No, Christmas didn’t take the place of a pagan holiday

No, Christmas didn’t replace a pagan holiday


, Rare Contributor

In the endless back-and-forth about the true meaning of Christmas or the War on Christmas or whatever we’re calling it this year, one of the most persistent and pernicious myths is the idea that Christians stole the holiday from the pagans.

Chastising conservative Christians in the Sacramento Bee, former talk show host Bruce Maiman cited the “fact” that “Christmas occurs on a pagan feast day, Saturnalia,” and alleges that “the earliest Christians deliberately moved the birth of Jesus to December 25, making it easier to sell Christianity to the Romans.”

The only problem with this criticism is that it doesn’t make one lick of historical sense.

Saturnalia was celebrated not on December 25 but on December 17 through 23. December 25 was during the throbbing “Oh please kill me” dry-out period between Saturnalia and New Year’s. It was thus a horrible time for sermons or celebrations – and Christmas was always a mix of both.

If you want to understand the calendaring of Christmas, look not to Rome but to Bethlehem – or, more broadly, to Judaism. The Talmud records a tradition that all especially righteous men die on the day of their conception. This figured greatly in how the church father Hippolytus figured Christ’s birth.

The accepted day of Jesus death was March 25 and so, writes religion know-it-all Michael Voll in Cracked, “Jesus’s conception must have also taken place on March 25th. Then basic biology tells us that nine months after conception comes the birth: December 25th.”

As for the very minor pagan festival of Sol Invictus, which people sometimes throw out when you shoot Saturnalia down, Cracked concedes that it did take place on December 25, but there’s an embarrassing rub. Turns out it “wasn’t created in until A.D. 274 (well after Hippolytus did his hump-math) by the Roman Emperor Aurelian.”

According to Voll, this late date for the smallish festival in fact raises the “good possibility that Sol Invictus was created to provide a pagan alternative to the Christian celebration, rather than the other way around. So hey, there you go, Christians: Go find that hippie neighbor and give him a nice, long lecture about stealing your dang holiday.”

Or perhaps, in the spirit of the day, you could just say “Merry Christmas” – and forward him this article.

5 thoughts on “No, Christmas didn’t take the place of a pagan holiday

  1. In 1980’s encyclopedia’ s stated Christmas was started to change a pagan holiday called Christ Mass that was to worship evergreens including mistletoe and yule logs, the placing of gifts under the evergreen and many other traditions that are observed today. I did a quite a lengthy research on this and Easter. I had just got started in Church and immediately stopped celebrating both holidays. People don’t want to give it up so they keep saying it is not so. I want to please God .

  2. Frankly, I’m glad “Merry Christmas” is coming back into vogue! I was tired of hearing “Happy Holidays”!. Personally, I celebrate Christmas and I always say “Merry Christmas” regardless of who I am saying it to.

  3. Sir, I was not offended and if you got that from what I wrote, please forgive me as that was not what I intended. My point was simply that your “support” for Christmas was, oddly, the Talmud. If I or any other believer tried to convince you of the validity of ____ (fill in the blank) and our ONLY support was to quote the Talmud, you’d run from us, as fast as you could. So, the point I was trying to make was to PLEASE look at Scripture and find Scriptural evidence to prove, or disprove, whatever you are putting forth to God’s flock. To use anything in addition to His Word, without USING His Word, is very troubling and not a habit in which to get. So, to “walk as He walked” we have to go back and see what Jesus did by using Scripture – only – and then do what He did. It’s very simple: if He did it, we do it. If He didn’t, we don’t. So, that was all I was trying to say. I wasn’t offended and I hope that my challenge to you to search the Scripture on this was and will be received in the spirit of “iron sharpens iron.” Nothing more, nothing less.

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