Christmas Was Not Originally a Pagan Holiday

Christmas Was Not Originally a Pagan Holiday

“And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased’ (Luke 2:13, 14). If the hosts of heaven can celebrate Christ’s birth, why can’t we? So what if the date isn’t exactly the same date that Christ was born? It’s a day set apart to celebrate and thank God for sending His Son to be the Savior of the world. We celebrate it and the entire celebration revolves around Christ’s birth and spending time with those we love. (We threw Santa out when our children were very young. We wanted them to know that Christmas was about Christ not Santa.)

Some Christians today don’t celebrate Christmas because they believe that it has pagan roots. Is this true?

Here is what Lindsay Harold wrote about this topic:

“There is a myth circulating that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday. Some claim it was proclaimed by Constantine to be on or around the winter solstice in order to placate the pagans and borrow their celebration. Some claim it was borrowed from the pagan Sol Invictus festival. None of these are true, and I can prove it with a single piece of evidence.

“Here is a quote from Hippolytus of Rome in his commentary on Daniel, written around 202 AD:

“For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, but from Adam, five thousand and five hundred years. He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls.”

“Here we have a claim from the very beginning of the third century that Christ was born on December 25th. This may or may not be the real date of Christ’s birth. But we do know that Christians were claiming this day as the date Christ was born at least as early as 202 AD.

“The festival of Sol Invictus began in 274 AD, some 72 years later. Thus, if there were any borrowing going on, the pagans stole the date from the Christians, not the other way around.

“Constantine became Emperor in 306 AD, which was even later. He could not have been the source for the December 25th date either.

“And so dies the myth that Christmas is really pagan and we should not celebrate it because of that. Facts are often hard on conspiracy theories.

“If you would like to take a look for yourself, here’s a handy online translation of the Daniel commentary written by Hippolytus. You can scroll down to page 140 to find the quote.”

Another woman researched this topic and came to the same conclusion that Lindsay came to: “A lot of websites offer false beliefs about Christmas as being pagan or of pagan origins, but if one looks for valid historical sources for these beliefs, one will not find any. Such beliefs cannot be supported historically or factually. Cults promote such false beliefs, as do many non-Christians. This invalid information is taken to be true by misinformed Christians and non-Christians.” (She has many links on her site for more information.)

And no, we don’t worship our Christmas tree and I don’t know anyone who does. It simply makes a home warm and reminds us of this special celebration. We give gifts as a reminder of the great gift of Jesus Christ. We esteem Christmas above other days as a day to remember Christ’s birth. “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5).

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

***Here is an informative video on this topic: Is Christmas based on pagan traditions?

32 thoughts on “Christmas Was Not Originally a Pagan Holiday

  1. Thank you for posting this today. Several Christian friends in my area do not celebrate Christmas because of so called roots in paganism. We all must be fully convinced in our hearts about this. I appreciate the links that add further research as well. Christmas seems to be the time of year where many people are more open to receiving visits from neighbors. It presents a wonderful opportunity to share a gift and tuck in some gospel tracts as well.

  2. I love going into stores and hearing Christian songs being played about our Savior’s birth and yes, it is a great opportunity to share the Gospel and speak about the Lord. I hand out little booklets on the book of John to our neighbors at Christmas.

  3. I don’t believe He was born on the 25th but acknowledging and celebrating His birth at Christmas isn’t bad. The issue is when we act like the world. We don’t have to have a “worldly” Christmas. Make it about God.

  4. “Some Christians today don’t celebrate Christmas because they believe that it has pagan roots.”

    I would not be the least bit surprised to discover that the instigator(s) of this whole thing is/are NON-Christian, fomenting yet more divisiveness and destruction among believers and sowing seeds of doubt about their faith in the minds of those of weak faith. Such a theory certainly accords with the decay we see happening within the larger church.

  5. I don’t understand this, because this is a man-made tradition and not in Scripture. So why are we doing it?

  6. I’m really glad you made this post. We celebrate Christmas much the same way you described. But, I admit, I have myself questioned whether it is pagan, and it has nagged at me some.

    We mostly forgo gifts and consumerism in favor of gathering, eating lots of good stuff and acknowledging the birth of our Savior.

    I have a question about Santa.

    Some say that “Santa” is another cleverly designed deception by “Satan”, hence the nearly same spelling.

    I’m really not a fan of the whole Santa concept and we dont have any young children in the family at this time. But it does seem there are alot of problems with Santa if you really think about it.

  7. From research, Saint Nicholas was known for his piety and kindness. He very well may have been a great man but instead of celebrating Christ’s birth, who is the Son of God, people now center Christmas around Santa or Saint Nicholas who was simply a fallen man in need of a Savior like the rest of us, therefore, I would rather have the celebration be focused upon Christ rather than a mere mortal.

