Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?

As it is for most kids, Christmas time was my favorite time of the year growing up. Everything changes. There are lights, Christmas songs, making gingerbread houses, fun Christmas movies, and best of all, lots of new toys!
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I was always the first one up Christmas morning, and always dazzled by the sight of our family-room filled with beautifully-wrapped presents, all filled with new and exciting things just waiting to be discovered. Yes, Christmas was the best time of the year.
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I never thought much about why we had Christmas, or what all of the traditions and practices meant. Everyone celebrated Christmas…or so I thought. 
Once while visiting a great Christian family, I was horrified to discover that they did not celebrate Christmas! WHAT? WHY? How sad their children don’t get presents Christmas morning! My parents explained later that they believe we should treat every day the same, and consider every day as holy, and seek to celebrate God every moment.
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Okay, that makes sense, I thought, but why not treat every day the same…but also get presents?
As I grew older, Christmas slowly began to lose its luster for me. More and more things began to bother me about the holiday, such as the hustle and bustle, the stress the season seemed to bring, and the over-commercialization.
Since then, I have also learned more sinister things about the origins of Christmas. Indeed, there are even some Christians who believe we should not participate at all in the celebration due to its pagan origins.

Where did Christmas come from?
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Long before Christmas came to be, many different pagan cultures (mostly Norse and Germanic) had celebrations on or around the winter solstice.1-2 December 25th was considered to be the birthday of Mithra, a sun god worshiped by the Romans. The Catholic church, unable to outlaw these wildly popular celebrations, adopted them into Christianity, and called the new holiday, “Christ’s Mass”.

Even though it is very unlikely Christ was born during the winter, December 25th was selected as the date of His birth.3-4

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If you look at the pagan holidays and traditions from which many of our Christmas practices stem from, they were actually worse than the pagan rituals which later morphed into Halloween. Much worse, in fact, some involving human sacrifices and other evils.5

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During the middle ages, Christ’s Mass became so full of violence and evil that it was actually outlawed in England during the 1600s (though this ban was short-lived).6 For 200 years in colonial America, Christmas was outlawed, but by the mid-19th century, the churches were the only ones standing against the holiday. Wait, say that again? That’s right. The CHURCHES were the only ones standing AGAINST Christmas. Fascinating, no? Of course, eventually, they too came to embrace the holiday.  Near the end of the century, all American states had voted to make Christmas a legal holiday.7
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So Christmas has only been widely accepted in America for a little over 100 years.
What does this all mean?
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What do the pagan origins of Christmas mean for us Christians? Ultimately? I don’t think really anything.
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Yes, at one point in time, Christmas was an evil and vile holiday. Is it today? Not at all. The Christmas we have today is far different from what Christmas once was. Sure, perhaps Christmas today is often celebrated for the wrong reasons, but that’s not to say it can’t be celebrated for the right reasons.
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Yes, Christ wasn’t born on December 25th, but I don’t think that means we can’t celebrate it.
Yes, Christmas came from holidays that were pagan, but Christmas isn’t pagan today. To be pagan, it would actually have to worship a pagan god, which it does not; although, that’s debatable if an emphasis on Santa Claus replaces an emphasis on Christ.

All that being said, I do think we as Christians should consider carefully the origins of Christmas. Are the traditions we celebrate redeemed? Or does participating in these ancient practices constitute a violation of scripture?

Deuteronomy 12:31: “You must not worship the Lord your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the Lord hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.”

Human sacrifices were never actually part of Christmas itself. Christmas was formed to replace the evil pagan holidays. Even though there were times when Christmas itself was not a good holiday, I think it can be argued that Christmas has been redeemed.

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Is there a good reason to celebrate Christmas?
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Or has Christmas been redeemed?

When we look at Christmas today, I think it’s easy to find that it is often celebrated for the wrong reasons. More often than not, Christmas is a celebration of materialism. Everything becomes about gifts and looking forward to shiny new toys which we soon grow tired of, and yet, are still disappointed when we don’t get what we want.

Christmas has also given us the lovely annual tradition of Black Friday, when we get the witness the best of human nature on display, as we fight over televisions and laptop computers.

Despite all the many negatives of Christmas, I think it can still be good. 

