Is christmas a stolen holiday: How and why did Christmas become a Christian holiday? Was it stolen from the Pagans?

Christians do not celebrate a heathen holiday; we celebrate Christmas. Similarly, the church where I served as pastor used to commemorate its anniversary on the first Sunday in August. The official birthday of racehorses in Australia is August 1st.

What’s more, guess what? We weren’t commemorating anything to do with racehorses, therefore I never heard horses mentioned at our anniversary in 36 years, even when that first Sunday fell exactly on August 1st.

Similarly, early Christians did not observe a pagan celebration; instead, they commemorated the birth of Jesus, regardless of what else was going on.

SATURNALIA

Saturnalia, which is commonly thought to be the Christian celebration, has never occurred on December 25th. Saturnalia was held from the 17th to the 23rd of December, or on one occasion, the 24th of December. “Missed it – by that much!” as Maxwell Smart would remark.

DIES NATALIS SOLIS INVICTI DIES NATALIS SOLIS INVICTI DIES NATALIS SOLIS

The pagan holiday Dies Natalis Solis invicti did, however, fall on December 25, but there is no evidence that it was ever observed. Indeed, it is thought that Emperor Aurelian instituted the event in 279 AD to combat the army’s rising interest in Christmas Day. That’s something we’ll leave to a jury of historians to decide.

THE EARLIEST CHRISTMAS RECORD

The first mention of Christmas on December 25th comes from Carthage, in what is now Morocco, rather than Rome. And the Donatists, a Christian sect known for being violently anti-pagan, were the ones who celebrated it!

The Donatists claimed that the Roman bishop’s Church had been overly paganized by restoring people who had compromised with the Roman authorities while they were persecuted.

The Donatists seceded from Rome in 312 AD, the same year that Constantine legalized Christianity (which was not made official in Rome until 380 AD under Constantine’s son). It would have been their habit for at least 40–50 years if the Donatists considered it their tradition in 312. The Donatists were already commemorating a mass on December 25th for the birth of Jesus approximately 260–270 AD, or 10–20 years before Aurelian adopted Dies Natalis Solis invicti.

HOW DID THE 25TH OF DECEMBER COME TO BE?

There was a popular belief that persons who were particularly blessed died on the anniversary of their conception. So, if Jesus was executed on March 25th (as some have calculated), he was conceived on March 25th and born 9 months later on December 25th.

Wouldn’t that logic be amusing on Facebook? That, however, was the rationale.

However, not everyone agreed, and the 6th of January became a popular date, which is today known as the Epiphany and is associated with the wise men. Except for that, 6 January remained Christmas in the Armenian Orthodox church. This has nothing to do with churches that use the Julian calendar and celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, which falls on the 7th of January in the Gregorian calendar.

TRAPPINGS OF PAGANS

As Tyler Rutland points out, Christmas was never a pagan celebration, but it has taken some of the trappings of non-Christian seasons in various eras. Some Yule traditions were incorporated into European celebrations as late as the end of the nineteenth century, when Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, introduced the German tradition of Christmas trees, and a publishing house, inspired by Charles Dickens’ stories, began printing Christmas cards.

Christmas was a relatively minor holiday in the church year for a couple of hundred years before Dickens redesigned it, and most of the Christmas celebrations outside of the main church service were only recently adopted in England. There have even been instances when celebrating it was outlawed, as during the Commonwealth period in England, when closing a shop on Christmas Day was illegal, as it encouraged “popish” practices.

EPICURIUS

We can’t say goodbye to Christmas without mentioning Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who lived around 300 BC and whose beliefs became popularized in the 18th century thanks to Lucretius’ Latin song. Epicurus thought that everything happened by chance throughout time and that the Greek gods played only a ceremonial role in the universe.

The problem is that demoted gods do not vanish; they simply function in a more anonymous manner. As Christ and his Father are being pushed out of the western psyche, Ares (war), Aphrodite (sex), and Mammon (Plutus, riches) have become the major gods of the west.

Mammon, the god of wealth, has become so powerful during Christmas that even Christians are feeling pressured to throw more than scraps his way. And that is a pagan veneer on Christmas that we must work harder to overcome. It is these hidden paganisms that cause us the greatest harm, not the fake plastic fir tree in the corner of our living room that may or may not has been a phallic symbol at some moment in the distant dark past of winter solstice (December 21–23).

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