THE PAGAN FESTIVAL OF CHRISTMAS

Jer 10:3 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.
Jer 10:4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.
Jer 10:5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.
Jer 10:6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might.

14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. 1



Christmas (krîs´mes) [Christ's Mass], in the Christian calendar, the feast of the nativity of JESUS (Dec. 25). It ranks after EASTER, PENTECOST, and EPIPHANY in liturgical importance and was not widespread until the 4th cent. The customs of the yule log, caroling, mistletoe, and gifts at Christmas are English. Elsewhere, gifts are given at other times, as at Epiphany in Spain. Christmas cards appeared c.1846. The concept of a jolly Santa Claus (see NICHOLAS, SAINT) was first made popular in 19th-cent. New York City. The Christmas tree was a medieval German tradition. Midnight Mass is a familiar religious observance among Roman Catholics and some Protestants.

Nicholas, Saint, patron of children and sailors, of Greece, Sicily, and Russia, and of many other persons and places. Traditionally he is identified with a 4th-cent. bishop of Myra in Asia Minor. In the Netherlands and elsewhere his feast (Dec. 6) is a children's holiday. The English in New York adopted him from the Dutch, calling him Santa Claus.

The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia is licensed from Columbia University Press. Copyright © 1991 by Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The Encyclopaedia Britannica reports that "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 observations at midwinter. In the Roman world the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchange of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness."

The word comes from the Old English term Cristes maesse, meaning "Christ's mass." This was the name for the festival service of worship held on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. While it is accepted that Jesus was born in the small town of Bethlehem a few miles south of Jerusalem, there is no certain information on the date of his birth, not even of the year (see Jesus Christ). One reason for this uncertainty is that the stories of his birth, recorded in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke, were written several decades after the event. And those who wrote of it gave no specific dates for the event. For several centuries the Christian church itself paid little attention to the celebration of Jesus' birth. The major Christian festival
was Easter, the day of his resurrection. Only gradually, as the church developed a calendar to commemorate the major events of the life of Christ, did it celebrate his birth.
Because there was no knowledge about the date of Jesus' birth, a day had to be selected. The Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Rite churches within the Roman Catholic church chose January 6. The day was named Epiphany, meaning "appearance," the day of Christ's manifestation. The Western church, based at Rome, chose December 25. It is known from a notice in an ancient Roman almanac that Christmas was celebrated on December 25 in Rome as early as AD 336.
In the latter half of the 4th century, the Eastern and Western churches adopted each other's festival, thus establishing the modern Christian 12-day celebration from Christmas to Epiphany. In some places the 12th day is called the festival of the three kings because it is believed that the three wise men, or magi, visited the baby Jesus on that day, bringing him gifts.
Who were these wise men whom the Bible record gives no number of them?
3097 magos { mag'-os}
of foreign origin 7248; TDNT - 4:356,547; n m
AV - wise man 4, sorcerer 2; 6
GK - 3407 { mavgo" }
1) a magus
1a) the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.
1b) the oriental wise men (astrologers) who, having discovered by the rising of a remarkable star that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship him
1c) a false prophet and sorcerer2

If you remember, in our study of the Chaldeans, they were spiritual beings very close to or akin to the sons of God or fallen angels mentioned in the books of Genesis and Jude. The gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.3 was symbolic 'gold' of the most precious metal, 'frankincense', the sweet savour to the LORD, representing his priesthood, 41And the other lamb thou shalt offer at even, and shalt do thereto according to the meat offering of the morning, and according to the drink offering thereof, for a sweet savour, an offering made by fire unto the LORD. 42This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the LORD: where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee4 and 'myrrh' which was used as a burial oinment. These three things representative of the purpose of the life of Jesus, Jesus = "Jehovah is salvation"

Today Christmas is more than a one-day celebration, or a 12-day festival. It is part of a lengthy holiday season embracing at least the whole month of December. In the United States the holiday season begins on Thanksgiving Day and ends on January 1.
The reason for this extended holiday period is that Christmas is no longer only a religious festival. It is also the most popular holiday period for everyone in countries where Christianity has become the dominant religion. Even in Japan, where Christianity is in the minority, Christmas has become a festive, gift-giving holiday time.

