Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Plain Truth About December 25th

[UPDATE: Massive update to this post. Please re-read.
Also, as this blog post has turned into a perpetually ongoing study, and much new information has been found that I think you'll enjoy, I have created a companion document which greatly expands the information here. I'll leave this post here, and update it as best as I can as a summary of the larger study document, but if you really want to understand December 25th, please download and read the whole study. Click here to access the document. Note that if you click this link you will be directed away from this site, and it will take a short while for the document to pop up in the browser window.
Finally, I apologize deeply for the horrid formatting on this post. Google Blogger is doing everything it can to ruin the formatting of the text. I have tried to fix it multiple times, but every time I fix one thing another new thing is messed up. Please Google, fix Blogger! Again, apologies.]

Have you ever wondered about the dating of Christmas? What on earth is December 25th all about and how did we come up with that? Was it adopted from the pagans in Rome? Does your very salvation rest on rejecting or accepting the date? Do we even know what the history is? I’ve wondered about it quite a bit.

Let me guess, you don’t need to study it because you already know that it’s pagan, right? I understand. That’s precisely what I thought …until I studied it. Well, there are so many theories floating around out there, so many claims, so much information, so many people saying so many things. Who has time to in this busy age to study history?

When I was a teenager, I joined the Worldwide Church of God, where we taught the keeping of holidays such as Easter and Christmas was evil. One fine day, while speaking out against Easter, a question was posed to me that made me desire to look into its origins. After decades of speaking out against celebrating Easter based on what I was told, I studied Easter for myself, and what I found didn’t match what I was preaching. I was forced, at great pain and internal turmoil, to change my entire outlook. The next logical step was to a study into Christmas. I wanted to test the spirits, so to speak. Shaken by my Easter experience, I had to know if what I had been preaching was really the truth. I wanted to know for certain how Christmas came about. “Just the facts.” The truth can handle itself. If something is true, then it’s true. If not, then not. So I set out to study Christmas as objectively as I could.

Certainly the people who are familiar with this topic should also already know a little about what is being asserted on the subject. The Wiccans, the Puritans, Protestant fundamentalist groups, certain religious historians - they all say Christmas was co-opted from the pagans. It is a staple feature of certain groups that annually as the stores start stocking their shelves for Christmas sales they start rolling out a barrage of material protesting Christmas. While the Christians are saying, “Put Christ back into Christmas,” the Wiccans are saying, “Put Wicca back into Christmas.” Fifty thousand Elvis fans can’t be wrong, as they say. Christmas must be pagan. Case closed.

Is any of that correct? Did Christians really co-opt Christmas from the pagans? Where does Sol Invictus fit in? Or how about Saturnalia, or Brumalia, or Yule? Well, in this writing I hope to straighten out the claims and separate truth from tale.

What this study is about is the dating of December 25th for Christmas. I will not be getting into customs added to Christmas long after it was set to December 25th, such as evergreen swags and wreaths, bobbing for apples, caroling, and etc. This study is not intended to answer every question or touch on every issue. This study is about dates and timing.

Bruma/Brumalia

The claims:

For sake of space, I cannot possibly give all details on what was claimed regarding the pagan festival of Brumalia over the years and in various places. I hear people say the wildest things! Suffice it to say that I’ve heard it claimed that the festival honored Bacchus or Dionysus and Chronos, was celebrated anywhere from November 24th to December 25th, was anywhere from one day to thirty days long, and that during Brumalia the pagans decorated their houses with greenery and there were raucous celebrations.

The facts:

People are confusing many distinct things here.

A man named John Raymond Crawford wrote what has been called “not only the latest, but by far the most careful and searching investigation ever made of two festivals which are little known.” Problem is, the writing is in Latin and there are no English translations readily available. Roger Pearse was sent a review of Crawford’s book – in English.

According to this review which Roger Pearse generously presents to us in his online article “A Review of Crawford on the Bruma and Brumalia”, (I will summarize here) true bruma is the Roman name for the winter solstice, which is also called “solstitium et initium hiberni” (or “solstice at the start of winter”). Roman tradition placed this solstice on December 25th. Meanwhile, Bruma is the name of a completely separate ancient celebration, which was celebrated on November 24th.

Notice the capitalization there. I have inserted this capitalization on my own to help you the reader distinguish the two brumas.
The word bruma (lower case b) comes from the superlative form of the Latin word for “brief”. The days grow shorter in winter so “bruma” came to mean the shortest day of the year; the winter solstice.
Bruma (capital b) was also the name of a festival on November 24th that marked a kind of unofficial start of winter, and this led up to the winter solstice.

It is important to keep in mind that bruma was the name of the winter solstice (or to be specific it was the name of the day when the sun began to grow stronger, which is usually after the solstice), and Bruma was the name of a winter festival, but they were not the same thing. The festival of Bruma was celebrated a month earlier than the solstice, on November 24th, lasted only one day, and was not observed on December 25th at any time.

Now we move forward in time, and far to the east. From the sixth century through the tenth century AD, in the Byzantine Empire, there was a festival called Brumalia. Notice the location here. We are talking Constantinople, not Rome. Also notice the dating here. The sixth century is centuries after Christmas became popular in Rome and the Roman Empire ceased to exist. Brumalia was a twenty four day festival lasting from November 24th through December 17th. It was not celebrated for twenty four straight days, rather it was divided up alphabetically – one day for each letter of the Greek alphabet – and each person celebrated on the day that matched the first letter of their name.

Roger Pearse wrote to me and informs us that it would appear that in the course of time Bruma was combined with Saturnalia to become Brumalia. This matches what was written in his review of Crawford. Thanks for the excellent research, hard work, and timely help, Roger!

Keep in mind this was centuries after Christmas became popular, and far to the east of Rome. If Bruma on November 24th was eventually combined with Saturnalia on December 17th by the sixth century, then Saturnalia was not replaced by Christmas at all. It lived on and was merged, in the opposite direction in the month, with Bruma and other holidays.

As Bruma became Brumalia it did come to honor Dionysus, Cronos/Saturn, and Demeter. There were dinner parties, games, and the slaughtering of a pigs and goats. From the ancient Roman mind, these things were what one would expect in the winter. They weren’t given to farming or going to war in the winter, so they would plant some seeds then slaughter some pigs and goats and throw a party. The parties were at night since Cronos was a god of time and harvest, and was pictured as being in darkness, just as seeds were in darkness. The pigs were symbolic, as were the goats. This wasn’t some random choice of animal for a generic feast. None of these symbols carried over into Christmas.
If we are looking at Bruma and Brumalia for sources of Christmas traditions, there is little resemblance here.

You can read more about this in Roger Pearse’s review of “De Mensibus”.
John the Lydian wrote De Mensibus (or “On the Months”) in the late 400’s AD. He points out that these things were opposed by the Christians of that time and the church turned away from them. I repeat for emphasis - opposed by Christians a century after they were supposedly adopted by Christians!
It appears that this distaste for such celebrations came to a head in the Quinisext Ecumenical Council (aka “Council in Trullo”) in 692. The Canon 62 begins this way:
“The so-called Calends, and what are called Bota and Brumalia, and the full assembly which takes place on the first of March, we wish to be abolished from the life of the faithful.”
It would appear that all of this business about the Church’s eagerness to adopt paganism after Constantine the Great’s reign is not necessarily as accurate as we would be led to believe. Were there converts still holding on to pagan practices? Yes. But was the church rushing to “cleanse” and adopt pagan practices? No!

Roger Pearse gives us a great deal more details in his article "On 'bruma' and 'brumalia' in ancient Rome, as found in the OLD".

Summary:

In ancient Rome, “bruma” was the winter solstice while “Bruma” was the winter festival. Bruma wasn’t celebrated in the same month as Christmas. Bruma eventually merged with Saturnalia and became Brumalia. As lengthy as the Byzantine celebration became, it was popular in the East long after Christmas caught on in the West and was never observed on the 25th. Neither had any bearing on the dating of Christmas.
Plus it has the distinction of being opposed by the Church a century and a half after it was supposedly adopted by the Church.

Saturnalia

The claims:

The wildest and most inane claims are reserved for Saturnalia. Mainly, I have heard claims that Saturnalia was on December 17th and December 25th, that it was celebrated for one day, three days, eight days, nine days, twelve days, and as long as a month, that it was in honor of Bacchus and Saturn, and that it was the most vile celebration imaginable. I have heard that from Saturnalia comes the tradition of the “twelve days of Christmas.” I have probably heard more claims about Saturnalia than any other ancient festival. If you believe the stories, every last portion of Christmas (with the exception of mistletoe and the Yule log) came from Saturnalia.

The facts:

Saturnalia honored Saturn the god of vegetation. Tom Schmidt at Chronicon.net, in his article "The dates of Saturnalia (and Sigillaria!) and Christmas," reviews an account from an ancient author named Macrobius.

Macrobius claims Saturnalia was originally celebrated on the 14th day before the Kalends of January ("Kalends of January" is the first day of January).

Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar in 45 BC and added two days to December (he took Rome from a lunar calendar to a solar calendar which is called the “Julian calendar”, and took December from 29 days to 31 days). The original date of Saturnalia now fell on the 16th day before the Kalends of January (and that's how we see it in the Philocalian Calendar), while the new date remained on the 14th day before the Kalends of January.

Filocalus, writing in 336 AD, agrees that Saturnalia was the 16th day before the Kalends of January.

Confused? Let me explain.

The Romans had a very messy calendar system; the details of which are still under much debate. But they never dated their days. They wouldn't ever say, "December 25." Instead, they divided each month into three parts, called the Kalends, Nones, and Ides, then counted their days from that. For example, Saturnalia was 16 days before the Kalends of January, and Christmas was 8 days before the Kalends of January.

The calendar was a general mess. I quote Wikipedia again to show that this information is readily available to anyone who is interested:

"Nevertheless, we do know that the pre-Julian calendar could be substantially out of alignment with the Julian calendar. Two precise astronomical synchronisms given by Livy show that in 168 BC the two calendars were misaligned by more than two months, and in 190 BC they were four months out of alignment."

Isn't it obvious why Julius Caesar had to reform it? But reforming a calendar would necessarily create some issues.
I'll just put this in plain language for you:

Saturnalia was on December 17th. Julius Caesar comes along, adds two days to December, and now it's on the 19th.

Most people kept it on the old date, some on the new date, with the result becoming a multi-day festival.

I have heard much about the shouting of “Io, Saturnalia!” but Macrobius says this was on the 17th only.

Macrubius also mentioned a decree by Augustus Caesar officially making the Saturnalia a three-day festival from 17th to the 19th. He mentions it was eventually blended together with other festivals (eg. “Ops” and “Sigillaria”) and then became treated as a seven day celebration, between the 17th and the 23rd.

We know from history that Caligula limited it to five days, from the 17th to 21st.

As mentioned above, Roger Pearse suspects Bruma and Saturnalia eventually joined to become Brumalia. Notice how we're moving away from the dating of Christmas, however, not towards.

Chronicon.net gives us a great deal more information on Saturnalia in their article "The Origins of Saturnalia and Christmas."

For another fine article, I would direct you to Crisis Magazine's "Christmas, Pagan Romans, and Frodo Baggins".

As for the twelve days of Christmas, there aren't 12 days between Saturnalia and Christmas. Fact is, those are the twelve days after Christmas, between Christmas and the feast of Epiphany. This was set officially in the second Council of Tours.

Epiphany was the original celebration of the major events in Jesus’ life (mainly His baptism). Until very recently, most people who celebrated Christmas didn’t start festivities until Christmas Eve, then they would celebrate for 12 days until Epiphany.

Summary:

Saturnalia was never celebrated on December 25th, ever. The official day of the Saturnalia was on the 17th. It has no bearing on the dating of Christmas.

