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The Real Truth - Are Christmas Traditions Christian?

Are Christmas Traditions Christian?

Merchants regularly report that over 60% of their annual retail sales occur during the Christmas shopping season. This represents a tremendous amount of gift buying. Most today believe that gift-giving comes from the Bible example of the “three wise men” (the Bible gives no number) presenting gifts to Christ. Is this true? Where did exchanging gifts come from, and what does God’s Word say about it?

The Bibliotheca Sacra states, “The interchange of presents between friends is a like characteristic of Christmas and the Saturnalia, and must have been adopted by Christians from the pagans, as the admonition of Tertullian plainly shows” (Vol. 12, pp. 153-155).

Like every other aspect of Christmas, the shocking truth is that even this supposed Christian custom does not come from the Bible. It is an irony that people love to believe they are following the custom of the wise men giving to Christ, when actually they are giving almost exclusively to each other! What hypocrisy! Christ is completely forgotten.

The Bible actually teaches that Christians should not keep birthdays. Numerous scriptures make this principle clear. (Read our reprint article “Are Birthday Celebrations Christian?”) However, what if you went to a birthday party that had been prepared for you and everybody gave gifts to each other and you were left out? The idea is ridiculous! If this happened, you would say that people were being selfish and forgetting you. In fact, most people give to others on Christmas merely because they expect to receive gifts themselves!

Let’s briefly return to the “wise men” who gave gifts to Christ. The scripture describing this is Matthew 2:1-11: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews?…And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down, and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

It is commonly supposed that these were birthday presents for “baby Jesus.” But is this what the Bible actually says? Absolutely not! First, it is important to note that they did give the gifts to Jesus. They did not stand in His presence and exchange gifts among themselves or give them to others. The gifts were “presented unto Him.” Also, they arrived well after His “birthday.” This is another reason these could not have been “birthday presents.”

A long-standing, ancient custom of the East was to present gifts when coming before a king. These men understood they were in the presence of the “King of the Jews.” The Bible carries many examples of people sending gifts to kings or presenting them upon arrival into their presence. This custom is common today when ambassadors or others come into the presence of a world leader.

Finally, notice what the Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 46, states about what really happened on this occasion: “Verse 11. They presented unto him gifts. The people of the east never approach the presence of kings and great personages, without a present in their hands. This custom is often noticed in the Old Testament, and still prevails in the east, and in some of the newly discovered South Seas Islands.” Gifts were customarily presented to kings.

What could be more plain?

The Origin of the Christmas Tree

Another tradition people blindly observed centers around the “Christmas tree.” The modern Christmas tree originated in Germany. But the Germans got it from the Romans, who got it from the Babylonians and the Egyptians.

The following demonstrates what the Babylonians believe about the origin of the Christmas tree: “An old Babylonish fable told of an evergreen tree which sprang out of a dead tree stump. The old stump symbolized the dead Nimrod, the new evergreen tree symbolized that Nimrod had come to life again in Tammuz! Among the Druids the oak was sacred, among the Egyptians it was the palm, and in Rome it was the fir, which was decorated with red berries during the Saturnalia!” (Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs, p. 242).

Frederick J. Haskin’s Answers to Questions states, “The Christmas tree is from Egypt, and its origin dates from a period long anterior to the Christmas Era.” Did you know this—that the Christmas tree long preceded Christianity?

Most aspects of Christmas are not referred to in the Bible. Of course, the reason is that they are not from God—they are not part of the way He wants people to worship Him. The Christmas tree, however, is directly mentioned in the Bible! Turn to Jeremiah 10:2-5, “Thus says the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen…For the customs of the people are vain: for one cuts a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 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.”

This plain description of the modern Christmas tree is clear. God directly refers to it as “the way of the heathen.” Just as directly, He commands His people to “learn not the way of the heathen,” calling these customs “vain.” Verse 23 adds a remarkable and powerful statement: “O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his [own] steps.” God must teach people how to live. Man simply cannot figure out God’s ways for himself.

There is no room in Jeremiah 10 to believe, as some have tried to suggest, that because these trees are powerless of themselves, it is not really forbidden to have a Christmas tree. God condemns the putting up of pagan (Christmas) trees with this plain Bible command!

The Source of Holly Wreaths, Yule Logs and Mistletoe

The Encyclopedia Americana states, “The holly, the mistletoe, the Yule log…are relics of pre-Christian time.” In other words, paganism! The Yule log was commonly used in a rite of Teutonic nature worship.

Frederick Haskin further states, “The use of Christmas wreaths is believed by authorities to be traceable to the pagan customs of decorating buildings and places of worship at the feast which took place at the same time as Christmas.”

