Book: Christmas: The Greatest Story Never Told

We often hear the slogan: “Let’s put Christ back into Christmas!” Let’s look at just how Christ got into Christmas in the first place.

Earls W. Count, Professor of Anthropology at Hamilton College, in his book 4,000 Years of Christmas, states:

“We do not know when the Christ child it (Christmas) venerates was born: or exactly how it was that, over the centuries, a bishop saint of Asia Minor, and a pagan god of the Germans merged to become Santa Claus.

“Although the Christmas story centers on the Christ child of Bethlehem, it begins so long before his coming that we find its hero arriving on the scene after more than half the time of the story has gone by. Christmas began over 4,000 years ago, as the festival which renewed the world for another year. The twelve days of Christmas, the bright fires and probably the Yule log; the giving of presents; the carnivals with their floats; the merry makings and clownings; the mummers who sing and play from house to house; the feastings the church processions with their lights and song all these began three centuries before Christ was born. And they celebrated the arrival of the New Year” (ibid. page 18).

“Taken altogether, the coincidences of the Christian with the heathen festivals are too close and too numerous to be accidental. They mark the compromise which the church in the hour of its triumph was compelled to make with its vanquished yet still dangerous rivals. The inflexible Protestantism of the primitive missionaries, with their fiery denunciations of heathendom, had been exchanged for the supple policy, the easy tolerance, the comprehensive charity of shrewd ecclesiastics, who clearly perceived that if Christianity was to conquer the world it could do so only by relaxing the too rigid principles of its Founder, by widening a little the narrow gate which leads to salvation” (The Golden Bough, page 419, by Sir James George Frazer, emphasis added).

It is important to note that the “Founder” of Christianity, referred to by Sir Frazer, is Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, by whose authority we enter into salvation. By accepting and promulgating these pagan celebrations those “shrewd ecclesiastics” declared God’s principles (by which we enter into His Kingdom) to be too rigid, and His gate too narrow. Let us remember that Christ Himself said, “Enter in through the narrow gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter through it; for narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and few are those who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Pagan Origins

Most Bible scholars agree that Christmas, as celebrated today, is of pagan origin. This is documented in a broad variety of sources. William Muir Auld adds, “The heathen contributions now are precisely those which lend to Christmas much of its warm color and human charm.” Auld goes into great depth showing the connections of the festival of Saturnalia, or Sacaea, which were ancient celebrations in honor of the pagan sun god Nimrod/Tammuz. He tracks its observance from Babylonian Mystery Religion through the Roman Empire where it eventually became connected with their worship of Mithra. “Schools were closed, war was never declared on this day, and the practice of giving gifts and receiving presents was almost as common then as it is now at Christmas ... a sense of brotherhood prevailed” (Christmas Traditions, page 45).

No, the warm feelings that they enjoyed did not alter the debauchery that was the real attraction for the celebrations. “For many a day the Church fought bitterly their excesses (the pagan’s spirited festivities) and superstitions, especially those bound up with the Kalends and Yule.... But burning denunciations and threats of excommunication failed to wean the barbarians from their heathen modes of rejoicing. It was discovered they were far more ready to abandon their gods and the dates of their festivals than to change their habits and manners.... Christianizing work went on. What it could not extricate itself from, it nobly sought to consecrate” (ibid. page 45).

The research becomes complicated as these pagan festivals traveled from country to country. The names and customs were adapted into yet other pagan religions. From the Roman Empire, Auld shows the gradual acceptance of the festivities starting in England in 592, and Germany in 813, from the Synod of Mainz. It was as late as the tenth century that King Hakon the Good introduced these pagan festivals to Norway.

The Early Church

So we ask, “How did this pagan custom get into Christian professing churches?” Most recognized authorities show us that Christmas was not observed by the early church for the first two or three hundred years, a period longer than the United States has existed as a nation. It first appears in the western segment of the Roman Church in the fourth century AD. However, it was not until the fifth century that the Roman Church ordered it to be celebrated as an official Christian festival.

Compton’s Encyclopedia comments, “Many of the customs now associated with Christmas go back thousands of years to a time when the people of Europe worshipped pagan gods. The early Christian Church took the ancient festival time and gave new meaning to it—the religious meaning of Christianity—and made it a holy season. Many of the customs can be traced back to the pagan midwinter festival of the Teutonic people of Northern Europe.” The World Book Encyclopedia tells us, “Bishop Liberius of Rome ordered the people to celebrate on December 25. He probably chose this date because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn (Saturnalia), celebrating the birthday of the sun.” This great compromise was made easy by the fact that the real date of Jesus’ birth wasn’t known.

The Encyclopedia Americana and others show how these customs became a part of Catholicism. Indeed the name “Christmas” comes from the Mass of Christ, instituted by the Catholic Church which, after failing to eradicate the former heathen customs, tried to remake them into church celebrations.

