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Chapter 2

Historians Tell Us More about Christmas

Historians, who have spent years studying this, explain how Christmas got its date and where Santa Claus, mistletoe, and other Christmas legends came from.

(If this chapter is a little deep, skip over to the next one, on page 44.)

DATE OF CHRIST’S BIRTH NOT KNOWN—"The supposed anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, occurring on Dec. 25: No sufficient data . . exists, 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 Alexandria (Strom., i. 21), "the 25th 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 [although copied in 354, represented Roman practice in 336]."—Newman, A.H., "Christmas," New Scaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 3, 47.

THEY WERE NOT CERTAIN WHAT DATE TO SELECT—"Uncertainty about Jesus’ birthday in the early third century is reflected in a disputed passage of the presbyter Hippolytus, who was banished to Sarinia by Maximinus in 235, and in an authentic statement of Clement of Alexandria. While the former favored January second, the learned Clement of Alexandria enumerates several dates given by the Alexandrian chronographers, notably the twenty-fifth of the Egyptian month, Pachon (May twentieth), in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus and the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth of Pharmuthi (April eighteenth or nineteenth) of the year A.D. 1, although he favored May twentieth. This shows that no Church festival, in honor of the day, was established before the middle of the third century. Origen, at that time in a sermon, denounced the idea of keeping Jesus’ birthday like that of Pharaoh and said that only sinners such as Herod were so honored. Arnobius later similarly ridiculed giving birthdays to ‘gods.’ A Latin treatise, De pascha computus (of ca. 243), placed Jesus’ birth on March twenty-first since that was the supposed day on which God created the Sun (Gen 1:14-19), thus typifying the ‘Sun of righteousness’ as Malachi 4:2 called the expected Messiah. A century before, Polycarp, martyred in Smyrna in 155, gave the same date for the birth and baptism placing it on a Wednesday because of the creation of the Sun on that day."—Walter Woodburn Hyde, Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire, 249-250.

INITIALLY DIFFERENT DATES FOR MEMORIAL OF HIS BIRTH.—"The Oriental Christians kept the memorial of the Saviour’s birth and of his baptism, on one and the same day, namely, the sixth day of January; and this day they called Epiphany. But the Occidental Christians always consecrated the 25th day of December to the memory of the Saviour’s birth. For, what is reported of Julian I, the Roman bishop’s transferring the memorial of Christ’s birth from the 6th day of January to the 25th of December, appears to me very questionable."—John Laurence von Mosheim, D.D. Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, book 2, cent. 4, part 2, chap. 4, sec. 5 (Vol. I, 372-373). London: Longman & Co., 1841.

WHEN CHRISTMAS WAS FIRST OBSERVED—"The first footsteps we find of the observation of this day are in the second century, about the time of the emperor Commodus."—Charles Buck, A Theological Dictionary, "Christmas," Philadelphia: Crissy and Markley, copyright 1851, 71.

CHRISTMAS NOT AN OFFICIALLY ACCEPTED CHURCH DAY UNTIL THE FOURTH CENTURY.—"It is now generally granted that the day of the nativity was not observed as a feast in any part of the church, east or west, till some time in the fourth century. If any day had been earlier fixed upon as the Lord’s birthday, it was not commemorated by any religious rites, nor is it mentioned by any writers."—Samuel J. Andrews, The Life of Our Lord Upon the Earth, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1891, 17.

THE BIRTHDAY OF THE SUN WAS SELECTED—"The early Christians, who attributed to Christ not only the title (Kyrios) but also many other honors that the pagans paid to their ‘divine’ emperors, naturally felt inclined to honor the birth of the Saviour. In most places the commemoration of Christ’s birth was included in the Feast of the Epiphany (Manifestations) on January 6, one of the oldest annual feasts.

"Soon after the end of the last great persecution, about the year 330, the Church of Rome definitely assigned December 25 for the celebration of the birth of Christ. For a while, many Eastern Churches continued to keep other dates, but toward the end of the fourth century the Roman custom became universal.

"No official reason has been handed down on ecclesiastical documents for the choice of this date. Consequently, various explanations have been given to justify the celebration of the Lord’s nativity on this particular day. Some early Fathers and writers claimed that December 25 was the actual date of Christ’s birth . .

"It was expressly stated in Rome that the actual date of the Saviour’s birth was unknown and that different traditions prevailed in different parts of the world.

"A second explanation was of theological-symbolic character. Since the Bible calls the Messiah the ‘Sun of righteousness’ (Malachi 4:2), it was argued that His birth had to coincide with the beginning of a new solar cycle, that is, He had to be born at the time of the winter solstice . . This explanation, though attractive in itself, depends on too many assumptions that cannot be proved and lacks any basis of historical certitude.