The Encyclopedia Britannica, under “Celastrales,” exposes the origin of the holly wreath: “European pagans brought holly sprays into their homes, offering them to the fairy people of the forests as refuge from the harsh winter weather. During the Saturnalia, the Roman winter festival, branches of holly were exchanged as tokens of friendship. The earliest Roman Christians apparently used holly as a decoration at the Christmas season.”

There are dozens of different types of holly. Virtually all of them come in male and female varieties—such as “Blue Prince and Blue Princess” or “Blue Boy and Blue Girl” or “China Boy and China Girl.” Female holly plants cannot have berries unless a nearby male plant pollinates them. It is easy to see why the holly wreath found its way into pagan rituals as a token of friendship and fertility!

Christmas is incomplete to many unless it involves “kissing under the mistletoe.” This pagan custom was natural on a night that involved much revelry done in the spirit of drunken orgies. Just like today, this “kissing” usually occurred at the beginning of any modern Saturnalia/Christmas celebration. I will never forget having to always kiss my friends’ mothers upon entering each of their houses every Christmas. It was the first thing that we did. I hated it—but it was something I “had to do”! Mistletoe was considered to have special powers of healing for those who “reveled” under it.

The Encyclopedia Britannica, under “Santalales,” states, “The European mistletoe is thought to have had special ritual significance in Druidical ceremonies and lives in folklore today, its special status as the Christmas mistletoe having come from Anglo-Saxon times.” Mistletoe is a parasite that lives on oak trees. (Recall that the Druids worshipped in oak tree groves.) The ancient Celtics (associated with the Druids) used to give mistletoe as an herbal remedy to barren animals to make them fertile. It is still referred to as “all healer” in Celtic.

Like mistletoe, holly berries were also thought to be sacred to the sun god. The original “sun log” came to be called the yule log. “Yule” simply means “wheel,” which has long been a pagan representation of the sun. No wonder people today commonly speak of the “sacred yule-tide season.”

Worship of the True God Mixed with False Practices

The modern term for merging false pagan customs with the worship of the true God is called syncretism. Anyone who did this in ancient Israel was put to death (Lev. 18:21, 29)! It was that serious!

A fascinating look into how Israel thought and believed, in their own minds, that they were worshipping God as an entire nation, comes from II Kings 17:33: “They feared the Lord, and served their own gods, after the manner of the nations whom they carried away from there.”

Did you grasp this? Yes, they feared the true God while serving other gods. No wonder the very next verse (34) states that they really “fear NOT the Lord” according to the way God commanded. This is how God views what people are doing today—no matter what these people copying ancient pagan practices might think of their own actions!

Verse 30 says that all this had been learned from contact with “the men of Babylon” (among others), whose chief god, we will recall, was Nimrod (Baal or Molech)—who we now know were one and the same.

Notice how specific was God’s warning to Israel in Deuteronomy 12:29-31, and why He warned them! “When the Lord your God shall cut off the nations from before you…and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after that they be destroyed from before you; and that you enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? Even so will I do likewise. You shall not do so unto the Lord your God: for every abomination to the Lord, which He hates, have they done unto their gods; for even their sons and their daughters have they burnt in the fire to their gods.”

Many verses, similar to Deuteronomy 12, should be carefully studied. (See Exodus 34:10-17; 23:28-33; Leviticus 20:22-26; Deuteronomy 20:13-18, etc.) The true God knew that serving other gods always led to sacrificing children to them!

Deuteronomy 12:32 made clear that God does not want us to mix His ways with any false ways: “What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: you shall not add thereto, nor diminish from it.”

These are God’s plain words to all who say that they can mix the horrible customs of outright paganism with a supposed “focus on Christ.”

Ancient Israel’s Pagan Practices in Modern Customs

Deuteronomy 12:2-4 establishes an important context. God plainly says, “You shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which you shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: And you shall overthrow their altars…and burn their groves with fire…you shall not do so unto the Lord your God.”

Notice God’s references to “every green tree” and “their groves.” There are at least ten similar verses throughout the Old Testament referring to “green trees” and their association with idolatry. Historians hold that the reference to the term “green” refers to green year-round—evergreen trees!

Once again, let’s more closely examine the actual history and origins of some of the Saturnalia customs still practiced today. Notice the following chilling quote from the Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, “Oscilla” 3rd edition, volume II: “…all ranks devoted themselves to feasting and mirth, presents were exchanged among friends, and crowds thronged the streets, shouting ‘Lo Saturnalia.’ An offering was made beneath a decorated evergreen tree, according to the pagan poet, Virgil. Figurines and masks—called ‘oscilla’—were hung on the tree, as are Christmas decorations today. History admits…there can be no doubt that we have in these ‘oscilla’ a relic of human sacrifice…

Doesn’t all of this sound familiar? Presents, singing in the streets, evergreen trees, decorations, offerings under the tree, merrymaking, feasting? They may sound wonderful, but they represent things that are truly abominable.

