Articles in Investigator 171:

Herbal Medicine

Pamela Ball and Spells

Is Christmas Pagan?

Euthyphro Dilemma

Crime and Christianity

Origin of Modern Science

Israel Part 2

Spacewatch, Spaceguard and the Bible

Fruitful Research




IS CHRISTMAS PAGAN?

Anonymous

(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 me."

He may have absorbed this opinion from "Christians" who equate Christmas celebrations with Roman Paganism and claim Jesus was born in October.

Ancient Rome honored the god Saturn with the Saturnalia festival in December, a festival sometimes noted for drunkenness.

The Encyclopedia Britannica says:

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 out.

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 Italy.

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 the Saturnalia.

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 night.

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." (Luke 2)

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!


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