Christmas, as many Christians espouse, is supposed to be done in remembrance of Christ’s birth. While we don’t know when Christ was born, and while there is no Biblical command to celebrate His birth, we do have many examples in the Bible where God either gave us reminders, or commanded individuals to remember. God gave us the rainbow as a promise that He would never destroy the Earth with a flood again. The Passover celebration is another example. I think Christmas can likewise serve as a remembrance, and remembering Christ’s birth, life, and sacrificial death is very important.

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However, we must also seek to serve and remember God daily, and keep Him before our minds always. This is something I personally need to improve on greatly. Christmas does no good if December is the only month of the year we pick to remember God, and practice acts of charity toward our fellow man.
While I don’t so much like the god of commercialism, Santa Claus, I think there are still a lot of beautiful things about Christmas.
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Having a special season of the year to focus again on the incredible sacrifice of Christ can be very powerful and edifying. We have a lot of Christmas music and hymns which focuses on Christ’s birth, life, and death which can have an impact far greater than words alone. Music has the ability to speak to the soul like nothing else. I also think the gift-giving, kept in the proper spirit and context, can be very powerful as well.
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Ultimately, I think Christmas can be a very good thing, but like any practice, celebration, or activity, it can be misused. We shouldn’t let Christmas become an idol, or give it more significance than it is due. We must not make Christmas a golden calf. In fact, it’s perfectly fine not to celebrate Christmas at all.

As Paul informs us in Romans 14:5, “One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.” Some wish to focus on regarding every day alike, and I sympathize with that approach.  

However, I don’t think it is wrong for Christians to celebrate Christmas either, so long as we do so correctly. I don’t we as Christians should concern ourselves so much about trying to “put Christ back into Christmas,” but rather, we should focus on getting more of Christ into Christians, and I think Christmas can be a means to help with that goal. I don’t think we should let the worldliness and commercialization of Christmas negatively impact us, or distract us, which I have been guilty of.

Speaking for myself as much as anyone, I think we should try more to celebrate and be thankful for the good things, and not let the bad spoil the good.
Personally, I enjoy reading through Christmastide Advent prayer books with my family, and being together Christmas morning sharing gifts. I got most of my audio production equipment through Christmas, so I can’t complain.

What do you enjoy about Christmas? How does your family celebrate? If you don’t celebrate, do you do anything else instead? 

1http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas/videos/history-of-christmas
2http://carm.org/what-are-the-origins-of-christmas
3http://www.origin-of-christmas.com/
4http://www.ucg.org/doctrinal-beliefs/biblical-evidence-shows-jesus-christ-wasnt-born-dec-25/
5http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice-customs.html
6http://www.livescience.com/32891-why-was-christmas-banned-in-america-.html
7http://www.thehistoryofchristmas.com/ch/in_america.htm

21 Comments

  1. We are reading through an advent book by John Piper which is really good. I personally enjoy Christmas a lot. I really enjoy seeing people unwrap my gifts to them, and singing carols as a family.

  2. Merry Christmas Reagan!

    I will have to greatly disagree with what you have stated as true facts on the History of Christmas. Granted, I know you are not the author of these facts, and you probably found them somewhere, but I must tell you that if I were you, I would rethink all that you have stated above. Here is a link my Dad sent me to help me dispel all of the weird anti-Christmas myths and beliefs.

    http://www.redstate.com/2014/12/10/why-christmas-is-on-december-25th/

    I hope this will change your perspective (and I mean this with all cordiality, and good cheer). 🙂

    In Christ alone,

    Jessica
    The eldest sister & singer

  3. That's good to hear! I'm glad Christmas is a blessing for you and your family. 🙂

  4. One of your main reasons for accepting the celebration of Christmas is that in spite of its past evil and dark surroundings it has now become something beautiful, correct?
    Now, if I remember correctly most of your reason of rejecting halloween stemmed from its dark and evil past.
    I'm not disagreeing with anything you've said but as I was reading the thought took hold that by using this reasoning; something of questionable background changing into something beautiful can grant it acceptance, why dont we do the same for halloween? Should me maybe give it a chance, put some effort into it by celebrating it in a new way change it and maybe years from now it, too could be a “very good thing”.
    (side note: growing up my family never celebrated Christmas for many of the reasons you pointed out; pagen roots, commercialism, etc. so having married into a family who celebrates it in a conservative way I'm bopping around lots of feelings and questions about the “issue” this time of year. So, I am more or less thinking out loud here.)

