“Christmas originates from pagan--” Stop Right There!
Buckle up kiddies, Aunt Shad is gonna explain why the common belief of Christmas’ pagan origins is fallacy.
To begin with, one has to understand the culture of the early church in
order to understand how they approached pagan practices. clergy were
extremely concerned with the mixing of religions, especially ritualistic
practices, because of the threat it posed to the unadulterated church.
remember, much of the early church’s doctrines and teachings were
written by “doctors” (scholars) who researched scrupulously,
particularly in matters of salvation history, in ordet o examine what
did and did not belong in the church’s teachings. thus, they examined
the old testament: which includes the failings of the Mosaic Jews. the
one thing they struggled to do generation after generation was to remain
faithful to God. why is this important? well, one of the major reasons
they continued to fail at monotheism for centuries was because Jewish
men took pagan wives: these women eventually corrupted the conviction of
the Jewish men’s belief in monotheism. It was the prophet Ezra who
eventually figured out this forumla for disaster, and became known for
being extremely strict when it came to marriages. The early doctors
of the Church, being the indepth scholars they were, noticed this trend.
They would not want it to be repeated. In fact, there are many
testaments in early Church history to being complete abandon of paganism
a requirement in conversion: the most obvious and well-known would be
King Charlemagne, who was renowned for his complete and brisk conversion
of the pagan Franks. As he swept through towns, any and all pagan
symbols were swept away, burned, or removed completely. Perhaps the
greatest reason the Church did not assimilate pagan practices was to
prevent converts from feeling tempted. It’s certainly logical–
constantly being reminded of your former beliefs would certainly create a
longing or pull towards what you had left behind. Thus, the Church very
much believed in starting fresh, on a clean slate. Using Pagan
holidays/customs to draw in converts is a fallacy within itself. It
simply wasn’t in the early Church’s “purity” culture– they were
obsessed with keeping the religion untainted. Just check out how many
negligible heresies the Church openly sought to squash. If they were
truly concerned with just getting people to convert, they probably would
have let a few heresies slide here and there to keep people content
with the Church. This was the furthest thing on its mind.
on to the very common claim that most Christian holidays (Christmas,
Easter, etc) are based around pagan holidays. This is just plain false.
The misconception became widely circulated in the 19th century, with the
publication of Alexander Hisop. To begin with, Yule was a celtic
pagan celebration. Doesn’t make much sense for the Church to center the
celebration of Christmas on a day devoted to one tiny section of west
Europe. In fact, the current date of Christmas on Dec 25th wasn’t set
until the Middle Ages, past the time when most of Europe was converted
into SOME form of Christianity. One such quote that has sparked such belief in Christmas being pagan is the following: “It
was a custom of the Pagans to celebrate on the same 25 December the
birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity.
In these solemnities and revelries the Christians also took part.
Accordingly when the doctors of the Church perceived that the Christians
had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the
true Nativity should be solemnised on that day.” (Christianity and
Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth Centuries, Ramsay MacMullen. Yale:1997,
Many seized this passage as proof of paganism being the
root of Christmas. However, context (as we all know) is super important.
Bishop Bar-Salibi (the author) was an Eastern Orthodox bishop, writing
to his flock to attempt to explain why WESTERN Catholics celebrated on
the 25th instead of the EAST’S tradition of Jan 7th. He had only a
cursory knowledge of Western Catholic culture and wrote sparingly, not
particularly well thought-out or with much research. It is by far no
means “proof” or an official statement as to how or why the celebration
Early Christians adapted a LOT of traditions from
Judaism. Of course, not just any traditions could be assimilated– that
was left to the Apostles, and eventually the early Church, to decide
what still applied to Christians and what was no longer okay to
celebrate (Council of Jerusalem circa 50 AD, according to Acts). As it
was, Hanukkah did not originate from Mosaic Judaism: i.e., the part that
Christians were told to no longer follow. It was a way for the Jews to
remember and celebrate the second dedication of the Temple after the
Maccabean revolt. The celebration always lasted 8 days, starting on the
25h day of the Jewish month of Kislev. The month of Kislev on the Jewish
calendar overlaps the month of December on the Julian/Gregorian
calendar. In fact, sometimes the overlap is so close, that Hanukkah is
celebrated at the same time Christians are celebrating Christmas. Now,
Hanukkah was very much a celebration focused on light, a “rebirth” for
the (earthly) kingdom, and a refreshed covenant with God. It made sense
that Early Christians would therefore feel close to it. However, early
Christians were shunned by the Jews, often kicked out of the culture
completely. They lost track of the Jewish calendar over time, and thus
it’s only natural that they fell into using the Julian calendar as other
Christian Gentiles did. They instead celebrated Hanukkah on December
25th–which was pretty close to Kislev 2th anyways. And–here’s the
kicker– there are 8 days between Dec 25th and Jan 1st, meaning it
perfectly wrapped up the end of the Christian cultural year with
re-dedication (new years revolutions, anyone?). Christmas became the
christened version of Hanukkah in the beginning. This went on for
several centuries in the Early Church.
