|Articles in Investigator 171:
Ball and Spells
Spaceguard and the Bible
IS CHRISTMAS PAGAN?
(Investigator 171, 2016 November)
In 2015 Zaky Mallah, an Australian Islamic activist, posted the
opinion: "Christmas is a Pagan celebration nothing to do with Jesus
himself or Christianity. Why do Christians celebrate this day beats
He may have absorbed this opinion from "Christians" who equate
Christmas celebrations with Roman Paganism and claim Jesus was born in
Ancient Rome honored the god Saturn with the Saturnalia festival in
December, a festival sometimes noted for drunkenness.
The Encyclopedia Britannica
The Saturnalia was
originally celebrated on December 17, but it was later extended to
seven days. It was the merriest festival of the year: all work and
business was suspended; slaves were given temporary freedom to say and
do what they liked; certain moral restrictions were eased; and presents
were freely exchanged.
In the 4th century Emperor Constantine adopted December 25 as the date
of Christ's birth. Many congregations introduced special meetings and
meals to remember and honor the birth of Jesus.
As more Pagans converted to belief in Christianity and Christianity
became the official religion of the Roman Empire the Saturnalia died
Do the December dates and the practice of gift-giving for the
Saturnalia and Christmas make the latter Pagan?
The replacement of one custom with another does not make the latter the
same as the former.
If a field used for playing Saturday golf is converted to Saturday
football, it would not mean that football is golf. If a movie theatre
is converted to a casino that would not make playing roulette the same
as movie-watching. If a travel club changes its regular December travel
destination from Italy to France it would not mean that France is
The replacement of one custom
with another does not make the latter the same as the former even if it
retains the same date.
Anyone who attends Church at Christmas probably won't even hear the
words "Saturnalia" or "Paganism", nor get drunk. What they would hear
is from the Bible about Mary and Joseph, the Roman census, Jesus'
birth, the angels informing the shepherds, the "three wise men", and
Herod's failed attempt to kill Jesus, none of which was commemorated in
Different Christmas decorations might symbolize different things to
different people. The Christmas tree possibly recalls the "tree of
life" and God's provisions for salvation. The star atop the Christmas
tree may represent the Star that guided the "wise men" to Bethlehem.
December 25 is not the real date of Jesus' birth. It is the official
date for the purpose of commemoration.
Today the Star of Bethlehem, which led the "wise men" to the infant
Jesus, is often identified as the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter on
June 17, 2 BC. (The Star of Bethlehem, Investigator 164, September 2015)
Jesus' birth, however, occurred more than 40 days before June 17 when,
according to the Bible, angels appeared to shepherds:
8 In that region there
were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by
9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them...
13-14 And suddenly there was with the angel a
multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, "Glory to God
in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors."
I enquired into attitudes at a Protestant church where members told me
they do not teach their children myths such as Santa Claus and flying
reindeer since the Bible commands people to, "Speak the truth." Some
members also don't care for Christmas trees. But the traditional date
of December 25 for gift-giving to family members is followed by most.
Is Christmas celebration Pagan?
When churches commemorate Christ's birth, at whatever official date
they decide, in reverent manner, and avoid myths such as Santa Claus,
and do not recognize any pagan god, the celebration is Christian.
Why do Christians celebrate Christmas? Because Jesus’ birth was
necessary for human salvation; and the angels celebrated!