Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Unto YOU a Child is Born

Well, the day’s almost here. We've spent a lot of time over the past month defending Christmas as a Christian holiday and many of its traditions as acceptable. But I wanted to write something attempting to explain the “pro” side – why anyone would want to celebrate Christmas. Aside from the gifts, the food and the pretty lights, that is. Why would any conscientious Christian desire to celebrate Christmas? Especially one who was raised to believe that Christmas was wrong, and survived just fine without it for decades?

I was trying to find the words to explain. But when I sat down to write, my children kept on practicing their choir music. Over. And over. AND. OVER. After my migraine subsided, I realized one of the songs they were singing did a much better job of explaining why anyone would want to mark Christ’s birth than I ever could. And no, I’m not just being spiteful because I will have this song stuck in my head until at least March. Remember, I’m sparing you the electric guitars and the off-key voices:

Hey, don’t be afraid, I’ve got some great news!
Christ was born today in Bethlehem.
I said hey, don’t be afraid, I’ve got some great news!
We have come to show the way to Him. (Luke 2:9-12)
Unto you a child is born
Unto you a Son is given
Unto you a Holy Child has come.
Unto you a mighty Lord (Isaiah 9:6)
Unto you a Light from Heaven (Isaiah 9:1-2)
We are here to celebrate the world’s greatest news!

So pretty much everything but “Hey” and “we are here to celebrate the world’s greatest news” is directly from Scripture.

Ok, so maybe the “world's greatest news” part is not quite accurate. The resurrection truly was the greatest news ever, because it confirmed that Jesus was Who He said He was, and that what He taught about forgiveness of sin and eternal life were true. But you can't have a death and resurrection without a birth, and it was the greatest news up until that point, chronologically speaking.

In keeping with that line of thinking, I'll admit that Christmas isn't my favorite Christian holiday. I wish Easter got half the attention that Christmas did (although, really, it would be distasteful to further commercialize an observance that involves the death of our Savior). But I'm not much for arguing with the heavenly host, and if the angels, who had no stake in the resurrection, sang and celebrated at his birth, why shouldn't we, the redeemed?

But then, that's the difference, isn't it? Even if those in the Churches of God could bring themselves to accept that they'd been lied to about Christmas, Christ's birth didn't really accomplish much, according to their theology. Herbert Armstrong, founder of the COG religious movement, taught that Jesus had to qualify to replace Satan as the ruler of this world. In his writings, the outcome of the incarnation was a history's greatest gamble up until the moment Jesus took His last breath. Most of today's COGs don't state this as explicitly, but still believe HWA spoke for God and continue to teach variations of his doctrines, including this one.

More to the point, Herbert Armstrong taught that Christians had to qualify for eternal life, just as he taught Jesus did, by overcoming Satan and sin. And if we didn't do a good enough job, God would abort us, as page 45 of HWA's booklet, Just what Do You Mean Born Again, tells us. So really, according to Armstrong’s theology, Christ's birth didn't accomplish much. It was the first step in an uncertain nail-biter, that gave humanity the chance to qualify for salvation, kinda, sorta maybe, if they just try hard enough. 

Thankfully for us, Scripture tells us these doctrines simply aren't true. From the Passover Lamb to the Snake on the Pole, we see Scriptural foreshadowing that indicates Christ's victory was certain:

(Numbers 21:8-9) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

(John 3:14-15) And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so the must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

(Isaiah 53:5) But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.

(Luke 2:29-31) "Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen Your salvation which you have prepared before the face of all peoples." 

(Revelation 13:8) All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

And that our victory comes through our trust in Jesus' finished work on the cross, not in our personal righteousness quotient:

(John 6:28-29) Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

(John 3:16-18) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

(Revelation 12:11) And they overcame him (the accuser of the brethren) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

(Galatians 2:21) I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.

(Ephesians 2:8-9) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.

Why would a sincere, God-fearing Christian want to celebrate Christmas? Because Jesus' birth, and subsequent death, bridged the gap between sinful man and perfect God. Because my standing before God on any given day does not depend upon my mixed bag of successes and failures. Because it is through His blood and my testimony of faith in Him that I can have eternal life. Because when I am discouraged with myself, my life and the dirty rags of my human efforts, I can know that my victory was assured since the foundation of the world. And as Luke 2:11 tells us, he was born “unto you” - unto the shepherds, unto Mary, until you, unto me, unto anyone and everyone who needed a Savior.

Now THAT is something to celebrate. Give thanks for your Savior this week, or in August, or whenever you feel comfortable. But make sure you do it. It's not a Catholic thing to do. It's not a Protestant thing to do. It's a Christian thing to thank God for the coming of the Christ. Merry Christmas, and God bless.

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

COGWA's Christmas on Trial - The Defense's Closing Statement

December is a time that As Bereans Did really outdoes itself, and I feel free to say that because I have contributed very little to the blog's Christmas research. xHWA published an excellent Christmas FAQ last week that addressed every objection to Christmas that I've ever heard and a few I hadn't heard. The FAQ condenses his larger study, “The Plain Truth about December 25th. After reading them, I figured I'd just pour some cocoa and settle in for a long winter's nap.

But then I got the latest issue of COGWA's Discern magazine and read its cover story, “Christmas on Trial.” It's pretty creative, for a rehash of outdated material that's more than 60 years old:
“Imagine a courtroom where Christmas is on trial, charged with false impersonation of legitimate, godly worship," author Clyde Kilough writes. "Now it’s the prosecutor’s turn to make his closing argument.”
I'm sure the author was trying to be clever. But in reality, his approach was comically ironic. Why? Because for decades, the Churches of God HAVE put Christmas on trial  - in a kangaroo court. They've acted as the both the prosecution and the defense, putting forth only the arguments and evidence THEY choose to present. They’ve called confused witnesses - even false witnesses - and elevated their testimony to gospel truth. They’ve shouted out rebuttals, maligned innocent practices and slandered honest men. I know, because I did it, too.