Modern oscilla look like chubby little “angels” when hanging on a tree. I placed these little “angel babies” on our tree, myself, as a small child. At least I thought they were angel babies. How wrong I was! Do you think any of your friends realize what they really represent? Of course not—but that does not make it any less serious or less wrong in God’s eyes!

Outright Paganism Blended into the Church

One additional source demonstrates how this all came to be a heritage practiced so “innocently” by millions—yet far from innocent in God’s sight. Now read the following quote from Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, volume 10, pages 1062-3: “Christianity…by a complex and gradual process…became the official religion of the [Roman] empire.

“For a time, coins and other monuments continued to link Christian doctrines with worship of the sun, to which Constantine had been addicted previously. But even when this phase came to an end, Roman paganism continued to exert other, permanent influences, great and small…The ecclesiastical calendar retains numerous remnants of pre-Christian festivals, notably Christmas, which blends elements including both the feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra. But, most of all, the mainstream of Western Christianity owed ancient Rome the firm discipline that gave it stability and shape.”

An authority as reputable as the Encyclopedia Britannica actually acknowledges, for any willing to see, that the Saturnalia and ancient Rome are what defined the “discipline…stability and shape” of Western Christianity!

This is a truly stunning admission!

The next powerful quote reveals how this idolatrous, pagan festival slipped into the “Christian” world. It is from the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, under “Christmas”:

“How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia (December 25) following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the ‘new sun’…cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence…The pagan festival with its riot and merry-making was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ’s birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.”

One additional source reveals how the Roman church absorbed Christmas into an official celebration. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 edition, states, “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church…Certain Latins, as early as 354, may have transferred the birthday from January 6th to December 25, which was then a Mithraic feastor birthday of the unconquered SUN…The Syrians and Armenians, who clung to January 6th, accused the Romans of sun worship and idolatry, contending…that the feast of December 25th, had been invented by disciples of Cerinthus…”

Thus, a pagan festival, celebrated long before Christ’s birth, found its way into recognized Christianity.

Did you know that even the seventeenth century Puritans of New England understood how wrong Christmas was? They actually banned its observance by law, in 1659, throughout the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Fines and imprisonment could result from being found keeping it. It was almost 200 years (1856) before people stopped working on Christmas in Boston. The Puritans knew its roots and labeled it “heathen, papist idolatry.”

Those Who “Change Times and Laws”

The prophet Daniel (7:8) speaks of a “little horn,” which (7:25) “shall speak great words against the Most High…and think to change times and laws.” This little horn is a great religious authority that attempts to superimpose its own view of dates and celebrations, on an unsuspecting world, in place of God’s plain instruction.

The Hebrew word translated “change” means to “transform, alter or set.” The word translated “times” means “appointed occasions, seasons or times.” The Hebrew word translated “laws” means “decrees or laws of God.” When put together, this phrase refers to an authority that attempts to “transform appointed occasions and seasons within the Law of God.” Certainly, Christmas is a great example of how this has been done. God’s instructions have been replaced with religious traditions of men.

The following quote reveals how this has happened. It also comes from the Encyclopedia Britannica, under “Christianity”: “Thus, the Easter liturgy has been developed more highly in the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Christmas liturgy more highly in the Roman Catholic Church…The Christian calendar is the most widely disseminated Christian institution. The seven-day week and the rhythm of the Christian festivals have been accepted even by most of the non-Christian countries. Despite energetic attempts at the introduction of a sliding work week, the seven-day week with work-free Sunday could not be eliminated even in Communist states with an Atheist world view. Even in Atheistic circles and organizations throughout the world, Christian holidays enjoy an undisputed popularity as work-free days…especially Christmas.”

Truly, it has been the “ecclesiastical politicians,” referred to earlier, who have sought to impose the modern “Christian” calendar on an unknowing world. It is these leaders who have “thought to change times and laws.”

The Dangerous Power of Lies

One of Satan’s names is Destroyer (Rev. 9:11). Nimrod/Saturn/Molech/Baal, like Satan, is the fire god who destroys and devours little children.

The real Jesus Christ was never in and never will be in Christmas! He cannot be put back into where He has never been. But the “god of this world,” Satan (II Cor. 4:4), has always been in Christmas. He is its author!

The true God commands that we must “worship Him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). This does not mesh with the great Christmas and Santa Claus lies that all children so willingly believe.

I Timothy 4:2 warns of those “speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.” Parents can “burn” their own children, to the point of searing them, with the Christmas deception and lie!

