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Critical Analysis of the History and Pagan Traditions of Christmas

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Is Christmas purely pagan?

Fun, family, and plenty of fantastic food are just a few of the things that come to mind when one mentions, what is probably the most widely celebrated holiday of the year, Christmas. Christmas has been assumed to be pagan due to certain factors ranging from its history and past to its absence from actual biblical laws and mandates to the traditions associated with it. Still, it should be celebrated because it is an appreciation of Christ and his sacrificing his life for all mankind to give us all eternal life.

Christmas may seem like a distantly recent concept but it is actually rooted very far and very deep in history[endnoteRef:1]. Contrary to popular misconceptions, Christmas is not a Christian celebration but a Christianized one[endnoteRef:2]. In order to better evangelize to people of different cultures, Christians adopted some of the celebrations and customs of the people they wanted to reach[endnoteRef:3]. None the less the staple ground of celebration for all Christians is that Christmas is a period to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Although it has been celebrated for centuries by all peoples of all religions and denominations, there has always been question as to whether it is in fact a Christian celebration or simply a pagan or worldly festival. [1: (Visited on 10/12/2019) ] [2: (Visited on 10/12/2019) ] [3: (Visited on 10/12/2019)]

Initially, throughout the course of history, several regions around the world solely celebrated the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, believing this was the day the sun won over the darkness of winter[endnoteRef:4]. Winter solstice was celebrated in Rome in anticipation of spring which was a symbol of rebirth and rejuvenation[endnoteRef:5]. Two festivals held in that period were Saturnalia and Juvenilia where certain gods were esteemed for the gift of agriculture and in celebration of the sun god, Mithras, who was believed to be unconquerable and served as a humanized symbol of spring and hope for brighter days[endnoteRef:6]. The Norse celebrated yule during the winter solstice period in honor of Odin, leader of the Wild Hunt[endnoteRef:7]. They also believed it was the day when the sun (assumed to be a giant roll-able wheel of fire) began “rolling back” to earth after rolling away which, they thought, was the cause for the darkness of winter[endnoteRef:8]. All this made Christmas less acceptable as a historically Christian fete. [4: (Visited on 10/12/2019) ] [5: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [6: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [7: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [8: (Visited on 10/12/2019)]

In this present age and in time past, holiday traditions have been incorporated to make Christmas more fun and festive. Sadly, many have pagan roots and intents[endnoteRef:9]. What’s worse is that many people have no clue. One of the most common is yule. Simply put, yule, or yuletide, is a surrogate of Christmas[endnoteRef:10]. It is celebrated by pagan groups that prefer to leave Christ out of `Christ`mas[endnoteRef:11]. Yule is an age old festival with its roots in Germanic culture and has its ties with other Norse philosophies such as the `Wild hunt` and the god `Odin`[endnoteRef:12]. Yule was Christianized and later the term Christmastide was coined[endnoteRef:13]. Along with the title came many present-day Christmas customs and traditions such as the Yule log, Yule goat, Yule boar, and Yule singing[endnoteRef:14]. Today, Yule is celebrated in Heathenry and other forms of Neopaganism, as well as LaVeyan Satanism[endnoteRef:15]. What’s more, some of the traditions that have been taken up by some Christians have roots deep in this popular Christmas alternate[endnoteRef:16]. [9: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [10: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [11: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [12: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [13: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [14: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [15: (Visited on 10/12/2019)] [16: on 10/12/2019)]

About the biggest Christmas holiday traditions is gift-giving. The most celebrated gift giver of Christmas gifts is Santa Claus. The legend of Santa Claus is often associated with the mythical god Odin[endnoteRef:17]. To some extent the legend of Santa Claus even soaked up elements of the Germanic god Wodan, who is associated with the pagan midwinter event of Yule and led the Wild Hunt, a ghostly procession through the sky where the citing of supernatural incidences were said to increase in frequency[endnoteRef:18].[image: ] [17: on 10/12/2019)] [18: on 10/12/2019)] 1

The legend of Santa Claus is also traced back to a bishop named St. Nicholas, hence the large priestly robes[endnoteRef:19]. It is believed that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey[endnoteRef:20]. He was greatly admired for his generosity and kindness[endnoteRef:21]. [19: on 10/12/2019) ] [20: on 10/12/2019) ] [21: on 10/12/2019)] 1

It was only towards the end of the 18th century that the tales of Saint Nicholas hit American shores[endnoteRef:22]. Since then, Santa Claus has been used as a symbol of joy and generosity to boost sales for Christmas shopping and even raise funds for the Salvation Army’s annual free Christmas meals for those less fortunate[endnoteRef:23]. Though this gesture of kindness is commendable, the values that Santa Claus truly represent have been overlooked and a lifestyle of commercialism has taken over tragically, many children in many countries have grown an attitude of ingratitude and entitlement: considering mostly their own wants and desires over the needs of others. [22: on 10/12/2019) ] [23: on 10/12/2019)]