Natalis Invicti

The claims:

I have heard this day called many things. Mostly, some variant of "Dies Natalis Solis Invicti". I have heard people state with absolute conviction that Christmas is the Sol festival (but if it is, then it can’t be Bruma, Saturnalia, or Brumalia). I have heard that the birthday of the sun was celebrated on December 25th, and in August and October.

The facts:

Here is a quote straight from Dave Pack’s own article on Christmas:

The Dec. 25 festival of natalis solis invicti, the birth of the unconquered sun, was ordered by the emperor Aurelian in A.D. 274 as a Winter Solstice celebration…
A definite claim stated adamantly. Is it true?
Steven Ernst Hijmans is currently a faculty member at the University of Alberta’s History and Classics department. He wrote a book titled “Sol – the Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome”. In Volume I, chapter 9, page 588, he has this to say:

The contention that December 25th was an especially popular festival for Sol in late antiquity is equally unfounded, as is as the notion that this festival was established by Aurelian when he supposedly instituted a new cult of the sun. Aurelian did of course build the sun a magnificent new temple and he raised the priests of Sol to the level of pontifices. A new festival on December 25th would not have been out-of-place in this context, but it must be stressed, pace Usener, that there is no evidence that Aurelian instituted a celebration of Sol on that day. A feast day for Sol on December 25th is not mentioned until eighty years later, in the Calendar of 354 and, subsequently, in 362 by Julian in his Oration to King Helios.

Well, isn’t that interesting!

Back in December 2010, Museumstuff.com had an article about this entitled “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Aurelian.” They listed some of the most common errors about what Aurelian did. WikiPedia still has the quote on their article about Sol Invictus. Look under the section "Aurelian". The third error is:

Aurelian inaugurated his new temple dedicated to Sol Invictus and held the first games for Sol on December 25, 274, on the supposed day of the winter solstice and day of rebirth of the Sun.
Please carefully read, and re-read if necessary, what they say in correction of the error:

This is not only pure conjecture, but goes against the best evidence available. There is no record of celebrating Sol on December 25 prior to CE 354/362. Hijmans lists the known festivals of Sol as August 8 and/or 9, August 28, and December 11. There are no sources that indicate on which day Aurelian inaugurated his temple and held the first games for Sol, but we do know that these games were held every four years from CE 274 onwards. This means that they were presumably held in CE 354, a year for which perchance a Roman calendar, the Chronography of 354 or calendar of Filocalus, has survived. This calendar lists a festival for Sol and Luna on August 28, Ludi Solis games for Sol for October 19–22, and a Natalis Invicti birthday of the invincible one on December 25. While it is widely assumed that the invictus of December 25 is Sol, the calendar does not state this explicitly. The only explicit reference to a celebration of Sol in late December is made by Julian the Apostate in his hymn to King Helios written immediately afterwards in early CE 363. Julian explicitly differentiates between the one-day, annual celebration of late December 362 and the multi-day quadrennial games of Sol which, of course, had also been held in 362, but clearly at a different time. Taken together, the evidence of the Calendar of Filocalus and Julian's hymn to Helios clearly shows, according to Hijmans and others, that the ludi of October 19–22 were the Solar Games instituted by Aurelian. They presumably coincided with the dedication of his new temple for Sol.

If Aurelian didn't create a Sol festival on December 25th but on another date entirely, then there is no reason to insist he did, is there? No. There is not. And if we don't beg that question, then there is no claim regarding Sol worship on December 25th prior to Christ being honored on that date, is there? No. There is not.

To help you get a better picture, here is the timeline of events:
· 202-211 AD - Hippolytus calculates Jesus’ birth as December 25.
· 218 AD - Elagabalus becomes Emperor at age 14. Introduces Sol to Rome. Attempts to force Sol as the only god. Fails.
· 274 AD - Aurelian elevates Sol worship. Dedicates a temple and institutes games to Sol – but not on December 25th. Dies the next year.
· 336 AD - The first mention of "Natalis Invicti" on December 25th (notice Sol is not mentioned). Same document mentions Jesus as born on December 25.
· 363 AD - Emperor Julian “the Apostate”, who despised Christianity and tried to replace Christianity with paganism, gives us the first explicit reference to a celebration of Sol in December.

Well, isn’t that interesting! Time for Dave Pack to review his information, no?

The Chronography

I need to introduce something to you at this point to help explain a few things.

The above mention of Natalis Invicti comes from a document known as the “Chronography of 354” (that’s 354 AD; well after Aurelian). The Chronography was compiled by Furious Dionysus Filocalus, a renowned calligrapher… and Christian.

Edwin Yamauchi, in his "Persia and the Bible" p. 521, says the calendar was actually composed in 336 AD, but that it was written for the year 354. That is why you see me placing the year 336 on some things.
Also, bear in mind that Filocalus didn't invent any of these things. We can safely assume that what he recorded was already well known by 336. I would give an earlier date but I simply have no definite fact telling me what to give, so I'll go with 336.

The Chronography is not just a calendar; there are several other parts to it, sixteen in all.

Part six of the Chronography is called the Philocalian Calendar and it lists only the words “Natalis Invicti” on December 25th. But if it doesn't say "Dies Natalis Sol Invicti" then we have no reason to inser that phrase here, do we? No. We do not. One might say Sol is implied. Problem is the evidence gives us no reason to imply that. If the evidence doesn't imply that, then it's improper for us to insist upon it, isn't it? Yes. It is.
It also lists Bruma on November 25th and Saturnalia on December 17th. Thus ends any possibility that either were on December 25th.

Here is exactly what it says for December 25th:
N INVICTI CM XXX

The “N” is short for “Natalis”. This is a term that can mean birthday, or it can refer to the dedication of a temple. Hence the conflict between people who wonder if some emperor [they assume Aurelian] initiated a new holiday or if he dedicated a temple. Invicti means “invincible”. There is no mention of Sol here. The “CM” is short for “Circenssus Misses” and it means “Games Ordered”. Generally this refers to horse races run on that day. There were usually 24 games on the ancient holidays. The odd thing about this date is there are “XXX” or 30 games ordered. This means the day was very recently added and not an ancient day, like December 17th.

Part twelve of the Cronography is called the “Commemoration of the Martyrs” which lists the important dates of prominent Christian martyrs. Who do you suppose is the first martyr listed? That would be Jesus Christ - listed as being born on December 25th.
Here is exactly what it says:
VIII kal. Ian. natus Christus in Betleem Iudeae

“VIII” is the roman numeral 8. “Kal” is short for kalends, which is the first day of any month. “Ian” is January. So now we know what month we’re referring to – January. When we put this section together we get, “eight days before the first day of January.” The rest is “birthday of Christ in Bethlehem, Judea.”

So now we have a very important problem! Same document, two mentions of December 25th, neither associated with Sol at all, one clearly associated with Christ. Does "Natalis Invicti" refer to Christ or to Sol?

This is heavily debated.

Many assert that "Natalis Invicti" refers to Sol because the rest of the calendar's dates are all pagan or secular. Games were ordered on that day. That would not have been done for Christ. That’s a valid point, but how do we get Sol specifically from this? We can’t. Sol festivals are clearly listed on other dates but not here. There is no evidence of any Sol celebration on this date nor any other solstice or equinox.

Others assert that it refers to Christ because the author was a Christian during the time of Constantine, and he clearly states Christ was born on this date. But this doesn’t explain the 30 games ordered on this day.

These facts lead a third group to believe that it does not refer to Christ or Sol, but to the sun specifically, in an astronomical way rather than a religious way. Sol is a sun god, but Sol is a specific sun god, not a generic sun god. Nor is Sol the sun itself. Helios was a sun god, but he pulled the sun in a chariot. With December 25 being the traditional date of the solstice, this mention in the Calendar could be purely astronomical. (Oh, how I wish it was definite!)

As a side note, I want to mention that I have heard many people blame Constantine for changing the December 25th festival from Sol to Christ. We do not know that is what happened! We have no proof that Constantine did this. But let's think about this for a second.

The claim is that all of Rome so loved the Sol festival that Constantine and the Catholic Church had little choice but to adopt it and paste Christ over Sol. (The claim confuses Sol with Saturnalia, but let's overlook this for now.)

If Aurelian in the last months of his life declared a Sol festival in December 274 as some claim, and if Constantine converted at the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD, then that leaves 38 years of Sol's prominence in Rome. But let's just say we count from the Edict of Milan where Christianity was officially legalized. This Edict was written in 313 AD. That leaves 39 years. The last coins depicting Sol were minted in 313 AD, so Sol most definitely fell out of prominence around this time.

So what did we see? If December 25th did honor Sol, it only did so for less than 50 years. That's not very long.
It has honored Christ for 1,675+ years!

Be aware of this fact - it wasn't until decades later, in a poem by Julian the Apostate, that the first solid connection between Sol and December 25th arrives. So, was it Constantine changing the Sol festival to a Christ festival? Or was it Julian the Apostate changing the Christ festival to a Sol festival?

Is there anything we can know or sure? Yes. And that is that speculation is the name of the game. People claim with fervency that December 25th is a pagan day. Not so fast! That is not only not proven, it isn't even the most compelling explanation for the facts. It is only speculation. We don't know for absolutely certain either way.

Are we willing to be so bold in accusing billions of Christians of paganism when we simply do not know that?

Conclusion:
There is no compelling evidence that there was a Sol festival on December 25th. If not, then Sol specifically has nothing to do with it. So we have no "Dies Natalis Sol Invicti" at all during the proper time period. So why put it there? The better to lead you on with, my dear! Something apparently non-Christian called “Natalis Invicti” happened on that date, but a Sol festival doesn’t appear to be it. And we'll get to that later.
Christ is clearly listed in association with December 25th well before Sol is.

Yule

The claims:

Yule was a pagan winter solstice celebration from which Christmas borrowed heavily. Christmas is just a continuation of Yule, and a pagan holiday that should be returned to the pagans.

The facts:

Our first records of Yule come from around 700 AD by our old friend the Venerable Bede in his work "De Temporum Ratione." [See page 54 of that link.]

Nor is it irrelevant if we take the trouble to translate the names of the other months. The months of Guili derive their name from the day when the Sun turns back [and begins] to increase, because of one of [these months] precedes [this day] and the other follows.


Roughly, Bede records that Yule was the name of the months of December and January. Yes, two months with the same name. Bede is speaking in rough terms, since he is trying to translate the German lunar calendar into the standard Julian calendar.

In searching for other things I happened across this quote from "Christmas in Ritual and Tradition" by Clement A. Miles:

One more name yet remains to be considered, Yule (Danish Jul), the ordinary word for Christmas in the Scandinavian languages, and not extinct among ourselves. Its derivation has been widely discussed, but so far no satisfactory explanation of it has been found. Professor Skeat in the last edition of his Etymological Dictionary (1910) has to admit that its origin is unknown. Whatever its source may be, it is clearly the name of a Germanic season—probably a two-month tide covering the second half of November, the whole of December, and the first half of January. 1-26 It may well suggest to us the element added to Christmas by the barbarian peoples who began to learn Christianity about the time when the festival was founded. Modern research has tended to disprove the idea that the old Germans held a Yule feast at the winter solstice, and it is probable, as we shall see, that the specifically Teutonic Christmas customs come from a New Year and beginning-of-winter festival kept about the middle of November. These customs transferred to Christmas are to a great extent religious or magical rites intended to secure prosperity during the coming year, and there is also the familiar Christmas feasting, apparently derived in part from the sacrificial banquets that marked the beginning of winter.
-Miles, Clement A., "Christmas in Ritual and Tradition", chapter 1 section IV, p.25

So historians have known for decades that Yule was not a solstice celebration falling on 25 December, as many people are to this day led to believe. I have just recently received email urging me to heed this very false information. Perhaps we all need to blow the dust off of our history books, eh?

