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Borrowed from: Truth On The WEB Ministries
Article Preview: Where did Christianity get “Christmas”? Is it really “Christ’s Mass”? The evidence contradicting the popularly held notion that Jesus ever had anything to do with Christmas is historically overwhelming! Could “committing” Christmas be a sin?
The following quotations were provided by a friend, Ken Hoeck, whom I met at the Feast of Tabernacles of 2003. I reformatted these from five emails that he sent out to his mailing list. –Lon
Greetings to all the People of God! The forthcoming short series from TOTW are not our regular “News Clipz” but are what we call “Truth On Christmas Clipz”. This one is a gigantic compilation of credible source quotations and tidbits on the pagan origin of this Popish holly-day. If anyone writes an article utilizing a good selection of these (and using an evangelistic loving tone and approach, ya know ... something that may actually make even, say, ... a Catholic consider it to be worthy of reading it ... rather than a ‘shove these facts in yo face’ approach that will not change anybody’s opinion) we would love to read it and maybe place it on the Truth On The Web Site. We hope you find this informative. —Ken Hoeck
Christmas Not Always Accepted As It Is Today
The Register of Ministers in Geneva (1546) records a list of “faults which contravene the Reformation.” Among the directives regarding “Superstitions” is the following: “Those who observe Romish festivals or fasts shall only be reprimanded, unless they remain obstinately rebellious.” —Philip E. Hughes, ed. and trans., The Register of the Company of Pastors in the Time of Calvin, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966), p. 56
In England, Christmas was forbidden by Act of Parliament in 1644; the day was to be a fast and a market day; shops were compelled to be open; plum puddings and mince pies condemned as heathen. The conservatives resisted; at Canterbury blood was shed; but after the Restoration Dissenters continued to call Yuletide “Fooltide”. —Catholic Encyclopedia
Declared Illegal By Puritans
In June 1647, England Parliament, headed by Puritans passed legislation abolishing Christmas and other holidays: “Forasmuch as the feast of the nativity of Christ, Easter, Whitsuntide, and other festivals, commonly called holy-days, have been heretofore 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; any law, statute, custom, constitution, or canon, to the contrary in anywise not withstanding.” —Daniel Neal, The History of the Puritans —London, 1837; rpt. Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1979, Vol. 2, p. 458
Christmas Was Not A Legal Holiday
Christmas was not established as a legal holiday throughout the U.S. until late in the 19th century. In 1659, the Puritan colony in Massachusetts passed a law that anyone ‘found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing labor, feasting, or in any other way, shall be fined five shillings.’ Many early Americans who refused to work on Christmas either went to jail or paid fines.” —Arizona Currents, December, 1968, p.5
“Christmas was once banned in Boston. The Puritans forbade the celebration of Christmas because it was a ‘pagan feast.’ Episcopalians were the first in Boston to observe the holiday. They were followed by increasing numbers of young people who raised 18th century eyebrows with ‘frolics, a reveling feast and ball.’ But it wasn’t until 1856 that the legislature—recognizing a losing battle when it saw it—gave in and made Christmas a legal holiday.” —The Phoenix Gazette, December 22, 1967
Those Who Opposed Christmas Not Liked By Others
The Quakers near Philadelphia were not given to observing holidays, and in New England the whole idea of Christmas was frowned upon ... the Puritans were bitterly opposed to it, but being in the minority, their practices were not liked by their fellow citizens.” —Alfred C. Hottes, 1001 Christmas Facts and Fancies
Holding Fast Deceit
In Charles Dickens tale “ A Christmas Carol", we can all remember the catch phrase of Ebenezer Scrooge: “ Christmas: Bah, Humbug!” At the time this unholy work was penned, Christmas was still not accepted by the Christian world as it is today (see 6 Clippings above ). This story was wholly designed to “domesticate” the papal-made/pseudo-Christian holiday and remove the resistance that the last remaining anti-papists held. Along with promulgating the false doctrine of the immortality of the soul, this tale, embraced by millions, concocted by Dickens, had undertones designed to ridicule those people who were not keeping Christmas because they knew of its abominable pagan origins and undertones .... And it is utilized the same way today ... how many of you have been called a “Scrooge”? Let’s look up the definition of what old fictitious Scrooge was trying to tell us.