  5. Yes I think you are right. Christmas has been redeemed from what it once was.

    Also, I actually didn't reject Halloween in my previous post. Not completely at least. I was okay with Trick-or-Treating. I did say that I didn't think Christians should participate in the dark, witchcraft-glorifying parts of Halloween. My issues with Halloween aren't really so much in it's origins, but in what it actually is today.

    The same goes with Christmas. The difference is Christmas is actually meant to celebrate the birth of Christ, whereas Halloween, only really celebrates spookiness. Granted, Catholics still celebrate the saints on Halloween, so I guess if you want to do that, that would be okay. But just like I don't think the mere origins are enough to write-off Halloween, I don't think the origins of Christmas–dark or otherwise–are enough for us not to celebrate Christmas.

    You are exactly right that, if we don't celebrate Halloween merely because of it's origins, that we would be inconsistent to celebrate Christmas, since it's origins are just as bad, if not worse than Halloween. Maybe if Halloween changed it could become a good thing. Or, maybe we as Christians could stop celebrating Halloween and make up a new holiday of our own that maybe incorporates some of the same Halloween traditions, like trick-or-treating. This is basically how Christmas came about. A new holiday that incorporated some of the pagan practices as an attempt to replace the evil pagan holidays.

    At the same time, we are also called not to be like the pagans, so that is something to consider.

    I think our concerns with Christmas should lie more with what it is today, and a lot of what Christmas is today, is not worth celebrating. However, I think there are a lot of good things about Christmas, and I think it can be good to celebrate it.

    Celebrated with Christ in mind, I think Christmas can be a beautiful thing. Not celebrating Christmas can be fine too. I really think it just depends on individual preference.

    Here is a nice brief article about the subject you might appreciate:

    http://www.generationcedar.com/main/2014/11/what-if-jesus-isnt-the-reason-for-the-season-and-we-celebrate-anyway.html

    Thanks for the comment! I hope this helps.

  6. Merry Christmas, Jessica!

    I hope you and your family are having an enjoyable Christmas season.

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. I find it rather humorous that right around the same time I saw your comment, I received a message from someone else telling me the exact opposite! They made the claim that we should not celebrate Christmas at all. I thought that was rather ironic. Regardless, my stance remains neutral.

    Since you commented, I went and added in a few of the sources I consulted prior to writing this article. Everything I have read back each other up, so it really does seem to be the case that there were many pagan holidays prior to the founding of Christmas. We also know that the Catholic church had a habit of adopting pagan practices and Christianizing them. Halloween is one prime example. Whether this is wrong or not, I am not certain. It’s a tough question, and depends on some key factors.

    Concerning the article you linked to, I found it interesting, but also found it lacking. It simply asserts that Christmas was celebrated well before Saturnalia, which conflicts with many different sources I read. It also didn’t even mention Yule, or any of the other pagan winter solstice celebrations Christmas has drawn traditions from. I mean no disrespect, but it seems to me there is more evidence to say Christmas was founded to replace pagan traditions, than to say the pagan celebrations came later.

    The article then went on to make the case that Jesus actually was born on December 25th, which is possible, but I find unlikely. There is nothing in the Bible that says Jesus died on the same day he was conceived. All we have to go on is what is said in the Bible, and I think what we have in the Bible indicates Jesus was not born on December 25th. Here is a source:

    http://www.ucg.org/doctrinal-beliefs/biblical-evidence-shows-jesus-christ-wasnt-born-dec-25/

    To summarize the above article, Jesus likely wasn’t born in December because we wouldn’t have had the story of shepherds watching their flocks at night. It would have been too cold. Additionally, the Romans wouldn’t have had a census in winter, as that would have made travel more difficult and dangerous, making it harder to have an accurate census. It’s more likely Jesus was born in late September.