It was only much later, when Christianity was widely accepted throughout Germania, that a certain tradition from Yule was associated with Christmas. The tradition we generally are referring to is the Yule Log. But that tradition has gone the way of the wood-burning fireplace. It was oddity anyway; never central to Christmas at any time or place.

Conclusion:

That the now practically defunct Yule Log tradition was adopted for a time in in some places in no way indicates the entire Christmas day is associated with paganism. Any way you slice it, there is no way a Germanic festival from the 600's AD influenced the Romans of the 200-300's AD.

Zagmuk/Akita

I have heard a little about an ancient Mesopotamian new year festival called "Zagmuk" (which is blended with a longer Babylonian festival called "Akita"). Some pretty inane claims are made about this festival, so I figured I would address it.

The claims:

Christmas comes from Saturnalia which comes from Zagmuk. Zagmuk was an ancient winter solstice festival nearly identical to Saturnalia. It started on the winter solstice and was celebrated for twelve days. Thus the origin of the Twelve Days of Christmas.

The facts:

Most people have never heard of Zagmuk/Akita. Details are utterly confused when you go looking for them. Here is a direct quote from an Encyclo.com article on Zagmuk to illustrate my point (underlining mine):

"Zagmuk is a Mesopotamian festival celebrated around the winter solstice, which literally means ‘beginning of the year’. The feast fell in March or April and lasted about 12 days."

Around the winter solstice in March or April, huh? OK. If you insist!

Zagmuk was the first day of the 12-day Akitu celebration, so it seems. So the 12-days similarity claim appears accurate, albeit superficial.
However, Zagmuk/Akita was not a winter solstice festival (neither is Christmas, nor was Saturnalia for that matter). In fact, it wasn't in the winter at all. I know Encyclo.com would like us to believe the winter solstice is in March, but that's obviously bad editing, and I'm just having some fun with it.

Truth is the exacting details of course are unknown since so much information has been lost these past 4,000 years, but we know more than enough to say that Zagmuk/Akita appears to have two main components: harvest and New Years.

It was a harvest-oriented festival.
Akita is derived the Sumerian word for barley. The base idea of Akita was to celebrate the crop-cycle; more specifically the sewing of barley in the fall and the cutting of barley in the spring. As we see in many other ancient cultures, the notions of life, death, and rebirth (in other words, the crop-cycle) appear in the symbolism of the day. Take the Isis & Osiris myths for example.
Christmas in contrast is about birth, not death and rebirth.

It was also a calendar-oriented festival.
Zagmuk is the Sumerian word for "beginning of the year". When was the beginning of the Mesopotamian/Babylonian year? Why, check your Hebrew calendar and find out for yourself. Since the Babylonian captivity, the Babylonian calendar and the Hebrew calendar are pretty much the same thing! And we should see that the beginning of the year for the Mesopotamians and Hebrews falls in the month of Nissan/Abib, which is usually March or April. Ancientworlds.net tells us that Zagmuk was the first new moon after the spring equinox.


Toss in a few traditions about Enlil/Marduk vs. Tiamat, and order vs. chaos, and you have a regular religious festival. Opa!

I can't tell you how many websites I've checked that assert something like "Zagmuk was a new year festival celebrated around the winter solstice." It is not wise to see "new year" and automatically assume January 1. The Mesopotamian/Hebrew New Year was not in winter it was in the spring! Anciently, even the Romans began their year in March when they used a lunar calendar.

It was also a harvest festival. Guess what's not going to be happening in late December at the start of the rainy season. That's right.. harvesting!

It is even less wise to see a holiday and simply assign it as a winter solstice festival. As we've seen so many, many times in this study most holidays that are commonly called winter solstice festivals were no such thing. Are people really that desperate to smear Christmas?

It has been speculated that the festival is 12 days long because they used a lunar calendar, and certain intercalations had to be made. These days are added days that help reconcile the lunar and solar calendars. It takes 11 extra days to reconcile the calendars. The twelfth day of Akitu was one where order had defeated chaos and life returned to normal, so it would seem incredibly logical that the "twelve days of Akitu" were eleven "leap days" plus one.

The idea isn't unreasonable. The Jews anciently added "leap months" every so often to reconcile their calendar. And the Egyptians had the 5 “heriu renpet” days to reconcile their 360-day year with a 365-day solar year. This is that same idea.

So far as Zagmuk/Akita being identical to Saturnalia, I cannot find any credible evidence that this is true. All such claims that Saturnalia is Zagmuk come from websites that insist Zagmuk was a winter solstice festival, therefore I give them very little weight. The twelve days of Zagmuk/Akita have defined meanings and ceremonies. They definitely do not match the symbolism of Saturnalia. As you recall, Macrobius recorded that the origin of Saturnalia was secular, and it was originally a one-day festival until Julius Caesar changed the calendar.

Conclusion:

Zagmuk wasn't a winter solstice festival after all. It was a spring festival, recalling New Years and the barley harvest. There is no good reason to believe it is the precursor to Saturnalia. It would seem that the only similarity that Zagmuk has with Christmas is the notion of twelve days. Unfortunately for this claim, we have seen where the 12 days of Christmas come from, and they aren't intercalary days. The similarity is a false cognate at best. As if anything with 12 days couldn't possibly be anything other than Zagmuk.

Winter Solstice

Touching again on the solstice, I feel it would be irresponsible to omit mentioning that the solstice is not on December 25th. People might even wonder how the solstice could have been celebrated on the 25th and not the 21st where we usually find it today (it varies somewhat). Well, it has to do with three separate calendars.

Prior to the Julian calendar, the Romans used a lunar calendar. Its accuracy was not the best. Julius Caesar reformed the calendar in 44-45 BC. He made a solar calendar with years of 365.25 days, and leap-years every four years. It wasn’t perfect because years aren’t exactly 365.25 days long, so it still lost around 11 minutes of time each year. You might wonder why that matters, but over time those eleven or so minutes add up to one day lost roughly every 128 years.

So, in 1582 AD, Pope Gregory XIII reformed the calendar again. He made the calendar more accurate, but the Gregorian calendar still loses 27 seconds each year, or one day every three thousand years. This latest calendar took centuries to catch on across the globe and for a while people in various places had all sorts of dating issues.

As the story goes, by the time Gregory XIII reformed the calendar in 1582, the solstice was on December 11th. He accounted for the 10 lost days between the Council of Nicea in 325 AD and his own time, and he corrected that loss. He did not account for the 3 days lost from Julius Caesar’s time and the Council of Nicea. Oops! Therefore today we see the solstice on December 21st or December 22nd, which is where it would have been in 325 AD.
The first indisputable mention of Jesus’ birth on December 25th was in 336. December 25th was not on the solstice in that century.

Splitting hairs? Perhaps. But this fact becomes important whenever someone argues that December 25th was a solstice day for other cultures, for example the Teutons, and they try to find the origin of Christmas in Yule. December 25th wasn’t the literal solstice at all. It was merely Roman tradition that it was the day the sun starts its return. Other cultures that watched for a solstice would have no reason to arrive at the same date of December 25th. The name “December 25th” is purely a construct of the Roman calendar which other cultures didn’t use, and the date was a matter of Roman tradition which other cultures didn’t follow. Therefore I find it important to point out how December 25th was not the literal solstice.
Now I feel I would be remiss to omit that the Romans certainly did see December 25th as being the date that the sun begins to increase in strength. In other words, December 25th had traditional and astronomical significance to the Romans.
The first reference we have to this comes from Pliny the Elder in his work “Natural History”. Pliny says this:

the bruma begins at the eighth degree of Capricorn, the eighth day before the calends of January

This “bruma” is not in reference to the festival Bruma, but merely the shortest day of the year. Take note that Pliny is not referring to this in a religious way at all, but merely astronomical. So we know the Romans saw this as a form of a solstice.

Just because the Romans thought anything of the day does not mean the Christians did.

In 243 AD a work was written that is claimed to have been authored by Cyprian. That claim is most likely false. The work is known as “The Pseudo-Cyprianic De Pascha Computus” (or “The Calculation of Passover”). I quote this selection from Tom Schmidt at Chronicon.net in his article “Cyprian, Christmas, and the Birth of the Sun”:

O! The splendid and divine Providence of the Lord, that on that day, even at the very day, on which the Sun was made, 28 March, a Wednesday, Christ should be born. For this reason Malachi the prophet, speaking about him to the people, fittingly said: ‘Unto you shall the sun of righteousness arise, and healing is in his wings.’

Many people have used a shortened version of this quote to demonstrate that the birth of the sun was on December 25th. Problem is when we see the entire quote that becomes impossible. But one thing it does in spades is demonstrate that in the mid-200’s the Christians could care less about the Roman view of the solstice. They were more interested in the Jewish tradition of the creation of the Sun in late March.

Christians in the mid 200’s didn’t seem to care what the Romans felt about the sun. Nor either did the Romans, for that matter. The evidence is that there really was nothing of great note happening on December 25th in Rome at this time. Why is it that 100 years later we see the Christians celebrating the birth of Christ on the same date that the Romans began honoring the return of the sun? Did the Christians adopt the solstice festival after all?
We are left with a hole in history.

If we stopped here, the evidence would be pretty damning. But even after all of this we still have to view one more bit of critical material that will muddy up the waters even more: Hippolytus. We’ll get to that in the next section.

Calculating December 25th

For those who wish to paint Christmas as a pagan celebration, the section on the solstice may come as welcome news. For others, that section may dismay you. However, I assure you, just because Christmas is on the Roman traditional date of the solstice is not prima facie evidence that Christmas is therefore a copy of the Roman solstice celebration. That would be hasty conclusion to come to without proving it out. We have not established that Christmas was taken from the solstice, or that there even was a solstice celebration to take Christmas from.

I promised you muddier waters, and so I shall deliver. We have some crucial testimony to consider that might yet vindicate December 25th.

In the mid second century and early third century AD many Christians were trying to deduce the dates of Christ’s birth and death. We have records from such names as Tertullian, Sextus Julianus Africanus, and others. All of these were using date calculation methods to determine when Christ lived and died.
At that time, Clement of Alexandria in his book “Stromata” mentioned that the Egyptian churches were calculating the date of Christ's birth in May as May 20th. I will quote from Tom Schmidt’s translation at Chronicon.net in his article “Clement of Alexandria and the Original date of Christmas as December 25th”:

From the birth of Christ, therefore, to the death of Commodus are, in all, 194 years, 1 month, 13 days. And there are those who have determined not only the year of our Savior’s genesis, but even the day, which they say took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus on the 25th of Pachon…” ~Stromata 1.21.145-146 [my translation]

Clement says, "there are those". I take this to mean he was building on other works completed perhaps by the late second century. What this means is that in the 100’s AD, perhaps even the mid 100’s AD, Christians were calculating the timing of Jesus’ life and death.

What Clement is saying is that Jesus was conceived (Clement uses the word ‘genesis’) on the 25th day of the Egyptian month of Pachon. Now, we don’t know what Egyptian calendar Clement was using. This throws a huge monkey-wrench into correctly translating that date into the Gregorian calendar that we use today. Most people think Clement means to say that Pachon is in late April and into May, therefore Jesus was conceived in mid-to-late May.
Notice how the 25th does seem to keep reemerging.
To put a second point on Clement, he also gives the time between Christ’s birth and the death of Emperor Commodus.
Any basic check will show that Commodus died on December 31st 192 AD. Subtract 1 month and 13 days from December 31st (we aren’t interested in the year) and we see that Clement believed Jesus was born on or around November 28th.

