Monday, December 19, 2016

My battle with celebrating Christmas

Recently I did some research on the origins of Christmas. Mainly for my own curiosity and also because I've heard repeatedly that it is a very pagan holiday. What I discovered more than shocked me.

My family has always been big on Christmas. My mother made the Holidays very special in our house. We always got a real tree and decorated it as a family. We made cookies and other goodies, had Christmas songs playing, watched Christmas movies, had fun shopping in the mall, and my favorite part? The stocking laid on the foot of my bed during the night that was full of all sort of goodies to open when I woke up  It was a magical time for me. I remember looking out the window with my sister late at night, hoping to see Santa and his reindeer.  I carried on these traditions with my children throughout the years, and after I became a Christian, I, of course, included stories of Jesus's birth.

So when I discovered it's evil orgins, it cut me to my core. How was I supposed to turn my back on the Christmas I've known all my life?

I'm not sure anyone truly knows how our current Christmas celebrations came into being. I discovered origins of the holiday way back in Roman days connected with a pagan holiday called Saturnalia, which was a week long carnival of wicked activities. It is also the time of the Winter Solstice, and more importantly the birthday of the sun god, which was a god highly revered in that time. In fact, Emperor Constantine who legalized Christianity worshiped the sun god throughout his entire life. (Most believe he was never truly converted to Christianity)  To appease both the Christians and the pagans in his empire, he combined their practices.  Here are some quotes from famous historians:

'The services of worship increased in splendor, but were less spiritual and hearty than those of former times. The forms and ceremonies of PAGANISM GRADUALLY CREPT INTO THE WORSHIP. Some of the OLD HEATHEN FEASTS BECAME CHURCH FESTIVALS WITH CHANGE OF NAME AND OF WORSHIP"  The Story of the Christian Church by Jesse Hurlbut:

"Paganism" was not defeated by the Church. It invaded the church, infiltrated it, and seduced it from within! The professing Christian Church became the "new face of paganism"! Only the "names" were changed. And in some cases -- as in "Easter" Sunday -- even the old pagan names were left in place! Will Durant, Historian

(You may have seen my article last year on Easter and how it is actually the worship of the goddess Ishtar. If not, here it is! )

"The custom of burning the Yule log began with the ancient Scandinavians, who once a year burned a huge log in honor of their god Thor. After the Scandinavians became Christians [sic], they made the Yule log an important part of their Christmas ceremonies."

"The Christmas tree, now so common among us, was equally common in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt. In Egypt that tree was the palm tree; in Rome it was the fir; the palm tree denoting the Pagan Messiah, as Baal-Tamar, the fir referring to him as Baal-Berith. The mother of Adonis, the Sun-God and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree, and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must have been recognized as the 'Man the branch.' And this entirely accounts for the putting of the Yule Log into the fire on Christmas Eve, and the appearance of the Christmas tree the next morning"  Alexander Hysop The Two Babylons (p.97)

"The Christmas tree...recapitulates the idea of tree worship...gilded nuts and balls symbolizing the sun...all the festivities of the [heathen] winter solstice have been absorbed into Christmas Day...the use of holly and mistletoe to the Druidic ceremonies; the Christmas tree to the honours paid to Odin's sacred fir...." (p. 236).

But what about Jolly Old Santa Clause?
Although most people assume that the original "Santa Claus" was a bishop by the name of St. Nicholas of Asia Minor of the fourth century, this is not really true. Although some of this bishop's deeds later came to be associated with "St. Nick," the original "Nicholas" was once again Nimrod, the "mighty one against the Lord." The word "Nicholas" means "mighty one, powerful." Traditions of a "god" who gave gifts under an evergreen tree antecede the Asian Minor bishop by thousands of years! Among the Scandinavians it was the god Odin or Woden who left special gifts during the Yuletide season under the evergreen tree, his sacred tree!

I could go on... but I'll stop here. By the way, Jesus wasn't born in December. Most Biblical scholars believe it was sometime in September.