Just like Kilough's article, they HAVE skipped ahead to the prosecutor's closing argument when it comes to Christmas. They've snatched the gavel and slammed it down, declaring the trial over without any chance for rebuttal. They are prosecution, defense, judge and jury. And they've used courtroom theatrics to bully us into accepting some pretty outrageous claims over the years, like ornaments originating from Nimrod’s private parts. Where are we, in a middle school boys locker room? Dear reader, you deserve better, more honest treatment than this!

If the defense were able to get a word in edgewise, it might sound something like this:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it’s true that many ancient pagan holidays do fall near December 25th. No one denies that. But do proximal dates always indicate two events are related?  In 2016, Pentecost will fall during the Muslim Ramadan holiday. Does this mean that, next year, those who celebrate Pentecost will simultaneously be observing Ramadan? And would Muslims agree that they are celebrating Pentecost, even incidentally? More to the point, Easter always falls just days after Passover. Mainstream Christians would readily assert that the two are related. But would you?

Many COG objections to Christmas present a chicken-and-egg scenario. Some pagan celebrations the COGs try to link to Christmas can be traced back to centuries BC. Others, however, are dated much later than we were originally led to believe. Consider that Herbert Armstrong, the founder of today’s COG movement, wrote his first anti-Christmas booklet in 1952. The material today’s COGs put out is largely the same, graphics excluded.

Much has happened in the worlds of archaeology and anthropology since 1952. A lot of what has been found exonerates December 25th from its alleged pagan ties. Why do the COGs cling to outdated information?  Why hit “pause” on understanding simply because of information included in a 1950 edition encyclopedia? A resource is only as good as the information available at the time it is published. The same encyclopedia would list East and West Germany as two separate countries.  It wouldn't even include entries on space travel. If we stuck to 1950's research in technology, computers would still have 512 bytes of memory and weigh 13 tons. Would we make this trade because of mere emotion, tradition and superstition?

Still, much of HWA’s material was even more outdated than this. His assertions were largely based on the writings of Alexander Hislop, a minister in the Free Church of Scotland best known for his criticism of the Roman Catholic Church. Hislop's highly speculative pamphlet, The Two Babylons, was largely based in anti-Catholic conspiracy theory and was first released in 1853. Excavation of the ancient city of Babylon did not even begin until 1899.

So what? We're not just talking about antiquated writings, the prosecution might say. Did any of the jurors see the TV special on the pagan roots of Christmas that aired last week?  May I suggest the strong possibility that they are using many of the same outdated sources as HWA and today’s COGs. Which begs the question: what's their motivation? The media does little in a vacuum. When was the last time you found yourself on the same side of ANY argument as the media? You complain about the liberal, biased propaganda the media spews for  11 months of the year. But now, suddenly in December, they’re fair-minded and reliable, telling the gospel truth?

Here is something the prosecutor isn't telling you. Ancient church records show us that many Christians were trying to deduce the dates of Christ’s birth and death in the 100s and 200s AD – more than 100 years before the first mention of the “Sol Invictus” the COGs like to throw around. You can criticize them for concerning themselves with a birthday if you like, although there's no biblical prohibition for doing so. I suspect Christmas is one of the main reasons HWA originally damned birthday celebrations.

But anyway, many concluded Christ’s birth took place late in the year. For example, records from Clement of Alexandria (dated to roughly 198 AD) indicated Egyptian churches calculated Christ was born 194 years, 1 month and 13 days before the death of Commodus. Reliable sources tell us Commodus died December 31, 194 AD. Whether or not Clement is correct, it shows that early churches based their conclusions on calculations rather than just picking a pagan feast.

Hippolytus of Rome – one of Clement’s students - came to the December 25th date a different way in the first decade of the 200s AD. He was focused on determining the date of Christ’s death. He determined the year Jesus died (did you know when the COGs “determined” the year, they went on nothing more than examining days of the week to see which year fit their resurrection narrative?). Hippolytus calculated that Christ was crucified on Friday, March 25th, 33 AD, then added 9 months. Why nine months? Because Hippolytus held to the Jewish tradition that one’s date of conception or birth is tied to the date of one’s death.  Extrabiblical? Absolutely. Pagan? No. In fact, it directly ties Christmas to the date of Passover the year Jesus was crucified, not a pagan celebration. What else does this indicate? Christian scholars were zeroing in on December 25th before any mention of a public festival on December 25.

For more information on a Roman almanac that dated Christ's birth, as well as research showing that Christmas is NOT an iteration of Brumalia, Saturnalia, Yule or Winter Solstice celebrations, please see Exhibit A, Christmas FAQ and Exhibit B, The Plain Truth about December 25th, which have been submitted into evidence. We'll throw in Jeremiah 10 and Christmas Trees and On Nimrod and Christmas Trees, including parts 2 and 3 as a bonus.

Since we're feeling generous and don't want COGWA's rival, the United Church of God to feel slighted, let's address the claim that Palestinians kept their sheep indoors during the winter months, debunking a winter birth for Christ (from UCGs recent article, "Wait! You Just said: Jesus was not Born on December 25!"). There are so many sources contradicting this claim it's impossible to choose just one.  In reality, it is in the winter months that the sheep are kept in the fields. The winter rains began in October and November, causing the lush grass to grow in these fields, which were barren during the dry summer.

But wasn't it too cold for sheep? The latitude for Jerusalem corresponds to somewhere between Valdosta, Georgia and Lake City, Florida. It's hardly Siberia. A simple search on shows that the average low for Jerusalem in December is 42 degrees. And Jerusalem's altitude is significantly higher than the valleys outside Bethlehem, meaning temperatures would be even higher down in the valleys. And what can the good people of Bethlehem, Valdosta and Lake City put on during the cool evenings? Wool clothing. You know, the stuff that comes from sheep.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you can still reject Christmas if you so choose. Your freedom in Christ affords you the right to abstain from religious holidays. But let’s be clear as to why you’re abstaining:

You can choose not to like Christmas because it started out as a Catholic observance, or at least as an observance of what would come to be known as the Catholic church. That’s what the Puritans in colonial America did. No, the Sunday-keeping Puritans didn’t ban Christmas because they were a hairsbreadth away from the COG gospel truth. They left England to escape from a bitter feud with Catholics. It was ugly. It was like  the UCG-COGWA split that our prosecuting attorney and his cronies fomented. On steroids. Lasting for decades. Centuries, really. And instead of just a few million in tithes, this feud included control of European treasures, monarchies and parliaments. Oh no. The Puritans did not ban Christmas to keep the holy days. They banned Christmas because they banned all things Catholic.