Why do we care what this old man thought? Simple. It establishes that from perhaps even the mid-to-late 100’s AD there were Christians believing that Jesus was born late in the year. And we know from what we learned earlier that in this time and decades afterwards Christians didn’t care about Roman solstice traditions. Right or wrong, it tends to take the legs out from under the claim that Christians only got December 25 by co-opting a pagan date. Not only that, but going through this information sets up a precedence for our next bit of information.

Here’s the real kicker - around 202-211 AD, Clement’s student, a man by the name of Hippolytus of Rome, in his work “Commentary on Daniel,” calculated the date of Jesus’ birth to be December 25th. This is well before Aurelian, and well before the Chronography of 354.

There are many people who doubt that this manuscript is genuine, but if one takes all of Hippolutys’ works together, along with the works of other writers of that period who appear to draw from Hippolytus, and along with the work of Clement his teacher, there becomes very good reason to believe that the December 25th date is exactly what Hippolytus believed. Tom Schmidt at Chronicon.net explains this in far greater detail in his article “Hippolytus and the Original Date of Christmas”.

People will no doubt be curious to know how people like Hippolytus came up with the December 25th date.

The date of the birth of Christ is not known. Speculation on when He was born started very early on. The Bible does not tell us on what day or year Jesus was born. Oh, how I wish it did!

But what most people overlook is that the Bible also leaves out the year of Jesus’ death. We may know that Passover is on the 15th of the Hebrew month of Abib/Nissan, but how that translates to the Roman calendar varies greatly depending on what year it is. In one year it could be a Thursday in March. In another year it could be on a Saturday in April. In fact, in 33 AD Passover began Friday night at sundown, which means Jesus could very well have been crucified on Friday in that year.

Apparently following in the footsteps of his teacher, Hippolytus determined a year for the crucifixion, then a day. He figured that since Christ was crucified on this day, he must also have been conceived on it. Then he counted forward 9 months from conception and arrived at December 25th.
All of this in the early 200’s AD.

You might ask yourself why on earth would any sane person believe you died on the date of your conception.

To understand a little more about why Hippolytus thought as he did, we can draw an example from modern claims about Jesus’ birth.

I can’t tell how very many times I have heard people speculate that Jesus was born in the Fall. “We can prove it from the Bible!”, they exclaim. During the Feast of Tabernacles or Trumpets is their favorite target. (If you can prove it from the Bible you would know exactly when it was, and not give a choice of dates.) The people who claim He was born during the Jewish holy days have no more fact to draw upon than anyone else who comes to a different conclusion, but at least they are on to something.
You see, the people who claim He was born during the Jewish holidays believe that important things happen over and over on certain days of the year. Turns out this belief comes from the Jews.
For example, the Jews hold the 9th day of the month of Av (Tisha b'Av) to be a day on which repeated calamities have fallen on the Jewish people. Or again, the Jews believed the date on which a person was conceived or born is tied to the date on which they will die. Tradition states that King David was born and died on Pentecost.

Well, turns out that at this time Christian’s didn’t care about Roman traditions but they were enamored with Jewish ones. It seems reasonable that the Jewish belief that things happen repeatedly on certain days of the year influenced the early Christians' speculation on the birth of Christ, too. They speculated that since Jesus died on a certain day in a certain year, then He must also have been conceived on that same day. Hippolytus calculated the date of His conception/death to be March 25th. From conception to birth is 9 months, normally. So, 9 months from March 25th is.... December 25th!
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) in his book “The Spirit of the Liturgy” argues this exact same thing. Even WikiPedia recognizes this phenomenon in their article on Christmas. In the very first paragraph (as of 12/20/2010) it says this:

The date is not known to be the actual birthday of Jesus, and may have initially been chosen to correspond with either the day exactly nine months after Christians believe Jesus to have been conceived...

I quote WikiPedia here only to demonstrate that there are valid alternatives to the dating of Christmas, and that this information is readily available to anyone who is interested.

Know this – these people didn’t set out to find December 25th at all. There is no way that anyone can accuse Hippolytus or Clement or any of these people of trying to co-opt a pagan December holiday that according to record probably didn’t exist for another several decades to come. Finding Jesus’ birth date was secondary. They primarily cared about finding the date of His death. They were after March 25th. Add 9 months to that and you get December 25th as a bonus prize. If they weren’t trying to adopt paganism, then the roots of Christmas on December 25th are not pagan.

Apparently Hippolytus’ dating lasted. Augustine wrote his work “On the Trinity” between 400 and 412 AD. Pay attention to the dating here; this is now well after Filocalus and well after December 25th was established. In chapter V of book IV, Augusting writes this:

For He is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also He suffered…

Hippolytus apparently started this, and two centuries later Augustine confirms the notion was widely accepted. I would also have you know that to this very day March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation in the Catholic Church, where the Catholics celebrate the conception of Jesus Christ. We now have book-ended evidence that the Christians calculated Jesus’ birth from a date given for His death, that date was March 25th. Nine months later is December 25th. Here is the story of how Christmas got its date.
Many people treat it as if the Christians stole the date from pagans, and that is that, case closed. This is simply not so. If you still must reject the holiday, please do. Just leave the grossly speculative story of pagan origins behind.

In addition, some people have theorized that December 25th was borrowed from the Jews in another way. Some people think it was influenced by the Jews keeping Hanukkah on the 25th of the month of Kislev, and Kislev usually falls in December. So when the Gentiles moved towards December as the date of Christ's birth, the 25th as a date may have been a natural choice as it already held significance. (Notice my use of words like "may". I'm only speculating here.)
I disagree with this assertion. Just mentioning it to tie up loose ends.

At the start of this section I mentioned that Hippolytus would muddy up the claim that December 25th was adopted because of a solstice festival. Hopefully you do see that there is ample evidence that Christians were calculating the date of Jesus’ birth to be late in the year and even on December 25th long before Diocletian. Should the 30 games ordered on December 25th truly indicate a late date of that festival, or even if indeed it does have something to do with Aurelian, we can see that the Christians beat him to it by half a century or more.
I conclude that it is impossible to say with conviction that December 25th was only adopted because of the Natalis Invicti celebration. That claim appears to be anachronistic.

Miscalculating December 25th

The more I learned about Christmas, the more I was astounded that it seems to be a genuinely Christian phenomenon – at least where the dating is concerned. People mention that “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church”, then they leave out any mention of Epiphany. Most Armstrongists wouldn’t even know what Epiphany is.

Yet people who aren’t quite as interested in finding what is actually true persist in finding what they wanted to find and ignoring what they don’t like.

Within the past week someone has told me how they saw this or that television program on the Discovery Channel or some such place that reinforced what Herbert Armstrong taught. Did they search as long and as hard for the other side of the story?

In a video called “Christmas Elements Have Pagan Roots” the Discovery Channel interviewed Joseph Wallace, Chair of the Department of Classics at Loyola.

If you start watching at 2:00 though 2:07, you will hear Mr. Wallace say this, “How did December 25th win out? Well, we don’t know exactly, but most likely what’s going on is…

If you watch at 2:33 though 2:36, you will hear Mr. Wallace say this, "What we think happened, though we have no direct evidence..."

Those are some incredibly speculative statements for a video with such a definite title.

Though they have “no direct evidence”, they proclaim “most likely what’s going on is” Christmas definitely has pagan origins. This should illustrate how ingrained the idea is that Christians took December 25th from the pagans.

And I am supposed to take “no direct evidence” as an excuse for condemning over a billion people, especially when we have direct evidence that things are not so definite as we were led to believe? But they saw it on the Discovery Channel, and that’s good enough for them. Funny how when the Discovery Channel is airing a program on Evolution, the Armstrongists aren’t nearly as convinced about their authority, but when they air a program that goes against Christmas, “It’s the truth!!”

One might say, "I am not condemning anyone" to which I would reply, very good!

However, I know from experience that there are many who condemn others over this. I mean condemn in a very literal sense. People are called "worldly", "non-Christian", "pagan", "Nimrod worshipers", "rebellious", "cursed by God", "anti-Christ", "Satanic" and etc. Good for you that you aren't condemning anyone over this. But keep in mind some people take this quite seriously (and not in a good way). And I know from first-hand experience that many of these both do not know the truth, nor do they care when they are presented with it.

In case you are interested in more, here is a fine article on this subject from William Tighe at Touchstone Archives, called "Calculating Christmas".
Here's another fine article from Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D on Tradition In Action called "Christmas Was Never A Pagan Holiday".

Garbage In, Garbage Out

How did this happen? How did we come to this state? Why didn’t we know about these things earlier? Were we lied to? Did Herbert Armstrong et al bury this information and feed us only what they wanted to believe? I believe the answer is yes and no.

Here's a quote from Ronald Nash's book "The Gospel and the Greeks" page 1:

"During the period of time running roughly from 1890 to 1940, scholars often alleged that primitive Christianity had been heavily influenced by Platonism, Stoicism, the pagan mystery religions, or other movements in the Helenistic world [by this he means the entire Roman Empire]. ... Today most Bible scholars regard the question as a dead issue."

Nash wasn’t talking about Christmas in that quote; he was talking about Christianity itself. But it goes to demonstrate something about evidence and how false information tends to persist.

Nash and most other modern historians have patently rejected the once widely accepted scholarship by groups such as the Religionsgeschichtliche schule (which in English is “History of Religions School”) and people like Richard Reitzenstein, Sir James Frazer, Franz Cumont, and Albert Schweitzer. And it was these people who influenced Herbert Armstrong.

In Lee Strobel’s book, “The Case for the Real Jesus” Mr. Strobel interviews Edwin Yamauchi, professor at Miami University of Ohio and recognized authority on Persian religions. On page 168, Mr. Yamauchi has this to say,

Much of what has been circulated on Mithraism has been based on the theories of a Belgium scholar named Franz Cumont. He was the leading scholar on Mithraism in his day, and he published his famous work “Mysteries of Mithras”, in 1903. His work led to speculation by the History of Religion School that Mithraism influenced nascent Christianity. Much of what Cumont suggested, however, turned out to be quite unfounded.

“Dead issue”? “Unfounded”? Well, that’s rather important to know, wouldn’t you think?

Yet these unfounded dead issues are continuously promoted as “God’s truth” in Armstrongist literature. This is exactly the same as when Ralph Woodrow wrote the Babylon Connection and proved Alexander Hislop to be a dead issue, yet to this day we still hear Hislop’s garbage from all quarters of Protestant fundamentalism. Hislop is still quoted throughout the Living Church of God's booklet on how to tell a false church from a true one. How can one use false information to find a true church? I'll guarantee you, someone out there is going to read this post and call me a Nimrod worshipper. Why? Because they still hold as true something that was long ago proven beyond a doubt to be false!

Then where does Mithra fit in to all of this? When I hear over and over again, including in the aforementioned Discovery Channel video, that December 25th was chosen as the birthday of Christ because that was the birthday of Mithra, based on no direct evidence mind you, I simply think of another quote from Edwin Yamauchi on page 171 of “The Case for the Real Jesus” where he said,

“[December 25th] was the date chosen by the emperor Aurelian for the dedication of his temple to Sol Invictus, the god called the ‘Unconquerable Sun.’ Mithras was closely associated with Sol Invictus; sometimes they’re depicted shaking hands. This is apparently how Mithras became associated with December 25.

So, in other words, Mithras became associated with Sol post facto, after Aurelian recreated his Sol Invictus. From this we can also conclude that Mithra could not be associated with December 25th before Sol was, and our first record of Sol being associated with December 25th comes two decades after Christ was shown to be associated with it (and if Hippolytus can be believed, more than a century after).

Here is a fine link to KingDavid8.com for more information on any Christ/Mithra similarities: “Jesus & Mithra Parallels – A Christian Response
You may also want to check his other similarities pages as well.