  8. Christ being born is not a man-made tradition, Emily. It’s written clearly in the Word of God! How one wants to celebrate or acknowledge it is their own decision.

  9. Have you seen the Star of Bethlehem movie? I find it an interesting study. Whether the dates are completely accurate or not I don’t know, but the stars in the sky portion was awesome.

    Your timing the other day about writing about home education right before the horrific school shootings (not too far from you I think?) was significant. God knew the future and having you write to those who have ears right beforehand was providential, not happenstance.

  10. I’ve never celebrated Christmas, and while I 99% agree with your posts, on this I strongly disagree. America’s Founders weren’t celebrating Christmas, and it is a recent concept. As many understand, Christmas has been commercialized, and it isn’t really about Christ at all.

    There is zero evidence that Christ was born in December. Evidence shows he was born closer to Springtime. Shepherds and their flocks would definitely not be out on wintry knights of December.

    The real origins of Christmas are in this well-researched article.

    While many Christians have many fond memories of Christmas, if we strictly follow the Bible, it isn’t advocated for at all. We are told to remember Christ’s death and resurrection, not once a year, but every Sunday, with the solemn memorial of the Lords Supper, and no I don’t believe in transubstantiation, and am not a Catholic.

  11. I think there is a lot of legalism involved in the anti-Christmas movement. There seems to be a belief that worship of God and the celebration of His Nativity are only acceptable in His Sight if done on the exact, correct date, and done in a precise manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. We shouldn’t automatically believe the “pagans did it first” argument – much of it is made up lies. There is no primary source for most of their claims. They just parrot what someone else is saying and expect us to believe it without questioning. I think we fight back by openly celebrating His Nativity as a joy-filled HOLY-day with Christmas hymns (carols) and acts of charity.

    BTW, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is NOT a Christmas carol and I wish the mainstream media would stop calling it that!

  12. St. Nicholas’ feast day is on 6th December. I don’t really understand why get the American children the presents from him on Christmas… 🙂 In my country Baby Jesus gives the gifts on Christmas, and St. Nicholas brings the children some chocolate on his feast day.

  13. I think it was to take the focus off of the day being set aside to celebrate Christ’s birth and instead get a ton of presents from Santa. We must be careful to keep the focus upon Christ and not make it a celebration of greed.

  14. Be careful. Even if the investigators are NON-Christian, it is not unchristian to celebrate and it is not unchristian to choose not to celebrate. This is not a salvation issue. Many Christians can have different and sincere heart convictions based on their walk with God.

    If we are truly to live like Jesus and there is no command or evidence that Jesus celebrated or required celebration of his birthday each year, then the only divisiveness is the judgement among Christians about a trivial issue.

  15. I really appreciate this. I was caught up in the whole conspiracy/paranoia world with this kind of stuff for a while and honestly, it was really miserable. I had always really enjoyed Christmas and it was really hard to feel that something that used to evoke joy and thankfulness was supposedly evil and a lie. It’s good to know that that’s not the case.

  16. Someone asked me how I celebrated Christmas so I told them. There was NOTHING pagan about the way we celebrate Christmas. It’s all about candlelight services, worship, singing, family gatherings, food, gifts, and has nothing whatsoever to do with evil or being pagan.

  17. We’ve actually brought back St. Nicholas Day for our family – tons of fun, and we get to talk about the historic person of St. Nicholas aside from the actual day of Christmas.

    I read about the tradition of Baby Jesus giving gifts on Christmas in Maria Trapp’s autobiography (the lady who was the basis of “The Sound of Music”) – which was in Austria. Very interesting!


  18. Thanks for writing this, Lori. I have seen this movement big-time among conservative Christian writers that I read, and I believe that it is well-meant but misguided. It is one of the ways that conservative Christians respond to antinomianism (“let us sin that grace may abount” philosophy) within the church – but in trying to reverse that, they fall into another error. There is certainly nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas, and everything good about doing so!

  19. It seems many have forgotten the freedom that we have in Christ. We are no longer under the Law. We don’t worship the Christmas tree. We use the holiday as a celebration of Christ’s birth which dramatically changed history and eternity for ALL who believe!

  20. I can understand what you’re saying here. I too, have some misunderstandings when it comes to celebrating Christmas. I fail to find in my Bible the reference about “remember my birth, celebrate my coming.” Maybe my translation is a bit off… however, what I do find is partaking of sacred sacraments in “remembrance of Christ’s death.” (Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:18-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) For it is in Jesus death and willing sacrifice that God’s wrath on mankind was satisfied. His resurrection declaring his Victory over death. THAT’S worth celebrating and remembering. IF we celebrate Christmas remembering Jesus’ birth, may we never forget that he was born, in order to die on our behalf.