Customs and Traditions
People who live in the cold winter climates of North America and Europe look forward to a "white Christmas," because snow is one of the features associated with the holiday season. But Christmas is also celebrated in South America, Australia, and New Zealand places where it is summer at Christmastime and also places with year-round warm climates. Each place where the holiday is celebrated has developed its own attitudes toward the occasion and has created customs that try in many ways to express the meaning of the day.
Over the centuries a significant number of customs and traditional observances have emerged to make the Christmas season one of the most colorful and festive times of the year. Probably the most universal custom is gift giving, frequently associated with the person of Santa Claus. Other customs have to do with decoration evergreen trees, lights, wreaths, and holly; the sending of cards; good and plentiful food and drink; and the singing of carols and other songs.

Gift giving
This is one of the oldest customs associated with Christmas: it is actually older than the holiday itself. When the date of Christmas was set to fall in December, it was done at least in part to compete with ancient pagan festivals that occurred about the same time. The Romans, for example, celebrated the Saturnalia on December 17. It was a winter feast of merrymaking and gift exchanging. And two weeks later, on the Roman New Year January 1, houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. As the Germanic tribes of Europe accepted Christianity and began to celebrate Christmas, they also gave gifts.
In some countries, such as Italy and Spain, children traditionally do not receive gifts on December 25 but on January 5, the eve of Epiphany. In several northern European nations gifts are given on December 6, which is the feast of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children (see Santa Claus).
The exchange of gifts has remained a central feature of the holiday season the world over. It has become so significant that most merchants count on making a very large proportion of their annual sales during the period from late November to December 24. So important has the Christmas selling period become that many stores fail to show a profit at the end of the year if Christmas sales are low.

Trees and decorations.
Ancient, pre-Christian winter festivals used greenery, lights, and fires to symbolize life and warmth in the midst of cold and darkness. These usages, like gift giving, have also persisted. The most splendid symbol of a modern Christmas is the brilliantly decorated evergreen tree with strings of multicolored lights.
The use of evergreens and wreaths as symbols of life was an ancient custom of the Egyptians, Chinese, and Hebrews, among other peoples. Tree worship was a common feature of religion among the Teutonic and Scandinavian peoples of northern Europe before their conversion to Christianity. They decorated houses and barns with evergreens at the new year to scare away demons, and they often set up trees for the birds in winter. For these northern Europeans, this winter celebration was the happiest time of the year because it signified that the shortest day of the year about December 21 had passed. They knew the days would start to get longer and brighter. The month during which this festival took place was named Jol, from which the word yule is derived. Yule has come to mean Christmas in some countries.
The modern Christmas tree seems to have originated in Germany during the Middle Ages. A main prop in a medieval play about Adam and Eve was a fir tree hung with apples. Called the "Paradise tree," it represented the Garden of Eden. German families set up a Paradise tree in their homes on December 24, the feast day of Adam and Eve. On it they hung wafers, symbolizing the bread distributed at the celebration of the holy eucharist, or communion, in churches. Because the Christmas holiday followed immediately, candles representing Christ as the light of the world were often added to the tree. Eventually cookies and other sweets were hung instead of wafers.
In the same room as the tree Germans kept a Christmas pyramid made of wood, with shelves to hold figurines. The pyramid was also decorated with evergreens, candles, and a star. By the 16th century the pyramid and the Paradise tree had merged, becoming the Christmas tree so popular today.
The Christmas tree was introduced into England early in the 19th century, and it was popularized by Prince Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria. The trees were decorated with candles, candies, paper chains, and fancy cakes that were hung from the branches on ribbons.
German settlers brought the Christmas tree custom to the American colonies in the 17th century. By the 19th century its use was quite widespread. Trees were also popular in Austria, Switzerland, Poland, and Holland. In China and Japan Christmas trees were introduced by Christian missionaries in the 19th and 20th centuries. There they were decorated with intricate paper designs.
The use of evergreens for wreaths and other decorations arose in northern Europe. Italy, Spain, and some other nations use flowers instead. Holly, with its prickly leaves and red berries, came into holiday use because it reminded people of the crown of thorns worn by Jesus on the way to his execution the berries symbolizing droplets of blood.

Christmas cards.
The first Christmas greeting card is believed to have been designed in England in 1843 by an artist named John C. Horsley for a friend, Sir Henry Cole. The design showed a family party, beneath which the words "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You" were inscribed. The practice soon became popular in all English-speaking countries and is most widespread in the United States.