Merriam Webster’s definition:
So we see Scrooge’s real message was: Bah, Christmas, something designed (by the papacy) to deceive and mislead!
We agree with Old Scrooge” Christmas: Bah, Humbug!”
(Side note: Oh, As an odd coincidence ... which may or may not have any bearing here .... We looked up the meaning of “Dickens” (as a word —not the history of the actual name) just out of curiosity because we wondered why people said “that little dickens!” and if it had anything to do with Charles Dickens’ namesake.
Here is what we saw: dickens (noun) [euphemism] First appeared 1598: DEVIL, DEUCE )
Comments on Christmas by Charles H. Spurgeon
“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 any mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be sung in Latin or in English: Secondly, because we find no scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Savior’s birth, although there in no possibility of discovering when it occurred. It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the birth of our Lord; and it was not till long after the western Church had set the example, that the eastern adopted it. Because the day in not known. Probably the fact is that the “holy” days were arranged to fit in with the heathen festivals. We venture to assert that if there be any day in the year of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which our Savior was born it is the 25th of December. Regarding not the day, let us give God thanks for the gift of His dear Son. —C. H. Spurgeon Dec. 24, 1871 (Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, p. 697)
How absurd to think we could do it in the spirit of the world, with a Jack Frost clown, a deceptive worldly Santa Claus, and a mixed program of sacred truth with fun, deception and fiction. If it be possible to honor Christ in the giving of gifts, I cannot see how while the gift, giver, and recipient are all in the spirit of the world. The Catholics and high Church Episcopalians may have their Christmas one day in 365 but we have a Christ gift the entire year”. —C. H. Spurgeon Dec. 24, 1871 (Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, p. 697)
“Upright men strove to stem the tide, but in spite of all their efforts, the apostasy went on. till the Church, with the exception of a small remnant was submerged under pagan superstition. That Christmas is a pagan festival is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, and the ceremonies with which it in celebrated, prove its origin” .... “Those who follow the custom of observing Christmas, follow not the Bible, but pagan ceremonies”. —C. H. Spurgeon
“That God’s word damns your ceremonies, it is evident; for the plain and straight commandment of God is, “Not that thing which appears good in thy eyes, shalt thou do to the Lord thy God, but what the Lord thy God has commanded thee, that do thou: add nothing to it; diminish nothing from it” Now unless that ye are able to prove that God has commanded your ceremonies, this his former commandment will damn both you and them.” —John Knox’s History of the Reformation in Scotland —Ed. by William Croft Dickinson; New York: Philosophical Library, 1950, Vol. 1, p. 91
Knox on Christmas Keeping and other Papist Days of men
“Lest upon this our generality ungodly men take occasion to cavil, this we add for explication. By preaching of the Evangel, we understand not only the Scriptures of the New Testament, but also of the Old; to wit, the Law, Prophets, and Histories, in which Christ Jesus is no less contained in figure, than we have him now expressed in verity. And, therefore, with the Apostle, we affirm that “all Scripture inspired of God is profitable to instruct, to reprove, and to exhort.” In which Books of Old and New Testaments we affirm that all things necessary for the instruction of the Kirk, and to make the man of God perfect, are contained and sufficiently expressed.