Such mistaken information was widely accepted during HWA’s formative years. This is why when we read Armstrongist literature even to this day we see so many references to works over 100 years old. How many times have you seen reference to the Catholic Encyclopedia 1911 edition? Well, now you know why.

In HWA’s defense (yes, we defend HWA when we the situation warrants it), not everything that HWA said was an outright lie, even if it was incorrect. He did what he thought was right with the information available at the time. We simply have far better information 100 years later. What a difference a day makes!

This doesn’t excuse the modern purveyors of what has been long known to be false. People like Dave Pack and Gerald Flurry simply have no desire to let go of the errors of the past. Too much of their reputation and income rides on tickling the itching ear with their self-serving lies. They teach people to judge and condemn based on false information for their own gain.

So, in my opinion, no, HWA was not necessarily lying when he was telling the world the only information available at the time, he was simply in error – but today people really should know better, and often do, so yes they are lying to us now.

Conclusion

So what have we seen about December 25th? We have “no direct evidence” that Christians co-opted December 25th from the pagans.

· Bruma has no bearing on the dating of Christmas; it wasn’t even celebrated in the same month. Christians opposed it. Brumalia has no bearing on the dating of Christmas; it is a Byzantine celebration from after the time of Christmas.
· Saturnalia has no bearing on the dating of Christmas; it was a week before Christmas and was never observed on December 25th.
· Yule has no bearing on the dating of Christmas. Yule was apparently not a merely a solstice celebration, as is often claimed. Our first records come too late and too far away to influence the beginning of Christmas.
· Zagmuk Akita has no bearing on the dating since this was a spring festival.
· The literal winter solstice has no bearing on the dating. Christmas has never once been on the literal winter solstice. The date is a Roman tradition, so there is no reason to tie December 25th to solstice celebrations of non-Roman cultures.
· And what of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti? What “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti”?? People can’t even decide what the real name is. Why call it so many different things if that’s its name? Properly it should be called “Natalis Invicti”. And Natalis Invicti appears to be a late addition. We have good reason to believe Sol was added to the day in 363 AD. The calculation of the December 25th predates this and was not dependent upon it.

It boils down to this – speculation. And here’s mine:

We have ample evidence to believe that Christians were calculating and celebrating the birth of Christ since before 200 AD, perhaps even the mid 100’s. There are good reasons to believe that Hippolytus of Rome, following the example of his teacher Clement, calculated Christ’s birth to be December 25th between 202-211 AD. Multiple Christians at that time were trying to determine the timing of Christ’s conception/death. They were not borrowing from paganism. They ignored Roman mythology. They preferred these dates because they meshed with Jewish (and in their minds this meant Biblical) traditions. It would appear that March 25th as the date of Jesus’ conception caught on in the West. Augustine was still writing about it in the 400’s. To this day it is the Feast of the Annunciation. Calculation from March 25th seems to be the way the Latin Church came to December 25th. When you count forward 9 months from March 25, you get December 25. It appears to be purely coincidental that December 25th was the Roman traditional date of the solstice. The church universally agreed on a winter birth at that time. Even in the East their celebration of the birth of Christ was a mere 12 days later.
In the late 200's or early 300's, the festival of Natalis Invicti was created to commemorate the Roman traditional solstice. We have no reason whatsoever to believe this festival was so popular the Christians had little option but to adopt it; the popular festival was Saturnalia which was over a week earlier. Moving forward in time again - in 363 Julian the Apostate appears to have applied Sol worship to the festival. Christmas was already well-established in the Latin West by this point. Julian the Apostate was trying to undo Constantine's reforms and return Rome away Christianity. I believe he applied Sol to this date specifically to co-opt it from Christ.

After this point, it appears the Christians began to use the sun imagery to explain how Jesus was greater than the Roman gods. Using imagery to explain Jesus to pagans is not the same as adopting pagan festivals. The Church leadership at that time, and for the next two centuries after, was in no mood to "adopt" anything. In 381-394, Emperor Theodosius I declared paganism illegal and took steps to eliminate all pagan worship.

Important things to ponder!

The fine people at Biblical Archaeology Review have posted an article titled "How December 25 Became Christmas" that agrees with what I've told you here. Thanks to Teresa Beem for this gem!

Is the information in today’s post news to you? Do we really suppose that the self-proclaimed apostles and leaders of their own church movements would tell you about information that exonerates the dating of Christmas and proves them wrong? Do we really suppose that they forgot to tell us these things?

You want the truth, right? Any group who still at this late date would reference Alexander Hislop’s “Two Babylons” and his nonsense ideas about Nimrod obviously have no interest in genuine truth. How much more ridiculous are childish anagrams like “SANTA = SATAN”, or blatantly misleading comparisons of Saint Nicholas, whose history is known, with recent English nicknames for Satan like “Old Nick”. Have we not considered that Santa means "saint"? They proclaim how they only want “the truth” and “proven fact” yet they give us anything but. They teach as truth that Jeremiah 10 is speaking of Christmas trees, when it is speaking of no such thing!

It is far past time to demand better.

Look, I’m not telling you that you have to run out and start celebrating Christmas. Perhaps if we can clear the old misinformation we might even see that the birth of Christ is in every way Biblical. Maybe if you don’t like the idea of decorations, you could still see that Jesus couldn’t have died for our sins if He wasn’t first born into this world. Maybe that will spark some acts of charity in your heart.

I would like everyone to stop the judging and condemning each other over something that clearly isn’t as simple as they had been led to believe. At the very least, consider giving people the benefit of the doubt that they aren’t pagans for celebrating Christmas. Then go do the research for yourself. Ask the tough questions. The attaining to truth is apparently going to have to start with you.

Post Script

As a gift for making it this far, dear reader, you may wonder if I have any recommendations about the origins of some of the traditions, like Santa or the Christmas Tree. Turns out I do!

Origin of the Christmas Tree here at As Bereans Did:
Falsely Accused? Christmas Trees and Germanic Paganism

Origin of Santa Claus at St. Nicholas Center:



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It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; )
Acts 17:11

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58 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am wondering where the information came from then, about Nimrod dying on Dec.25th, and he announced that people would put up a tree and decorate it every year on the day he died.

xHWA said...

Hello Anon,

The short answer is Alexander Hislop made it up completely. There is absolutely no valid evidence or proof behind it.

On page 44 of Ralph Woodrow's book "The Babylon Connection", Mr. Woodrow gives us this tidbit, "According to Hislop, by changing one letter, Baal-berith, "Lord of the Covenant," becomes Baal-bereth, signifying "Lord of the fir-tree," supposedly linking Christmas trees with Baal worship!"

Hislop called Nimrod by many names, one being Baal. And that is how he created the connection between Christmas trees and Nimrod.

On pages 92-93 of his book, Mr. Woodrow points out two other and entirely different ways that Hislop ties Nimrod to Christmas trees. That Hislop had a wild imagination to be certain.

Roger Pearse said...

A very nice post, and thank you for the link. I have done what I can to put online the sources. Brumalia is certainly Saturnalia, it seems.

xHWA said...

Roger Pearse, you're a Godsend! It was the least I could do to link to your site. May it bring you some traffic. I know I'll be spending more time on your site.

Why didn't I consider that before? Brumalia is Saturnalia. wow I guess because I had never been told of Bruma before. You put Bruma together with Saturnalia and you get.... (drumm roll) Brumalia!

God's blessings to you. Thanks for your hard work and sharing your research.

Byker Bob said...

Very good post, and perhaps the most exhaustive article I have seen on this topic! Kudos!

Even if it could be proven that Christmas had been of pagan origins, what do we do to thwart and diffuse paganism? What is the ultimate solution? Jesus Christ!
Jesus purifies everything, and is in the process of reconciling creation to Father God.

I believe that, hypothetically, pagans would consider the coopting of one of their holidays as a deep blow to, or final victory against their system of worship, and with good reason!

One very striking characteristic of Armstrongism is that we were taught a very unchristlike practice: to mock everything and everyone who was not a part of our own little group, and to unfairly call into question their sincerity and motivations. This is why all of the classic "Protestant" hymns were unceremoniously trashed without an inkling of the wonderful examples of faith which led to the writing of such hymns.

I purchased a gold cross several years ago following a re-study of this topic. I don't wear it all the time, but it is as much a wonderful symbol as is a wedding ring. One salient bit of info on crosses: The vehicle for execution was often erected in a two stage process. The stake part was embedded in the ground in advance, and the condemned would make the final walk to his execution already nailed to the crosspiece. Final assembly would take place at the site.

BB

Luc said...

Spectacular article x. I'd like to see this made less Armstrong specific and published as a book under you legal name.

As you pointed out, this Christmas pagan origins presumption has been sold to the general public to a large degree (History channel etc).I'd say this is because the assault of miss information has not been challenged with any serious degree of effort.

It's interesting the pagan community laughs at the Christians because: "they keep pagan holy days and don't even know it." This is one more bit of ammunition that the enemies of Christians use which is able to be neutralized as you have demonstrated. I'll be keeping a copy of this to reread until I can make the points verbally without a written reference.

xHWA said...

To Anon December 28,

By God's grace, I have tried my best to answer your question. See our post "On Nimrod and Christmas Trees"

xHWA said...

*Just a note, I fixed the link to Biblical Archaeology Review. I had the link all sorts of messed up.
Sorry!

tess said...

Love the post, it gladdens my heart. I am very tired of being fired upon by those who say the Christmas is pagan. I began my search along time ago for the truth, but life and kids got in the way of study, but being under fire for quite awhile now I have picked back up my studies. Thank you, for an informed, referenced, logical and totally Christian blog. May the Lord bless you daily!

xHWA said...

Hi Tess. Thanks for the compliment. Glad we could be of help to you. Thank God for the gifts He gives us.

No doubt you know you'll still be fired upon, regardless of how much referenced fact you defend yourself with. I deal constantly with people who seem impervious to truth. The implications of Christmas being legit are simply too huge. They'll only divert to something else.

But regardless, we wish you a merry Christmas, and all the best in going forward. God bless!

Travis said...

I love this article, I have other articles save just in case if I need to give a defense for Christmas.

The big question is for those who hold to christmas is pagan is this...

what do we do with david dancing before the lord and at times riping off his wears? what do we do with altars of fire? what do we do with temples> what do we do with priests? what do we do with rituals of water/baptism? pagans had all these in similar sense.

We can make anything pagan but there arguments.

Ray said...

Wonderful article. The more I study the history of the holiday, the more I find out what we were taught in the WCG was blatantly false. The ban on Christmas was not motivated by quest for "undefiled" religion or abstinence from paganism, rather there were 3 motives. First, segregate the followers from their family, neighbors, and coworkers. Second, free up any money used on gifts and festivities to go to Herbert's jet and lavish lifestyle, and finally and probably worst of all, stay away from any festival whose observance in Jesus. But thanks be to God for His grace and His mercy and sending His Son to save us. Peace.

xHWA said...

Thank you, Travis!

Tell everyone you know about it! We need to share this information far and wide.

xHWA said...

Ray, as sad as it makes me to think about, your 3 reasons ring true to me!

Your three reasons come far closer to explaining why people insist on rejecting the truth of history than anything else I've heard so far. And reject it they do.
I agree that this isn't about rejecting paganism. I feel this is about hating Christmas just to belligerently hate it.

Thanks for reading and participating with us. God bless!

xHWA said...

Huh.
Turns out Armstrongists and Puritans aren't the only ones who hate Christmas. Atheists do too.
Whadda ya know.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2005/12/bah_humbug.html

Dillon said...

Hi X
Baal was not the sun god. He was a caananite storm god. Throughout hislop's book he ties everything based on "phonetics" for example he said, "yule" is "eol" How more ridiculous does it get? "Yule" is Norse for wheel. "eol" is chaldee for child. How can a wheel be a child?

