Christmas Religious or Secular?
Christian or Pagan?

by Larry C. Hamner

December 19, 2007


Christmas is the most celebrated holiday in the United States. 96 per cent of all Americans celebrate the December 25th holiday. It is celebrated by Christians as well as non-Christians. Originally it wasn’t a big deal in the United States; The Puritans of Massachusetts were so appalled by the notion of Christmas they made it a crime to celebrate and enacted a five shilling punishment for violators. It wasn’t until some time after the Civil War that Christmas became a major American holiday. In the mid 1870s, Christmas in America began to change from essentially a religious to a secular national holiday. This change was no doubt accelerated by the commercialization of the holiday which is fueled by the tradition of gift giving.

Santa Claus

The Dutch brought us Santa Claus in the 17th century. Washington Irving known best for his short stories “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle” is also credited with popularizing Saint Nicholas when he shows up in an 1809 novel of his. In the 1860s the pot bellied white bearded Santa Claus shows up as Sintaklaas, the Dutch word for St Nicholas. Irving’s jolly old fellow smoked a pipe, flew around in a wagon without aid of reindeer and left presents for children. It wasn' until 1863 that he was called Santa Claus, sported his red suit and hitched his reindeer to a sleigh. In 1939 Montgomery Ward put Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer at the head of the reindeer team.

The Christmas tree

We got the decorated Christmas tree from the ancient Romans who during their winter festival decorated trees with small pieces of metal during Saturnalia a winter festival that honored Saturnus, the god of agriculture. Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees. The custom of the Christmas tree, however, was introduced in the United States during the War of Independence by Hessian troops.

December 25th

Early fourth century, Church leaders chose December 25th as the date of Christ’s birth. In 350 A.D., Pope Julius I declared December 25, the date of the winter solstice, the official date for celebrating Christmas as the birthday of Jesus. It is no coincident that it is the same date pagans celebrated the birth of the ‘Unconquerable Sun’.

You know it’s true!

Although many Christians tout the Christian roots of Christmas this notion was put to rest by the United States Senate. Christmas in the USA was officially acknowledged as a secular celebration in 1870 when the United States Congress declared it a federal holiday. In December 1999, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott ruled that Christmas has become very secular in nature and declared that it has a valid secular purpose. This decision was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in December of 2000. Isn’t it ironic that Christians invented the Christmas holiday so they could be more like the Pagans and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that now they are.

The inventors

Christmas is not the only Christian festival which was borrowed from ancient paganism. And it puzzles me as to why the Christian Church would rather identify with paganism and its idolatries then with the customs and practices of our Lord and Savior. This penchant is readily seen not only in Christmas but in other Christian festivals such as Easter, Valentines Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Mardi gras all of which are laced with traditions that have their origin in pagan practices. It is common knowledge that Jesus and the Apostles were practicing Jews and celebrated the festivals of the Holy Scriptures. So then if you’re going to invent an extra-biblical celebration shouldn’t it mirror the celebrations of the bible rather than the vanities of paganism?

“They did not destroy the nations, concerning whom the LORD commanded them: But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them. Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, and shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood. Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions. ” (Psalms 106:34-39KJV)

“Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.”(Ecclesiastes 7:29KJV)

“Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 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 10:2-4KJV)

While most of the customs, lore, symbols, and rituals associated with “Christmas” can be linked to the Winter Solstice celebrations of ancient Pagan cultures, Christian’s have tried to mask the stench of paganism by sprinkling it with a few religious observances, however, its Pagan nature is still strong and apparent. Any self-respecting Christian will tell you that God wants us to be like He is, to be like Jesus was and that Jesus sat the example for us. Why then isn’t this reflected in Christmas and many other Christian holidays? Why then is the church so comfortable with her identification with heathen practices? Has she become like the world around her secular by nature?

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