    I also found it interesting that the article you provided says that Christians started celebrating Christ’s birth only a short period of time after His death. I have not heard that before. Nevertheless, if this is true, it wasn’t Christmas that was celebrated. They were celebrating Christ’s birth, yes, but the actually holiday called “Christ’s Mass,” or “Christmas,” did not come around until later. I bet they did not have Christmas trees, or hang stockings, or give gifts, or deck the halls with holly. Such Christmas traditions actually find their origins in pagan celebrations.

    Regardless, I do agree with the article that the date of Jesus’ birth doesn’t really matter.

  7. And one blogger comment apparently couldn't support everything I want to say, so here is the rest. Haha!

    However, even if everything this article says is true, I don’t really know that it changes anything about my conclusion, since my main point was that Christmas can either be good or bad, depending on our approach to it. I don’t really think the pagan origins matter so much, since Christmas sought to redeem and replace them. Though I personally am not a fan of Santa Claus. Haha!

    The brief history I gave on the origins of Christmas wasn’t actually meant to show why Christmas is bad, but it was meant to show why some Christians think it is wrong to celebrate, and I also think it’s important to be aware of. There are many things we accept today in the modern church which had negative origins. The cross is one example, but Christ redeemed it with His sacrifice. Now the cross is a reminder of His love. We don’t have crosses today to support or remember all the evil criminals who were crucified. Only Christ.

    The point I was trying to make is Christmas can be good or bad. I think some Christians guard Christmas like it’s actually commanded in the Bible that we celebrate it: it’s not. I know great Christians who do not celebrate Christmas, and I think that is completely fine. However, I also think Christians can celebrate Christmas if they want to, so long as they do so for the right reasons, and don’t get sucked into the materialism which surrounds it. My family celebrates Christmas. 🙂

    It may very well be the case that you are right, and the sources I found are wrong, but in the end, I don’t think that changes our approach to the holiday. There is a reason we have the saying, “let’s put Christ back into Christmas.” It’s because it’s so easy to forget what Christmas is supposed to be about, even for Christians. There are so many distractions, and the gift-giving can easily turn into a double-edged sword, promoting greed and selfishness as easily as it can create spirits of charity and love.

    Forgive the long reply. Brevity is not my strong-suit. Hopefully that made some sense and answers your concerns. 🙂

    Thanks for the comment!

  8. We as Catholics have problems and concerns about Hallowe'en as it has become. But in ancient days this was a very important day, as it precedes the commemorations of All Saints and all the faithful departed. This is what we do in our home for that day:
    http://momintheshoe.blogspot.com/2012/10/all-hallows-eve.html

    As for Christmas, that is entirely different and the subject of something else. But for now, the Church in missionary spirit never destroyed the customs of the indigenous peoples, but always strove to win to Christ the people within their customs. For example, it is often overlooked that the missionaries to the Indians learned their languages and translated the Mass prayers, Scriptures, etc., in the native languages. It was an obligation on them to do so. Many Christmas customs are steeped in rich tradition.

  9. Hi again,

    Thanks for leaving more of your thoughts in your long comment. Sometimes length doesn't matter so long as the person is able to fully explain himself, as you have done here. So thank you for this! 🙂

    I would have to agree that there are many different debatable facts around Christ's birth, and when Christmas really was begun as a Christian holiday to celebrate Christ's entrance into the world, so I will not go on with these points. The main thing I wanted to know is what you really thought about the Holiday, and if it was worth celebrating. You obviously do, and I am so glad! It is a very special time of the year, and though I do have to admit all of the sparkles of childhood glee have also left my eyes, the wholesome traditions still hold much worth for me and my family.

    Thanks again for going the extra mile for me. 🙂

    Again, Merry Christmas to you, and your family!

    In Christ alone,

    Jessica
    The eldest sister & singer

  10. Yes, I definitely think it can be worth celebrating. I'm glad you and your family get a lot of good out of the holiday. 🙂

    And I very much enjoy intelligent and respectful discussions, so I was happy to elaborate further.

    Merry Christmas!

  11. OK God said do not worship him in the way the heathen worship their god. he even speaks about cutting down a tree fastening it and decking it with silver and gold. how can we have a tree when he told us about this in Jeremiah. If you study the traditions everything from the gift exchange to the hanging of lights was part of the pagan holiday.
    the Christians were actually joined into the tradition to make the people one which makes them easier to rule, and so there is less chance of a rebellion or division in the people. Is not the Passover the time to remember his death.When we put your beloved's name on a holiday that is pagan and twist it a little to make Christians accept it are you not ignoring the holiness of his name?