Believe me, my goal here is not to depress you, but to inform you. I spent much time in prayer over this revelation, wondering if I should just cancel Christmas altogether.. no tree, no cookies, no gifts.. etc. I really did. The last thing I want to do is anything against my Savior, anything that displeases Him, and can potentially do myself spiritual harm. Or potentially turn off non-believers from God altogether. What a tragedy that would be!

This is the conclusion I came to for my family. We will celebrate Christmas. I will even put up a tree and make cookies and buy gifts, but I will make sure that everyone in my house knows WHO we are celebrating and why.  The focus will be on Jesus and His birth and sacrifice for us. I'm kicking out Santa Clause and everything to do with him. The gifts will be from family members to express our love for each other and Christ's love for us. What it boils down to for me is an attitude of the heart and where my heart is focused during Christmas. Jesus!

However, I'm in no way saying that this is the right thing for anyone else to do. I encourage each of you to get alone with God and ask Him to reveal to you His will for you and your family for Christmas.



  1. Exactly - redeem the holiday and make sure everyone knows WHAT and WHOM you are celebrating. We did that with Halloween too. Put up signs about Jesus is the Light of the world, carved pumpkins with Christian signs etc. Not participating doesn't say anything - redeeming everything does! We have special ornaments that we hang with ceremony on Christmas Eve - each one has meaning and a reading to go with it, one is a crown of thorns to remind us why He came. He is the great Redeemer, why shouldn't we follow His example?

  2. My family went for several years without a tree because of this. When I was 15 we spent the holidays hand painting a large nativity set. That nativity set is still the first thing I put out every year. It is currently gracing my mantle.

    We have added a small tree to the house at times, though this year it is in a bag waiting to travel with us as we will be spending Christmas at a resoet near other family members.

    It does get depressing if you think about it, but I agree with you. Make sure everyone knows the focus is Jesus!

  3. Yes, I knew about this. But as long as the focus is on Jesus, there is no need to fret. Our church holds an annual Christmas carol concert where we invite our non-believing family/ friends etc. to hear songs about Jesus' birth and a preaching of the Gospel.Just like you said, I go against man-made traditions and the consumerism that is associated with the holidays, but I'm all for engaging the culture into celebrating our Lord and Savior.:)

  4. Wonderful post, MaryLu, thank you!! I so agree with your decision in the way you will celebrate Christmas - we will be doing the same in my family. Incorporating activities in our day to signify the real reason for the observance of Christmas - scripture reading, a birthday cake for Jesus (although I was aware Dec. 25th is the observance of His birth, not the actual date), gifts of love (however, none from Santa), etc..

    Love, prayers, and hugs to you - as well as added blessings, joy, good health, and peace to you and your family this Christmas season!!!

  5. Thank you all so much for your comments! It's nice to see we are on the same page. Yet, I don't fault anyone for whatever they decide. It's already a tough time of year for most people. I love hearing how some of you celebrate!

  6. I feel for you in this. My family celebrated Christmas when I was a child, but we stopped once we discovered the origins, and instead celebrated my brother's birthday, since he was born on Christmas day. He has lately been married, and because of that we suddenly we realized that our house is going to be void of all celebration this year, and it came as quite a shock.

    Whilst I don't know where I stand when it comes to the tree, God has really been speaking to me through a lot of things (one of which has been Jason Gray's Christmas album, highly recommended) and showing me just how precious The Story of Christmas is, and I've had a whole new appreciation for the holiday in a way I think honours God and our Saviour.

    Though I'm not sure what our future Christmases will look like, I appreciate hearing someone who has seriously thought about the origins and whether or not they can celebrate the day in good conscience before the Lord. So many people brush off these things like it's no big deal, but it matters to my heart knowing where things come from and why we do things. Thankyou for your sincerity. :)

    1. You're welcome, Jasmine. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  7. Hmmmmmmm. I don't mean to be rude, but I would want to check out what this 'Historians' said in context, and their own backgounds. There was one major Victorian writer who condemned Christmas and other festivals because he had a major chip on his shoulder, and wanted to see all Relgion superceded by 'science'. As a historian myself, I look at books like this with a critical eye. What are their own sources?

