Is Christmas a Phony?

You are here

Is Christmas a Phony?

Login or Create an Account

With a account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


Very shortly, the world will once again enter the Christmas season. Though primarily considered a Christian holiday, Christmas is increasingly big business and is celebrated by many who are not Christians. It generates billions of dollars in retail sales worldwide. But is this a holiday that Christians, or anyone else, should observe?

The origins of Christmas are many, with quite a number of its traditions actually predating the birth of Jesus Christ. Most of the origins are troubling from a Christian perspective. Let's note a few and, with this in mind, consider a principle Jesus Himself gave.

Roman connection

The date of December 25th probably originated with the ancient "birthday" of the pagan sun god Mithra, based on the idea of the rebirth of the sun during the winter solstice period. Originally a Persian deity related to the Semitic sun god Shamash, Mithra became popularly worshipped throughout the Roman Empire, where he was called in Latin Deus Sol Invictus Mithras (the unconquered sun god Mithras). The Romans combined the worship of this deity with a midwinter celebration of the god Saturn known as the Saturnalia, which began a few days before December 25th. The festival was characterized by gift-giving, feasting and singing, as well as downright debauchery, as the priests of Saturn carried wreaths of evergreen boughs in procession throughout Roman temples.

Mistletoe is bad for you

Kissing under the mistletoe is a holdover from the drunken revelry and debauchery associated with celebrating the death of the old sun and the birth of the new sun at the winter solstice. The Celts in pre-Christian England used the plant in religious custom around the second century B.C. The Druids (the learned class of the Celts) celebrated the start of winter by gathering the mistletoe that grew on sacred oaks and burning it as a sacrifice to their gods. If enemies chanced to meet under a tree that bore mistletoe, they were required to lay down their arms and forget their differences for a day. During the Roman feasts of Saturnalia and Natalis Solis Invicti (the birth of the unconquered sun), observers bound mistletoe sprigs into boughs and festively draped the garlands throughout their homes.

Christmas tree's roots

The custom of the Christmas tree is claimed by some to have begun in Germany, in the first half of the 700s. An early story relates how the British missionary monk St. Boniface was then preaching a sermon on the birth of Christ to a tribe of Germanic Druids. To convince the idolaters that the oak tree was not sacred, the so-called "Apostle of Germany" felled one on the spot. Toppling, it crushed every shrub in its path except for a small fir sapling. Legend has it that Boniface, attempting to win converts, interpreted the fir's survival as a miracle, concluding, "Let this be called the tree of the Christ Child." Subsequent Christmases in Germany were celebrated by planting fir saplings. However, this story seems a convenient way to explain away the use of evergreen trees in traditional Christian worship. We noted the Saturnalia's use of evergreens. And other historians place the origin of venerating such trees thousands of years ago in ancient Babylon, Egypt and elsewhere. Indeed, the Bible even mentions the use of green trees as pagan symbols of ancient worship and forbids their use in the worship of God (Deuteronomy 16:21; Jeremiah 17:2).

Yule log burning

As a symbol of the sun, the Yule log comes from pre-Christian times. Yule means "wheel" for the "wheel of the year"—the annual cycle with its rebirth at the winter solstice. Fires during the solstice were an important pagan practice to encourage the waning sun back to life—hence burning the Yule log. Even today, many still call this the Yuletide season (Charles Panati, Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things, 1989—among other sources).

What Jesus has to say

In the Gospel accounts, there is no record of the date of Christ's birth. There are hints at the time of year He was born (not midwinter!), but nowhere in the New Testament does the early Church celebrate a day for the birth of Christ. Instead true followers of Jesus Christ are told—commanded, in fact—to remember Passover, the day of His death (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). It was not until A.D. 337, under Roman Emperor Constantine, that these pagan customs were converted into the "Christian" holiday of Christmas.

Many know the origins of Christmas traditions and yet justify observing the holiday by saying that the original meanings of these customs are not important now that they're part of such a wonderful family time that's fun for the children. Of course, God is in favor of family time and fun—but only in accordance with His laws. Worship celebrations should follow the weekly and annual days that God chose and on which He expects us to worship Him. Tagging a pagan holiday or tradition with a Christian label is spiritually unacceptable to God the Father and Jesus Christ. Anytime the worship of God is diluted with pagan religious customs, it is no longer pure.

Consider Jesus' citing of the words He had inspired in the prophet Isaiah: "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; see Isaiah 29:13). We can easily apply this to the holiday of Christmas. Instead of being a true celebration of the coming of our Savior, it is actually based on and is still wrapped in pagan symbolism. It merely masquerades as a Christian celebration. As Jesus' words make clear, Christmas is phony.

To see more about the blending of pagan worship with Christianity, be sure to read "Paganism in Christianity". And for a greater discussion and review of the Christmas holiday and other traditional Christian observances, we recommend that you read our booklet Holidays or Holy Days: Does It Matter Which Days We Observe? There you will also find details about the festivals God does want us to observe.