By contrary Doctrine, we understand whatsoever men, by Laws, Councils, or Constitutions have imposed upon the consciences of men, without the expressed commandment of God’s word: such as be vows of chastity, foreswearing of marriage, binding of men and women to several and disguised apparels, to the superstitious observation of fasting days, difference of meat for conscience sake, prayer for the dead; and keeping of holy days of certain Saints commanded by men, such as be all those that the Papists have invented, as the Feasts (as they term them) of Apostles, Martyrs, Virgins, of Christmas, Circumcision, Epiphany, Purification, and other fond feasts of our Lady. Which things, because in God’s scriptures they neither have commandment nor assurance, we judge them utterly to be abolished from this Realm; affirming further, that the obstinate maintainers and teachers of such abominations ought not to escape the punishment of the Civil Magistrate.— In 1560, Knox, First Book of Discipline. —Knox’s History, Vol. 2, p. 257-8, 281. Cf. John Knox, Works (David Laing, ed.; Edinburgh: James Thin, 1895), Vol. 2, p. 190
The position of the Scottish Church was reaffirmed in 1566. Theodore Beza wrote to Knox, requesting Scottish approval for the Second Helvetic Confession (1566). The General Assembly in Scotland replied with a letter of general approval. Nevertheless, the Assembly could scarcely refrain from mentioning, with regard to what is written in the 24th chapter of the aforesaid Confession concerning the “festival of our Lord’s nativity, ... passion, resurrection, ascension, ... that these festivals at the present time obtain no place among us; for we dare not religiously celebrate any other feast-day than what the divine oracles prescribed.” —In Knox, Works, Vol. vi, pp. 547-48. The same position is expressed in the Second Scotch Confession (1580), which rejects the “dedicating of kirks, altars, days.”
No Nativity, Birthdays or Christmas for Early Christians or Catholics Either
According to the December 23,1996 issue of US News & World Report, “the earliest Christians simply weren’t interested in celebrating the Nativity ....” The same magazine continues, “... They ‘viewed birthday celebrations as heathen’. The third-century church father Origen [a catholic] had declared it a sin to even think of keeping Christ’s birthday ‘as though he were a king pharaoh’.”
Let us quote the Catholic Encyclopedia published in 1913AD “... Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the “birthdays” of the gods.”
Although there was no Christmas observance at this time, there were various pagan celebrations held in conjunction with the winter solstice.
In Scandinavia, the great feast of Yule with all its various ceremonies, had celebrated the birth of the winter sun-god. In the Latin countries there reigned Saturnalia, a cult of the god Saturn. The date December 25, coincided also with the birth of Attis, a Phrygian cult of the sun-god, introduced into Rome under the Empire. The popular feasts attached to the births of other sun-gods such as Mithra, were also invariably celebrated at the time of the winter solstice.-. Ethel L. Urlin, Festivals, Holy Days, and Saints’ Days —London, 1915; rpt. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1979, p. 232
“Our annual Christian festival (Christmas) is nothing but a continuation under a different name of this old solar festivity (Saturnalia).” —The New Golden Bough, Fraser and Foster, p. 653.
“The observance of December 25 (as a Christian festival) only dates from the fourth century and is due to assimilation with the Mithraic festival of the birth of the sun” —World Popular Encyclopedia, Volume 3.
If You Can’t Beat ’Em The RCC says Join ’Em
The transition from festivals commemorating the birth of a sun god to a celebration ostensibly for the Son of God occurred sometime in the fourth century. Unable to eradicate the heathen celebration of Saturnalia, the Church of Rome, sometime before 336 A.D., designated a Feast of the Nativity to be observed. —James Taylor, “Christmas,” in The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church —J. D. Douglas, ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974, p. 223
All The Trappings = Saturnalia
Many of the customs associated with Christmas also took their origins from the heathen observances. The exchanging of gifts, extravagant merriment, and lighting of candles all have previous counterparts in the Roman Saturnalia. The use of trees harkens back to the pagan Scandinavian festival of Yule. —James Taylor, “Christmas,” in The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church —J. D. Douglas, ed.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974, p. 223
On Sunday, 16 November, 1550, an edict was issued concerning holidays; it was a decree “respecting the abrogation of all festivals, ... “ This ban on festival days (including Christmas) caused an uproar in certain quarters, and Calvin was reproached as the instigator of the action. —Philip E. Hughes, ed. and trans., The Register of the Company of Pastors in the Time of Calvin, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966),p. 130
A Scottish minister (1575-1651), David Calderwood, in his critique of the Perth Assembly, asserts that only God has the prerogative “to appoint a day of rest and to sanctify it to his honor.” Under the law of God, no one presumed to appoint holy days “but God, and that either by Himself, or by some extraordinary direction.” — Perth Assembly, pp. 66,69.
Calderwood continues, “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, and not Christ, were the God of Christians.” —Perth Assembly, pp. 79-81.