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The most likely reason one might give to believing Christmas is pagan is the fact that, Biblically, Christmas is not accredited[endnoteRef:24]. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention Christmas as a day to be remembered or celebrated and, given the history of the holiday, Christmas was never meant to be a Christian celebration[endnoteRef:25]. So should Christians celebrate Christmas as their own special day when there is no day at all? There is an answer given in the Bible to settle any conflict, not only regarding this one day but any day a Christian might choose to celebrate: [24: on 10/12/2019)] [25: on 10/12/2019)]

“One man esteems one day above another, another man esteems every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special does so to the Lord. He that observes the day, observe it unto the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it; for if we live, we live to the Lord…” Romans 14: 5-6a; 8a

These verses says, yes, a Christian may celebrate but must remember all things he does, or in this case celebrates, must be done to the LORD, selflessly, as an act of worship[endnoteRef:26]. [26: on 10/12/2019)]

A follow up to that reason would the fact that no concrete evidence exists to prove the exact date Christ was born[endnoteRef:27]. The Winter Solstice, the day where there is the shortest time between the sun rising and the sun setting, happens on December 21st or 22nd[endnoteRef:28]. The Roman Festival of Saturnalia took place between December 17th and 23rd and honored the Roman god Saturn[endnoteRef:29]. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti means ‘birthday of the unconquered sun’ and was held on December 25th (when the Romans thought the Winter Solstice took place) and was the ‘birthday’ of the Pagan Sun god Mithra[endnoteRef:30]. The festival of Kwanzaa celebrated by some Africans and African Americans takes place from December 26th to January 1st[endnoteRef:31]. The Jewish festival of Lights, Hanukkah starts on the 25th of Kislev (the month in the Jewish calendar that occurs at about the same time as December) so this could be a more direct source for the date of the holiday as Jesus was Jewish[endnoteRef:32]. [27: on 10/12/2019)] [28: on 10/12/2019)] [29: on 10/12/2019)] [30: on 10/12/2019)] [31: on 10/12/2019)] [32: on 10/12/2019)]

In the early church, Christmas was actually celebrated on January 6th[endnoteRef:33]. This was also the day they celebrated the Epiphany- the revelation that Jesus is God’s Son[endnoteRef:34]. Currently, most of the world uses the Gregorian calendar, a more accurate successor of the Julian calendar which had too many days. Once the shift took place in 1582, ten days were lost, thus the day Christmas would have been celebrated on the Julian calendar, 7th January changed to 25th December[endnoteRef:35]. Still, many Orthodox and Coptic churches celebrate Christmas on the 7th since they still use they use the Julian calendar[endnoteRef:36]. Even the Armenian Apostolic Church celebrates Christmas on the 6th[endnoteRef:37]. All this leads back to the same point: the day you choose to celebrate Christmas on doesn’t demean the holiday. [33: on 10/12/2019)] [34: on 10/12/2019)] [35: on 10/12/2019)] [36: on 10/12/2019)] [37: on 10/12/2019)]

If all this points towards the conclusion that Christmas is historically a pagan celebration, the question now is, “Why should we celebrate Christmas?” For Christians, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and, as the angel proclaimed to the shepherds, in Luke 2:10, the announcement of Jesus’ birth is good news that will bring great joy to all people[endnoteRef:38]. The significance lies in the fact that Jesus is the prophesied Messiah, the Savior of the Jewish nation; the word Messiah being directly translated as an exceptional or hoped for liberator of a country or people[endnoteRef:39]. Also, because of Jesus, that hope of Salvation can be shared by all people across the world[endnoteRef:40]. We celebrate Christmas because on that day God came down, not only to dwell among us but also to fulfill his promise and rescue all mankind[endnoteRef:41]. [38: on 25/1/2020)] [39: on 25/1/2020)] [40: on 25/1/2020) ] [41: on 25/1/2020)



Personally, I don’t consider Christmas as pagan but I do believe that some of the traditions set during Christmas are, for lack of a better word, blinding. I believe our priorities have been misplaced thus taking away from the eternal importance of Christmas. Though it is good to enjoy one’s self, when consumerism and merry-making consume one’s mind and full attention, then the holiday loses meaning.

Christmas has been termed a pagan celebration because of all that is associated with it from its pagan origins, far from Godly history, and even the pagan-rooted traditions that are associated with it. Christmas should be celebrated to honor and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the promised Messiah who came to earth to give us freedom from sin and eternal life.

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Critical Analysis of the History and Pagan Traditions of Christmas. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 29, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of the History and Pagan Traditions of Christmas.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
Critical Analysis of the History and Pagan Traditions of Christmas. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Sept. 2023].
Critical Analysis of the History and Pagan Traditions of Christmas [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jul 14 [cited 2023 Sept 29]. Available from:
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