"There remains then this explanation, which is the most probable one, and held by most scholars in our time: the choice of December 25 is influenced by the fact that the Romans, from the time of Emperor Aurelian (275), had celebrated the feast of the sun god (Sol Invictus: the Unconquered Sun) on that day. December 25 was called the ‘Birthday of the Sun,’ and great pagan religious celebrations of the Mithras cult were held all through the empire. What was more natural than that the Christians celebrate the birth of Him Who was the ‘Light of the World’ and the true ‘Sun of righteousness’ on this very day? The popes seem to have chosen December 25 precisely for the purpose of inspiring the people to turn from the worship of a material sun to the adoration of Christ the Lord. This thought is indicated in various writings of contemporary authors.

"It has sometimes been said that the Nativity is only a ‘Christianized pagan festival.’ However, the Christians of those early centuries were keenly aware of the difference between the two festivals—one pagan and one Christian—on the same day. The coincidence in the date, even if intended, does not make the two [p. 62] celebrations identical. Some newly converted Christians who thoughtlessly retained external symbols of the sun worship on Christmas Day were immediately and sternly reproved."—Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1958), 60-62.

IT WAS THE BIRTHDAY OF THE SUN GOD—"One of the dominant religious ideas of the second and third centuries was the belief in the divinity of the Sun . .

"This divinity is of especial interest for our inquiry, for his annual festival fell on the twenty-fifth of December and its relation to Christmas [p. 151] has been a matter of protracted discussion. Obviously the season of the winter solstice, when the strength of the sun begins to increase, is appropriate for the celebration of the festival of a sun-god. The day in a sense marks the birth of a new sun. But the reason for its being chosen as the day for the commemoration of Christ’s nativity is not so evident.

" . . The identity of date is more than a coincidence. To be sure the Church did not merely appropriate the festival of the popular sun-god. It was through a parallelism between Christ and the sun that the twenty-fifth of December came to be the date of the nativity . . [p. 153] Even Epiphanius, the fourth century metropolitan of Cyprus, though giving the sixth of January as the date of birth, connects the event with the solstice. Moreover, the diversion of the significance of a popular pagan holiday was wholly in accord with the policy of the Church. Of the actual celebration of a festival of the nativity, it should be added, there is no satisfactory evidence earlier than the fourth century. Its first observance in Rome on December the twenty-fifth took place in 353 or 354 (Usener) or in 336 (Duchesne). In Constantinople it seems to have been introduced in 377 or 378."—Gordon J. Laing, Survivals of Roman Religion (New York: Longmans, 1931), 150-153.

THE PAGAN WORSHIPERS OF MITHRA CELEBRATED THE BIRTHDAY OF THE SUN ON DECEMBER 25—"Each day in the week, the planet to which the day was sacred was invoked in a fixed spot in the crypt; and Sunday, over which the Sun presided, was especially holy . .

"The rites which they [the Mithraists] practised offered numerous analogies . . They also held Sunday sacred, and celebrated the birth of the Sun [god] on the 25th of December."—Franz Cumont, the Mysteries of Mithra, Trans. by T.J. McCormack, 167, 191.

WORSHIPERS OF MITHRAS, THE SUN GOD, WON BY MAKING DECEMBER 25 THE BIRTHDAY OF CHRIST—"While Christianity won a comparatively easy victory over the Graeco-Roman religion, it had a hard struggle with the Mithras religion. The worshipers of Mithras were won by taking over the birthday of Mithras, December 25, as the birthday of Christ."—H. Lamer, "Mithras," Worterbuch der Antike, 2nd ed.; Leipzig: A. Kroner, 1933.

TWO MITHRAIC HOLY DAYS ADOPTED AS CHRISTIAN HOLY DAYS—"Remains of the struggle are found in two institutions adopted from its rival by Christianity in the fourth century, the two Mithraic sacred days, December twenty-fifth, dies natalis solis [birthday of the sun], as the birthday of Jesus, and Sunday "the venerable day of the Sun," as Constantine called it in his edict of 321."—Walter Woodburn Hyde, Paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire, 60.

CHRISTMAS FALLS ON THE SUN’S BIRTHDAY, WHICH IS JUST AFTER DECEMBER 21, THE WINTER SOLSTICE—"A very general observance required that on the 25th of December the birth of the ‘new Sun’ should be celebrated, when after the winter solstice the days began to lengthen and the ‘invincible’ star triumphed again over darkness. It is certain that the date of this Natalis Invicti was selected by the Church as the commemoration of the Nativity of Jesus, which was previously confused with the Epiphany. In appointing this day, universally marked by pious rejoicings, which were as far as possible retained,—for instance the old chariot races were preserved,—the ecclesiastical authorities purified in some degree the customs which they could not abolish. This substitution, which took place at Rome probably between 354 and 360, was adopted throughout the Empire, and that is why we still celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December.

"The pre-eminence assigned to the dies Solis also certainly [p. 90] contributed to the general recognition of Sunday as a holiday. This is connected with a more important fact, namely, the adoption of the week by all European nations."—Franz Cumont, Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans (reprint; New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1960), 89-90.