Second Commandment Ruling
George Gillespie (1613-49) rests his case on the second commandment. “The second commandment is moral and perpetual, and forbids to us as well as to them the additions and inventions of men in the worship of God.” Therefore, “sacred significant ceremonies devised by man are to be reckoned among those images forbidden in the second commandment.” —Gillespie, Part 2, pp. 118, 84; cf. 86
Creeping Against Opposition
Opposition to ecclesiastical holidays remained in American Presbyterianism through the latter half of the nineteenth century. Speaking of the South after the Civil War, one historian notes: There was, however, 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 25; it was not recognized as a day of any religious significance in the Presbyterian Church. “If the exact date were known, or if some day (as December 25) had been agreed upon by common consent in the absence of any certain knowledge, we would still object to the observance of Christmas as a holy day. We object for many reasons, but at present mention only this one—that experience has shown that the institution of holy days by human authority, however pure the intention, has invariably led to the disregard of the Holy day—the Sabbath—instituted by God.” In the following decade [the 1880s] this same journal sorrowed to see “a growing tendency [to introduce church festivals into Protestant denominations], even in our own branch of the church. True, it is by no means general, and has not been carried very far, but it is enough to awaken our concern and to call for that least a word of warning that the observance of Easter and Christmas is increasing amongst us....” —Ernest Trice Thompson, Presbyterians in the South, Richmond: John Knox Press, 1973, Vol. 2, p. 434, Thompson’s citations are from the Southern Presbyterian (December 22, 1870; January 3, 1884)
Not Everybody Succumbed To This Popish Plot
In 1899, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Churches was overtured to give a “pronounced and explicit deliverance” against the recognition of “Christmas and Easter as religious days.” Even at this late date, the answer came back in a solid manner: There is no warrant in Scripture for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holydays, rather the contrary (see Gal 4:9-11; Col 2:16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. —Cited in Morton H. Smith, How is the Gold Become Dim (Jackson, Mississippi: Steering Committee for a Continuing Presbyterian Church, etc., 1973), p. 98
Some Sects Held Fast The Truth even in Modern Day
Even with the avalanche of liberalism and evangelical ecumenicity, Christmas has not gone unchallenged in twentieth century Presbyterianism. In 1962, the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland issued a “Statement of Differences Between the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Other Presbyterian Churches.” One point of difference concerns the observance of holidays, which are tolerated in the theologically liberal Church of Scotland. The Free Presbyterian Church rejects the modern custom becoming so prevalent in the Church of Scotland, of observing Christmas and Easter. It regards the observance of these days as symptomatic of the trend in the Church of Scotland towards closer relations with Episcopacy. At the time of the Reformation in Scotland all these festivals were cast out of the Church as things that were not only unnecessary but unscriptural. —History of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, (1893-1970) (Compiled by a Committee Appointed by the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church; Inverness: Publications Committee, Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, n.d.), p. 383
“... Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church ....” —Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 edition
“On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites ... Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian” —Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, Vol. II, p. 903, “Christmas”
“December 25, the birthday of Mithra, the Iranian god of light and ... the day devoted to the invincible sun, as well as the day after Saturnalia, was adopted by the [Roman Catholic] church as Christmas, the nativity of Christ, to counteract the effects of these festivals.” —The New Encyclopædia Britannica.