You can sidestep Hislop if you like and instead reject Christmas based "research" in The Golden Bough, a resource more commonly embraced by the Living Church of God. This book, published in 1890, explores themes shared among ancient mythologies, pagan religions and the Bible. You can accept these arguments if you like, but doing so leaves you with little reason to accept the Bible as anything more than mythology.

You can still choose not to like Christmas because it isn’t listed in Leviticus 23 or other parallel passages. That’s also fine. But then you need to get rid of the Night to Be Much Observed. And give up Thanksgiving. And ponder why the Bible condones Purim, a totally man-made holiday. But that commemorated a miracle from God, you say. What on earth do you think Christmas celebrates?
Our prosecutor reveals his hand, his motivation and his flawed theology at the end of his closing statement.
“I urge you to remember that it's not really Christmas that is on trial – we are.” 
Try as he might to argue COGWA doesn't teach salvation by works, Kilough betrays himself here. For once, the message is clear: we are on trial for our actions. Celebrate Christmas, and God will judge you. Break the Sabbath, and God will judge you. I hear from COGWA members who fear that every misstep, every sin could land them in the Lake of Fire. COGWA, like its predecessor, Herbert Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God, teaches that, once one accepts Christ's sacrifice, his or her salvation is maintained through works.

It's like God offering you a strong 50-foot rope to cross a 100-foot chasm that spans the Lake of Fire. Would tying on a thread from your sweater get you safely across the remaining 50 feet? What if it were a 90-foot rope and a 10-foot thread? What if you only had to depend upon a foot of that thread? Would it keep you safe? The result is no different when we depend upon our own filthy garments to establish our righteousness. And though I've asked, no COG minister has been able to tell me the magic percentage of thread I need to hit to propel myself safely over the flames.

Yes, the Bible does teach that we are on trial. But we could never be found "not guilty." Not if we abstain from Christmas. Not if we perfectly obey Sinai Covenant provisions regarding the Sabbath. Not if we put out our eyes to avoid images that inspire lust, or become vegan to avoid any possible contact with unclean foods. No matter how strictly we follow any checklist we adopt, we are doomed to fail. We have a heart problem, and there's nothing we can do to fix it. Great news, right?

But there is good news! Our trial is over when we stop placing our faith in our own efforts and instead trust in God's promise to save us through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. When we enter the New Covenant, our sin is imputed to Christ and His righteousness imputed to us. After that point, no condemnation remains for us.

(Romans 8:1-4) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

Obedience is still commanded; it is our reasonable expectation (Romans 12:1) and more given what was given up for us. But there's even more good news! Perfect God, not imperfect man, leads this process; regenerating our hearts, then molding us like pottery in His hands. We have our part to play, but it is cooperative, not sitting in the driver's seat. We should carefully follow the commands that are binding upon Christians as we work out our own salvation. We must make our own judgments and not allow others to bully us into adopting OR rejecting practices based on their superstition or misinformation. At the same time, we must conduct ourselves with speech with grace, gentleness, kindness and patience as ambassadors of Christ. After all, we will give account to God for every idle word we speak.

Over time, a true Christian's works will give evidence that he has been regenerated and has placed his faith in Jesus. If he doesn't, it indicates that he needs to try harder. It indicates that his faith was false and no change has taken place, as discussed in the second chapter of James. Even James and Paul agree that there is work for us to do:

(James 2:18) But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works. Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."

(Ephesians 2:10) For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."

We are God's workmanship. He created us to do His will. He calls us to Him. He gives us right legal standing before Him; the only standing in the universe that truly matters. He cleans up our dirty, sinful hearts. He removes our filthy rags and clothes us in garments of righteousness. He Himself guides our steps by indwelling our hearts. He promises that He will complete the good work that He began in us (Philippians 1:6). And it was all made possible by the birth of a baby, the Son of God, who was born to die for your sins and mine. If that isn't reason to celebrate, any day and every day, then I don't know what is.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Christmas FAQ


AsBereansDid has been studying and writing about Christmas since 2010. Over the years one thing has become apparent – the need for a condensed FAQ on the topic.

When we first began writing about Christmas it was not apparent how very large a topic it is, nor how very wrong so many people were on the details, including ourselves. Most of the research on Christmas on the Internet in general is nothing but a great cloud of utterly baseless and false claims. A full-length and comprehensive study is absolutely necessary to root out the bad information. We have one! And more than just one or two articles on the topic. But comprehensive studies suffer from an inherent weakness in their length and dry, academic makeup. Everything you need is there but most people simply won't read them. A condensed FAQ is needed as a companion piece to give all of the most popular details in a summary “sound bite” fashion. A FAQ addresses the weakness of the comprehensive study, but FAQs have their own weaknesses. So we apologize in advance.

This FAQ represents our effort to summarize the highlights of several years of research done in the most thorough, unbiased and honest way we could.

A brief note for the visitors to this page who are unfamiliar with Armstrongism:
As Bereans Did blog is authored by former members of the Worldwide Church of God and its splinter churches. For short, we refer to this movement as Armstrongism, after its founder Herbert W Armstrong. This post was written primarily to counter the accusations against Christmas coming from Armstrongism, but was modified over time to be more general after we learned our biggest audience are non-Armstrongists. Those unfamiliar with Armstrongism may find some of our references confusing. We apologize in advance and are working to minimize this effect.


Did the early church ignore the birth of Jesus?