SUMMARY OF PAGAN ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS—"It is admitted by the most learned and candid writers of all parties, that the day of our Lord’s birth cannot be determined; and that, within the Christian church, no such festival as Christmas was ever heard of till the third century. Not till the fourth century was far advanced did it gain much observance. How, then, did the Romanish Church fix on December the 25th as Christmas Day? Why, thus? Long before the fourth century, and long before the Christian era itself, a festival was celebrated among the heathen at that precise time of the year, in honor of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven; and it may fairly be presumed that, in order to conciliate the heathen and to swell the number of the nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church, giving it only the name of Christ.

"This tendency on the part of Christians to meet paganism halfway was very early developed; and we find Tertullian, even in his day, about the year 230, bitterly lamenting the inconsistency of the disciples of Christ in this respect, and contrasting it with the strict fidelity of the pagans to their own superstition . . 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 was originally a pagan festival, is beyond all doubt. The time of the year, and the ceremonies with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin. In Egypt, the son of Isis, the Egyptian title for the queen of heaven, was born at this very time, ‘about the time of the winter solstice.’ The very name by which Christmas is popularly known among ourselves—Yule day—proves at once its pagan and Babylonian origin. ‘Yule’ is the Chaldee name for an ‘infant’ or ‘little child’; and, as the 25th day of December was called by our pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors, ‘Yule day,’ or the ‘Child’s day,’ and the night that preceded it, ‘Mother night,’ long before they came in contact with Christianity, that sufficiently proves its real character. Far and wide, in the realms of paganism, was this birthday observed.

"This festival has been commonly believed to have had only an astronomical character, referring simply to the completion of the sun’s yearly course and the commencement of a new cycle. But there is indubitable evidence that the festival in question had a much higher reference than this—that it commemorated not merely the figurative birthday of the sun in renewal of its course, but the birthday of the grand Deliverer.

"Among the Sabeans of Arabia, who regarded the moon, and not the sun, as the visible symbol of the favorite object of their idolatry, the same period was observed as the birth festival. Thus we read in Stanley’s ‘Sabean Philosophy’: ‘On the 24th of the tenth month,’ that is December, according to our reckoning, ‘the Arabians celebrated the birthday of the Lord—that is, the moon.’ The Lord Moon was the great object of Arabian worship, and that Lord Moon, according to them, was born on the 24th of December, which clearly shows that the birth which they celebrated had no necessary connection with the course of the sun.

"It is worthy of special note, too, that if Christmas day among the ancient Saxons of this land was observed to celebrate the birth of any lord of the host of heaven, the case must have been precisely the same here as it was in Arabia. The Saxons, as is well-known, regarded the sun as a female divinity, and the moon as a male. It must have been the birthday of the Lord Moon, therefore, and not of the sun, that was celebrated by them on the 25th of December, even as the birthday of the same Lord Moon was observed by the Arabians on the 24th of December."—The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop, 7th edition, 92-94.

PAGAN PARALLELS TO THE SUN GOD BIRTH DATE—"Babylonian influence becomes particularly prominent in the great Nabataean kingdom whose principal capitals were Petra [p. 16] and Damascus, and whose history can be traced from their first mention by Ashurbanipal in the middle of the seventh century B.C., to their absorption into the Roman Empire in A. D. 106. They were a North Arabic race who used the Aramaic script, and their principal male deity is Dusura, rendered into Greek as Doundares, and identified by the Greeks with Dionysus. The name means ‘he of Shara’ (dhu Sara), i.e., ‘he of the mountain range esh-shara,’ at Petra, and he is a Sun-god according to Strabo. Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, writing in the fourth century, preserves the only illuminating information about the mythology of this great cult of the Nabataeans. As he was born and educated in Palestine, and served in a monastic order there, his statement must be taken authoritatively. He says that the Nabataeans praised the virgin whose Arabic name is Chaabou. In Nabataean the Arabic nominative ending in u is regularly preserved in proper names, and Epiphanius undoubtedly heard the word ka’bu, ‘square stone,’ symbol in Nabataean religion for both Dusares and the great Mother-goddess, Allat of the Nabataeans. An Arabic writer says that a four-sided stone was worshipped as Allat, who in a Nabataean inscription was called ‘Mother of the gods’ . . Epiphanius states that Dusares was the offspring of the virgin Chaabou and only son of the ‘lord’ (Ka’bu). The Panegyrarchs of Nabataean cities came to Petra to assist in the festival of his birth, which was celebrated on the twenty-fifth of December.

