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Origins Of Christmas

It seems like a rather unnecessary question - "What were the origins of Christmas?" After all, didn't Christmas originate with Jesus Christ?

Christmas Tree The answer is both yes, and no.

Yes, the idea behind Christmas does of course originate with the birth of Jesus Christ. There is absolutely no question or doubt that He really was The Son of God, He really was born and lived a life as a human, and He really did die to make possible our salvation. Jesus Christ was most definitely real.

But no, a number of the pagan traditions that have been adopted over the past nineteen centuries to celebrate the birth of The Savior have nothing to do with Him!

The actual date of birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem is unknown. The Bible makes no mention of it, and there is no trustworthy record of it to be found in any other source, religious or secular. Nearly all Christian churches, Roman Catholic, Protestant, or any other, recognize the fact that, although the birth of Jesus Christ has come to be observed on December 25 on the Roman calendar, it is definitely not His actual date of birth.

Many theologians and religious scholars readily agree that His birth was almost certainly not even in the month of December, based upon, among other things -

  • one of the most well-known verses of the Bible - "And there were shepherds [see The Shepherd] living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night." (Luke 2:8) Shepherds in Israel then, and now, do not leave their flocks out in December. They are all brought in well before the cold winter-rains begin.

  • John The Baptist was exactly 6 months older than Jesus Christ (Luke 1:36) (Mary and Elizabeth were cousins). Some researchers, using the Temple service schedule (John's father, Zechariah, was a Temple Levite) have calculated that John was born in the spring, at the time of Passover - March or April. Therefore, 6 months forward from March or April would mean that Jesus Christ was actually born sometime in September or October. An interesting point of a September/October birth date is that He would have been conceived around December 25.

So where did the December 25 date come from? And how did trees and gift-giving become part of the holiday? A brief excerpt from the highly respected Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition, provides us with many of the answers -

"The traditional customs connected with Christmas have developed from several sources as a result of the coincidence of the celebration of the birth of Christ with the pagan agricultural and solar observances at mid-winter. In the Roman world, the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merry making and exchange of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the "Sun of Righteousness." On the Roman New Year (January 1) houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian. Since the Middle Ages, evergreens, as symbols of survival, have been associated with Christmas."

Fact Finder: Did Jesus Christ say that we are to be careful that our traditions do not violate the Commandments of God?
Mark 7:9


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