No. The early church did not ignore the birth of Jesus by any means. The Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke, and to a very lesser degree the Gospel of John (and some also say Revelation 12: 1-5) spend time discussing the incarnation of our Savior. You might as well include Daniel in there, too. I've heard people say "Christmas isn't in the Bible" but these ones might want to go back and re-read a few chapters. Direction to observe a holiday is not there (we discuss this later) but the event certainly is! Matthew and Luke go into great detail regarding the circumstances of Jesus' birth. There was interest in Jesus' birth since the start. By no means was it ignoredBear in mind that Luke had to research his material because he wasn't a disciple. The fact that it is written about demonstrates that the earliest Christians were curious about and honored Jesus' birth. They may not have set aside a feast day, but they did honor the miracle. Many details surrounding the birth demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah. Consider before you move on how the timing is far, far less important than the fact that our God took on flesh and became like us. This is arguably the second greatest miracle in the history of mankind - second only to the death and resurrection. The birth is nothing without the resurrection, but without the birth there could be no resurrection. The birth points to the resurrection. The birth brings God to man; the cross brings man to God. Jesus was laid in a manger - a place where the sheep eat - which points to Jesus being spiritual food for us His sheep. Is the vague timing really enough to cause us not to pause and honor God for such a wondrous thing as the Incarnation?

Did the gospel writers tell us when Jesus was born?

Yes. They did! Both Matthew and Luke leave details on when Jesus was born. The details are in the style of writers of that century and would have been understandable to the people of that place and time. We have unfortunately lost most ability to interpret them since. Just because those details aren't exactingly specific in the way our modern minds would like to see them doesn't mean that they didn't exist. The Bible does not leave us the day, however it doesn't give us the day for most things. In the next century, many began attempting to pin down those exacting details.

Does Revelation 12 tell precisely when Jesus was born?

Inconclusive. Some scholars say Revelation 12: 1-5 gives us an astronomical map to determine when Jesus was born. The imagery, they say, describes the constellation Virgo, with Jupiter at her middle and the moon at her feet, with another constellation like a dragon close by. The interpretation of the dragon constellation is difficult to nail down, with top choices being Corvus or Hydra. The timing can be determined with great accuracy, they say, when these constellations align and we calculate when the sun crosses Virgo while the moon is at her feet. This claim seems quite interesting, provides the very day and year of the birth, and has a shocking conclusion! (Read the link below for details.) Problems are this interpretation is speculative, hinges on the timing of Herod's death which is contested, and most people interpret Rev. 12 as describing multiple actual events rather than star signs pointing to one event. Some will take offense at the use of constellations at all, but we stress God Himself set the sky for determining times and seasons (GEN 1: 14). There is nothing  unbiblical about using stars astronomically in the way proposed here. The Jews around Jesus' day put the zodiac on the floors of synagogues for this very reason. What is unbiblical is astrology - when the stars control you and your fate. Using the stars as markers of time and events is an integral part of the nativity story, as the Magi followed stars. Possibly these very stars described in Rev. 12! IF that is indeed what Rev. 12 is describing. It is worth a mention here because it's so very interesting, but we cannot hang our hat on it.

Does the name Christmas come from a Roman phrase meaning, roughly, “The Death of Christ?”

No. That grossly misrepresents both the Mass and the phrase. Christmas comes from the phrase “Christ Misse” or Mass of Christ. The word mass is derived from the final words of the liturgy: "Ite, Missa Est", which translates, "Go, it is dismissed." Some may say, “Mass means dismissed.” Except the word is an idiom and that purposefully literal reading is not intellectually honest to the meaning of the idiom. Long story short, mass is just a nickname for the liturgy. Liturgy and mass are synonyms. And liturgy does not mean “death” or any such thing. The word mass first came into common use in the 600s AD, far too late to have anything to do with anything. An early name for Christmas was “Deis Natalis” or Birthday [of Christ]. Not to be confused with Natalis Invicti.
No, mass does not mean death. The singular focus of every mass is the Eucharist, and that remembers the death of Jesus, but it celebrates the death of our Savior because of grace, not death. If anyone has a problem with remembering Jesus' death then they really have a problem with Christianity. The word Eucharist comes from the Greek word for grace: "charis." So the word Eucharist has everything to do with grace, not death. We should ask, do any Catholics see Christmas as being “the death of Christ?” The answer is no.

Did Christmas begin in deep-ancient Mesopotamia?

No. There is no evidence for this in ancient primary source documents. There is no evidence for this in trustworthy secondary source documents. There is no valid evidence for this at all. All evidence in support of this claim has turned out to be fabricated. At the very best, such claims are strung together by preconceptions, amateurish methodology, and breathtaking violations of logic. The history of Christmas as a celebration can be traced back no farther than the mid-second century AD.

Was Christmas started by Nimrod?

No. The claim is not that Nimrod founded the holiday but that Semiramis founded it in honor of Nimrod. But the answer is no to both. These claims were invented out of thin air in the 1800s by Alexander Hislop.