"Worship of a dying god, son of the Earth-mother, was the principal cult of this North Arabian people during the period immediately before and after the life of Jesus of Nazareth in Palestine. The title of the Mother-goddess, Allat, is ‘Mother of the gods’ here, and a translation of the title of the great Mother-goddess of Babylonia, belet ilani, ‘queen of the gods,’ whose title in Sumerian is also ‘goddess Mother.’ Dusares and Allat of the Nabataeans are an Arabian reflex of the great Babylonian myth of Tammuz and Ishtar; and if the god is identified with Dionysus, the original character common to both is that of a Sun-god and patron of fertility. Strabe describes the Nabataeans as a particularly abstemious people; the Greeks and Romans called Dusares the Arabian Dionysus or Bacchus; and a statue of him found in the Hauran portrays him as a deity of the vine. The cornucopia and patera are also characteristic of Dusares on coins of Nabataean cities as an Arabian. Bacchus Dusares is a Greek and Roman deity. The celebration of his birth in December at Petra and the northern cities of Bostra and Adraa in the Hauran with games and festivities is a replica of the spring festivities at Babylon, when the death, burial, and resurrection of Marduk were celebrated with weeping, which was exchanged for rejoicing. The meaning of the actia dusaria at Petra may be inferred from the similar festival at Alexandria in Egypt, there called after an unexplained Egyptian word Kikellia, or in Greek the Cronia, which also occurred by night on the twenty-fifth of December. In this festival an image of a babe was taken from the temple sanctuary and greeted with loud acclamation by the worshippers, saying, ‘the Virgin has begotten.’ On the night of the fifth of December, a festival occurred before the image of Core; it ended with bringing forth from beneath the earth the image of Aion, which was carried seven times around the inner sanctuary of Core’s temple. The image was then returned to its place below the surface of the earth. Epiphanius, in whose writing this Egyptian cult is described, identifies the virgin mother of this myth with the Greek underworld goddess Core, as he does the virgin mother of Dusares, Chaabou of the Nabataeans. There is a wide syncretism here in this Arabic religion, composed of Babylonian, Greek, and Egyptian elements; and beyond all doubt the Nabataeans possessed an elaborate cult of Tammuz and Ishtar, of Osiris and Isis, of Dionysus and Basilinna, the equivalent of Proserpine-Core, in which this deity was represented as a youth, son of the Mother-goddess, who was reborn yearly in midwinter and who died in the summer.

" ‘The Mother-goddess of the Nabataeans, Allat, identified with Core by the Greeks, is essentially the North Semitic Astarte, and the Babylonian Ishtar.’ "—Stephen H. Langdon, "Semitic Mythology," in Vol. 5 of The Mythology of All Races. Boston: Archaeological Institute of America, Marshall Jones Company, 1931, 15-19.

HEATHEN ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS—"The celebration of Christmas was not introduced in the church till after the middle of the fourth century. It originated in Rome, and was probably a Christian transformation of regeneration of a series of kindred heathen festivals, the Saturnalia, Sigillaria, Juvenalia, and Brumalia, which were celebrated in the month of December in commemoration of the golden age of universal freedom and equality, and in honor of the unconquered sun, and which were great holidays, especially for slaves and children. (See my [J.P. Lange’s] Church History, N.Y., Vol. ii, 395 ff.) In the primitive church there was no agreement as to the time of Christ’s birth. In the East the 6th of January was observed as the day of his baptism and birth. In the third century, as Clement of Alexandria relates, some regarded the 20th of May, others the 20th of April, as the birthday of our Saviour. Among modern chronologists and biographers of Jesus there are still greater differences of opinion; and every month, even June and July (when the fields are parched from want of rain), has been named as the time when the great event took place. Lightfoot assigns the nativity to September; Lardner and Newcome to October; Wieseler to February; Paulus to March; Greswell and Alford to the 5th of April, just after the spring rains, when there is an abundance of pasture. Luchtenstein places it in July or December, Strong in August; Robinson in autumn, Clinton in spring; Andrews between the middle of December, 749, to the middle of January, A.D. 750. On the other hand, Roman Catholic historians and biographers of Jesus, as Sepp, Friedlieb, Bucher, Patritius, also some Protestant writers, defend the popular tradition, of the 25th of December."—John Peter Lange, D.D., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, "Luke 2:36." New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 1870.

CHRISTMAS WAS ORIGINALLY THE ROMAN FEAST OF SATURNALIA—"The festival of Saturn fell on December 17, but its popular celebration lasted for seven days. It began as a country festival in the time when agriculture was one of the chief activities of the Romans. But soon it produced licentiousness and gambling. During these seven days city officials condoned conduct that they would not have tolerated at any other season. One feature of the occasion was the license allowed to slaves, who were permitted to treat their masters as if they were their social equals. Frequently indeed masters and slaves changed places and the latter were waited on by the former. Another feature of the celebration was the exchange of gifts, such as candles (cerei) which are supposed to have symbolized the increasing power of the sunlight after the winter solstice, and little puppets of paste or earthenware (sigillaria), the exact significance of which is obscure. It was a season of hilarity and goodwill . .