So how did the Christian
Hanukkah become associated with Christ’s nativity? Very early Christians
believed that the world was created on Nissan 14, which is about March
25 on the Julian calendar. These Jewish Christians not only associated
the beginning of the world on that date, but also the beginning of the
new world: meaning the conception of Jesus Christ. To this day, the
Catholic Church (and Lutheran, Anglican) celebrate the Annunciation of
Mar 25th. Pregnancies last for about 9 months, so count that far ahead
from the date: you get to December 25th. Early Doctors/Fathers such as
Saints Ireaneus and Sextus Africanus firmly defended this date. Thus, it
was only natural for Christians to adapt their version of Hanukkah into
a celebration of Christ’s nativity. Eventually the 8-day feast was
overshadowed by 12 days, but that’s another discussion irrelevant to
So you’ve got two explanations as to how Christmas came
to be: the widely-circulated suggestion of it being based on pagan
practices, mostly prompted by 19th-century misconstructions; versus it
naturally originating from the course of intermingling of Jewish and
Gentile-born early Christians. The latter is supported by a lot of
official documentation by the church, including published works by
several saints/scholars close to the time of origin.
continue to suggest it was still influenced by pagan holidays. Such as
Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (Birth of the Unconquered Sun). However, this
was proposed on Dec. 25th by the pagan Roman emperor Aurelian in 275
AD– AFTER the dates of published works from the aforementioned Saints
Irenaeus (130 - 202 AD) and Sextus Africus (160 - 240 AD). Thus, early
Christians (many of Jewish heritage) were celebrating December 25 as a
date closely associated with Christ long before Aurelian dedicated the
birthday of the sun. Why do this? Remember that the early Christians
were actively persecuted for many centuries by the then-Pagan empire.
Still the religion was gaining traction. Aurelian could have easily set
the date with the mind to upstage the rising tide of Christianity.
fact, many scholarly sources indicate that the winter soltice was NOT a
hotbead for sun-worshiping for pagans. Here’s the most succinct quote: “Thomas
Talley has shown that, although the Emperor Aurelian’s dedication of a
temple to the sun god in the Campus Martius (C.E. 274) probably took
place on the ‘Birthday of the Invincible Sun’ on December 25, the cult
of the sun in pagan Rome ironically did not celebrate the winter
solstice nor any of the other quarter-tense days, as one might expect.” (Michael Alan Anderson) The principle dates for sun-worship were actually in August…not December.
again, culture context is KEY. The Christians were being actively
persecuted BY the Pagans in the early Church days. Is it really that
likely that those same pagans would take kindly to them adopting their
practices–or that the Christians would WANT to assimilate the culture
that was trying to wipe them out? Not likely.
Christmas was not pagan-based, let’s move on. What about the supposedly
pagan customs ingrained in it? Like the Christmas Tree (hey trey)? Yes,
the Franks and Scandinavians worshipped trees. But there is no credible
documentation found that suggests they even brought them into their houses
(in fact, this probably would have been sacrilegious, esp to the Norse:
trees were only ever to be chopped down for absolute necessity, so
having one around for ornamentation would be disrespectful). St.