Nimrod is a character about which we know next to nothing for certain. The KJV Bible mentions Nimrod by name in four verses, with one additional verse speaking of him without naming him. Five verses. Both Genesis 10: 8 and I Chronicles 1: 10 speak to his lineage from Cush and are basically duplicate information so we can discount one of those, while Micah 5: 6 is really a place name. So of the five verses there are really only three with any unique information about Nimrod. The long and short of it is that there are only a very few verses about Nimrod. There is no genuine, verifiable, unmistakable information outside of the Bible that clearly refers to Nimrod. Speculations abound. Is he Gilgamesh? Is he Marduk? Is he the Scorpion King? Is he Ninurta? Is he Sargon? Is he Hammurabi? Is Nimrod even his real name? <Begin Speculation> Nimrod has the feel of being a title rather than a proper name. For example, it could be a joining of the ancient Semitic word 'Nin' which means King, and the city Marad, which was an important city in Kish. Nin Marad, King of Marad, would be a title, not a name. There is no hard evidence for this. I am just giving an example of what a title might look like. Or, Nimrod might be a birth name forgotten to history of an otherwise famous person who went by a different name. for example, no one knows the birth name of Hammurabi. Or, the name might be the Hebrew equivalent of a foreign name. For example, Pharaoh Shihanq is changed to Shishak, and Nabû-kudurri-uṣur is changed to Nebuchadnezzar, and Xerxes is changed to Ahaserus. Or, the name might be purposefully wrong. The Hebrews would slightly alter names on purpose to change the meaning of a name. For example, Antiochus Epiphanes (God's Beloved) was called Epimenes (The Mad) as a slight. The Hebrew scribes would also leave the consonants alone but change vowels in names to the vowels in negative words to express animosity for the name. Or, since Hebrew originally had no vowels, maybe future scribes got it slightly wrong. <End Speculation> There currently exists no strong record of the person Nimrod outside of the Bible. Note that I am not claiming there was no Nimrod. I believe there was. My entire point is simply that there is not enough extant information anywhere to make the highly detailed claims that float around the Internet about him.
We do have some records of Semiramis, though. History tells us Semiramis lived and died hundreds of years after the time when Nimrod would have lived. What can we conclude besides all claims about Semiramis inventing Christmas to honor her husband Nimrod are patently false. Baseless. Invented. The inventor of these tales is known, and that is Alexander Hislop, author of the thoroughly debunked book “Two Babylons.” Herbert Armstrong and others simply fell for a lie and plagiarized it as God's truth. The lie propagates to this day because it makes for such good confirmation bias.

Was Nimrod's birthday on the 25th of December?

Who knows? The fact is, no one on earth has sufficient information about Nimrod to even tell us what his name really is, let alone such small details as on which day he was born. At that time, in such ancient antiquity, most cultures used a lunar calendar of 360-days or less. Could it really be that the year once had 360 days? If that is the case, then there are 5 days now that could not have been Nimrod's birthday because they didn't exist. Consider this. December 25th could be one of those. No one knows, however. 
But this we do know - Herman Hoeh said Nimrod was born on January 6th. Herman Hoeh was the leading Armstrongist "historian". Hoeh got greedy and tried to condemn both December 25th and January 6th as Nimrod's birthday by saying they were both solstice celebrations. Two birthdays? No! Every day the solstice has ever touched is Nimrod's birthday. Not two days but two weeks of birthdays! Some people are simply desperate to find evidence for the conclusions they've reached and they aren't above fabricating it. There would be a solid answer to Nimrod's birthday if there was any documented proof. There isn't. There is just pseudo-history, baseless conjecture, and spurious claims.

Were the claims of Alexander Hislop and his book The Two Babylons trustworthy?

No. Not at all. They are fallacious. The entire book is a hateful anti-Catholic screed. Anyone should be ashamed of themselves if they propagate Hislop's material or belong to an organization that does. Evidence against Hislop is like fruit lying on the ground, one need only bend down and pick it up - yet confirmation bias is too strong for some. Hislop wrote his book decades before Babylon was excavated. Chaldean was barely even deciphered at the time. Where did he get his information, then? His claims were made up by stringing together pictures and utterly unrelated information into a pseudo-history the details of which turn out to be literally impossible. This FAQ is too brief for the details, so I refer you to Ralph Woodrow's thorough review of Hislop entitled "The Babylon Connection?"
A quote from ‘The Saturday Review’ printed September 17th, 1859 about Hislop's work: "We take leave of Mr. Hislop and his work with the remark that we never before quite knew the folly of which ignorant or half-learned bigotry is capable."

Was Isis, Horis, or Osiris' birthday on the 25th of December?

No. The Egyptian calendar did not correlate to the Roman calendar that we could match them up like this and say such and such Egyptian thing was always on a certain Roman date, like December 25th. The Egyptian calendar was reset every year in summer. Anciently, the Roman calendar was often changed for political reasons. See the issues? More importantly, the ancient record of the birthday for these Egyptian gods is not in December but in the summer. So, the answer is no.
Why all the confusion? In the late 1800's to mid-1900's, German religious historians assigned almost every aspect of Christianity, including Jesus Himself, to theft from pagan religions. Horus was a popular target. Armstrongism built its case against Christmas based on the work of these German historians. Since then, the theories have switched places. Now, evidence leads us to see that pagan religions copied from Christianity. Myths of pagan gods being born on December 25th do not crop up until after Jesus was associated with the date.

Were Cybele and Attis worshiped on December 25th?

No. The major celebration days for Cybele and Attis (called “Hilaria”) were in the Spring, in March.

Has December 25th been the focus of sun worship for millennia?

No. That claim doesn't even make sense. It would be closer to the truth that the winter solstice was the focus of sun worship for millennia. However, December 25 was not and is not the date of the winter solstice, except for a century after Julius Caesar. Other cultures didn't have a December in their calendars, so December 25th couldn't be the focus for those cultures. One may ask, "Then what of the date on the other culture's calendar that matched December 25th?" The calendars of other cultures didn't align with the Roman calendar. At first, the Roman calendar had no winter months. That's right - no winter months. They had ten months then a huge gap. Before about 450 BC, December was an autumn month. It was the tenth month, not the twelfth. For the next several hundred years, the Roman calendar was unreliable and changed frequently and randomly. When Julius Caesar reformed the Roman calendar in 46 BC, he finally declared December 25th to be the date of the solstice. However, we have two problems: 1) It didn't stay that way but for 130 years or so, and 2) Rome had no religious solstice observance. In Rome, December 25 was only the solstice in a traditional sense, not a literal one. There was no solstice festival in Rome. December 25 was not a focus for sun worship in Rome until somewhere around the 300s AD.
Was Mithra's birthday on December 25th?