"The extremists who have said that Christmas was intended to replace the Saturnalia have vastly overstated the case. Nor is it of any importance that Epiphanius, the bishop of Salamis in Cyprus in the fourth century, places the Saturnalia on the twenty-fifth of December. This is not the only error in the list of dates in which it occurs. Without doubt, however, many of the customs of the Saturnalia were transferred to Christmas. Although the dates did not exactly coincide, for the Saturnalia proper fell on the seventeenth of December, the time of year was practically the same, and it has already been pointed out how frequently festivals of the merrymaking type occur among various peoples at this season. Fowler, mentioning the goodwill that so generally characterizes these celebrations, raises the question whether this was one of the reasons why Christmas was put at the winter solstice. Possibly, as has also been suggested, the postponement of the festivities from the date of the Saturnalia to Christmas week was in part at least caused by the institution of the Advent fast covering the period of the four Sundays before Christmas.

"Certainly many of the customs of the Christmas season go back to the Roman festival. In it lies the origin of the excessive eating and drinking, the plethora of sweets, the playing of games, and the exchange of gifts. Nor can we fail to connect our custom of burning candles with the candles (cerei) that were so conspicuously a part of the Saturnalia. Moreover, our Christmas holidays, like the Roman festival, are approximately a week . .

"In mediaeval times there were still other survivals, and the king of the Saturnalia is obviously the prototype not only of the Abbot of Unreason who at one time presided over the Christmas revels in Scotland, but also of the Lord of Misrule in England and the Abbe de Liesse in Lille. This mock dignitary had other titles . .

"We hear also of the Boy-Bishop (Episcopus Puerorum), whose authority lasted from St. Nicholas’ day (December 6) till Childermas (December 28) and whose tradition (as well as that of the Bishop of Unreason) still survives to a certain extent on Santa Claus. Apparently the compromise bade by the Church in adapting the customs of the Saturnalia to Christian practice had little or no effect on checking the license of the festival. This continued through the whole Christmas festival and sometimes lasted till the day of Epiphany (January 6). We find many criticisms by churchmen or councils. In England Henry VIII issued a proclamation in 1542, abolishing the revels, but Mary restored them in 1554."—Gordon J. Laing, Survivals of Roman Religion (New York: Longmans, 1931), 58, 62-65.

CHRISTMAS DOWN THROUGH THE CENTURIES—"The great church adopted Christmas much later than Epiphany; and before the fifth century there was no general consensus of opinion as to when it should come on the calendar, whether on the 6th of January, of the 25th of March, or the 25th of December.

"The earliest identification of the 25th of December with the birthday of Christ is in a passage, otherwise unknown and probably spurious, of Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 171-183), preserved in Latin by the Magdeburg Centuriators (i. 3, 118), to the effect that the Gauls contended that as they celebrated the birth of the Lord on the 25th of December, whatever day of the week it might be, so they ought to celebrate the Pascha on the 25th of March when the resurrection befell.

"The next mention of the 25th of December is in Hippolytus’ (c. 202) commentary on Daniel 4:23. Jesus, he says, was born at Bethlehem on the 25th of December, a Wednesday, in the forty-second year of Augustus. This passage also is almost certainly interpolated. In any case he mentions no feast, nor was such a feast congruous with the orthodox ideas of that age. As late as 245, Origen, in his eighth homily on Leviticus, repudiates as sinful the very idea of keeping the birthday of Christ ‘as if he were a king Pharaoh.’ The first certain mention of December 25 is in a Latin chronographer of A.D. 354, first published entire by Mommsen. It runs thus in English: ‘Year 1 after Christ, in the consulate of Caesar and Paulus, the Lord Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December, a Friday and 15th day of the new moon.’ Here again no festival celebration of the day is attested.

"There were, however, many speculations in the second century about the date of Christ’s birth. Clement of Alexandria, toward its close, mentions several such, and condemns them as superstitions. Some chronologists, he says, alleged the birth to have occurred in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus, on the 25th of Pachon, the Egyptian month, i.e., the 20th of May. These were probably the Basilidian Gnostics. Others set it on the 24th or 25th of Pharmuthi, i.e., the 19th or 20th of April. Clement himself sets it on the 17th of November, 3 B.C. The author of a Latin tract, called the De Pascha computus, written in Africa in 243, sets it by private revelation, ab ispo deo inspirsti, on the 28th of March. He argues that the world was created perfect, flowers in bloom, and trees in leaf, therefore in spring; also at the equinox, and when the moon just created was full. Now the moon and sun were created on a Wednesday. The 28th of March suits all these considerations. Christ, therefore, being the Sun of Righteousness, was born on the 28th of March. The same symbolic reasoning led Polycarp (before 160) to set his birth on Sunday, when the world’s creation began, but his baptism on Wednesday, for it was the analogue of the sun’s creation. On such grounds certain Latins as early as 354 may have transferred the human birthday from the 6th of January to the 25th of December, which was then a Mithraic feast and is by the chronographer above referred to, but in another part of his compilation, termed Natalis invicti solis, or birthday of the unconquered Sun. Cyprian (de orat. dom. 35) calls Christ Sol verous. Ambrose calls Him Sol novus noster (Sermo vii. 13), and such rhetoric was widespread. The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to the 6th of January, accused the Romans of sun worship and idolatry, contending with great probability that the feast of the 25th of December had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus and its lections by Artemon to commemorate the natural birth of Jesus . .

