Christmas, just like many of us, comes from a history chalk full of things we’d rather not talk about. And because of this shady past, some insist we should not celebrate Christmas on December 25.
Here are some rather shocking bullets in their guns:
- In ancient Babylon, the feast of the Son of Isis (Goddess of Nature) was celebrated on December 25. Raucous partying, gluttonous eating and drinking, and gift-giving were traditions of this feast.
- In Rome, the Winter Solstice was celebrated many years before the birth of Christ. The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring Saturn, the God of Agriculture.
- In northern Europe, many other traditions that we now consider part of Christian worship were begun long before the participants had ever heard of Christ. The pagans of northern Europe celebrated the their own winter solstice, known as Yule. Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born, and was observed on the shortest day of the year. As the Sun God grew and matured, the days became longer and warmer. It was customary to light a candle to encourage Mithras, and the sun, to reappear next year.
- Huge Yule logs were burned in honor of the sun. The word Yule itself means “wheel,” the wheel being a pagan symbol for the sun. Mistletoe was considered a sacred plant, and the custom of kissing under the mistletoe began as a fertility ritual. Hollyberries were thought to be a food of the gods.
- The tree is the one symbol that unites almost all the northern European winter solstices. Live evergreen trees were often brought into homes during the harsh winters as a reminder to inhabitants that soon their crops would grow again. Evergreen boughs were sometimes carried as totems of good luck and were often present at weddings, representing fertility. The Druids used the tree as a religious symbol, holding their sacred ceremonies while surrounding and worshipping huge trees.
- In 350, Pope Julius I declared that Christ’s birth would be celebrated on December 25. There is little doubt that he was trying to make it as painless as possible for pagan Romans (who remained a majority at that time) to convert to Christianity. The new religion went down a bit easier, knowing that their feasts would not be taken away from them.
Wow. Idol worship, fertility rituals, raucous partying and good luck charms certainly don’t seem like the best foundation for celebrating the birth of the Savior of the world.
HOWEVER, the whole reason Jesus came was to change the world, starting with us. So if God can change messed up people into new creations, why can’t he do the same with a holiday with a shady past? Evergreens represent life, the light from candles represents the Light of the world, a raucous party becomes a celebration where we give gifts to celebrate the ultimate gift God has given to us. December 25 is now about God transforming us by coming to earth as a man, it doesn’t matter what it used to be about.
What do you think? Merry Christmas!