"Donít get a symbologist started on Christian icons. Nothing
in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithrasócalled
the Son of God and the Light of the World-was born on December
25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in
three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of
Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was
presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even
Christianityís weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans."
Professor Teabing, in Dan Brown, The
business does a Christian have celebrating Christmas,
since the Bible gives no date for Christís birth?
Isnít Christmas as we know it only an old pagan
holiday? If so, why should we celebrate Christmas?
Firstly, the objection implies that we must know the exact date
of Jesusí birth in order to be "biblical." Secondly, it suggests
that any celebration or remembrance of "Christmas" is
reply to the first issue, historically, no exact date can be
affirmed as the day of Christís birth.
the absence of such exactness does not imply that Jesus is
"therefore not a historical person." There is ample historical
confirmation of the names, events and places concerning the
birth, life and ministry of Jesus. Together, these provide proof
of His historicity as well as the context for a "historical best
guess" concerning the date of His birth.
absence of an exact date does not, in and of itself, provide
sufficient argument against the celebration of Christmas.
for "pagan" influence, several objections have been raised. Some
maintain that Christmas is a "pagan holiday celebrated 2,000
years before the birth of Christ [which] crept into the
Christianity of the western world." They add to that, "Your
eternal destiny depends on" whether you celebrate Christmas or
Others have argued that October 4 was Christís real birthday so
we should not celebrate on December 25 (the date of his
conception, according to one group); that the symbols of
Christmas are all pagan; and that nowhere in Scripture are we
commanded to celebrate Christís birth. Therefore we should not.
what shall we say?
First, if it is a particular day (December 25, for example) that
creates the problem, it is not likely that any day can be
found on which some "pagan" isnít already celebrating something.
If a day is rendered "off limits" because a pagan holiday
already exists on that date, then there arenít any days left to
the objection that the New Testament nowhere commands a
celebration of Christís birthday, it is an argument from
silence, and this silence is insufficient to justify the
contrast there is evidence that God condoned and even appointed
times of joyful celebration for His people.
Under the heading of "Festivals," Ungerís Bible Dictionary
Besides the daily worship, the law prescribed special
festivals to be from time to time observed by the
congregation. One Hebrew name for festival was hag
(from the verb signifying to "dance"), which, when applied to
religious services, indicated that they were occasions of joy
and gladness. The term most fitly designating, and which alone
actually comprehended all the feasts, was moíed, (a
"set time" or "assembly, place of assembly"). What is meant by
this name, therefore, was the stated assemblies of the
peopleóthe occasions fixed by the divine appointment for their
being called and meeting together in holy fellowship, i.e.,
for acts and purposes of worship.
recurring festivals of Israel include a feast at the beginning
of each new civil year (Feast of Trumpets) and a yearly
remembrance of Israelís deliverances: from Egypt (Passover), and
the deliverance under Queen Esther from Haamanís treachery
(Purim, which means "lots").
careful check of what the Bible says about Israelís festivals
makes it clear that God intended these times to be joyous. In
remembering Godís mighty acts, and in company with Godís people,
we have all the occasion we need for a great time.
to the point. Not only is the argument that "God nowhere
commands it" one from silence, it is also one from ignorance of
what God has done and approved among His own people. There is
plenty of precedent for celebration. And it is fitting and
proper for an event as important as the Incarnation to be
remembered by God-fearing people. Any date is fine. No
day is in and of itself "good" or "bad," though the time
allotted to us can be used for good or bad ends (See Romans
14:5,6). The day is not the issue. Our behavior on any
given day is.
Concerning why the Christian Church generally regards December
25 as the day to honor Christís birth, it appears historically
to be an alternative to a pagan feast. In early Rome, the
Feast of Saturnalia (a truly pagan feast dedicated to Saturn,
Roman god of planting and harvest. The word "Saturnalia"
indicates a licentious feastóBakerís Dictionary of Religion)
was generally held late in December. Gift-giving and general
merriment were the order of the holiday. It appears that in
response to its secular and pagan tone, the Christian community
provided an alternative. Godís faithful used the "time off" for
the remembrance of Christís birth while their secular neighbors
were celebrating on their own.
modern-day illustration of this last point is found in the
alternatives provided by some churches and Christian families to
Halloween or Mardi Grasó"pagan" holidays on which activities
suited to a Christian confession and lifestyle are
Again, it is not the day itself that is the problem. It is our
use of it. It can be just as wrong for one to refrain from
celebrating a holiday but scorn a godly fellow-Christian, as it
would be to indulge the flesh as a Christian in "pagan"
Regarding the symbolism employed at Christmas, care must be
taken to be sure whether our present symbols are in fact "pagan"
in their content. For example.
may well be that the Christmas tree, yule log, etc., were at
some point "pagan." In our culture, however, they could be more
a reflection of, and a sentimental return to, the early pioneer
days when without a yule log you would freeze to death.
tree today may only be a symbol without any "deeper" meaning. To
millions of people, the only "meaning" of the tree is the
holiday itself. To assign it anything else would be incorrect
WHAT IF December 25 is in fact a pagan holiday, and all the
symbols are pagan, and the gift-giving is more a distraction
than a reflection of Godís Gift to us?
First, these facts do not obligate me or any other Christian to
be "pagan" at any time. We are each free to choose how we shall
remember the Lordís birthóor even if we shall remember it at
all. And whichever we choose, none of us is to be "pagan" either
in our choice or in our treatment of those who disagree with us.
Next, and in effect, the "flip-side" of the question: If there
is no distinctly "Christian" symbolism in a decorated evergreen,
then, though it may be fine to have one in our homes, the least
we should do is ask what place, if any, they have in our houses
of worship. Some food for thought.
Which brings up the final, and perhaps most important, matter of
how to handle a disagreement with another Christian on this
subject. Romans 14 gives us some guidelines.
context (in Romans 14) has to do with disagreements between
Christians on issues where Scripture and revelation are not
"hard and fast." Special days is one such issue.
First: Romans 14:5,6 leaves room for
celebrating Christmas, or Easter, or whatever special day we
select. A Christian is free to celebrate or not.
Second: Whatever we do, it is all
to be done unto the Lord (unselfishly as an act of worship), and
according to the dictates of a Godly conscience. That assumes,
of course, that what is done is not contrary to Scripture (see
Third: No brother is to condemn
another believer in areas where God does not condemn (see Rom.
Finally: We are not to do anything in
such a way as to cause an offense to another believer whose
conscience and convictions differ from our own. Note Rom.
14:13b. (Note that this does not prohibit me from celebrating
Christmas just because my Christian brother objects. It does
prohibit me from celebrating only to show him up or to flaunt my
freedom to his harm.)
touches on the matter once more in Colossians 2 where he reminds
us that Christ has set us free from the law (law-keeping for
merit). Therefore, no believer has the prerogative of judgment
over us (Col. 2:16). We must also guard against false
spirituality that makes us count ourselves "better" than another
because our consciences differ (Col. 2:17).
conclusion: It is good and proper for
the Christian to celebrate the birth of Christ. Each is free to
choose the day and manner of his celebration so long as
conscience permits and Scripture is not violated. But none of us
is free to condemn another where his conscience or convictions
differ from our own.
Note: See a companion article on the Mystery Religions for
refutation of the charge that Christianity is little more than a
copy of these ancient, pagan religions.
1 Dan Brown, The Da
Vinci Code (New York: Doubleday, 2003), p. 232.