  21. We celebrate Christmas, but we don’t allow our children to receive any presents. We don’t do presents on birthdays either, although we have special meals for both. We don’t want them to focus on “getting” things. We have instructed family members not to purchase presents as well. Any presents received are donated to a homeless shelter or a church ministry to help teach generosity and a giving spirit.

  22. Amen!

    I believe churches nowadays place too a great an emphasis on Christmas (which is not ordained in Scripture), and little to no emphasis on the Lord’s supper, which is clearly ordained by Christ before He went to the cross. The cross is the thing, and the place where every Christian should meet—the only leveler of the human playing field, so to speak. The cross set is free! Yet, we place so little emphasis on this important institution. Many churches only have the Lord’s Supper once a month if at all.

    The idea of people referring to Christ as “Baby Jesus” makes me uncomfortable because a baby did not save us. A baby did not go to the cross. A baby is not seated at the right hand of God. There is certainly no baby that brings gifts. The sinless God-MAN saved us when He took on the unspeakable punishment that belonged to us after living a sinless 33-year-long life. THAT is worth celebrating EVERYDAY. As Christians, this should be the central celebration of our daily lives. No Christmas joy can replace the joy of daily peace abiding in our hearts.

    My boys (8 and 6 years old) know all about Christ’s birth. They have expressed confusion with the way the world represents Christmas and how that can be reconciled with the story they read in Luke 2. We live And serve in a tropical climate, so we’ve talked about the emphasis on “winter” as central to the holiday with snow, snowmen, etc. We minister in over 50 churches a year, and they have seen church altars decked out in winter decor (fake snow, Frosted trees etc). The pagan celebration of seasons has infiltrated the church unabated and is immensely more popular than the cross. Dates aside, the church has leaned toward loving the day more than they love the Maker of the day.

    As parents it is our job to make sense of the world for small ones. Someone commented here that we ought to be convinced in our hearts about what we decide. If as a family, we are studying scripture, and no one in the home can find scriptural support for something, that thing is laid aside until the Lord shows us differently.

    Instead of labeling non-celebrators as divisive and cult-like, we should respect one another’s Spirit-led decisions, just as God accepts a sincere heart that aims to please only Him. I can tell you from experience that smiles from the world only come when you behave as the world behaves. But, we have a greater hope, a greater reward and a greater celebration in the life to come.

  23. Yes, and Amen! May our hearts pursuit, be to glorify and honor our Father in everything we do.

  24. “no emphasis on the Lord’s Supper?” That is sad. Here in the UK most churches celebrate it, although they call it the Eucharist or Communion.

  25. This is all true. We celebrate Christmas but for years growing up we didn’t too much because it was considered a secular holiday since it wasn’t declared a day for Christians to celebrate in the Bible BUT we celebrate and always have His death, burial and resurrection every Sunday as spoken of in scripture. We are so very thankful for that!

  26. The Christmas tree may have come from Martin Luther.
    I agree there is too much emphasis on Christmas, rather it should be on the day Christ died and on Pentecost.
    I also agree there’s lots of rejoicing amongst the angels, why can’t we celebrate as well?
    202 AD…that’s incredible.

  27. I thibk my biggest problem with either Santa or baby Jesus “bringing the gifts” is that we are lying to our children. Neither Jesus or Santa actually trapeze into your home in the dead of night and leave physical gifts. As a teacher I see how devestated kids get when they realize it isn’t real and that their parents have lied to them for years. It’s heartbreaking

  28. The problem isn’t so much with the date as it is with the fact that the celebration is not substantiated by the bible. Neither are yearly birthday celebrations by the way, there is no record in the bible of a righteous person celebrating the anniversary of their birth. Besides that there just aren’t that many verses about his birth anyway, most are about the things he did as an adult, the miracles he did and how he healed people, he certainly wasn’t doing those things as an infant. Why place so much emphasis on his arrival and so little on what he accomplished while here? He asked us to remember what he did, and how he saved us.

  29. God clearly states which days we are to regard as holy. The day that Christ was born is not one of them. The Disciple’s didn’t celebrate it. The Apostles didn’t celebrate it. Christ Himself never celebrated nor even mentioned it.
    Nor does it say anywhere in scripture that we are to imitate or follow the example of what angels have done.
    It’s pretty much common knowledge that the pagan celebration of Saturnalia was transformed into Christmas in order to help convert to Christianity the pagans who celebrated it. The Roman Catholic Church even admits this in their records of when, how and why it happened.
    Stop making stuff up.

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