Tis the season to be jolly, but should Christians hold this holiday in such high esteem? In this article, we look at three reasons why Christians should reject celebrating Christmas –
1. The Earliest Christians Didn’t Celebrate Christmas
As shocking as it might seem, the earliest Christians – including the apostles and disciples of Christ, had no such celebration. The early Church Fathers Iraenaeus and Tertullian omit any mention of it from their list of Christian feasts. The Church Father Origen argues that only sinners celebrate their birthdays. Furthermore, the early Christian apologist Arnobius ridiculed the pagan Graeco-Romans for celebrating the ‘birth’ of their gods.
Notoriously absent from any of the four gospel accounts is the mention of a yearly celebration of Jesus’s birth. During Jesus’s ministry, no such celebration is ever recorded. During the formative years of the Church, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, no such celebration is ever mentioned. One needs to ask, if such a celebration was essential to the Christian faith, wouldn’t Christ, his mother, his apostles and disciples have mentioned it? Whether Catholic or Protestant, Christian tradition does not record any yearly celebration or feast of Jesus’s birth in the Bible, nor is there any record of any yearly celebration or feast of Jesus’s birth in the early Church tradition until the 3rd century CE.
When mention of this celebration did occur, the dates listed were the 20th of May, the 19th or 20th of April and the 28th of March. Even if one wanted to celebrate the birth of Christ due to some late Church tradition, it would not be held in December. So, if you’re a Catholic or adhere to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, it’s going to be quite difficult to claim that Christmas is an essential Christian feast that merits the Christian faith. According to all historical records, Christmas is a later development, far removed from the time of Christ and early Christian apologists ridiculed the pagans for celebrating the ‘birth’ of their pagan gods.
2. Christians Once Banned Christmas and Condemned it as a Heretical Festival
Citing a lack of ‘Biblical Justification’ and its ‘derivation from the Catholic tradition’, Protestant Christians in England banned Christmas in 1644. In further condemnation of the festival, the English’s Long Parliament in June 1647 passed an ordinance confirming the abolition of the feast of Christmas. Protestant Christians in England considered Christmas Trees, decorations and Christmas foods to be unholy pagan rituals. Across the Atlantic, Christians in America soon followed suit. Christmas was banned in Boston from 1659 to 1681, and it did not become a legal holiday in the New England until 1856.
3. Christmas in a Christian Perspective
The festival now known as ‘Christmas’ is derived from the Old English phrase Cristes Maesse, first noted in 1038 CE. While the first use of Christmas Trees – the Evergreen Fir Trees, was adopted from the pagan usage of them for decorating their homes during the winter solstice. Similarly, it is documented that pagans also used them for decorating their temples during the festival of Saturnalia. The first documented use of the Christmas Tree was in the cities of Tallinn in Estonia (1441 CE) and Riga in Latvia (15010 CE).
Taking into consideration the previous evidences – there was no yearly celebration of Christ’s birth recorded to be done by Christ, his family, the apostles or the disciples. No mention of a yearly celebration of Christ’s birth by the early Church, and early renunciations of this practise as a pagan festival by at least one noted Christian apologist. The dates for Christ’s birth are not only historically uncertain, none of the recorded date coincide with the month of December. The festival itself was banned by Christian nations, with those prohibitions being based on a lack of scriptural evidence and an acute similarity to pagan festivals.
Christmas itself is not, and has not been for a long time about the nativity or Jesus. The most famous character during the Christmas season is Santa Claus. Worldwide search trends since 2004 record Santa Claus being the dominant search term, exponentially outpacing Jesus Christ on a year to year basis during the Christmas Season by a factor of 7:
Commercialization. Holiday sales account for at least 1/5th or ~20% of retail industry’s sales in the US. The holiday season accounts for more sales than Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Easter, and St. Patrick’s Day combined.
Notably, the only time Jesus is said to have reacted violently, is recorded in the Gospels when money changers were using the Temple as a marketplace. In essence, people were using something holy for commercial means, not unlike what we find with the commercialization of the Christ-mass season today. A cursory reading of Matthew 21:12-13 or of John 2:14-17 makes it absolutely clear that the commercialization of Jesus’s name is something of great disrepute.
All in all, Christmas is not about Jesus. It’s not essential to the Christian faith and it’s not a practise found in the early Christian tradition. Christians who practise Christmas today are practising a festival that took hundreds of years to develop, a festival which adopted pagan practises, a festival which has no Biblical basis, a festival that is more about retail sales and Santa Claus than it is about the person of Jesus the Christ.
Christians have an important decision to make. Either you go against the grain and reject this pagan-commercialized syncretic holiday or adopt a non-Biblical modern commercial holiday:
Aggravation is better than merriment
because a sad face may lead to a glad heart.
4 The wise heart is in the house that mourns,
but the foolish heart is in the house that rejoices.
5 It is better to obey the reprimand of the wise
than to listen to the song of fools,
6 because the fool’s merriment
is like nettles crackling under a kettle.
That too is pointless.
and God knows best.
1 – “Christmas.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 24 Dec. 2015 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03724b.htm>.
2 – Burton-Hill, Clemency. “When Christmas Carols Were Banned.” BBC. BBC, 19 Dec. 2014. Web. 24 Dec. 2015. <http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20141219-when-christmas-carols-were-banned>.
3 – Melina, Remy. “The Surprising Truth: Christians Once Banned Christmas.” LiveScience. TechMedia Network, 14 Dec. 2010. Web. 24 Dec. 2015. <http://www.livescience.com/32891-why-was-christmas-banned-in-america-.html>.
4 – Ibid – 1.
5 – “The History of Christmas Trees on Whychristmas?com.” The History of Christmas Trees. Web. 24 Dec. 2015.<http://www.whychristmas.com/customs/trees.shtml>.