass.”
On the new Gregorian calendar the shortest annual day was numerically shifted back 10 days to the 22nd of December, where it remains to this day; while the original order of the days of the week remained unchanged. Therefore, Wednesday, December 12th, 1582 AD, became Wednesday, December 22nd, 1582 AD.
The very term, Christmas, comes from the sacred Christ-mass, where the Pope in a role that paralleled that of the High Priest of the mystery Babylon religion introduces the people to the concept of trans-substantiation. Using the wine and round wafers that reflect the life of Baal in the Babylonian religion, the name of Jesus replaces that pagan god. The wine and wafers are now said to be the transformation of the actual blood and body of the Messiah within the person who ingests them. People, thereby, relive again and again the death and resurrection of the incarnate god.
It would surprise most Christians to learn that the history of the church is filled with historic battles over these very doctrinal issues. Many of the reformation movements in the church made drastic attempts to get away from these pagan holidays. Calvin, in 1550, instigated an edict concerning church holidays. A ban was passed against observing various church festivals, which included Christmas. David Calderwood, representing the Scottish ministries, asserted in reference to Christmas and Easter: “The Judaical days had once that honor, as to be appointed by Yahweh Himself; but the anniversary days appointed by men have not like honor. This opinion of Christ’s nativity on the 25th day of December was bred at Rome.” He argues that the Apostles never ordained it. He said the following: “Nay, let us utter the truth, December-Christmas is a just imitation of the December-Saturnalia of the ethnic [heathen] Romans, and so used as if Bacchus [another name for the sun god], and not Messiah, were the Yahweh of Christians.” George Gillespie, a premier Scottish theologian, wrote in a book published in 1637 called A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded Upon the Church of Scotland. “The holidays [reference to Christmas and Easter] take a severe beating on a number of accounts. Sacred significant ceremonies devised by man are to be reckoned among images forbidden in the second commandment in regards to worshipping idols.”
When the Puritans came to power in England, Parliament, in June,1647, passed legislation abolishing Christmas and other holidays. In this legislation, they wrote the following: “For as much as the feast of the nativity of Christ, Easter, and other festivals, commonly called holy days, have been here-to-fore superstitiously used and observed; be it ordained that the said feasts, and all other festivals, commonly called holy days, be no longer observed as festivals.” The American Puritan movement took an even stronger stand against these pagan holidays. Samuel Miller, a Puritan and professor of history and church government at Princeton Seminary, stated in 1896 in his book, Why Presbyterians Reject the Holy Days of Christmas and Easter:”the Scriptures were the only infallible rule of faith and practice, and that no rite or ceremony ought to have a place in the public worship of Yahweh, which is not warranted in Scripture. Not only does the celebration of non-biblical holidays lack a scriptural foundation, but the scriptures positively discount it.” Presbyterians were not the only ones who maintained a strong stand against Christmas, as there were many other Christians who held to similar convictions. As a matter of fact, the famous preacher, Charles Spurgeon, stated in a sermon given on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1871, the following: “We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or English; and secondly, because we find no scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, it’s observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority.” Opposition to these church holidays remained in American Presbyterianism through the latter half of the 19th century. Following the Civil War, historian Ernest Trice Thompson wrote the following:”There was no recognition of either Christmas or Easter in any of the Protestant churches, except the Episcopal and Lutheran. For a full generation after the Civil War, the religious journals of the South mentioned Christmas only to observe that there was no reason to believe that Jesus was actually born on December 25th; it was not recognized as a day of any religious significance in the Presbyterian Church”
The appearance of Easter and Christmas in the official calendar of the Southern Presbyterian church did not actually occur until the late 1940s and 1950s, as a work of growing apostasy in the church. Even so, as late as 1962, the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland stated that they rejected the celebrations of Christmas and Easter.
The truth is that all of the customs of Christmas pre-date the birth of Jesus, and a study of this would reveal that
Christmas in our day is a collection of traditions and practices taken from many cultures and nations.
If there is indeed a war on Christmas in modern secular society as O’Reilly and others bloviate, then it has an ancient and widespread counterpart within the Christian church and in secular society that was much more overt and aggressive. Obviously the celebration of Christmas as we know it is a thing of modern invention, probably first really taking a foothold in our culture in the mid-19th century and expanding into the Victorian age.