“Christmas ... It was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons [ie Passover—death of Christ] rather than their birth ...” “... A feast was established in memory of this event [the assumed birth of Jesus] in the fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever ON THE DAY OF THE OLD ROMAN FEAST OF THE BIRTH OF SOL [SUN], as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.” Emphasis added. —Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 Edition
“The idea of using evergreens at Christmas also came to England from pre-Christian northern European beliefs. Celtic and Teutonic tribes honored these plants at their winter solstice festivals as symbolic of eternal life, and the Druids ascribed magical properties to the mistletoe in particular.” —The Encyclopedia Americana International Edition, New York: Grolier, 1991, p666
“How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia [December 25] following the Saturnalia [December 17-24], and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the ‘new sun’ ... cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence .... The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mespoptamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.” —New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article “Christmas”
“Christmas: The supposed anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, occurring on Dec. 25. No sufficient data ... exist, for the determination of the month or the day of the event .... There is no historical evidence that our Lord’s birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or early post apostolic times. The uncertainty that existed at the beginning of the third century in the minds of Hippolytus and others—Hippolytus earlier favored Jan. 2, Clement of Alexanderia (Strom., i. 21) “the 25th day of Pachon” (= May 20), while others, according to Clement, fixed upon Apr. 18 or 19 and Mar. 28—proves that no Christmas festival had been established much before the middle of the century. Jan. 6 was earlier fixed upon as the date of the baptism or spiritual birth of Christ, and the feast of Epiphany ... was celebrated by the Basilidian Gnostics in the second century ... and by catholic Christians by about the beginning of the fourth century. The earliest record of the recognition of Dec. 25 as a church festival is in the Philocalian Calendar (copied 354 but representing Roman practice in 336).” —A. H. Newman, Christmas, The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 3, p. 47. Copyright 1909 by Funk & Wagnall’s Company, New York
“Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church ... the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt.” “Pagan customs centering around the January calendars gravitated to Christmas.” “... In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his [Jesus] birthday. It is only sinners who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world” —Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 Edition, published by the Roman Catholic Church
The New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “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).”
The well-known solar feast of Natalis Invicti, ‘the Nativity of the Unconquered Sun,’ celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date,” —Catholic Encyclopedia, vol.3, p. 727, article, “Christmas”
“The use of evergreens to decorate homes at Christmas has an unmistakable pre-Christian origin.” —Colliers’ Encyclopedia, New York: P. F. Collier, 1991, p. 404
“The practice of exchanging presents at Christmas stems from the ancient Roman custom called Strenae. During the Saturnalia, Roman citizens used to give “good luck” gifts (strenae) of fruits, pastries, or gold to their friends on New Year’s Day.” —Colliers’ Encyclopedia, New York: P. F. Collier, 1991, p. 404
The World Book Encyclopedia
“”The ancient Romans held year-end celebrations to honor Saturn, their harvest god; and Mithras, the god of light. Various peoples in northern Europe held festivals in mid-December to celebrate the end of the harvest season. As part of all these celebrations, the people prepared special foods, decorated their homes with greenery, and joined in singing and gift giving. These customs gradually became part of the Christmas celebrations.” —The World Book Encyclopedia, Chicago: World Book, 1995, p. 528
According to The World Book Encyclopedia, Pope Liberius of Rome, in 354 A.D., ordered December 25th observed from that time forward as the birthday of Christ, and chose the date “because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the Sun.”
“The custom of giving gifts to relatives and friends on a special day in winter probably began in ancient Rome and northern Europe.” —The World Book Encyclopedia, Chicago: World Book, 1995, p. 534
“Ancient Celtic priests considered the plant [mistletoe] sacred and gave people sprigs of it to use as charms. The custom of decorating houses with mistletoe probably came from its use as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans.” —The World Book Encyclopedia, Chicago: World Book, 1995, p. 528
“In ancient Rome, people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory and celebration. The custom of hanging a Christmas wreath on the front door of the home probably came from this practice.” —The World Book Encyclopedia, Chicago: World Book, 1995, p. 535
MacMillan Compact Encyclopedia.
“In the West it [Christmas] has been celebrated on 25 Dec since 336 AD, partly in order to replace the non-Christian sun worship on the same date.” —MacMillan Compact Encyclopedia, Toronto: MacMillan, 1995, p. 122
The Cambridge Encyclopedia.
“The practice of celebrating Christmas on 25 December began in the Western Church early in the 4th-c; it was a Christian substitute for the pagan festival held on that date to celebrate the birth of the unconquered sun.” —The Cambridge Encyclopedia, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 257
“When Christianity spread northwards it encountered a similar pagan festival [Saturnalia], also held at the winter solstice, the great Yule-feast of the Norsemen. Once again Christmas absorbed heathen customs. From these various sources come the Yule log, the Christmas tree, introduced into England from Germany and first mentioned in 1789, the decorating of houses with mistletoe and holly and churches with evergreens, especially holly and ivy, as well as the provision of a feast.” —Chambers’s Encyclopædia, London: International Learning Systems, 1973, p. 538
World Popular Encyclopedia
“The observance of December 25 [as a Christian festival] only dates from the fourth century and is due to assimilation with the Mithraic festival of the birth of the sun” —World Popular Encyclopedia, Volume 3.
Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible
“Gradually a number of prevailing practices of the [heathen] nations into which Christ came were assimilated and were combined with the religious ceremonies surrounding Christmas. The assimilation of such practices generally represented efforts by Christians to transform or absorb otherwise pagan practices.” —The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 1, p. 805
“The practice of decorating houses and churches is pagan in its origin, and the mistletoe so widely used for that purpose was the sacred plant of the Druids.” —Everymans Encyclopedia, Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967, p1,672
“The Roman festival of the winter solstice was celebrated on 25 Dec. (dies natalis solis invictus). The Celtic and Germanic tribes held this season in veneration from the earliest times, and the Norsemen believed that their deities were present and active on earth from 25 Dec. to 6 Jan.” —Everyman’s Encyclopedia, Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967, p1,672
“The custom of presenting friends with gifts at Christmas dates back to the time of the ancient Romans.” —Everymans Encyclopedia, Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967, p1,672
New Standard Encyclopedia
“Christianity thus replaced a pagan holiday with a Christian one, while keeping the same symbolism-the birthday of Christ corresponds to the birth of a new year. Many of the pagan customs became part of the Christmas celebrations.” —New Standard Encyclopedia, Chicago: Standard Educational, 1991, pC-320
“Pagan celebrations on December 25 had included feasting, dancing, lighting bonfires, decorating homes with greens, and giving gifts. So when this became a Christian festival, the customs continued, but with a Christian meaning imparted to them.” —Encyclopedia International, USA: Lexicon, 1980, p. 414
Merit Students Encyclopedia
“The Yule log is another of the many Christmas traditions that originated among the Germanic tribes. It was burnt during the winter solstice celebrations, and its name comes from jol, the Old Norse name for their pagan festival. The word “Yule” has since become a synonym for Christmas.” —Merit Students Encyclopedia, New York: MacMillan, 1983, p. 470
“The custom of exchanging gifts at Christmastime stems from an ancient Roman practice. During the Saturnalia the Romans presented their emperor and each other with tokens of good luck, called strenae.” —Merit Students Encyclopedia, New York: MacMillan, 1983, p. 470
Webster’s Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia
“The sending of gifts had its origin in the Yule gifts of northern countries of Europe and ancient Rome.” —Webster’s Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia, New York: Webster’s Unified, 1970, p. 361
MSN Encarta Encyclopedia
“Scholars believe that the festival is derived in part from rites held by pre-Christian Germanic and Celtic peoples to celebrate the winter solstice. Christmas festivals have been observed by Christians since the 4th century and incorporate many pagan customs, such as the use of holly and mistletoe” —MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Concise Edition, article: Christmas
“... most scholars believe that Christmas originated in the 4th century as a Christian substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Before the introduction of Christmas, each year beginning on December 17 Romans honored Saturn, the ancient god of agriculture, in a festival called Saturnalia. This festival lasted for seven days and included the winter solstice, which usually occurred around December 25 on the ancient Julian calendar. During Saturnalia the Romans feasted, postponed all business and warfare, exchanged gifts, and temporarily freed their slaves. Many Romans also celebrated the lengthening of daylight following the winter solstice by participating in rituals to glorify Mithra, the ancient Persian god of light (see Mithraism). These and other winter festivities continued through January 1, the festival of Kalends, when Romans marked the day of the new moon and the first day of the month and year.
Although the Gospels describe Jesus’ birth in detail, they never mention the date, so historians do not know on what date he was born. The Roman Catholic Church chose December 25 as the day for the Feast of the Nativity in order to give Christian meaning to existing pagan rituals. For example, the Church replaced festivities honoring the birth of Mithra, the god of light, with festivities to commemorate the birth of Jesus, whom the Bible calls the light of the world. The Catholic Church hoped to draw pagans into its religion by allowing them to continue their revelry while simultaneously honoring the birthday of Jesus....