Boniface was glorified for the legend of his chopping down of the
(pagan) Donor Oak to prevent human sacrifice, and this act was quite
evangelized. The Germans watched in horror, fearing Thor would strike
them down for this brazen act. Boniface, seeing this, took action. He
indicated a small fir sapling growing close to the roots of the former
sacrifice tree, and used it as a teaching tool: the fir was triangular
in shape, representing the trinity; it was always green, representing
God’s never-ending love for His people; and the needles always point
upwards as God. Boniface suggested that God placed the fir there as a
symbol to the pagans. It is then said that Boniface took a tree into the
later-constructed church, an ever green similar to the fir, during the
winter as a reminder. Of course, the modern Christmas tree came
later, during the time of the Protestant reformation. It was in Germany,
in an attempt to recreate St. Boniface’s tree. Martin Luther is said to
have first added lighted candles to an evergreen tree, in an attempt to
recreate in his chapel the starlight he saw, shining between trees in a
forest, while walking home one winter night.
There are other
supposedly Pagan symbols used in Christmas celebrations, but most of
those aren’t as widely used or accused as the Christmas Tree.
TL;DR: Christmas comes from Jewish customs, not pagan.
I know the exact moment I stopped being Christian.
I was 7 years old in Sunday school and I remember the pastor dude or whatever telling us about Heaven and angels, and he was going on about how angels looked like beautiful women but were in fact men and the entire time I was l thinking What the fuck are you talking about? I don’t remember reading about this? This makes no goddamn sense.
I was always super inquisitive as a kid and I questioned a lot of what was taught to me but it was this one moment with this Sunday school teacher’s weird angel headcanon that obliterated my trust in what adults at church tried to teach me.
So since Rep. Paul Ryan is publicly dissenting from Church teaching regarding immigration (and pretty much every other social justice teaching), when are the trad bishops going to start saying they’ll order their priests to deny Communion to him???
Maybe the cure for the doctrinal apathy of the modern Protestant church is to start teaching the history of the Reformation. Maybe it’s valuable to know why your spiritual predecessors were willing to die for doctrine - a shocking concept to the American mind, I know. Remembering the past isn’t just for Catholics.
It bothers me a lot that there’s a growing presence in the Catholic Church that would love to see us change our teachings on sex, abortion, gender, etc., and those of us who actually believe what the Church teaches are so busy fighting with each other on Latin vs. vernacular Masses and guitar music in church that we don’t even seem to notice we’re being eaten alive. The same goes for Protestants and Catholics. We’re all squabbling over the importance of the Blessed Virgin and the semantics behind being saved by true faith when we should really be standing together to defend Christ’s body on earth. The world is a scary place. It’s getting scarier every day. I wish we would all be support for each other rather than adversaries.
I exist only for you”, she says. He watches her with curious eyes but doesn’t answer, so she adds, “I am born, I live, I die. All for you. I am beginning to forget the start, to give up on an ending.You are the sun, I am half in shadow, waiting to be blinded. Life is circular. This is not what the church teaches, but me and the Church disagree on a number of things. I am born. I live, I love, I die. And so the circle continues.
What does it mean to be a practicing Catholic according to father Mike Schmitz
•to accept Church teaching = read your catechism!
•follow the 5 minimum necessary practices of the church, which are:
1. Going to Mass on Sunday and all other Holy Days of Obligation
2. Go to confession at least once a year
3. Receive Holy Communion at least once a year during Easter Season
4. Observe of the prescribed days of Fasting and abstinence (every Friday, especially Ash Wednesday and Good Friday)
5. Provide for the material needs of the Church according to your ability
This is what it means to be a practicing Catholic
Leah Remini had been a member of Scientology since childhood. She began to have significant trouble with it not when she learned of the church’s notorious teachings about an intergalactic overlord named Xenu or the existence of invisible aliens that were embedded in your body — the things that make it easy for outsiders to point and laugh — but rather, when she felt Cruise was damaging the church’s reputation. Later, after learning about Xenu and leaving the church, Remini said, “When I read it I thought, this is some crazy s—.”