"In Britain the 25th of December was a festival long before the conversion to Christianity, for Bede (De temp. rat., ch. 13) relates that ‘the ancient peoples of the Angli began the year on the 25th of December when we now celebrate the birthday of the Lord; and the very night which is now so holy to us, they called in their tongue modranecht (modra niht), that is, the mothers’ night, by reason we suspect of the ceremonies which in that night-long vigil they performed.’ With his usual reticence about pagan or orthodox matters, Bede abstains from recording who the mothers were and what the ceremonies. In 1644 the English Puritans forbade any merriment or religious services by act of Parliament, on the ground that it was a heathen festival, and ordered it to be kept as a fast. Charles II revived the feast, but the Scots adhered to the Puritan view."—The Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. VI, "Christmas," 293, 294, 11th edition.

CHRISTMAS IN THE MIDDLE AGES AND BEYOND—"Middle Ages. The great religious pioneers and missionaries who brought Christianity to the pagan tribes of Europe also introduced the celebration of Christmas . .

"The period from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries was the peak of a general Christian celebration of the Nativity . . It was at this period, too, that most of the delightful Christmas customs of each country were introduced. Some have since died out; others have changed slightly through the ages. Many have survived to our day. A few practices had to be suppressed as being improper and scandalous, such as the customs of dancing and mumming in church, the ‘Boy Bishop’s Feast,’ the ‘Feast of the Donkey,’ New Year’s fires, superstitious (pagan) meals, impersonations of the Devil, and irreverent carols.

"Decline. With the Reformation in the sixteenth century there naturally came a sharp change in the Christmas celebration for countries in Europe. The Sacrifice of the Mass—the very soul of the feast—was suppressed. The Holy Eucharist, the liturgy of the Divine Office, the sacramentals and ceremonies all disappeared. So did the colorful and inspiring processions, the generation of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints. In many countries all that remained of the once rich and glorious religious festival was a sermon and a prayer service on Christmas Day. Although the people kept many of their customs alive, the deep religious inspiration was missing, and consequently the ‘new’ Christmas turned more and more into a feast of good-natured reveling.

"On the other hand, some groups, including the German Lutherans, preserved a tender devotion to the Christ Child and celebrated Christmas in a deeply spiritual way within their churches, hearts, and homes.

"In England the Puritans condemned ever the reduced religious celebration that was held in the Anglican Church after the separation from Rome . .

"When the Puritans finally came to political power in England, they immediately proceeded to outlaw Christmas . .

"Revival in England. When the old Christmas eventually returned with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, it was actually a ‘new’ Christmas. The spiritual aspect of the feast was left mostly to the care of the ministers in the church service on Christmas Day. What was observed in the home consisted of a more shallow celebration in the form of various nonreligious amusements and of general reveling . . However, a spirit of good will to all and of generosity to the poor ennobled these more worldly celebrations of the great religious feast. Two famous descriptions of this kind of popular celebration are found in Charles Dickins’ A Christmas Carol and in Washington Irving’s Sketch Book . .

"Christmas in America . . The feast was celebrated with all the splendor of liturgical solemnity and with the traditional customs of the respective nationalities in Florida, on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, in Canada, and in the territory of the present State of Michigan.

"In the colonies of New England, however, the unfortunate and misdirected zeal of the Puritans against Christmas persisted far into the nineteenth century . .

"It was not until immigrants from Ireland and from continental Europe arrived in large numbers toward the middle of the last century that Christmas in America began to flourish. The Germans brought the Christmas tree. They were soon joined by the Irish, who contributed the ancient Gaelic custom of lights in the windows . .

"Very soon their neighbors shared in these unusual but attractive innovations, followed their example and made many of these customs their own."—Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1958), 62-67.

SANTA CLAUS—St. Nicholas is thought to be a fine old saint in the church, but not so. It is true that there may have been a Nicholas, bishop of Myra, who lived in the fourth century and was said to have helped the poor. But Santa Claus was named after another "old Nick."

The legend of Santa Claus is quite similar to those of the ancient Egyptian god, Bes. Bes was a short rotund god who was said to give gifts to children. They were told he lived in the far north, where he spent most of the year making toys for them.

The Roman god, Saturn, was similar—and probably copied from Bes. He too was said to live in the northernmost part of the world, making gifts for children who were good. The Romans said he was the one who, each December, brought them the gifts of the new year.

The names, "Santa Claus" and "Kriss Kringle," do not go as far back into history. "Sant Nikolaas" (Sant-Ni-Klaus) and "Kriss Kringle" are from the German "Christ Krindl," or "Christ Child." So we have here a counterfeit Christ.