    I have seen books written by well- meaning Christians denouncing Hallow'een- and proclaiming that the Ancient Britons used to carve pumpkins. What is geographically impossible, since Pumpkins come from America, and were not found in Britain until the 1500s.

  8. MaryLu, I totally appreciate your blog. Of course, while I was reading I was both shocked by truth as you revealed it and arguing with you (in my mind) about "spoiling the Egyptians." In college Bible class, we talked about this concept (of spoiling the Egyptians) and how ALL GOOD is from GOD! God is the giver of gifts. God desires UNITY for His people. And just like the Israelites, when they left Egypt and took their silver and gold, when we leave our sin nature and follow Christ we can take what is good and keep it because all good is from God. Now, that being said, the "silver and gold" is not to be used for making a gold calf for us to worship in the desert, but for us to use to bring glory to God. So, yes, we celebrate Christmas and have a tree but for the reasons you mentioned, to honor Jesus birth (yeah, we all know it probably wasn't Dec 25th), to give to others and to enjoy family. God knows the intentions of the heart. We need to make sure we are presenting the right intentions to the worlds (by not being greedy or divisive or ugly spirited). Merry Christmas MaryLu. I pray that you and yours have a wonderful holiday season!!

    1. Interesting point, Ladette, about "spoiling the Egyptians". I had never heard that before. Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  9. Not sure how the very name of Nicholas becomes Nimrod. There are a number of names that also mean something like Mighty Ruler or Strong Ruler- including Donald if I recall correctly. I'm not goonna say they're Satantic. I think the Romans just liked names like that, as they seemed prestigious.
    The concept modern concept of Santa is one that seems to have really developed to encourage children to behave.

    Frankly, I think its possible to read pagan meanings into everything. Some used to thing Christmas Puddings were pagan- I don't know, but its seems that kind of dish is a really good way of preserving food in the Winter months- which I suspect is why a lot of people made them originally.

  10. I understand your struggle. The Lord convicted us about this holiday in 2003, and that was the last year we celebrated Christmas. Since then, I have gone on a journey from anger at all things Christmas to a more mellow understanding of how God uses ALL things to bring glory to his name, and what matters is that glory IS given to him. So no, we still don't celebrate Christmas. But I embrace the carols that worship him with enthusiasm and recognize that my friends' use of Christmas trees in no way symbolizes pagan worship to them, and is a very beautiful way to light up a very dreary time of year. And like you, I emphasize to those that ask us "why" that each person must make this decision for themselves.

    As for our family? There have been very few reasons for me to regret that we stopped the craziness of a traditional Christmas. For the last thirteen years, we have truly enjoyed a stress-free season where our focus is completely on Christ and each other. May God continue to guide you as you negotiate what his will for your family is, MaryLu. God bless.

    (P.S. I just finished "She Walks in Power"--loved it. I'm putting it in my "recommended holiday reading" newsletter that I'm sending out today. Have a wonderful holiday season!)

    1. Talena, I so respect your decision to not celebrate Christmas. I'm sure it was and is not an easy one.
      I'm so glad you enjoyed She Walks in Power! Thank you so much for telling others about it. :-)

    2. Wow! Beautifully spoken! I am still struggling to get to that mellow phase of understanding that people celebrate differently. While it is my personal conviction not to celebrate Christmas from 1993 (I had just turned 13), I cannot force that on anyone else. It is quite the struggle at times. I'm saddened at my own struggle to accept. *sigh. I guess that is just part of growing and allowing G-d to change us. I am learning to move out of G-d's way and this is certainly an area I need to surrender. Thanks Talena & ML!! Blessings!