No. The claims are not usually that Mithra was born on December 25, but that he was honored on that day. We reject this for several reasons.
There is more than one Mithra – the original Persian Mithra and the Roman mystery religion Mithra. The Persian version had no such birthday. Edwin Yamauchi, in "Persia and the Bible" p.494, claims the Persian Zoroastrians still to this day honor Mithra on the day of Mihr in the month of Mihr (which is roughly September-October). The Roman version also had no such birthday. Mithraism in Rome was a mystery cult, with secret rituals performed in caves and initiates sworn to secrecy. It wasn't a great public thing. Then Mithraism pretty much died out in the 400's. 
Mithra only became associated with December 25th during Emperor Julian' reforms in the mid 300s. In his poem Ode to King Helios, Julian associated Helios with Mithra (and several other gods besides, including Sol, Jupiter, etc). Clearly, Julian believed Helios/Sol/Mithra were all one and the same thing. That syncretism may be how he felt, but it wasn't historically accurate. Prior to Julian, they really were distinct things, so to conflate them backwards in time is improper. 
Finally, and Claims made by Franz Cumont, that Jesus came from Mithra and Christianity borrowed from Mithraism, have since been abandoned. The reality it would appear is quite the opposite. It was Mithraism that borrowed from Christianity.

Was Sol's birthday on December 25th?

Yes and no. Sol was not originally associated with December 25th. There are three things we need to explore: the Chronography, Emperor's Aurelian's dedication of a temple to the sun, and Emperor Julian's Ode to King Helios
Chronography: It all comes down to what Filocalus meant in his famous Chronography by the phrase “Natalis Invicti.” Filocalus wrote his Chronography in 354 AD. It consisted of several different parts, one of which was a calendar and another a list of martyrs with the dates of their deaths. In the calendar, Filocalus marked December 25th with the words “Natalis Invicti.” We don't know what it means. None of the other dates in the calendar were Christian holidays, so why would this one be? It seems reasonable this refers to Sol, but Sol is mentioned elsewhere by name, why not here? In the section called Commemoration of the Martyrs, Filocalus specifically states that Jesus was born on December 25th. One document, two mentions of December 25th, one directly associated with Jesus. Most scholars think Natalis Invicti refers to games that happened every 4 years for Sol. Some scholars think it does not refer to Sol because Sol already had games in October.
Aurelian: We will go into detail about Aurelian elsewhere, but claims of Aurelian dedicating temples and establishing festivals on December 25 are highly contested. None are on any solstice or equinox. The Ludi Solus games in late October were instituted in 274 AD, according to Steven Hijmans, so they must belong to Aurelian. 
JulianThe clearest association points to 362 AD, when Emperor Julian tried to return Rome to paganism and replace Christianity with sun worship. Emperor Julian specifically took points from Judeo-Christian thinking and applied them to the sun. Julian speaks of an ancient, annual winter festival for Sol near the New Year, but his details cannot be correct. Julian also speaks of games every four years on December 25, which he called relatively recent. Some scholars think Natalis Invicti refers to those games.
So, we say 'yes and no' in this case because the answer is yes, it seems reasonable that Sol was eventually associated with December 25th, but no, not originally. It was quite late. But when did Jesus become associated with the day? Decades earlier!

Is Christmas a solstice holiday?

No. December 25th is not on the solstice. It could not have been regularly the solstice prior to Julius Caesar's calendar reforms. Caesar ordered December 25th to fall on the solstice in his reforms, but it only remained that way for about 130 years. December 25th was not on the solstice when Jesus' birth became associated with that date. The Romans - after Julius Caesar's reforms - did consider December 25th to be the solstice, but only as a matter of tradition, not fact, and as a matter of astronomy/astrology, not religion. Rome had no known religious solstice celebrations until quite late. Romans cared much more for the Saturnalia and the New Year.

What of “Deis Natalis Solis Invicti”?

There is no such thing. The name is made up. There is no ancient day of that name. There is only Natalis Invicti. That "invicti" seems to point so Sol does make sense, as Sol was call Sol Invictus, but that is speculation. Several gods were called Invictus, for example Jupiter, Mars, and Hercules. That Natalis Invicti is about Sol is debated, and rejected by Steven Hijmans, as we explain elsewhere. If it is about Sol, it appears to us here that it can only refer to some games which happened every four years, as we explain elsewhere. The key is all these naming vitiations are invented. There is only Natalis Invicti.

Did Emperor Aurelian set up Natalis Invicti to honor the sun on December 25th in 274 AD?

Uncertain. That there is something called Natalis Invicti on December 25th is undeniably in the Philocalian Calendar. What it honored or when it began is not certain. It can be known that the day is not an older celebration, judging from the number of races ordered on that day - 30 chariot races instead of 12 or 24 - and judging from a complete lack of older evidence. No calendar or non-Christian author before the Philocalian Calendar mentions anything on December 25. It could not have started any earlier than the latter-200's AD and no later than the mid-300s AD. Many speculate that Aurelian set up a birthday to the sun or dedicated a temple to the sun on this day, but that is mere conjecture. Nothing solid ties Aurelian to December 25th. German scholar Hermann Usener appears to be where this claim begins. Steven Ernst Hijmans, currently a faculty member at the University of Alberta’s History and Classics department, disagrees with Usener. 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:
"...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 short, while the winter solstice on or around the 25th of December was well established in the Roman imperial calendar, there is no evidence that a religious celebration of Sol on that day antedated the celebration of Christmas, and none that indicates that Aurelian had a hand in its institution. One might think that celebrating the sun on the winter solstice is so self-evident that we need hardly doubt that such a festival had a long tradition, but what evidence we have actually belies that notion."
Hijmans lists the known festivals of Sol as August 8 and/or 9, August 28, October 19 and 22, and December 11. Aurelian is suspected in this affair because from 274 AD onward, some games were held every four years to honor Sol. However, Hijmans argues these games were not in December but on the Ludi Solis from October 19-22. Sol was not honored on any solstice or equinox.

The Aurelian theory is based on another oddity. It was once believed that Sol worship was initially introduced to Rome by Emperor Elagabalus in 218-222, then it died out to be reintroduced by Aurelian in 274. Hijmans opposed that claim strongly, based on evidence in art and history which demonstrate Sol was present in Rome before Elagabalus. If we side with Hijmans, as it seems we should, this only makes the mystery deeper.