  12. The Bible says what you put in the mouth does not defile you.

  13. I am well aware of that passage from Jeremiah, and I've heard many people try to make the claim that it is talking about Christmas trees: it is not. If you look at the broader context of that passage, it is talking about idolatry, and condemning it. Specifically concerning the tree, it is talking about a wood carver shaping a tree into an idol for worship. What that passage is talking about is not a Christmas tree.

    This passage is telling us to not worship false gods, or to make idols. Very few people put Christmas trees in their homes to worship them, unless they are observers of Wicca. Most Christians put up Christmas trees because they look nice, and they enjoy decorating them. There is no idol worship going on.

    I am also aware that nearly all of the Christmas traditions have pagan origins. I say that in my post. However, I'm not convinced their mere origins are enough to condemn them.

    I also believe Passover is meant to remember the time God spared the Israelites while they were in Egypt. Christmas is meant to celebrate Christ's birth, which is much different.

    Also, Christmas itself was never a pagan holiday. It only adopted some pagan practices and changed their meaning.

  14. If only that verse meant what I'd like it to mean.

  15. You also said Christmas was a time to remember his death and the Passover is the actual time of death. That is what I was referring too.

  16. Another thing that is said right before the part about the tree is that their costoms are vain and right before that not even to learn their customs, so if you know that he wanted us to stay away from their costumes why is it ok to have them now.

  17. I don't recall saying Christmas is a time to remember Christ's death. Christmas is about His birth. And Passover doesn't refer to or celebrate Christ's death and resurrection either.

    You are right we should not learn the customs of pagans, but what does that really mean? Many non-Christians own and drive cars, does that mean we as Christians should not? I don't think so

    If having a Christmas tree in your home was widely seen as a pagan practice, and many people still worshiped the supposed spirits that lived in the tree, then I think you would be right, and we should not have Christmas trees. However, having a Christmas tree today has nothing whatsoever to do with idol worship. I think the Christmas tree tradition has been redeemed, just as symbol of the cross has been redeemed.

  18. Were not supposed to look at what they do as worship to their gods and driving a car is not worship or part of a worship practice. What happened to Arron's sons that decided to do something other than what God said. They were doing it too God so whats wrong with that?

  19. The modern custom of a Christmas tree does not come from any form of paganism. The first Christmas tree was decorated by Protestant Christians in 16th-century Germany. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early German traditions, and the custom most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio.

    Yes, some pagan cultures cut down evergreen trees and put them or near their home as symbols of fertility, or spring, or the belief that spirits lived in them, but that is a completely different custom than Christmas trees.

    Whatever choice we make, the motive behind a believer’s decision about this, as in all matters of conscience, must be to please the Lord. Romans 14:5-6a sets out the principle in a passage about liberty: “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers 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.” The Lord is grieved when Christians look down upon one another for either celebrating or not celebrating Christmas in a particular way.

    If your conscience says Christmas are wrong, then you don't need to have one, and you don't need to celebrate. However, Christmas means a lot to other Christians, and it is special to them and their conscience is convinced it is not wrong.

    I personally am rather neutral. I would be fine without Christmas, and I'm fine with it. However, I am more partial to considering every day the same, rather than celebrating holidays. But, I don't think we can Biblically say it is wrong to celebrate Christmas.

  20. I have no problem with holidays I have no with people celebrating Christs birth. I do partake in esteeming days unto the lord more than others. My problem is when the practices of pagans are claimed to be ok because we twisted it to be about Christ. The bible says God is a jealous god. How would men feel if their wife started doing the traditions of a man who chased ladies around then put their husbands name on it to and say it was ok and that it was what they used to celebrate their husbands.
    You need too consider there is a perfect will and an acceptable will of God. Can we say it was sin for Israel to set up a king. God blessed them when they had a king but he also punished them for choosing a king.
    p.s.
    the decorating of the house with evergreen trees around sulstace actually comes from many different pagan cultures around the world. And it is associated with alotof pagan worship.

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