Lon Owen said...

Really enjoyed this article! It should be noted that Saturn is equated with the Greek god Chronos, whose name derives from the Greek word for "time." I would imagine that the pagans associated Saturn with some sort of changing of the seasons or times. That would fit all sort of spots around the years.

On another note, what is disturbing about the anti-Christmas gang is that they remind me of the White Witch in Lewis' first Narnia novel, who made it always winter, but never Christmas. What our Lord did was bring light into darkness and hope into despair. It seems the spirit of the organizations and movements who wish to banish Christmas and go back the Law are trying to do the same thing.

xHWA said...

Thanks for commenting, Lon.

Re your comment about the White Witch.. Hear hear!

I hope this post has been of some help to you in battling the White Witch.

xHWA said...

Made a huge update to the blog post. Thought I would comment on it briefly.

I have been introduced to some new information that changes my views on a few things and necessitated a huge update to the post.

In the earlier version I concluded that a Sol celebration was the most logical pagan festival that December 25th borrowed from IF it borrowed at all.
I no longer believe that. I cannot see how Sol plays into it at all, and so Sol no longer warrants that "most likely" status from me.

That the early Christians came to the December 25 date by calculation has become much stronger in my mind.

I also said that it appeared as if the Romans did nothing at all on December 25th until Julian the Apostate came around. I no longer believe that either.
There clearly was something Roman happening on December 25th.

I see no reason to believe there was a festival on December 25th in the early 200s while the Christians were calculating the date. A festival was instituted by the early 300's, however. Still there is no reason to believe it had "religious" overtones until Julian the Apostate came around.

For more details, read the post or the study.

Anonymous said...

Please explain how can shepherds watch their flocks by night in the winter? Sun worship existed before Christianity.

xHWA said...

Anon,

God bless! Thanks for reading our blog.
You would like more on the shepherds in the fields at night in the winter. Funny, I debated whether or not to put that info in this post, but I decided to put it only in the full study. But since you asked, I'll paste the info here for you in my next comment.

xHWA said...

----HAD TO BREAK THIS UP INTO 2 PARTS. HERE IS PART I ----
"(LUK. 2: 8) Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

“Shepherds would not be outside with their flocks at night in the winter, therefore Jesus could not have been born in the winter” is the conclusion many reach. OK. A valid point! This shall not be dismissed, since it makes reasonable sense.

According to geologists at PhysicalGeography.net, the global temperature peaked in 150BC. At that point, the temperature started to cool to a low in 800 AD.
Assuming that Jesus was born in 3-1 BC (we take that range from recent studies that conclude Herod the Great died in 1 BC, and Jesus was no more than 2 years old at that time) the temperature would have still been quite a bit above “normal” then.

Jerusalem has a uniquely ideal climate even today, and Bethlehem is a mere 5 miles south of Jerusalem. You would have been able to see it from a high point on the Temple. It’s a great area for flocks. Even so, we cannot possibly know what the temperature exactly was. Any temperature is possible. Still, the chances of a warm winter were unusually higher than normal.

That’s all very well and good, but what does that mean for the section in Adam Clarke Commentary, volume 5, page 370, where it says this:

"It was an ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep to the fields and deserts about the Passover (early spring), and bring them home at commencement of the first rain"

Is Adam Clarke wrong, then? Not necessarily. Adam Clarke is telling the truth so far as it goes generally. I have no reason to doubt that this is how things were overall. But every rule has an exception."

xHWA said...

---HERE IS PART II---

I want to quote from an exceedingly well-written study written by J. Hampton Keathley, III on Bible.org, titled “Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?” [41]. In the section “Argument Number 5: Uncertainty of the Date of Christ’s Birth“, Mr. Keathley writes about the shepherds thusly:

“One of the main objections has been that sheep were usually taken into enclosures from November through March and were not out in the fields at night. However, this is not as conclusive as it sounds for the following reasons: (a) It could have been a mild winter. (b) It is not at all certain that sheep were always brought into enclosures during the winter months. (c) It is true that during the winter months sheep were brought in from the wilderness, but remember, Luke tells us the shepherds were near Bethlehem rather than in the wilderness. This indicates, if anything, the nativity was in the winter months. (d) The Mishnah tells us the shepherds around Bethlehem were outside all year and those worthy of the Passover were nearby in the fields at least 30 days before the feast which could be as early as February (one of the coldest, rainiest months of the year). So December is a very reasonable date.

James Kelso, an archaeologist who spent a number of years living in Palestine and who has done extensive research there says this:

The best season for the shepherds of Bethlehem is the winter when heavy rains bring up a luscious crop of new grass. After the rains the once-barren, brown desert earth is suddenly a field of brilliant green. One year when excavating at New Testament Jericho, I lived in Jerusalem and drove through this area twice every day. At one single point along the road, I could see at times as many as five shepherds with their flocks on one hillside. One shepherd stayed with his flock at the same point for three weeks, so lush was the grass. But as soon as the rains stopped in the spring, the land quickly took on its normal desert look once again.

Since there seem to have been a number of shepherds who came to see the Christ child, December or January would be the most likely months (James Kelso, An Archaeologist Looks At The Gospels, p. 23-24).”

Well, well. This argument isn’t rock-solid after all. Adam Clarke may be spot on for the most part, but things aren’t as inflexible as we might assume. Once again we see that speculation is the name of this game. It could easily have been either way. There is valid reason to believe December 25th is not ruled out because of shepherds in the fields."

Anonymous said...

What about wreaths? I mean didnt Tertullian write about this?
We Christians neither cover our doorposts with wreaths, nor decorate our house like some new brothel. We do not celebrate along with you the holidays. The pagan Romans clad their doorposts with green and branching laurels. In the Saturnalia. Presents come and go.There are gifts and Banquets. yet Christians should have no acquaintance with the festivals of the pagans." - Tertullian

xHWA said...

Tertullian, who we should know is the first on record to use the term 'Trinity' (if we agree with Tertullian on wreaths, do we agree with him on the Trinity??), was specifically referring to idolatry.
He wrote about this in his work "De Idolatria" (On Idolatry).
Since you didn't give a reference for your question on where you get the quote, I can only assume, and I assume you are referring to chapter 15 of On Idolatry, since it best matches what you describe.

Tertullian was no fan of wreaths and lamps in doorways because the pagans placed these things in their doorways to honor the pagan gods of "entrances", and he names some for example:
"Cardea (Hinge-goddess), called after hinges, and Forculus (Door-god) after doors, and Limentinus (Threshold-god) after the threshold, and Janus himself (Gate-god) after the gate".

So, it is important to get the context of what Tertillian is speaking about, rather than to take a small, and broken quote, then run to insert our own context to it in order to use it in a way it was never intended.

I agree with Tertullian that if Christians are taking part in a pagan celebration to honor the god of thresholds then they must cease this practice post haste!
But to say "Romans some thousands of years ago, in an unrelated practice, used wreaths, therefore we should never use a wreath" is presumptuous, and implies the nature of all wreaths to be pagan where that is simply not so. I disagree that this can be transferred to Christmas simply because of the similarity of the wreath.

Christmas uses the evergreen traditionally, yet Tertullian says in chapter 15,
"You are a light of the world,286 and a tree ever green."
And do not forget that the Temple in Jerusalem was decorated wreaths and garlands of precious metals.

I find this effort at transference to be judgmental because it accuses a person who only has Jesus in their heart and mind of honoring a pagan idol which never entered their heart and mind at all, a bit superstitious because it affords spiritual power to an inanimate object, and terribly contradictory because for some unknown reason it stops at wreaths.

Pagans had doorways, too. And they had gods of thresholds, which is why the wreaths and lamps were there in doorways in the first place. We all have doorways. Yet no one says "you're honoring a pagan idol by having a doorway."

The Jews had a prohibition against doing business with pagans during periods celebration, for example when they shave their hair or return from the sea.
Well, if shaving or returning from the sea was a terrible pagan ordeal, why do we treat those with a casual attitude while condemning wreaths? It's inconsistent to say the least.

Then we must address to what length we will take this line of reasoning.
Tertullian, in On Idolatry chapter 9, argues against Christians teaching literature, because the secular teaching profession is pagan in his estimation. He says Christians can learn, but not teach, literature. Now, I personally know several upstanding Christians who are teachers in public education who would take great exception to this.

I find the whole business to be a desperate reach.

Anonymous said...

I was referencing
Christians have no acquaintance with the festivals of the Gentiles.
Tertullian (c. 198, W), 4.24.

[Addressing pagans:] On your day of gladness, we [Christians] neither cover our doorposts with wreaths, nor intrude upon the day with lamps…We are accused of lower sacrilege because we do not celebrate along with you the holidays… Tertullian (c. 197, W), 3.44.

I was not accusing other Christians of idolatry. :'(

Anonymous said...

I am NOT trying to exhibit a "holier-than-thou" attitude. I fact I am SICK of such attitudes and it's about time that it stopped. I am FED UP of Christians condemning other Christians. Has Christ been divided up?

xHWA said...

My apologies if my response came across to you as accusing you of being condemnatory. I certainly did not mean for that.

xHWA said...

To be honest, what I had in my mind was that you were bringing this up here because this is what someone else said to you or perhaps you had read it somewhere and you just wanted a response. So please believe me when I say I didn't think you were being holier than thou. :)

Anonymous said...

Yes I read it from an anti Christmas website.

xHWA said...

Thought so.

Odd thing is, those websites don't agree with Tertullian on most things. They're just holding this one section up, taking it completely out of context, because it seems to support their flimsy case. Problem is, when you look in to it, Tertullian isn't supporting them any more than they are supporting him.

Just keep in mind that there is nothing inherently evil about art. There is no power in an inanimate object. The evil is in idolatry; the evil is in your heart. A wreath has no more power to defile you than eating with unwashed hands does.

If your heart doesn't honor any Lord but Jesus Christ, then don't let paranoid and superstitious websites judge you and terrorize you.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't mithra born on yalda night? Doesn't Christmas come from yalda? I've read a Wikipedia article on yalda and it says that mithra was born of a virgin on that night.

xHWA said...

I went back and forth on whether or not to publish this comment. It seemed too far-fetched to be serious. But, in the end, I elected to publish it and respond. If for no other reason than to demonstrate the lengths people will go to in the effort to smear Christmas.

Christmas does not come from Yalda at all. I'm fairly confident this article has demonstrated as much.
I have never once seen any respected historian draw any such conclusion that Christmas comes from Yalda. Not even Armstrong and Hislop make that claim.

I will quickly go over why not.

This claim has hidden within it the assumption that Jesus is Mithra. That has been more than proven false. Neither is Mithra the same as Sol. Mithra and Sol were not associated together until well after Hippolytus.
Modern historians no longer believe early Christianity borrowed from Mithraism. Rather, they find the opposite.

We must ask - which Mithra? The ancient Persian Mithra of Zoroastrianism, or the more recent Roman Mithra of the Mystery Religions? They aren't really the same.
The Romans reinvented Mithra, so we cannot just take ancient Persian Mithra and more recent Roman Mithra and just mix-and-match as we wish. If we were to care about one or the other, it would be the Roman version.

Mithra was not born of a virgin. That claim is fairly popular in some circles, but it not true. Romans believed he was born out of a rock.

Yalda was on the winter solstice. Christmas was on December 25th, not the winter solstice. The Persians would't know what a "December" was.
By the 200's AD, when Jesus was first calculated as being born on December 25th, December 25th was not the solstice any longer. December 25th wasn't the important date Hippolytus was looking for anyway - March 25th was.

Dillon said...

After reading the article and reading all the comments, I would like to ask a question. Isn't it hypocritical to speak out against celebrating Christmas and then take the day off on that day? It is intellectually inconsistent to oppose something and purposefully reap the benefits of it. I would question the integrity of such a person, won't you?

