The pagan origins of Christmas

Netzarim/Messianic Jewish believers adhere to the celebration of the God-ordained Biblical feasts because, unlike man-made holidays such as Christmas and Easter, the Biblical feasts are all about God rather than "me"! They're not about spending money we don't have or going into debt to buy things we can't afford. Nobody commits suicide during the Biblical feasts because they're "feeling lonely or depressed".

Christmas is not mentioned in the Bible; nor is the command to celebrate the birth of Messiah. That aside, there are some fundamental truths about this holiday that highlight the difference between festivals ordained by YHWH (Yahweh = God), and those concocted by man...Not to mention, YHWH warned us against pagan customs!

Deuteronomy 12: 28 Obey and pay attention to everything I am ordering you to do, so that things will go well with you and with your descendants after you forever, as you do what ADONAI sees as good and right. 29 "When ADONAI your God has cut off ahead of you the nations you are entering in order to dispossess, and when you have dispossessed them and are living in their land; 30 be careful, after they have been destroyed ahead of you, not to be trapped into following them; so that you inquire after their gods and ask, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I want to do the same.' 31 You must not do this to ADONAI your God! For they have done to their gods all the abominations that ADONAI hates! They even burn up their sons and daughters in the fire for their gods! 32 "Everything I am commanding you, you are to take care to do. Do not add to it or subtract from it. (CJB)

  • Yeshua (Jesus) was not born in December. If we examine the Biblical feasts, we can determine that He was born on the first day of Sukkot (Tabernacles) which, on our Gregorian calendars falls in the September/October timeframe.

  • YHWH never said to honor His Son's birthday. To be fair, it doesn't say you can't, either, so if you wish to put up a tree and celebrate Christmas, GO for it! We are to be thankful to our God every day of the year, and if you want to do enjoy "Christmas" activities, that's your choice. Just don't be guilty of telling your children the lie about "flying reindeer" and "Santa Claus" who magically comes down the chimney to bring them presents - because lying is NOT condoned in Scripture. Don't LIE and don't incorporate any pagan customs (such as bringing in a tree and decorating it - Jeremiah 10.) He constantly warns people away from paganism throughout the entire Tanach ("Old Testament"), to the point where He even ordered the death of pagans in order to render them unable to cause His Chosen to become tainted with their customs (see Deuteronomy 17:2-7 for example).

  • With the exception of those Christians who actually do think of "Jesus" on Christmas, it has, for the most part, become a commercial "holiday" to the point where Yeshua Ha'Mashiyach (whom Christians call Jesus Christ) is never mentioned in the secular media, and our efforts are mainly concentrated on gift giving and money spending. Where in the Scriptures can you find that we are to give presents to each other on a "holy day"?

Some Christians say that Christmas has been instrumental in "getting the Word out" because it witnesses to the secular world. While this might be true to a certain extent, this holiday is also based on several lies - and let's keep in mind that lying is a sin:

  • We try to pass off December 25th as Yeshua's birthday - yet He wasn't born in December.

  • We try our best to make our children believe that "Santa Claus" is real but, exactly what does "Santa" have to do with the birth of our Savior? Some say he represents the "spirit of giving", but the problem is: "Santa" has become a central figure of Christmas, taking the focus completely off Messiah! The Ninth Commandment is: "Thou shalt not lie". Lying is lying, no matter how we package it, so why would God be pleased with a deliberate yearly perpetuation of lies?

  • Except for those who realize the supposed "real reason for the season", Christmas is a holiday that doesn't include Yeshua at all - which automatically makes it a lie. Why do unbelievers or the "lukewarm" even bother celebrating Christmas? Without Messiah, what is the purpose? Yet practically everyone in the Western World "celebrates" Christmas - even the atheists! Christmas to the unbeliever is a holiday to throw parties, get together with family and friends, and exchange presents that - if truth be told - probably shouldn't have been bought in the first place because many people end up going deeply into debt to buy gifts they can ill afford. Go to a search engine and search on something to the effect of, "What is Christmas really about?" and you will find sites that talk about everything from what people want for Christmas, to how the warm weather detracts from the "feel" of the holidays. You'll have to search long and hard to find the mention of Christ.....

We've not only decided to force a December birthday on our Savior, but we also shove paganism down His throat via "Christmas trees". Realizing there is a symbology and tradition behind Christmas trees, it does not detract from the fact that bringing trees into the home and decorating them was a pagan custom, practiced in various parts of the world. For instance:

The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.

Centuries ago in Great Britain, woods priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.

Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions.

Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth. (Source for the above: Captain Jack's Christmas Tree Farm.)

Jeremiah 10 reveals how useless our man-made customs and idols are:

Jeremiah 10: 1 Hear the word Adonai speaks to you, house of Isra'el! 2 Here is what Adonai says: "Don't learn the way of the Goyim, don't be frightened by astrological signs, even if the Goyim are afraid of them; 3 for the customs of the peoples are nothing. They cut down a tree in the forest; a craftsman works it with his axe; 4 they deck it with silver and gold. They fix it with hammer and nails, so that it won't move. 5 Like a scarecrow in a cucumber patch, it cannot speak. It has to be carried, because it cannot walk. Do not be afraid of it - it can do nothing bad; likewise, it is unable to do anything good!"

While the above Scripture isn't talking about "Christmas trees" per se (it's in reference to carving idols from trees....gilding them with gold and silver and fixing them to the ground and worshiping them), we can certainly see the resemblance! We also need to remember that God used to put people to death for gross disobedience, or worshipping Him with "strange fire":

Leviticus 10: 1 But Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aharon, each took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and offered unauthorized fire before Adonai, something he had not ordered them to do. 2 At this, fire came forth from the presence of Adonai and consumed them, so that they died in the presence of Adonai.

So, what makes us think we have the right to disobey now? For those who believe that we have the right to worship God however we want, because "Jesus did away with the Law", please read all about Hebraic/Netzarim Faith, Why the Biblical feasts are so important and Torah put in simple terms, which is probably the most important article on this website.

The following was excerpted from Richard Rives' book, Too Long in the Sun, which discusses our obession with blindly following paganistic rituals.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica reports that "The traditional customs connected with Christmas have developed from several sources as a result of the coincidence of the celebration of the birth of Christ with the pagan agricultural and solar observations at midwinter. In the Roman world the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchange of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the Sun of Righteousness."

Colliers Encyclopedia agrees. Quote: "After the triumph of Constantine, the church at Rome assigned December 25 as the date for the celebration of the feast, possibly about A.D. 320 or 353. By the end of the fourth century the whole Christian world was celebrating Christmas on that day, with the exception of the Eastern churches, where it was celebrated on January 6. The choice of December 25 was probably influenced by the fact that on this day the Romans celebrated the Mithraic feast of the Sun-god (natalis solis invicti), and that the Saturnalia also came at this time."

Both encyclopedias plainly reveal that the source of the celebration of December 25 is the birthday of Mithra, the pagan sun god.

Sun worshippers since the time of Babel recognized this time of year in honor of their gods.

First century believers, taught personally by Christ, did not celebrate His birthday. Second century theologians condemned the thought. Only after severe persecution, destruction and inaccessibility of biblical scripture and the blending of pagan doctrine with the worship of God was the Mithraic celebration of December 25th proclaimed to be "Christian" in nature.

These facts are well documented. They can be found in any encyclopedia. There is no way to "Christianize" the birthday of the sun god.

To discover Yeshua's true birthdate, please see On What Day Was Jesus Born by Michael Scheifler.