Most Christians assume that Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day. Most also accept that Christmas traditions like a brightly ornamented tree and a red-suited Santa are acceptable ways of honoring our Savior. Does your Bible agree with these assumptions? There’s one way to prove it: Check your Bible and the many secular sources about Christmas.
Historical and biblical evidence clearly proves that Christmas is a pre-Christian festival. It’s not biblical, and it’s not of God. Ironically, the early Catholic theologian Origen repudiated as sinful the very idea of keeping the birthday of Christ (The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1910, vol. 6, p 293).
The inarguable fact is that Christmas isn’t supported by your Bible. There is one quintessential question that remains: Would Jesus Christ participate in the observance of Christmas? And if He wouldn’t, why not?
Was Jesus born on Christmas Day?
The first question to ask is whether Jesus was even born on the traditional date of Dec. 25. Luke’s Gospel records the event: “And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:7-8). No mention of date so far. And does this scene fit with a winter birth?
Alexander Hislop wrote in his book The Two Babylons: “There is not a word in the Scriptures about the precise day of His birth, or the time of the year when He was born. What is recorded there implies that at what time . . . His birth took place, it could not have been on the 25th of December.
“At the time that the angel announced His birth to the shepherds of Bethlehem, they were feeding their flocks by night in the open fields. Now, no doubt, the climate of Palestine is not so severe as the climate of this country [England]; but even there, though the heat of the day be considerable, the cold of the night, from December to February, is very piercing, and it was not the custom for the shepherds of Judea to watch their flocks in the open fields later than about the end of October. It is in the last degree incredible, then, that the birth of Christ could have taken place at the end of December” (1959, pp. 91-92).
Consider the highly improbable fact that a pregnant woman would travel a long distance, in wet and cold winter conditions, to be registered for a census to be taxed. “. . . The middle of winter was not fitting for such a business, especially for women with child, and children to travel in. Therefore, Christ could not be born in the depth of winter . . .
“And if any shall think the winter wind was not so extreme in these parts, let him remember the words of Christ in the gospel, ‘Pray that your flight be not in the winter.’ If the winter was so bad a time to flee in, it seems no fit time for shepherds to lie in the fields, and women and children to travel in” (ibid, p. 92, quoting scholar Joseph Mede). The better argument is that Jesus was likely born in late September through mid-October.
Where did Christmas come from?
If it can be shown that the historical birth of Jesus wasn’t the real root of the holiday, where did it come from?
Hislop explains this as well: “Long before the fourth century, and long before the Christian era itself, a festival was celebrated among the heathen [that is, the pagans], at that precise time of the year, in honour of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven; and it may fairly be presumed that, in order to conciliate the heathen, and to swell the number of the nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church, giving it only the name of Christ. This tendency on the part of Christians to meet Paganism half-way was very early developed” (ibid., p. 93).
Secular and biblical evidence shows that the modern Christmas traditions came from the ancient winter solstice or Mithraic festival, adopted and celebrated by the Romans.
“Christmas has its origin in two ancient festivals, the great Yule-feast of the Norsemen and the Roman Saturnalia. During the Saturnalia, gifts were made by the wealthy to the poor in honor of the golden age of liberty when Saturn ruled the known world, and slaves were allowed to change places and clothing with their masters. They even elected their own king who, for the period of the festival, ruled as a despot. The Saturnalia involved the wildest debauchery, and was a festival of Pan himself” (Richard Cavendish, Man, Myth and Magic, 1983, Vol. 2, p. 480).
The Catholic writer Tertullian complained around A.D. 230 about the ancient festival period that led to Christmas: “‘By us . . . who are strangers to [Jewish] Sabbaths and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to God, 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; oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians’” (quoted by Hislop, p. 93).
“Upright men strove to stem the tide, but in spite of all their efforts, the apostacy went on, till the Church, with the exception of a small remnant, was submerged under Pagan superstition. 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” (ibid.).
The bottom line: Christmas came from a pre-Christian, pagan festival.
Why was Christmas set on December 25?
Consider this surprising admission in the New Catholic Encyclopedia’s explanation of why Christmas was set on December 25: “According to the hypothesis suggested by H. Usener, developed by B. Botte, and accepted by most scholars today, the birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian), because on this day, as the sun began its return to the northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun).
“On Dec. 25, [A.D.] 247, Aurelian had proclaimed the sun-god principal patron of the empire and dedicated a temple to him in the Campus Martius. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome. This theory finds support in some of the Church Fathers’ contrasting the birth of Christ and the winter solstice; indeed, from the beginning of the 3rd century ‘Sun of Justice’ appears as a title of Christ.