Parents punish their children for telling falsehoods, then tell them this big one in December! Later, when their children are grown, they wonder why they question the existence of God.

Teach your children about Jesus Christ—their best Friend, their only Saviour, and the only One who can really bring them the gifts they need. Do not waste time telling them myths; lest, when they grow older, they will not believe the realities you tell them of.

THE ORIGIN OF SANTA CLAUS—"When the Dutch came to America and established the colony of New Amsterdam, their children enjoyed the traditional ‘visit of Saint Nicholas’ on December 5; for the Dutch had kept this ancient Catholic custom even after the Reformation. Later, when England took over the colony and it became New York, the kindly figure of Sinter Klaas (pronounced Santa Claus) soon aroused among the English children the desire of having such a heavenly visitor come to their homes, too.

"The English settlers were glad and willing to comply with the anxious wish of their children. However, the figure of a Catholic saint and bishop was not acceptable in their eyes, especially since many of them were Presbyterians, to whom a bishop was repugnant. In addition, they did not celebrate the feasts of saints according to the ancient Catholic calendar.

"The dilemma was solved by transferring the visit of the mysterious man whom the Dutch called Santa Claus from December 5 to Christmas, and by introducing a radical change in the figure itself. It was not merely a ‘disguise,’ but the ancient saint was completely replaced by an entirely different character. Behind the name Santa Claus actually stands the figure of the pagan Germanic god Thor (after whom Thursday is named). Some details about Thor from ancient German mythology will show the origin of the modern Santa Claus tale:

"Thor was the god of the peasants and the common people. He was represented as an elderly man, jovial and friendly, of heavy build, with a long white beard. His element was the fire, his color red. The rumble and roar of thunder were said to be caused by the rolling of his chariot, for he alone among the gods never rode on horseback but drove in a chariot drawn by two white goats (called Cracker and Gnasher). He was fighting the giants of ice and snow, and thus became the Yule-god. He was said to live in the ‘Northland’ where he had his palace among icebergs. By our pagan forefathers he was considered as the cheerful and friendly god, never harming the humans but rather helping and protecting them. The fireplace in every home was especially sacred to him, and he was said to come down through the chimney into his element, the fire.70 [Note 70: H.A. Grueber, Myths of Northern Lands, Vol. I, New York, 1895, 61.] Here, then, is the true origin of our "Santa Claus." It certainly was a stroke of genius that produced such a charming and attractive figure for pagan mythology. With the Christian saint whose name he still bears, however, this Santa Claus has really nothing to do."—Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1958), 113-114.

MISTLETOE—Where did the mistletoe custom originate? Among the ancients, because mistletoe was considered sacred to the sun, it was used at the December festival of the winter solstice, when the sun was lowest in the noon sky.

Kissing under the mistletoe was thought to be an act of solar worship, empowering the worshipers for still further worship. As this indicates, pagan sun-worship services were very licentious. Temple prostitution was performed during the eight-day Roman Saturnalia which immediately preceded the December 25 sun-birth celebration.

MISTLETOE WAS THE SACRED PLANT OF THE HEATHEN DRUIDS—"The mistletoe was a sacred plant in the pagan religion of the Druids in Britain. It was believed to have all sorts of miraculous qualities: the power of healing diseases, making poisons harmless, giving fertility to humans and animals, protecting from witchcraft, banning evil spirits, bringing good luck and great blessings. In fact, it was considered so sacred that even enemies who happened to meet beneath a mistletoe in the forest would lay down their arms, exchange a friendly greeting, and keep a truce until the following day. From this old custom grew [p. 104] the practice of suspending mistletoe over a doorway or in a room as a token of good will and peace to all comers . .

"After Britain was converted from paganism to Christianity, the bishops did not allow the mistletoe to be used in churches because it had been the main symbol of a pagan religion. Even to this day mistletoe is rarely used as a decoration for altars. There was, however, one exception. At the Cathedral of York at one period before the Reformation a large bundle of mistletoe was brought into the sanctuary each year at Christmas and solemnly placed on the altar by a priest. In this rite the plant that the Druids had called ‘All-heal’ was used as a symbol of Christ, the Divine Healer of nations.

"The people of England then adopted the mistletoe as a decoration for their homes at Christmas. Its old, pagan religious meaning was soon forgotten, but some of the other meanings and customs have survived: the kiss under the mistletoe; the token of good will and friendship; the omen of happiness and good luck and the new religious significance."—Francis X. Weiser, Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc., 1958), 103-104.

WREATHS AND HOLLY—"Circular wreaths of evergreen branches (especially holly) were a featured part of the festival. These were formed in the shape of the sun, and represented life which could not exist without sunlight. These wreaths were placed on inside and outside walls during the celebrations. At the time of initiation into the Dionysian mysteries, these were worn by the initiates as fertility symbols. They represented the perpetuity of existence through on-going cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

"Holly berries were also considered sacred to the sun-god.

