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. Is Christmas not just a pagan holiday?

Question:

 

Are Christians allowed to celebrate Christmas? Is it not just a pagan holiday?

 

Answer:

 

The accusation thrown into the faces of Christians is that Christmas has its origins stooped in pagan traditions and should therefore not be celebrated. This is a favourite argument used by atheists and then of course Jehovah’s Witnesses alike. So what do we say to this?

It is true that December the 25th was first celebrated as a pagan holiday, and it is also true that many traditions associated with Christmas are pagan in origin.

We do not know the exact date of the birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible simply just does not give it to us. So where does December the 25th come from? In the second century A.D., a Roman Christian historian named Sextus Julius Africanus calculated Jesus’ birthdate to be December 25 (nine months after Africanus believed Jesus was conceived). In spite of the many assumptions made in Africanus’s line of thinking, the date was widely accepted.

At that time, Roman culture already celebrated a holiday on December 25, called Saturnalia, the winter solstice. This is the reason why many do not want to celebrate Christmas due to its association with a pagan holiday. This tradition honoured Saturn, the god of agriculture, and was celebrated with merriment, feasting, and gift giving. When Rome eventually instituted Christianity as the state religion in the fourth century, the Roman church converted Saturnalia to a Christian holiday in order to commemorate Jesus’ birth. Christians have celebrated it as such ever since. So, it would be fair to say that Saturnalia was cancelled in favour of Christmas.

The question then becomes, “Since Christmas has its origins in pagan traditions, is it acceptable for Christians to celebrate it?” I do not know of any Christian that entertains any thoughts regarding Saturn the god of agriculture on the 25th of December. For us it has become a full blown celebration of the coming of Christ. The gifts we give are a reminder of Christ as God’s gift to mankind. The fact remains that, although Christmas has some associations with a secular holiday, Christians still celebrate it to remember the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It may be a matter of conscience for some, for as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 10:23 (ESV) 23 “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.” So the common thought is that the holiday has been redeemed due to the deeper meaning it has been given. As Christians we do not for example regard Good Friday as a secular holiday to be celebrated in secular and God dishonouring ways simply because the world has stolen that holiday for their purposes. In the end it comes back to the heart. What is Christmas to you, what is easter to you. What other's do with it is their problem. We celebrate Christ on both occasions.

 

Are you obliged to celebrate Christmas, and if I decide not to, what should my view be of those who do celebrate Christmas? I believe Paul has the answer for us.

Romans 14:5-12 (NIV) 5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. 8 If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.’ ” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.”

The golden rule is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

 

So according to the verses above, a Christian can rightfully set aside any day--including Christmas--as a day for the Lord. We believe Christmas affords believers with a great opportunity to exalt Jesus Christ.

And even though our society has muddied the message of Christmas through consumerism, myths and empty traditions, we should not let these distract us from appreciating the real meaning of Christmas. Let us take advantage of this opportunity to remember Him, worship Him and faithfully witness of Him.