You might also be interested in...


  • Ames

    Hello all!
    I have read through the posts on the difficulty in 'not' celebrating Christmas and having family members that do.

    I have been 'not' celebrating for over 30 years, and would offer the following ideas:

    1. Pray -ask God for wisdom, patience, and humility in
    explaining your beliefs
    2. When explaining why - use both the Bible and Encyclopedia
    references. Most people will acknowledge the background of
    the traditions.
    3. Be sure to take the opportunity to show your family how much
    you love them and enjoy being with them.
    a. Plan activities, get togethers on Holidays you do share
    with them (in the US; Thanksgiving, Independence Day)
    b. Throught the year give - small gifts, cards, home made items
    The Feast of Tabernacles is an excellent time to bring
    back a small gift from the area you visited to help
    explain to your family your beliefs.
    c. Find 'non-holiday' activities to enjoy with your family
    during this time, game nights, movies, concerts
    4. Remeber that you may have to 'explain' it or remind them
    every year, consider it another opportunity to teach God's
    way, instead of a personal attack on your beliefs.

  • Luesenheide


    The Bible does not say that there were THREE Wise men. There were 3 presents, so perhaps that is where the idea came from, but there is no mention as to HOW MANY Magi there were. (See the

    In all probability, there was a large caravan of travelers with the Magi, as travel in those days was extremely dangerous.

    Our thoughts or human traditions on matters are not what matter ultimately. We must rely on the word of God to define our behaviors. The event with the Wise Men was a one time event, and occurred nowhere near December 25th. There was no Xmas tree, nor was there a Santa Claus. There was no exchanging of gifts, but rather, gifts and alms given to Jesus.

    Your Friend,

  • Opone Onyeka Jeffery

    What is Christmas?
    Friends this is my idea about Christmas.........

    Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth changed the whole world -- and He can change your life today. Jesus was born in the little town of Bethlehem in Israel over 2,000 years ago; His mother was the virgin Mary. When He was born, an angel proclaimed to shepherds in the field "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."

    Each year, it is traditional to give gifts at Christmas. Just as you give gifts to your loved ones, God is offering you a gift as well: the gift of complete forgiveness, freedom from sin, and eternal life with Him in heaven. Just like you must accept a Christmas gift for it to be yours, you must accept God’s gift of salvation.....know that the wise men that went to visit Jesus gave him a gift which was stated in the book of Matthew 2 but it was not stated that the wise men the went to visit Jesus were how come people use to say three wise men went to visit Jesus and it was not stated in the all Christians out there lets get this fact clear and i hope that you will do more research on this....
    Heaven bless you all....


    TINABUG,christmas is a hard time for talking to others about Jesus because of the reason you stated. It is not a good time to try and convert someone to Christianity. If they are Christian and participating in the pagan man made holidays it is are duty to let them know where we stand and why. At that point we have planted the seed and it becomes there responsibility to find out for themselves if we are right or wrong. I will tell you this part is not easy and taking this position for me has been very difficult. I struggle with it greatly every year at this time and my wife tells me I have made them aware and need to let it go. I have lost good friends in years past because I so much want them to see the truth and be free from the slavery of the worlds pleasures. I have a very difficult time letting the Holy Spirit take over and do its work which with time will happen if they are willing to listen to it speaking. I do have one friend who last year after many talks and sending her articles to read removed the tree from her home. Praise the Lord one step at a time.
    People need to not look at a religion but look at there relationship with our father Jesus Christ who died for us that we might have eternal life. There is no religion or church that can give you eternal life.

    Here are some more scriptures for you to consider while taking your position. Like I said before it is most important not to back up once you have been convicted on something you believe.
    I hope I have answered your question alright if not please let me know and I will give it another try.
    God will bless you for standing up for Him.

    Mat 10:32 "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven

    Mat 10:37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

    Mat 10:22 And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

    Luk 21:17 And you will be hated by all for My name's sake.

    Joh 15:18 "If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

  • Tinabug

    SHABBOTISTHEWAY, Thanx so much for the encouraging words. We stopped the Christmas thing about the same time, 5 or 6 years ago. I was called some really bad things by a member of the family just this year so i guess I was going thru a bit of a down moment. The rest of my huge family, though they dont understand my commitments, came to my side in a big way so I am feeling much better. Your comments just added to my now revived spirit. I will use those scriptures the next time i feel the need to express my belief on the subject. Ya know, some say I should just keep my beliefs to myself to avoid conflict... May I ask what is your feelings on that subject? I kinda feel that if I go that route, that I might as well keep Jesus to myself as well. No, I believe I should share my Love forJesus but more importantly his Love for us. But I will say, My light don't seem to shine at Christmas time when they look at me and say, "I don't want no part of that religion" instead of wanting the joy that I have in my life...The joy of having the Spirit of Jesus all year long. Thanx again


    Tinabug let me tell you it will be one of the hardestthings you have done. My wife and I give it up six years ago and the most important thing I think was that we stood firm on our convictions and stayed close to God. It will be hard on all family members but in time they will understand and accept your new found freedom. There are many many good articles on not celebrating christmas but the bible is your very best tool.
    Psa 119:128 Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way. christmas is false. Look up Matt. 7:6-9
    Pro 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
    We have made Christ our top priority and we feel blessed that we have come to this understanding You are on the right road so do not turn back it will get easier in time I have been there. Let the family know you love them but you have chosen to follow the bible and not man. You and your husband are in my prayers.