Dillon said...

Now I know someone reading the comment I made will say something like this:
Herbert: Taking the day off on that day doesn't mean you're celebrating the day.
Dillon: Oh really?! And according to whom?! Then why are you staying home on Dec 25th? Why not totally ignore this holiday by going to work and carrying on, as usual? Don't you think it's a bit hypocritical to join in the day off when you clearly abhor its very reason for being?
Herbert: Because there are no workplaces open on that day. Besides, who works on December 25th? We have no where else to go on that day.
Dillon: The excuses that "everybody else is doing it" or "I have no other choice because my place of employment is closed on Christmas" aren't valid. The fact is, if you in any way partake in the festivities, then you are a hypocrite because you're catering to the practices that you yourself condemn. Take action at your place of employment and INSIST on your right to work during Christian holidays, because you, by God, are an Armstrongist! Now please tell me why do you yourself stay home on Christmas day? Even the most staunch anti-Christmas Christians opposed the day off itself because they knew that taking the day off was tantamount to celebrating the day. Recall the righteous Puritans? Or did you forget about them? Why do you betray them now?

Dillon said...

Regarding the comment on Tertullian,I would ask another question: If decorating your front door is so sinful, does that mean that I must not hang any flower vines or have any floral arrangements at my front door? Must I also get rid of those too? Yet I know of no one who would object to decorating their front door. Now I know some UCG member would say,"No, it's only sinful to decorate your door when December arrives but it becomes okay after December passes." So I'd better remove whatever is hanging on my front door as soon as December the 1st comes and when New Years Day passes I can put it back up. Ha Ha! How ridiculous! If it's wrong, it's wrong any time of year. If it's right, then there's no need to condemn it at all. If something is an abomination it's an abomination 24/7/365. For example Homosexuality is an abomination, therefore under no circumstance is it ever tolerable or excusable to God. If evergreens are so sinful, why did God use fir to beautify the place of His worship (Isaiah 60:13)? If fir is an abomination why does God compare Himself to one (Hosea 14:8)? If firs are an abomination why does God use it as a positive sign (Isaiah 55:13)? Moreover why does God decorate His firs with shimmering objects (snow) every winter? Explain that.

xHWA said...

Maxxjadegirl left a comment which said:
"Hi, Thank you so much for this post, I needed this. I am going to this year show How Christmas is not pagan, and this helps a lot."

You're welcome. Our pleasure to help.

Maxxjadegirl also asked a question about how I would respond to another website. Sorry, but I don't usually allow comments with other website's URLs in them. It's free advertisement that I don't like to give away.

I would say in response to that website's claims that, yes, the Puritans in England and America did ban Christmas. I'm not sure why they make such a huge deal about that. The Puritans banned a whole lot of things, not just Christmas. They weren't just against Christmas, and they weren't against Christmas because it was pagan. Their pagan claims were baseless and post-facto justifications of their views. (I've mentioned the Puritans in other blog posts besides this one.) The Puritans banned most festivities. The Puritans weren't the kind of people I would want to emulate. In England during the rule of Cromwell, on Christmas the government authorities were allowed to raid your house and confiscate your food if they suspected you were enjoying a meal more than you normally would have. In America, the Puritans were so rigid they actually caused the King (after Cromwell) to revoke their land charter. That they banned Christmas is not any kind of evidence against Christmas whatsoever.

The Puritan viewpoint had a strong influence on early America. Charles Spurgeon did speak out against Christmas (but Spurgeon wasn't what I would call a "Reformer" because he's a few hundred years too late for that). We must ask why he did this. Because all of America was as anti-Catholic as a people could be. Imagine how anti-Muslim most Americans are today and you have an idea on how anti-Catholic America was in the 1700's the 1800's. Read Spurgeon's words, "because we do not believe in any mass at all, but abhor it." Spurgeon wasn't unbiased. He wasn't neutral. He wasn't against Christmas for any reason particular to Christmas except that it came to us through the Catholics (so did other things, like the Bible, but he doesn't take it quite THAT far.)

As for the rest of their claims, see our other articles on Christmas. We've already addressed what they've written and then some.

Martha said...

I am so glad that xHWA brought up the fact that the reason the Puritans banned Christmas in America was because it was Catholic, not because it was pagan. As a COG member educated in a public school setting, I was totally ignorant of this dynamic other than "Martin Luther did his thing, the Catholics and Protestants disagreed, the end." I've had a chance to read much more on this in the past year and it's fascinating. Tragic, but fascinating.

Catholics and Protestants fought bitterly for centuries after the Reformation. Countries went to war, monarchies flip-flopped. It was ugly. Charles I, the King of England who ruled just before Cromwell, was raised Protestant but married a staunch Catholic. He imposed many restrictions on the Puritans, leading many to flee to the American colonies. He even commandeered the Army to march into Parliament and arrest his biggest Puritan opponents. This backfired and he fled London. The Puritans took over Parliament and the city of London and ruled it with a vengence, doing the kinds of intrusive raids xHWA discussed. The Puritan Parliament eventually arrested, tried and killed Charles I.

This was the backdrop for Puritan policies in America. You bet they banned anything perceived as Catholic. They hated anything and everything Catholic. Like xHWA said, this sentiment did not fade quickly. Remember that many were conflicted about voting for JFK because he was Catholic. IN 1960!!!

We must also remember this was the environment in which people like Alexander Hislop operated. When we consider the religious context, it becomes obvious that Hislop's writings were less likely to be "absolute truth" and more likely to be highly speculative propaganda that flourished at a time when it was very popular to be anti-Catholic.

And before the critics start piling on, I attend a Protestant church. But I'm also a big fan of context. And also the truth.

Maxxjadegirl said...

Hey xHWA,

Thanks for responding :) I have another question though. is there other sources that say that germans didn't hold a yule feast? because it is all over the internet that "Yule heavly influenced Christmas and that's we get the idea of decorating with holly, evergreens, ivy, yule log giving gifts, 12 days of Christmas eating ham on christmas, Christmas caroling and decorating the Christmas tree comes from. and when Christians coverted the pagan they Christianized these customs that were originally pagan." how do I respond to this when almost every website says that is where Christmas came from? Thanks in advance :)

xHWA said...

There's this from the full study:

Well, our first records of Yule come from around 700 AD by our old friend the Venerable Bede in his
work “De Temporum Ratione”
[https://books.google.com/books?id=yFsw-Vaup6sC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false]

“Nor is it irrelevant if we take the trouble to translate the names of the other months. The
months of Guili derive their name from the day when the Sun turns back [and begins] to
increase, because of one of [these months] precedes [this day] and the other follows.”

xHWA said...

There are a few things you have to keep in mind.

First, the ancient Germans used a lunar calendar, they didn't use a solar calendar.

What difference does that make? The Muslims use a lunar calendar. Have you ever noticed how Ramadan can be at any time of the year? That's because lunar and solar calendars do not align but once every 19 years. That is, unless you correct the calendar against some other celestial event, like the rising of the star Sirius like the Egyptians did. The Muslims do not correct their calendar, so their calendar only lines up with our solar calendar once every 19 years. If the ancient Germans did not correct their calendar, there was no way for them to do anything on December 25th every year.

Some people claim that the ancient Germans would correct their calendar on the first full moon after the winter solstice. Full disclosure, I haven't studied this so I can neither confirm nor deny. It makes sense. They usually had important gatherings on full moons. But let's say it's true. Is the first full moon after the winter solstice on December 25th? Only sometimes. In 2015 it is! But the last time that happened was 1977, and the next time will be in 2034.

So ask them to tell you how on earth the peoples of those areas at those times could possibly have done anything on December 25th every year?

xHWA said...

Another thing you need to know is there are a lot of garbage websites out there.

Most of what you should be looking for will not be found on websites, but in history books. Make sure those books are written by well respected modern authorities or by the oldest most primary sources you can find. Google Books is your friend.

A website can be made by just about anyone. Just because you come across a website that makes a claim, or a hundred websites, that doesn't mean anything. Most Americans still believe that George Washington had wooden teeth. Yet George Washington did not have wooden teeth.

When you go around, notice how the tales told by these websites are wildly different one from the other. They don't make uniform claims. They don't cite their sources. They say outrageous things that are easily dismissed. Why? Because their stuff is made up. Lots and lots of Wiccans and Neopagans are out there building websites and just making things up as they go along in a fanciful attempt to legitimize their religious views.

For example the claim about the Twelve Days of Christmas. The Twelve Days of Christmas are the days between Christmas and Epiphany. These days have been around since the 200's AD. Christianity had not spread into Germania yet. How could anything German be the source of the Twelve Days of Christmas? It cannot! Can they prove Yule was 12 days long? No. As we demonstrated earlier, they can't even demonstrate that Yule was on the 25th of December. Lots of Germanic traditions made their way into England through conquests and into America - but how do they explain the traditions through the rest of Europe? They can't. They don't even try. They just cite each other in a huge circular reference.

Don't believe every website you read.

xHWA said...

I was thinking about this last night and this morning, and perhaps another thing to be aware of is that just because something is called Yule ... doesn't necessarily mean it is of pagan origin.

There are a lot of things that we don't have any history for. Most of the things people claim about Yule simply are not based in a legitimate, documented history (as I mentioned in my earlier comments). One of the things that simply isn't based on actual historical record is that all traditions which bear the name Yule actually come from Yule. Sounds odd? But it's true.

We need to keep in mind that when German rulers converted to Christianity, they often altered native practices in an attempt to bring them closer into line with Christianity. They also changed the names of Christian celebrations to adopt native terminology. When the Germans changed the names of Christian festivals from Latin into adopted German phrases, we get such things as Pascha being called Easter or Christmas being called Yule. In particular, Charlemagne was a scourge of German paganism. He did quite a bit to suppress paganism in Germania. Yet he allowed the German names of Christian feasts to remain. It wasn't long until Yule and Christmas were absolutely synonymous. When you read the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1912) article on Yuletide [http://books.google.com/books?id=n2EhAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA491&lpg=PA491#v=onepage&q&f=false], you see the article is not at all about Yule but entirely about Christmas.

There is little reason to believe that Christmas was changed to adopt Yule, but there is every reason to believe that traditions associated with Christmas were called Yule. With no ancient source material to tell us details about such things, we simply do not know.
These things spread through that entire area, and up into England, and across the Atlantic to America.

We shouldn't be surprised by this. Most people who cry "pagan!" at this unwittingly accept the same things. Armstrongism, for example, observes their own version of Jewish Holy Days, but none of them by their Jewish names. There is absolutely nothing wrong with changing the names! It's inconsequential. Hebrew Roots would make a huge deal about this, even to the point of having us believe that if we don't pronounce Jesus' name in a particular Hebrew way (which they don't all agree on precisely what that is), then we can't be saved. Except that idea doesn't come from the Bible or the example of the early church. What does come from the Bible and the example of the early church? Names being changed into native dialects. So simply calling Christmas as "Yuletide" is absolutely not any evidence of anything at all. It isn't paganizing. It isn't heretical. It's quite unfortunate that it opens an opportunity for people who are inclined to hateful negativity to point their fingers and cry "pagan!" but that says to much less about Christmas or Easter as it does about the condition of the hearts of some people.

It's all just semantics and making a huge to-do about nothing!

xHWA said...

Most of those claims about Christmas coming from Yule are not so, but personally I think the most laughable claim is the one about ham for Christmas dinner. That's a fairly recent tradition. Read Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." What did they eat? Goose.