“Though the substitution of Christmas for the pagan festival cannot be proved with certainty, it remains the most plausible explanation for the dating of Christmas” (“Christmas and Its Cycle, History,” 1967, Vol. 3, p. 656).
The famed British anthropologist Sir James Frazer (1854-1941) adds to our understanding of the establishment of Christmas:
“Mithraic religion proved a formidable rival to Christianity, combining as it did a solemn ritual with aspirations after moral purity and a hope of immortality. Indeed the issue of the conflict between the two faiths appears for a time to have hung in the balance. An instructive relic of the long struggle is preserved in our festival of Christmas, which the Church seems to have borrowed directly from its heathen rival.
“What considerations led the ecclesiastical authorities to institute the festival of Christmas? . . . It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same twenty-fifth of December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and festivities the Christians took part.
“Accordingly when the doctors [theologians] of the Church perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day and the festival of the Epiphany on the sixth of January . . . The heathen origin of Christmas is plainly hinted at, if not tacitly admitted, by Augustine when he exhorts his Christian brethren not to celebrate that solemn day like the heathen on account of the sun, but on account of him who made the sun.
“Thus it appears that the Christian Church chose to celebrate the birthday of its Founder on the twenty-fifth of December in order to transfer the devotion of the heathen from the Sun to him who was called the Sun of Righteousness . . .
“Taken altogether, the coincidences of the Christian with the heathen festivals are too close and too numerous to be accidental. They mark the compromise which the Church in the hour of its triumph was compelled to make with its vanquished yet dangerous rivals” (The Golden Bough, 1963, pp. 416-419, emphasis added).
A red Santa and a green Christmas tree
Among many today the central figure of Christmas is not Jesus but the man in the red suit. “Santa Claus, probably the most widely accepted of all the symbols of Christmas, arrived in Britain sometime during the 1880s from America, where he had long reigned as the gift-bringing St. Nicholas of the German and Dutch settlers.
“By the 1890s the English Father Christmas, originally a minor character in a mummer’s play, had been absorbed into the personality of his American counterpart [Santa Claus], and become the jovial figure that he is today . . . Santa Claus was accompanied and associated with ghosts and demons . . . Children are solemnly warned that only if they are very good will they receive their presents” (Cavendish, p. 483).
Why would Christian parents lie to their children in telling them Santa delivers gifts from the North Pole on Christmas Eve? How can Christians correlate the wise men’s meaningful gifts for the future King of Kings to Santa’s gifts for their children?
And what of the tradition of the Christmas tree? “Equally old was the practice of the Druids, the caste of priests among the Celts of ancient France, Britain and Ireland, to decorate their temples with mistletoe, the fruit of the oak-tree which they considered sacred. Among the German tribes the oak-tree was sacred to Odin, their god of war, and they sacrificed to it until St Boniface, in the eighth century, persuaded them to exchange it for the Christmas tree, a young fir-tree adorned in honour of the Christ child . . . It was the German immigrants who took the custom to America” (L.W. Cowie and John Selwyn Gummer, The Christian Calendar, 1974, p. 22).
Would Christ participate in Christmas today?
Would Jesus Christ take part in a festival that, while stated to be in His honor, actually diametrically opposes Him by celebrating the worship of false gods? If He did, He would be violating the laws of God He Himself had proclaimed—thus sinning (see, for example, Deuteronomy 12:29-32). If He sinned, we have no Savior and no salvation.
God is the Author of life-saving truths—not of immaculately coiffed falsehoods. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Lies are of Satan: “The devil . . . does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Christmas blinds well-meaning people to its false narrative. We can’t put Christ back in Christmas, as many seek to do, because He was never there in the first place. Misguided people put Him there. What does that mean for us?
Jesus asked the religious leaders of His day: “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3, New International Version). And He further said: “These people draw near to me with their mouth, and honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9).
Satan wants to destroy you and me. He presents himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14-15) but lives in and creates spiritual darkness (Ephesians 6:12). He promotes lies instead of truth, glittering lights instead of the true light of God, and mesmerizing music and false platitudes instead of the truth of salvation. He hopes to deceive humanity through holidays that honor a lie, not God.
Certainly Christmas is an intoxicating elixir, but you can break free from its debilitating addiction. You now have a choice to follow God’s instruction or to follow a holiday that originated in worship of ancient false gods. May God lead you to obey His holy will and honor Him always!