  • Bill Lussenheide


    You are not alone in doing this. Literally 10s of thousands of Christians do not keep Xmas.

    You might enjoy fellowshipping with those of like mind and spirit. This will help you to realize that you are not a "religious loon" as you stated above, or are alone. The United Church of God has welcoming, friendly people and interesting services held each week all around the country. Check here for a congregation near you...

  • Tinabug

    I too have stopped celebrating Christmas in its traditional sense but I am struggling with the idea that my husband and I feel like we are alone in this endeavor. Of course we have God to get us through but it would be so helpful if I had family members who understood. How do you explain it to them without them thinking that we are some kind of religious loons? We have made Christ our top priority and we feel blessed that we have come to this understanding but I cant deny it just might be the hardest thing we will ever do. It hurts us as much as it does the family. Please pray for us.

  • triciabrown

    First of all I just want to say thanks UCG for building an interactive website where people like us can go to talk about this stuff.

    I grew up in a regligious home where Christmas was the favorite time of year. I grew up with all the traditions and presents galore. I couldnt wait for christmas morning. As I grew up I loved Christmas more and more. It truely was my favorite time of year. It was magical and all the lights and decorations were absolutely beautiful. As I started having children I couldnt wait to buy them gifts and watch them unwrap them christmas morning and to know how bad we struggled to get them and it all seemed to work out and christmas morning was perfect. However the older I got I couldnt figure out why everyone went into debt to celebrate Christs birthday, but I didnt argue it much. I did learn this past year that we are not even suppose to celebrate his birth and with all the facts that i have gathered from your website and others I am truely shocked and IT ALL MAKES SENSE!! I have choosen to not celebrate christmas this year and I do not hide the fact that I am not either. I dont go around and scream it from the rooftops but if im asked about the season i simply tell them that based on my religion i do not celebrate it and I get lots of negative feed back like i have to celebrate it cause i have children. But what they dont understand that it is for my children that I do not anymore. I wish them enternal life of happiness and just one day a year happiness!! I truely am thankful that God has allowed me to understand the truth about him and giving me a chance to make a lasting difference in my life and the life of my children!!

  • Bill Lussenheide

    RE: NEW

    Agreed, there is much ignorance in the Christian community in regards to Christmas, and God does say he "winks at the time of ignorance". However, it is our duty , to enlighten and inform people about the true God and his true Holy Days such as those in Leviticus 23.

    We shouldn't ever be self righteous, or feel superior about knowledge. However, Christmas is much more than just "one day". It has grown to be a multiple MONTHS long obsession, and teaches incorrect principles about our Savior, and the nature of God.

    In loving kindness, we should share our understanding with others. Perhaps a copy of the article above given to those who inquire as to why we do not celebrate Christmas.

  • XCG Friend

    Despite this negative view of Christmas, we should always bear in mind that the many millions of people--our neighbors--who believe in Jesus Christ and celebrate Christmas without knowing the particulars of its various accoutrements and symbols are not actually worshiping pagan gods. Though their worship may not be especially well informed, it is well meant and intended to honor Christ. We must beware of harboring a contemptuous or self-righteous attitude toward our neighbors because of our perception that their worship is vain and ineffectual. Christmas is, after all, only one day, and a very very small fraction of everything that Christians of the world believe in. Let's use the opportunity of this "holiday" to speak of our own love for Christ and what he has done for us!

  • washbe777

    I have searched the Bible and I do not see anywhere in the Bible that tells us to celebrate Jesus birth. I know Christmas because I was lied to as a child and was made to feel that the gift giving was centered around a conditional love based on how important you were to the gift giver. I would become very depressed during this time. Why would people go to the lengths of getting in debt to show their so-called love and then complain about it until the bill was paid off. I knew that something was not quite right in my early adult years. I know a lot of people will not stand on the truth because of fear and are afraid of getting some very negative feedback by not celebrating a man-made holiday that has nothing to do with Christ. If God is for me then who can be against me. I have always wanted to know what was real. I think people hate to offend others and just go along with the status quo. I'm thankful that during the times I was not included in the gift giving, lead me know that I was being set apart for something that God was preparing me to do. Speak the truth!!!!!!!!! What are we leaving to our children, the truth vs the lie. God is great and greatly to be praised. Thank you United Church of God for the opportunity to be able to separate fact from fiction.

  • Join the conversation!

    Log in or register to post comments