Over the next 1000 years, the observance of Christmas followed the expansion of Christianity into the rest of Europe and into Egypt. Along the way, Christian beliefs combined with existing pagan feasts and winter rituals to create many long-standing traditions of Christmas celebrations. For example, ancient Europeans believed that the mistletoe plant held magic powers to bestow life and fertility, to bring about peace, and to protect against disease. Northern Europeans associated the plant with the Norse goddess of love, Freya, and developed the custom of kissing underneath mistletoe branches. Christians incorporated this custom into their Christmas celebrations, and kissing under a mistletoe branch eventually became a part of secular Christmas tradition.” —MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Deluxe Edition, article: Christmas, section II: Origins of Christmas
“During the Reformation of the 16th century, Protestants challenged the authority of the Catholic Church, including its toleration of surviving pagan traditions during Christmas festivities. For a brief time during the 17th century, Puritans banned Christmas in England and in some English colonies in North America because they felt it had become a season best known for gambling, flamboyant public behavior, and overindulgence in food and drink.
... Colonists from England, France, Holland, Spain, and other countries also gradually modified their Christmas ceremonies as they encountered new cultures and traditions in the New World. For example, in large towns, where diverse groups lived close together, the common ground for celebration could often be found in public and secular festivities rather than in potentially divisive religious ceremonies. Thus, at least in New York City, the winter’s holidays often culminated on New Year’s, not Christmas.” —MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Deluxe Edition, article: Christmas, section II: Origins of Christmas
“In the United States and Canada, many elements of modern Christmas celebrations did not emerge until the 19th century. Before then Christmas had been an ordinary workday in many communities, particularly in New England, where early Puritan objections to Christmas celebrations remained highly influential. Among some groups, Christmas was an especially boisterous event, characterized by huge feasts, drunkenness, and raucous public revelry. In an English tradition that survived in some parts of North America, Christmas revelers would dress in costume and progress from door to door to receive gifts of food and drink. Most holiday gifts were limited to small amounts of money and modest presents passed from the wealthy to the poor and from masters to their servants. Families almost never exchanged Christmas gifts among themselves.
... Christmas gained increased prominence largely because many people believed it could draw families together and honor children. Giving gifts to children and loved ones eventually replaced the raucous public celebrations of the past, and Christmas became primarily a domestic holiday. —MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Deluxe Edition, article: Christmas, section II: Origins of Christmas
“The Bible provides no guidelines that explain how Christmas should be observed, nor does it even suggest that it should be considered a religious holiday. Because of the lack of biblical instructions, Christmas rituals have been shaped by the religious and popular traditions of each culture that celebrates the holiday .... Christmas observances have also assimilated remnants of ancient midwinter rituals that celebrate the returning light of the sun following the winter solstice. For example, many cultures continue the pre-Christian custom of burning Yule logs during the midwinter season; the Yule log symbolizes the victory of light over the darkness of winter. The tradition of lighting the Yule log is still observed, especially by Europeans. Families light the log on Christmas Eve and keep it burning until Epiphany. Some families save the remains of the Yule log to help kindle the fire the following year. According to ancient tradition, the ashes provide protection against bad luck during the year.
“During the Christmas season Italians perform music at shrines of the Virgin Mary. They also play songs at the homes of carpenters in honor of Saint Joseph, who was a carpenter. On Christmas Eve, after a day of fasting, Italians enjoy a feast of eels and a spaghetti dish with anchovies called cennone. Santa Claus is not a prominent figure in Italian folklore. Instead, Italian children wait for La Befana, a good witch who rides her broom to their homes on Epiphany to distribute gifts. According to folk belief, La Befana—whose name refers to the word Epifania (Epiphany)—was too busy to accompany the Three Wise Men on their journey to visit the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. Now, to atone for her failing, she visits all good children, leaving treats. She also visits bad children and leaves them lumps of coal or bags of ash. —MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Deluxe Edition, article: Christmas, section VII: Around the World, B: Among Roman Catholics, 1: In Italy
For more about pagan Christmas, see Part 2