There is no “safety in numbers” in this world for those who keep Christmas, because Satan, who is called “the father of lies” and “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44), has “deceived the whole world” (Rev. 12:9)! Turn to this verse and read it. Then recognize that Christmas is certainly a testimony to that great deception.

But Christ refers to His Church as a “little flock” (Luke 12:32). Many other verses show this. This Church does not have the large numbers of the respected, established brands of the Christianity of this world.

“Another Jesus”

There is another problem with the idea of “putting Christ back in Christmas”—and it is big! The “Jesus” that is the focus of this season is not the true Jesus Christ of the Bible!

Most have been taught that there is only one Jesus Christ. But God’s Word speaks of a counterfeit, and this substitute Christ is identifiable in history. The proof? The apostle Paul warned of “another Jesus.”

Grasp what is at stake here!

First, consider Paul’s entire introduction as he sets the stage for the warning that follows: “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent [Satan] beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Cor. 11:3).

Now for the actual warning in the next verse: “For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with him” (II Cor. 11:4). The Corinthians seemed to “bear with this” without much resistance.

Paul, under inspiration of the true Jesus Christ of the Bible, was moved to record the peril of unwittingly following “another Jesus.” Consider. Most have probably never remotely considered the idea of a false Jesus for even a moment—that there is such a thing as a wrong, different and “false Christ” (Matt. 24:23-24)—called “another Jesus.” In the past, this “Jesus” has even corrupted the thinking of true Christians. This much is plain. But the “subtilty” of how this can happen, and how it has occurred in history, is so deceptive—so seductive—that even true Christians can unknowingly slip into worshipping this so-called Jesus. This is what was happening to the Corinthians.

People can worship in ways that represent things that are far different than what they sincerely believe or intend. Bible “believers” today can think that they are worshipping the true Savior when they are really worshipping a false savioranother Jesus! The entirety of traditional Christianity is actually worshipping Nimrod/Saturn/Molech/Baal. The modern mother/child “Mary/Jesus” emphasis, including the worshipful adoration of Mary by millions, is a parallel with Nimrod and his mother, Semiramis, that cannot be missed.

Here is the point of what is being explained. Many speak of “putting Christ back into Christmas.” This is heard every year from thousands of pulpits and elsewhere. But the true Christ was never there! Just as a person cannot go back into a room that he had never entered, Jesus Christ cannot be “put back” into an event that He has never been in, and that He in fact hates! (See Mark 7:7.) The Jesus that these preachers and religionists have in mind is another Christ, one with another gospel, another spirit—the Christmas spirit!—bringing totally different doctrines and teachings.

Can you see the connection?

What Should You Do?

Finally, let’s examine what God told His people they should do and the way they ought to teach their children.

In Jeremiah 7:31 God condemned Israel for burning their children in the Valley of Tophet. Eight verses earlier (vs. 23-24), God had made plain what He requires: “But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people: and walk you in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. But they hearkened not…but walked…in the imagination of their evil heart…”

Human beings do not want to obey God (Rom. 8:7). They would rather follow their own “imagination.” They do not understand that God wants their lives to go “well.” He wants happiness, joy and blessings to flow into people’s lives. All these are the results of obeying Him.

God inspired Moses to warn parents of the grave responsibility that they have in what and how they teach their children. Notice His instruction in Deuteronomy 6:1, 6-7, 20-21, 25: “Now these are the commandments…which the Lord your God commanded to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you go to possess it…And these words, which I command you this day, shall be in your heart: And you shall teach them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up…And when your son asks you in time to come, saying, What mean the testimonies, and the statutes, and the judgments, which the Lord our God has commanded you? Then you shall say unto your son, We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand…And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as He has commanded us.”

God took Israel out of Egypt—from slavery—out of the customs of the world around them and revealed His Law to them. He does not want His people going back to the traditions, customs and ways from which He has called them.

When all of the interconnected traditions, filled with the symbolism of worshipping an ancient pagan, humanly devised god, are taught, this is not worshipping the true Creator.

We Have not Known that Christmas is of Babylon

Jesus said twice, in Matthew 7:16 and 20, that “you shall know them by their fruits.” Everything that people say or do, good or bad, has fruits. The fruits of Christmas are terrible. This season leads the entire year in adultery, loneliness, jealousy, drunkenness and drunk driving, family arguments (and worse), and accumulation of debt that often lasts until March. This problem is so significant that almost all churches typically report that their incomes—how ironic—drop during this period as people “recover” from all their spending!

The Real “Christmas Spirit”

The prophet Isaiah was inspired to write, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgression” (58:1). I have done this. Now that you have read the plain truth about the true origin of Christmas, what will you do?


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