"The use of Christmas wreaths is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan customs of decorating buildings and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as Christmas."—Frederick J. Haskins, Answers to Questions.

CHRISTMAS TREES—Green trees were cut down, mounted, and then decked with offerings of food and precious gifts to Mithra.

"The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and it originally dates from a period long anterior to the Christian Era."—Frederick J. Haskins, Answers to Questions.

Evergreens, because of their ability to remain fresh and green throughout the year, symbolized immortality and fertility. Egyptian priests taught that the evergreen tree sprang from the grave of their god Osiris, who, after being murdered by another god, was resurrected through the energy in an evergreen tree.

Even the Bible speaks about the pagan custom:

"Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen . . For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not."—Jeremiah 10:2-4.

YULE LOG—The Yule log did not come from the Bible, nor from Near Eastern paganism. It came from heathen Celtic worship practices in Britain. The Celts also worshiped the sun, and they too had a celebration at the time of the winter solstice. Their December sun festival, called Julmond, was taken into Christianity when it came to Britain. During the Yule festival, evergreen branches were used for decoration; and, after the branches were stripped off, the log was considered sacred to the sun. It was round like the sun and its length symbolized the movement, just as the sun was round and moved through the sky. (All this may sound ridiculous, but paganism always is.)

The family would, each year, go out and specially select a nice round tree from which to cut the yule log. When burned it sent out heat, just as the sun god burned and sent out heat.

CHRIST’S MASS—"Christmas" means "Christ’s Mass." This is a special Roman Catholic mass performed on December 25. It must be attended by the faithful, under penalty of mortal sin for not doing so. At this mass—as at every other—Christ is offered by the priest in a wafer. The people are to worship this wafer as the true body, blood, mind, and soul of Jesus Christ!

One of the most recent Vatican statements on this reveals that this worship of a piece of bread remains unchanged:

"There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that all the faithful ought to show to this most holy sacrament [the communion wafer] the worship which is due to the true God, as has always been the custom of the Catholic Church. Nor is it to be adored any the less because it was instituted by Christ to be eaten."—Vatican II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents.

This Vatican II statement reaffirms the doctrinal statement made in 1648 at the Council of Trent (Session 13: Decree on the Eucharist, chap. 5, Denz. 878, 1648).

SHOULD WE THEN GIVE PRESENTS?—The pagan Romans exchanged food, small statues of gods, and trinkets to one another during the winter festival. The church, in adopting the custom, declared that this is to be done on December 25.

"The interchange of presents between friends is alike characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows."—Bibiothica Sacra, Vol. 12, 153-155.

Should we today give gifts to our friends and to those who need them? Yes, it is well to do this all through the year—especially to the needy. But our choicest gifts should be brought to Christ. For that we have a Biblical example:

"Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea . . And when they [the wise men] were come into the house, they . . fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."—Matthew 2:1, 11.

Give Him the best you have; give Him your life. Dedicate all you have to Him, to be used in His service. Read the Bible daily and obey its commands through the enabling grace of Christ. Only then can you have genuine happiness.

But let not ancient paganism select the day on which you will worship God. The weekly Bible Sabbath was given as the day appointed us on which to worship Him. If we want to have happy gatherings with our loved ones, that is good. But let us not copy the heathen in doing it.

"Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them . . That thou inquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the Lord thy God: for every abomination to the Lord, which He hateth, have they done unto their gods."—Deuteronomy 12:30-31.

"In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."—Matthew 15:9.

It is obeying the Inspired Word of God—the Bible—the Sabbath He gave us (Genesis 2:1-3; Exodus 20, 8-11) and giving our lives in His service that we become worshipers of the Living God. That is what pleases Him, and we would rather please Him than do anything else. He has been so good to us all our lives. In Him we live and move and have our being, and only through Him can we be saved.



Comes in the night   vs.   Comes as a thief in the night (2 Peter 3:10, 1 Thess 5:2)

Dressed in white and red   vs.   Clothed in white and red (Rev 19:13-14, Isa 63:1-3)

Brings gifts and rewards  vs.   Brings gifts and rewards (Rom 6:23, Rev 22:12)

Knows if you’ve been good or not   vs.   Knows (Rev 2:23)

White, curly hair   vs.   White hair (Rev 1:14)

Sits and talks with children   vs.   Talks with children (Matt 19:14)

Comes with reindeer  vs.  Comes with horses (Rev 19:11, 14)

Comes with a sleigh  vs.  Comes with chariots (Isa 66:15)

Lives at the North Pole  vs. Lives on the sides of the north (Ps 48:2)

Children tell him what they want  vs.  We pray to Him (Mat 7:7)

Santa Claus is not real, only imaginary  vs.  We should not take part in lies (Rev 22:14-15)

Old Saint Nick, one of Santa’s names, is a name for Satan. (See "Old Nick" in the dictionary.)

The word, "Santa," unscrambled, is Satan.