    3. Hi, Bess! Last year, I lost my three-year-old son and my brother, and since then, God has been using grief as a tool to show me what the core of his mission is, and what he really wants from us. I know it sounds simple and cliche, but he said it himself: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbour as yourself." It is because it is TOO simple that I think humans believe we must complicate things, and the immense profoundness of those words gets lost.

      First, we complicate it by adding pagan holidays into our religious festivals. Then we complicate it by rejecting the holidays with such vehemence that we become legalistic in another way. I have not even been able to find the words to fully describe, even to myself, the understanding I have glimpsed in the past year about how wide, deep, high, and full is God's love for us, and how it is at the very core of every single edict of the Torah, but even moreso in the perfect life of Christ. He is in the business of healing the broken. Like a stained glass window, a broken life that he has repaired is far more beautiful than one seemingly perfect. And just like he redeeems and heals unrighteous and profane people and uses us to show his love to others, I now believe he does that with Christmas.

      Yes, the origins of the holiday are completely pagan. But apologists for the holiday are right when they say it is the one time of year where you can freely speak to non-believers about Christ and spirituality without putting anyone's hackles up. I am part of a weekly writing critique group with a Jew and a Mormon. We began this week's conversation with about 40 minutes of talking about our religious beliefs. That is the first time in my life I have had that opportunity with people of those two faiths, and it was because we began talking about how we spend the holidays.

      I'm sorry this is so long, and I didn't mean to hijack your comments section, MaryLu. I thought that this perspective might help you both as you struggle with what to do about Christmas. I am certainly still on the journey, and as of June 3, 2015, God has been teaching me to filter everything through a slightly adjusted lens. Yes, it is through his Word--but I now see more clearly than ever what his Word is about. If Christmas gives us an opportunity to spread the good news of God's amazing and profound and redeeming love, then it, too, can be used for good. How you implement the details of that in your own family is between you and the Lord, but let others who ask you why you choose to celebrate as you do be pointed to the love of Christ, not only to a rejection of paganism (which they often read as a judgement upon themselves.)

      Lastly, Bess, our family began celebrating Hanukkah and Passover about eight years ago. In the Bible, it calls Passover and the other six feasts the "Feasts of the Lord", not the Jews. The symbolism in each is beautifully representative of Christ's work. Hanukkah, while not one of the feasts, also has beautiful symbolism about the Light of the World, Christ, and his redemptive work (and Christ also celebrated it). If you haven't already found resources about this, I encourage you to look for material on this topic at We do not treat Hanukkah as replacement for Christmas, but God recognized that we as humans need traditions to define our year and remind us of him. (The Jews have traditions that define every moment of the day!) Just because you reject Christmas, it doesn't mean you must leave a gaping vacuum in the middle of December or your religious year.

      God bless you all.

    4. Talena, feel free to hijack my comments section anytime! You are such a witness for the Lord. I can't imagine the agony you have suffered. I have a 3 year old granddaughter and I'm not sure I'd survive if I lost her. Such a testimony of God's love and comfort. I love the stained glass analogy. And thanks for reminding me of what's most important to God.. to love Him with all our heart and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Such simple words, yet so hard to do on a daily basis. Merry Christmas!

  11. Bold post....proud of you. I totally get your struggle. I have known that a lot of the holidays originated from pagan traditions. But, I believe that it's not what you celebrate, but WHO you celebrate that matters. God knows our hearts and that's all that matters. Since my grandkids are a bit older this year, I have been pointing out that Santa did not bring them anything that's in my house, ie stockings and presents. And I have been 'trying' to explain about Jesus' birth and that He is the reason we celebrate Christmas. I tell them that we give gifts to each other because we were given the gift of Jesus. They are still young, but I am planting those seeds. It will be up to their parents as to what they will do in their own homes, but they will always know what Grammy believes. Santa is something that they will grow out of, so I'm not too concerned about it....I just don't want it to be the main focus in my home. When they talk about Santa, I don't shoot them down, I just smile. I do, however, hate when parents (my kids included) use Santa as a threat for their kids to behave. But, that's just my opinion.
    Hugs, my friend.