But what is the answer? No one knows for certain. Since lack of proof is not proof of lack, we answer this question with Uncertain.

Was there a Roman holiday on December 25th that was so popular the Christians absorbed it?

No. Not only was there no popular holiday, Rome had no solstice holiday at all for most of its history. Especially not when the Christian scholars in the late 100s or early-to-mid 200s were calculating the birth of Jesus. The oldest extant Roman calendar, the Fasti Antiates Maiores (approx. 84-55 BC) shows nothing on December 25, and neither do later copies of it. It was an acceptable day for political assemblies is all we can tell. By the way, it says nothing on January 6, either. It lists the Saturnalia right there on December 17 where it should be. Other holidays and temple dedication days are listed. For it to be completely silent about December 25 and January 6 is brutally telling. There were no ancient holidays on those dates.

Emperor Julian, in his Ode to King Helios, written in 362 AD, describes two December 25 celebrations: one every year, and one every four years.
As for the annual festival - 
We find this spurious because what Julian did to tie Helios/Mithra to it was to reach back to Roman King Numa Pompilius, the second King of Rome, who lived in the 700s BC. Julian claims that Numa honored the sun around the time of the new year. As we've explained elsewhere, at that time, December was an autumn month and Rome had no winter months at all. Julian also claimed the new year in Numa's time was January 1. That is not possible since January didn't exist yet, and the new year was in March. It seems Julian, who was obviously quite intelligent, was simply misinformed about Rome's ancient calendar. So, we reject Julian's claims about an ancient December 25 festival. And because of all this, we are not certain Julian's intent was to say there was a contemporary annual festival, or if he intended to say there was an ancient one. Clearly, there could not have been an ancient one, given what we've just shown. Steven Hijmans, as recorded on Roger Pearse's blog article "Was there no festival of Sol on 25 December before 354 AD?", says this, "I think that the fact that Julian attributes the annual winter solstice Sol-festival to Numa is simply to give it pedigree." We agree! If there was an annual feast on December 25, and there is no solid evidence at all there was, then it was very recent, not ancient, possibly originating but a few short decades before Julian's poem. But this is yet another mystery. Why did Julian try to pawn it off as ancient?
As for the games every four years - 
Julian claimed Aurelian's games for Sol were on December 25. He said, "before the beginning of the year, at the end of the month which is called after Kronos [December]." (Julian uses Greek names quite a bit.) According to Steven Hijmans, these games were not in December at all but on the Ludi Solis from October 19-22 (“Sol – the Sun in the Art and Religions of Rome”. In Volume I, chapter 9, page 588,). So, we find a choice: accept Hijmans or Julian.

We have a hypothesis. We are not convinced of this yet ourselves, so take it for what it is. 
The odd fact of the Philocalian Calendar of 354 is, by what seems to be pure luck, it was made for a year on the four-year cycle. Let us accept for sake of argument that Aurelian instituted games for Sol every four years on December 25 starting in 274 AD. If you count every four years from 274 you will land on 354.
274, 278, 282, 286, 290, 294, 298, 302, 306, 310, 314, 318, 322, 326, 330, 334, 342, 346, 350, 354.
What if the Natalis Invicti in the Philocalian Calendar refers to these quadrennial games?
We have no evidence Aurelian did anything on December 25, and we clearly contradict Hijmans here, but we are just speculating anyway.

At any rate, we can be certain Christians would never have absorbed December 25 from a set of games every four years. We can also be certain there is no evidence whatsoever of an annual festival on December 25 outside of a mention from Emperor Julian, which we here do not have any confidence in due to Julian's misunderstanding the ancient Roman calendar. Julian might have invented an ancient festival in some attempt to bolster the pedigree of the quadrennial games. The History of Religions School believed Christians absorbed December 25 from sun worshippers. The evidence is so lacking, it is every bit as fair to say the sun worshippers absorbed December 25 from the Christians. If we can get either conclusion from the evidence, then there is no conclusion at all.
Until we see something solid, we will stick with our No answer for this question.

Was Christmas stolen from pagans in ancient Rome?

No. Christmas is and always was a memorial of the birth of Jesus. Regardless of whatever else may or may not have happened on that day or where a decoration tradition may have come from. As we have demonstrated in detail in our article "The Plain Truth About December 25th", Christians in the late 100s and early 200s were calculating the date of Christmas. December 25 comes from March 25th, which was believed to be the date of His death. This was decades before there was an official, public Roman holiday on December 25th. In the early-to-mid 200's AD, there was no Roman solstice holiday. There was nothing at that time to steal from.

Another thing we need to consider here is that it doesn't make any sense that Christians in that time period were borrowing from pagans. At that formative time, Christians all but ignored paganism and were much more interested in Jewish thinking. The pagans had just spent decades trying to exterminate Christians. A main test given to identify Christians was to ask a person to put a pinch of incense in a bowl to Caesar. If they refused, then they were Christian and they were executed. Are a people who would die for refusing a pinch of incense going to be the people who adopt a pagan holiday? In Constantine's day, Christianity had finally become legal. By the end of the 300's, Emperor Theodosius I made Christianity the official religion of the empire. Paganism was then outlawed. Doesn't sound very conciliatory to me. Only at this time did pagans begin pouring into Christian churches. Yet Christians remained vigilant. In the 400's, Senator Andromachus petitioned Pope Gelasius I to reinstate the pagan festival of Lupercalia but the Pope refused, saying he had the authority to suppress the heathen observance and he would exercise his power to do so. He mentioned that if earlier Popes would have had the power, they would have done the same. Again, this doesn't sound conciliatory in the least. It just doesn't make any sense that Christians were so busy absorbing the pagan holidays at a time when they were very much opposed to them and working to abolish them. Ask yourself where are all of the other Roman holidays? Gone. All gone. If the Christians were absorbing all of these days, then they should all still be here. Yet they are not.

Were Christians threatened by the Sol cult?