The range of Christmas music, both sacred and nonreligious, is large from the majestic oratorio 'Messiah' by George Frideric Handel to the lighthearted "Here Comes Santa Claus." The most popular of nonreligious tunes is probably Irving Berlin's "White Christmas," written for the movie 'Holiday Inn', released in 1942.
The most traditional Christmas songs are carols. The word carol was associated with dance and open air. It later came to mean simply a joyful religious song. In France the term is noel, and in Britain nowell. Best known of modern carols is "Silent Night, Holy Night," composed in Austria by Franz Gruber in the 19th century. Other popular carols include "The First Nowell," "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," "Away in a Manger," and "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

Manger scenes.
A custom that originated in southern Europe is the manger scene, often referred to by its French name, creche. This is a small model of the stable where Jesus was born, containing figures of Mary, Joseph, the infant, shepherds, farm animals, and the three wise men and their gifts.
The custom is said to have been started by St. Francis of Assisi. On a Christmas Eve in 1224 he is supposed to have set up a stable in a corner of a church in his native village with real persons and animals to represent those of the first Christmas.

Christmas in the Holy Land
Apart from the many ingredients that go into making the Christmas season a festive and happy time for people around the world, the day itself and the religious observances that highlight it remain the focal points. One of the most colorful and solemn celebrations of the holiday takes place in the village of Bethlehem, which is in the modern state of Israel.
On Christmas Eve a long line of people winds through the narrow streets. At its head march church dignitaries, priests, and attendants, all in magnificent robes. They carry a tiny, gilded, wicker cradle containing a wax image of the infant Jesus. At the old fortresslike Church of the Nativity they pause as each worshipper stoops to enter the low door into the sanctuary. The people gather in the Roman Catholic chapel of St. Catherine for the celebration of a midnight mass. Pilgrims from all parts of the world participate. The ceremony ends when the patriarch of Jerusalem carries the image of the Christ child to the ornate glass and marble manger in the Grotto of the Nativity under the church. 17Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by

the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. 5 10Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing? 6 All images are strickly forbidden by the LORD.

Christmas in Art and Literature
Few themes have inspired so many great paintings, poems, and stories as the Christmas narrative and the ways it is commemorated. The manger scene has been the favorite subject of master painters such as Fra Angelico, Giotto, and Sandro Botticelli.
The religious theme inspired John Milton's poem, "On the Morning of Christ's Nativity." The Santa Claus story was put into verse in 1822 by an American, Clement Moore. Entitled "A Visit from St. Nicholas," it is more commonly known by its first line: " 'Twas the night before Christmas."
The American short-story writer O. Henry (the pen name of William S. Porter) wrote a touching Christmas tale about a young husband and wife entitled "The Gift of the Magi." In a more humorous vein, the children's writer Dr. Seuss (the pen name of Theodore Seuss Geisel) has written 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas'. The story has been made into a motion picture cartoon and is usually televised every holiday season.
There is a story by the 19th-century German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann entitled "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," which inspired a ballet 'The Nutcracker', with music by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. It is often performed at the Christmas season.
Of all the stories relating to Christmas, none is better known or more popular than Charles Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'. As a book, it has been read and reread by millions of people in the last 100 years. It has also been turned into a drama performed on stage, radio, and television every year. The last name of its leading character, Ebenezer Scrooge, has come to stand for unloving, selfish, and miserly individuals. And the ending of the story, after Scrooge has mended his ways, presents a meaningful combination of the religious and nonreligious nature of Christmas.
Colliers Encyclopedia agrees. Quote: "After the triumph of Constantine, the church at Rome assigned December 25 as the date for the celebration of the feast, possibly about A.D. 320 or 353. By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern churches, where it was celebrated on January 6. The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god (natalis solis invicti), and that the Saturnalia also came at this time."
Both encyclopedias plainly reveal that the source of the celebration of December 25 is the birthday of Mithra, the pagan sun god.
Sun worshippers since the time of Babel recognized this time of year in honor of their gods.

1st century believers, taught personally by Christ, did not celebrate His birthday. 2nd century theologians condemned the thought. Only after severe persecution, destruction and inaccessibility of biblical scripture and the blending of pagan doctrine with the worship of God was the Mithraic celebration of December 25th proclaimed to be "Christian" in nature.
These facts are well documented. They can be found in any encyclopedia. There is no way to "Christianize" the birthday of the sun god. Anyone with access to an encyclopedia can know better and those with theological degrees do!

20For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. 21For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. 7