German traditional dinners:
"The traditional German holiday meal consists of duck, goose, rabbit or a roast, accompanied by German delicacies such as apple and sausage stuffing, red cabbage, and potato dumplings. Even the American fruitcake was adapted from one of the most famous German delicacies, Stollen."
http://germanfoods.org/german-food-facts/german-christmas-traditions/

Historic Christmas dinners, the earliest do not include ham:
http://www.foodtimeline.org/christmasmenu.html

Maxxjadegirl said...

Those are great points, especially with the lunar calender. I also didn't know about the traditional German meal for holidays until you posted it. that is good, because Christmas haters and wiccans LOVE to say that "our Christmas meal is straight from Yule"

I'll also add that it seems mostly all of the websites don't say yule was on the 25th, they say that "yule is a ancient germanic and scandiavian pagan holiday that was celebrated on winter solsice on December 21st through the 22nd every year." but even that's wrong, because they were using a lunar calender, not the solar calender. wiccans and pagans will even admit on their own websites that they use a lunar calender but then in the next paragraph they say "Yule was celebrated every December 21st - 22nd." But germans and scandinavians didn't have a "December" month, because they didn't use the julian calender.

I have another question though, the anti-Christmas people will also say that "in the 1600's Puritans HAD to ban Christmas because the people who celebrating it got drunk, was violent and made riot in the streets! this is an evil holiday! there were riots and vionce in the streets during Christmas up to the 19th century! just read stephen nissenbaun's book! and, rates of violence and suicide is higher during Christmas!" How do I respond to this?

xHWA said...

I would respond to those people that the Puritans didn't ban Christmas because of any of those things. The Puritans did not just ban Christmas, so what is their excuse for why they banned the many other things? The answer is they banned Christmas because they were ultra-conservative and anti-Catholic. The history of why the Puritans banned Christmas is known. It's documented. These anti-Christmas people can try to put words into the mouths of the Puritans, and they can try to spin the events of history, but the facts don't work that way.

Ask them what anything in the 19th century could possibly have to do with people from the 16th century. Would things people do three hundred years from now effect you? Of course not.

xHWA said...

I would also note that I thought their point was that Christmas is pagan, not that some people somewhere at some time got drunk. If we had to get rid of holidays just because some people somewhere at some time got drunk, we wouldn't do anything. People get drunk on all days, but holidays especially. Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day... all filled with drinking. It's just how life is. When I was in Armstrongism, the Feast of Tabernacles was called "The Feast of Booze" because people drank so much.

But let's put this into some perspective. What sense does it make to abandon a holiday because some people somewhere at some time got drunk? Did Jesus abandon drunks?

(MAT. 11: 19) The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Are we not to eat and drink? Isn't the entire Eucharist a meal which includes wine? In Deuteronomy 14: 26, doesn't God condone drinking and feasting at celebrations? Aren't we supposed to be thankful? Now, I'm not condoning drunkenness or that, but what is the point of claiming that we should abandon something just because some people are drunks? Aren't we all sinners? Don't we all need the Bible? Why withdraw a religious celebration because people are sinners? Jesus came to call the lost sheep. He came to be a physician to the sick. Why abandon a holiday which is one of the only days of the year that some people go to church? Why close down the one thing they have? It makes no sense to me.

And it does nothing to demonstrate that the day is pagan.

Maxxjadegirl said...

Good Points. And I also noticed another thing. Only England and Massacusetts are known for this drunken, misrule, and promiscuity Christmas.(although Stephen nissenbaun claims that there was "misrule" in New York City but I can't find proof of that) The english were not the only ones who celebrated Christmas in the 16th-19th century! even if it were true, England and Massacusetts' bad behaviour doesn't define Christmas, there were plenty of other Countries that celebrated Christmas and they didn't do all of that.

what is a Good source or good info to refute their claims about the drunken, misrule, and promiscuity Christmas in england and Massacusetts? because I know that they'll Say " just google it and look at the historytoday and Theweek website. it is documented that Christmas was full of immorality, robbery, murder and the men dressed up as women, and the women as men, and ritualised reversal of social norms like saturnalia! and the wassailing! people sang carols and went to people's houses forcing them to give them drinks or else they would become violent!"

xHWA said...

I don't particularly have any links about drunkenness. I've always just taken it on faith that people got drunk and did some very stupid things at Christmas - just like they do all year around. There isn't any reason to believe that human nature would change that for whatever reason Christmas should be exempt from drunkenness.

It seems to me that the assumption is that if someone has ever done something sinful at Christmas then we shouldn't celebrate Christmas. I couldn't disagree with that more. It's juvenile and bears no resemblance to the world as it really is. First, prove to me that it was condoned by the church, then prove to me that it was done primarily by Christians - and do so with credible references (not just random Google searches). Aren't the same people who make these claims the very same people who say everyone who celebrated Christmas was actually pagan? They need to make up their minds.

Some things I can demonstrate is that there are a lot of misconceptions out there fueled by wives tales and bad data. For example, the claims that crime goes up at Christmas time are false claims. Also the claims that suicide rates are highest at Christmas are false claims.

According to modern statistics, crime rates are not higher in winter but lowest in winter:
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/spcvt

Suicide rates are not higher in winter but spring and summer:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3315262

Maxxjadegirl said...

Thank you very much, this helped a lot. Definetly using this information when I defend Christmas :)

Anonymous said...

We dont celebrate Christmas. Not because its pagan or not. Not because the Catholics do it. We keep the feasts of the lord from Leviticus 23. The ones that Jesus kept....


Those are the feasts of the God of the bible, and the same ones we can see in the books of acts and other writings the apostles and even Paul keeps (if you follow him).


You shall not add to or take away from the word.

Not jot or word shall pass until heaven and earth pass away.


You should drop all the made up catholic days, and the other ones. This includes Easter, Halloween, and made up Jewish day Hanukkah!





Anonymous said...

The funny part is people claiming the words on this blog are as gospel but then not investigating further.

Its NOT as clear cut and dry as this author makes to be, and you best study for yourself.
Here is a taste:

https://web.archive.org/web/20120824071532/http://www.chronicon.net/chroniconfiles/Hippolytus%20and%20December%2025th.pdf

The evidence is good that the work of Hippolytus was even corrupted and 'things' added.

xHWA said...

"Not because the Catholics do it."
No? Then what's this?
"You should drop all the made up catholic days"
Sounds pretty anti-Catholic to me.

Hanukkah isn't a day, it's 8 days. Jesus went all the way to Jerusalem for Hanukkah (JON. 10: 22-23). Jesus is the God of the Bible and He's keeping Hanukkah. We can be certain He observed Purim as well.

Your claim that you "keep the feasts of the lord from Leviticus 23" is nothing more than any Armstrongist would claim. I should know, I was one. But the truth is, you don't really "keep" them. You don't sacrifice animals, nor burn offerings, nor do you wave sheaves nor bake the two loaves. You don't travel to Jerusalem three times a year. All of these Leviticus 23 demands. You don't blow the shofar at Trumpets. You don't build booths out of branches at the Feast of Booths. If you're a Gentile, then you're forbidden from participating in the Passover. Probably have pot lucks and go out to restaurants on the Sabbath. You're actually doing a small fraction of what's required. That's not observing the law, that's side-stepping the law. What you're doing isn't keeping, it's pretending. You pretend to keep the feasts of Leviticus 23. And you should drop the pretense.

xHWA said...

Some words in Hippolytus' "Commentary on Daniel" are disputed. But that doesn't mean it's useless or even wrong. Just means it's disputed. There are plenty of people who would throw out references to Jesus in Josephus' "Antiquities of the Jews" too. But that doesn't mean they should be thrown out. It means people should spend time doing more research. Even more people say the Bible is disputed, with claims such as Daniel and most of the Torah were written after the fact. Is it your policy to throw out everything that is disputed in those cases? No?

But if you think this is something new you've discovered, or if it's something not as this author presents, then you've obviously not read this author's material. Here's "a taste" from our December 25 full study:

"There are many people who doubt that this manuscript is genuine, but if one takes all of Hippolutys’ works together, along with the works of other writers of that period who appear to draw from Hippolytus, and along with the work of Clement, there becomes very good reason to believe that the work is authentic and the December 25th date is exactly what Hippolytus believed. Tom Schmidt at Chronicon.net explains this in far greater detail in his article."

So what do we see here? We have you attempting to quote Tom Schmidt to cast doubt on Hippolytus in an article that Tom Schmidt defends the authenticity and accuracy of Hippolytus.

Yes, please do study. It would be nice.

Martha said...

Yes, let's talk about Hippolytus. Let's look at the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, one of the most-quoted resources in Armstrongism.

This resource, which Armstrongists quote to bolster their claims about Christmas coming from pagan celebrations, goes to great lengths to demonstrate that Hippolytus CALCULATED the date, not picked it out of thin air to absorb would-be pagan converts.

So, is this resource correct credible when it discusses potential pagan influences on December 25 but incorrect when it discusses Hippolytus' systematic steps to calculate the December 25th date? You can't have it both ways.

Angela Walker said...

Many have told me even if Christmas is not pagan, Jesus nowhere near told us to celebrate his birth. So should we?

Angela Walker said...

Many point out that God none Jesus say to celebrate the day Jesus was born.

xHWA said...

Angela,

Thanks for reading and commenting.

Some have told you that you shouldn't celebrate Christmas because Jesus nowhere told us to? We once made overly simplistic arguments like that, back when we were Armstrongists. We've since thought about what we were saying.

Understand that people tend to say a lot of things if they believe it supports the conclusion they want to reach. None of us are immune to this. We want what we want. But let's think this through a bit.

Do you personally believe that you shouldn't celebrate unless God specifically tells you to celebrate? I doubt you really do. I'm going to guess that the people who have told you we shouldn't celebrate unless Jesus tells us so don't actually believe that either. Jesus never commands us to celebrate the miracle of child birth, yet most do. Jesus never commands us to celebrate a baptism, yet most do. Jesus never tells us to celebrate wedding anniversaries, yet most do. Jesus never tells us to sing at church, yet most people do. Jesus never specifically commands us to celebrate most things that we celebrate. Why is it that this only becomes important all of a sudden when holidays are involved?

You see.. These people you are hearing from celebrate a lot of things Jesus never told them to celebrate. Do they really believe their own rhetoric, then? Doesn't seem like it. If these people you hear from don't really believe what they are saying to you, then why are they saying it? Because they have something against holidays and when all of their history turns out to be false they think this is a convincing argument to fall back on. To be blunt about it - some people simply hate Christmas and make excuses.

And where did these people get this idea in the first place? Certainly not from the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible did Jesus tell us not to celebrate anything religious unless He specifically tells us to. In our article "Established and Imposed", we show how the Jews invented the holiday they call Purim. They invented this holiday because they were so thankful for what God did for them. God never told them to do this. Yet there they are, celebrating anyway, and even exchanging gifts. They still do celebrate Purim! God permitted an entire book of the Bible to be devoted to the story. But that's not the only time this happened. The books of Macabees (which you may not have read because after 1,500+ years of being included in the Bible, Martin Luther decided to remove them) tell of a tale of God saving the Jews once again. The Jews were so thankful that they created the holiday of Hanukkah. God never told them to do this. Yet there they are, celebrating anyway. They still do! John 10: 22-30 makes a special mention of Jesus walking in Jerusalem during Hanukkah. God must have accepted both of these un-commanded celebrations.

The point I'm making is that there is no Biblical or natural reason to believe that God does not want us to celebrate Him and His miracles unless He specifically commands us to.

If He accepts those two Jewish celebrations of His saving grace, then why would He not accept a Christian celebration of the second most important miracle in the history of mankind?? God set aside His glory and became man! He could not die unless He was born. Should we not be in absolute awe of this? Should we not ponder what it took to do this incredible feat? Should we not praise God for His unsearchable wisdom and selfless generosity?

Yes, I believe we may celebrate it. What's more, if our conscience is alright with it, I believe we should celebrate it.