Since it has come to us through the Catholic Church, why not examine the Catholic Encyclopedia, published by that church? Under the caption “Christmas” we find: “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church! ... The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt. It also remarks that, “in the scriptures sinners alone, not saints celebrate their birthdays.” (The three Biblical examples of birthday celebrations are in fact—all evil! You read these accounts in Gen. 40:20-22; Job 1:4- 5; Matthew 14:6-11). “Pagan customs centering around the January Calends gravitated to Christmas.” This truth is further acknowledged in the Encyclopedia Britannica, Compton’s, and Americana (which adds that it was “not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian Church, as the Christian’s usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth”). The New Testament Passover was personally instituted by Jesus Christ as a memorial of His death. The Encyclopedia Americana continues, “A feast was established in memory of this event (Christ’s birth) in the fourth century, and in the fifth century the Western church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ’s birth existed.”

The Nativity— Sun Worship’s Role in Choosing December 25

The date of the Nativity of the Unconquered Sun, however, was well known. We learn, again from the Catholic Encyclopedia, that it was already being celebrated as the feast honoring the sun god Mithra. or Baal, in which the pagan priest announced “the Virgin has brought forth!” during the midnight Mass on the eve of December 25. The encyclopedia goes on to say this celebration “has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date.” The pagans, who were devoted to Mithraism, called their celebration DIES NATALIS SOLIS INVICTI. The Catholic Church even kept part of the name: “Natalis or Nativity.” The cult that kept this “birthday of the invincible sun” was very strong in Rome. To gain the acceptance and supposed conversion of these people to Christianity, the [Catholic] Church fathers were referring to Christ as the “Sun of Justice” by the beginning of the third century.

A Simple Solution

The Roman Catholic Church’s order to celebrate the “Nativity of the Sun,” came in response to the hoards of pagans coming into the church, bringing with them their old idols and customs. This fact is recorded in the Encyclopedia Americana and in many other sources. The church could not allow the open worship of the pagan sun-god, but at the same time did not wish to offend their new “converts.” They found a simple solution—simple, that is, to an apostate church: Substitute Christ’s birth for that of the pagan sun-god. In other words, compromise the truth of God!

The church had already reasoned that it was all right to accept many old pagan festivals, IF they renamed them and made them appear Christian. In this way the heathens could be “converted” en masse, without the tremendous problems of teaching them the true Word of God, and demanding, AS GOD COMMANDS, that they repent and give up their false deities. The Roman Church was interested in gaining numbers, NOT the SPIRIT of GOD! Apparently the Catholic “fathers” had never read Paul’s warning in Galatians 1:8-11 when he asked those around him if he sought to please God or man by his teachings. Paul plainly states if he sought to please man, then he WOULD NOT BE A SERVANT OF JESUS CHRIST! Further, he pronounces a CURSE on anyone who would pervert the worship of Christ! The Catholic Church clearly has sought to please man, rather than God.

If that is not enough to convince us of the pagan origins and influence, the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia offers this: “The pagan Brumalia (December 25th) following the Saturnalia (December 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the ‘new sun’ ...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 to have an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and manner. Christian teachers of the West and Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian the pagan festival.”

The Book of Christmas Folklore, by Tristram Potter Coffin says the Saxons attempted to hold out against the Holy Roman Empire. Though they called it “converted,” Emperor Charlemagne and the church conquered the last and most powerful holdout of the German tribes by the eighth century. In LeRay E. Froom’s book, Prophetic Faith of our Fathers Vol. 1, we may be educated concerning Pope Gregory’s instruction to Augustine in 596 AD regarding conversion of the pagan Saxons in Britain. The direction was: “to retain the customs of the heathen, idol temples ... rededicated as Christian Churches and heathen festivals renamed as those of Christian Saints.”

Louis Laravoire Morrow, Bishop of Krishnagar, says in his book My Catholic Faith, “In the history of the church we find that she often Christened pagan festivals, making use of dates and ceremonies and endowing

William Walsh in the Story of Santa Claus, reveals, “This was no mere accident. It was a necessary measure at a time when the new religion was forcing itself upon a deeply superstitious people. In order to reconcile fresh converts to the new faith, and to make the breaking of old ties as painless as possible, these relics of paganism were retained under modified forms, in the same way that antique columns, transferred from pagan temples, became parts of the new church built by Christians in honor of their god and his saints” (page 61).

This was made even more acceptable to the superstitious sunworshipping “new converts of Christianity” by the non-Christian idea that their beloved sun gods were one in the same with Christ the Son of God. This idea was encouraged by Emperor Constantine, who, while sending out his armies under the symbol of the cross, memorialized his victories with monuments to pagan gods.

It is interesting to note that some of the most documented and thorough history, supplied by the Catholic Church, proves that the celebration of Christmas, including the Dec. 25 date, is a pagan abomination. Reading the material that they have recorded through the ages is enough to make us utter a repentant prayer, “O merciful God, forgive me for my prior ignorant participation in falsehood. Fill my heart with understanding and desire for your true holy seasons. Let me abhor any inclination to return to Babylon, serving false gods. May it never be again!”