“It is impossible to put Christ back in Christmas since he was never in it in the first place”

Ted Armstrong, Christian Evangelist

It’s that time of year again and the inevitable cry of “put Christ back into Christmas” starts coming from various Christian groups. Does this cry have any merit? Was Christ ever in Christmas? Consider these facts:

  1. It is almost certain that Christ was NOT born on December 25th. The spring and fall have both been given as more realistic time frames since Luke mentions shepherds tending their flocks (Luke 2:8).
  2. There is no record of the early church celebrating the birth of Christ and, as such, no record or tradition of his birth was preserved. In fact, early church fathers such as Origen (185-232) believed that only sinners and pagans celebrated birthdays. Origen didn’t list Christ’s birth as a Church holiday. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10709a.htm)
  3. The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. About A.D. 200, Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.21) says that certain Egyptian theologians “over curiously” assign, not the year alone, but the day of Christ’s birth, placing it on 25 Pachon (20 May) in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus.” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm)
  4. Christmas comes from the Latin Cristes Messe or the Mass of Christ and wasn’t formalized until the 4th century. December 25th was picked as it was a celebration day of many popular pagan gods and the Winter Solstice, so it made assimilation into Christianity easier.
  5. Under the influence of the Puritans, in 1644 the English Parliament banned Christmas and it remained in effect until 1660. They even condemned plum pudding and mince pie! (Although to some plum pudding and mince pie should be condemned.) Christmas was seen as an excuse for all kinds of unchristian and unholy activities.
  6. The celebration of Christmas was illegal in Scotland for almost 400yrs until 1950 because of the influence of John Knox and other reformers: “For almost 400 years, Christmas was banned in Scotland. At the height of the Reformation, in 1583, when anything smacking of Catholicism and idolatrous excess was thrown out with contempt, Christmas and all its trappings was wiped off the official calendar…
    (Amy McNeese as reported in The Religious Rights War on Christmas Began Centuries Ago and various other places on the Internet; however, the original article at http://scottishchristian.com/topics/christmas.shtml is no longer active.)
  7. While not directly involved in the banning of all festivities, an edict made on Sunday 16 November 1550, the reformer John Calvin was pleased with the result. All such holidays were worshiping in ways not prescribed in scripture (the regulatory principle in worship) as was thus idolatry.  (For a good discussion of religious opposition to Christmas see:
  8. The Puritans saw Christmas as a pagan festival with Christian trappings. Christmas was made illegal in Massachusetts from 1659 to 1681. Anyone caught celebrating it was fined 5 shillings.
    http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=369 )
  9. It wasn’t until the 1870’s that Christmas became an official holiday in the U.S.
  10. A case can be made that it was actually Charles Dicken’s that popularized the holiday and influenced how it is celebrated today.
  11. Many Christian groups still see the celebration of Christmas as pagan and unchristian. For example see:
    So it isn’t just some godless atheists that are opposed to the holiday. In fact, many atheists including myself enjoy the holiday. They just don’t want government sanctioned displays of religion. I don’t have any problems with a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, but there are Christians who do! (We had a couple at work who refused to attend an office Christmas party unless it was renamed a Holiday party, since the celebration of Christmas was idolatry.)
  12. The true “god” of Christmas is actually Santa Claus! If you think about it, some attributes of the Christian god are assigned to this mythical character: omnipotence (he knows whether you are naughty or nice), omnipresence (he can give presents to everyone one in the world in an evening), he hears all of your “prayers”, and he answers your “prayer” requests (if you are nice) or punishes you if you are naughty (coal).

It is clear that what we now call Christmas was originally a pagan holiday celebrating the Winter Solstice and the birth of some of the pagan Sun gods. The Christian church simply co-oped this celebration for their own use. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad or evil thing. If Christians want to celebrate this day and use it in honor of their god, I have no objections. However, I do object to the supposedly pious and righteous cries to “put Christ back in Christmas” or that “he is the reason for the season”. If that is YOUR reason for celebration, that’s fine. It is YOUR reason, so please keep it that way. Many of us celebrate the season for other reasons: family tradition, good food, a time for sharing, and a time of reflection, plus it is fun to give and receive gifts. Your celebration may actually be offensive to other religions (or the non-religious) and there are even Christians, as we have seen, who see this celebration as idolatry. If you are one that wants to “put Christ back into Christmas” (whatever that means), please do so – for yourself. But I think, to be honest about it, you are going to have to throw away a lot of what traditionally goes into this holiday.

Have a safe and Happy Holiday season, however you may or may not celebrate it.

“At this season of the winter solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.Freedom From Religion Foundation

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