Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas - A Secret Pagan Holiday?

The accusation is that Christmas is actually a holiday with pagan roots. This is pointed out as an attempt to discredit Christianity supposedly supporting the idea that Christianity, or elements of, really developed from pagan religions.

The word Christmas comes from the old English phrase “Cristes Maesse” or the mass of Christ. Cristes Maesse was the celebration of Jesus’ birth here on earth. Many scholars think the first one was celebrated in Rome around 336 AD, 300 years after Jesus ascension.

Before this Jesus’ birth had been calculated and set by many theologians. There is probably not a month that it hasn’t been thought that Jesus was born in.

Traditionally, many ethnic groups held festivals in the winter. Many were tied to religion, but the main focus of such festivals was time of merriment and relaxation. During the winter months much of the lifestock could be slaughtered and its meat kept because of the cold. Farmers had little to do during this time as they couldn’t plant, grow or harvest. Winter also marked the end of the seasonal cycles with the following of Spring and new birth winter was a time to renew devotion to the gods.

Under the rule of Constantine, during early 300s AD, Christianity found favor. Constantine would slowly give Christianity more prominence over the years of his rule, but much of Rome was still pagan. Only about 5 to perhaps 10 percent of Romans were Christians.

A popular pagan holiday was celebrated on Dec 25. This was a festival celebrating the popular sun god, Solar Invictus’s, birthday. In an attempt to get people to convert to Christianity the Church encouraged the pagan celebrations to continue but with new meaning. The celebration of Sol Invictus was replaced with Cristes Maesse, the festival of Christ.

So the assertion that Christmas is in actuality a pagan holiday is absurd, but the assertion that there are pagan traditions practiced during Christmas today is not.

Many of today’s customs and traditions concerning Christmas have various origins. In today’s world Christmas is pretty much celebrated uniformly, but before the advent of modern media and the accessibility of written literature cultures celebrated the birth of Christ with many varying traditions.

A popular myth is that the Christmas tree comes from the Druidic worship of trees. It is true that Druids worshipped nature and trees but there is nothing that supports the bringing of a tree indoors and decorating it as being a Druidic practice. In fact, there are many non-religious theories about the Christmas tree none which can be completely proven.

Mistletoe, on the other hand, does come from Druidic practice. Druids thought the plant to contain magical powers. The Scandinavians associated the plant with their goddess of love. Those who kissed under the mistletoe could expect happiness and goodness the following year.

Holly was also revered as a magical plant for its ability to stay green throughout the winter. It was used to ward off evil spirits being hung over the doors of homes. Greenery, holly and ivy, was also used to freshen the air and liven up the gloom of winter.

Though there remains these vestiges of pagan traditions no one that I know places any relevance to them. In fact, most people don’t have a clue that such traditions once held such meanings.

Just as you give meaning to words, symbols, etc… You give meaning to tradition and holidays. A Christian celebrating Christmas is not secretly participating in some esoteric pagan festival. A Christian is celebrating the birth of his/her Savior Jesus Christ. The season is a reminder of God’s unfathomable love.

Don’t allow people to try to dissuade your from Christianity by pointing out such erroneous facts. Christmas time is the celebration of Jesus birth, the greatest gift given to man. Even though the world tries to suppress the message favoring the celebration it cannot truly get away from it. We as Christians have been given the wonderful opportunity to remind the world of the season’s purpose.

1 comment:

Rachel M said...

wow thats nice to know