No. This is the most popular theory to explain what motivated Christians to create Christmas, but it needs to be plainly stated there is absolutely no evidence for this at all. None. Zero. The idea is contradicted, in fact. Every time someone accuses Christians of adopting paganism, they are claiming that Christians are not threatened by it at all. We do not adopt what threatens us. Here is where people will change their claim to say Christians weren't adopting but destroying. Again, based on what evidence? All we have is a name on a calendar. We don't really know what it was. If we can't even prove from evidence exactly what it was, then how can we prove from evidence what Christian motivation was for putting a festival there? We can't. What do we find when we look for motivation? That they were calculating the day, completely regardless of anything pagan whatsoever. So the explanation that Christians were adopting or destroying is directly contradicted by what little evidence we have. It's made up.

Does Christmas come from Saturnalia?

No. Let's be absolutely clear about something right up front: Saturnalia was December 17th. Period. It doesn't matter how many days the celebration lasted. When people say "Saturnalia was from x date to x date" that is not true. Saturnalia celebrations may have been, but Saturnalia itself was one day only. Same as Christmas. The date of Saturnalia was the date of Saturnalia. That date is the 17th. Full stop.
When we look at the oldest extant Roman calendar, the Fasti Antiates Maiores (84-55 BC), Saturnalia is on the 17th. When we look at the Philocalian calendar (354AD), Saturnalia is on the 17th.

Saturnalia is 14 days before January 1 (counting inclusively, which means we include Jan. 1 in the count). This puts it on December 17th originally. When Caesar reformed the calendar, he added two days to December. This moved Saturnalia to the 19th. Afterward, people celebrated some on the 17th and others the 19th. Soon, the celebrating lasted three days, from the 17th to the 19th. Over time, the celebration grew to encompass other close holidays, from the 17th to the 23rd, but was then legally limited to five days from the 17th to the 21st. The Saturnalia celebration was never at any time on the 24th or 25th of December. 

Saturnalia endured. It eventually migrated backwards, into November, and merged with the Buma celebration on November 24 to create the Brumalia. This is moving away from Christmas.
"The origin of Christmas should not be sought in the Saturnalia..."
-Martindale, C.C. (1908). Christmas. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved December, 2015 from New Advent:
Much has been said about the “great debauchery” of Saturnalia, in an attempt to associate Christmas with a very stylized picture of Roman paganism. This attempt to poison the well is desperate ignorance. People thoughtlessly conclude since some recent Christmas traditions resemble ancient Saturnalia traditions, it must have always been this way. Truth is, the original Christmas was a very somber event. People went to church, then people went home. Hence the name “Mass of Christ.” Modern people would likely be quite disappointed with it.

Does Christmas come from Brumalia?

No. The Bruma celebration was on November 24th. We can prove this from the Philocalian Calendar. In the Byzantine east, Bruma grew into a multi-day celebration from November 24th to December 17th and merged with the Saturnalia celebrations. This created a celebration season called Brumalia. Bruma is older than Christmas, but Christmas is older than Brumalia. If it's older, then it cannot come from Brumalia.

Groups will quote "The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge" article on Christmas from 1952 at you to convince you Saturnalia and Brumalia were too popular to overcome and were thus absorbed by Christians. Notice the date of this publication: 1952. Do you think, perhaps, we have newer material to draw on 70+ years later? Yes. We do. Using this outdated source is shameful at this point.  The article referenced is factually incorrect. The date is wrong, the name is wrong, the time is wrong, and the location is wrong. How can anyone seriously hold this up as evidence? Yet they do.

Does Christmas come from Natalis Invicti?

No, but this is a tough one. The two main theories of how we the birth of Jesus was originally associated with December 25 are the calculation theory, and the adoption theory - meaning Christians adopted December 25 from the pagan day of Natalis Invicti. Although Natalis Invicti and Christmas were on December 25th, we see evidence the December 25th date of Jesus' birth was calculated decades before any known association of a pagan celebration on Dec. 25. The phrase Natalis Invicti comes from a calendar written in 354 AD by a Christian named Filocalus. The calendar does not directly say who Natalis Invicti honored. It most likely refers to Sol, but there are problems with that, too. Sol is mentioned by name in several other places in the calendar. Why not here? In another section of the same document, written 18 years earlier, Filocalus specifically mentions Jesus being born on December 25th. Two mentions of December 25 - one clearly about Jesus, and one somewhat ambiguous. That is why we say it's a tough one. So, is Natalis Invicti an early name for Christmas? We can't say for sure, but it doesn't make sense that it would be. We know the earliest name for Christmas was Deis Natalis. Fairly similar. Still, not exact. That Natalis Invicti honored the sun god Sol is speculative, but widely accepted. There is nothing obviously tying December 25th to Sol until decades later when Emperor Julian wrote a poem, Ode to King Helios, in 362 AD. Julian was attempting to return Rome to paganism. The most important takeaway from this is that Christians concluded Jesus was born on December 25 before there was a Natalis Invicti, therefore it doesn't really matter who Natalis Invicti honored.

Does Christmas come from Zagmuk?

No. Zagmuk is part of the Persian New Year festival, and that occurs in the Spring.

Did Christmas come from Yule?

No. Yule comes from Germania. Christmas and Epiphany come from Rome before Christianity spread into Germany/Scandinavia. Yule was likely not a single day. It was a winter festival named after the two-month season in which it fell, but could have possibly lasted for several days and fell anywhere from November to January. Before Charlemagne, the German calendar was lunar and did not match up with the Roman solar calendar very at all. German years were counted as winter and summer (not summer and winter as we do now) therefore their year most likely began at the start of winter, likely in November. The year was divided into sixths, with several double-months in the year. They had no weeks prior to the invasions of the Romans, but observed moon phases. An ancient tomb found in the region was created to track the moon phases. German days began at night. There is little real reason whatsoever to suspect that the Germans observed the winter solstice or that the Yule celebration had anything whatsoever to do with the winter solstice. The most likely reason why Christmas was so important in Germania is not because of Yule at all but because Charlemagne, William the Conqueror, and others were crowned on Christmas day.

Was Yule on December 25th?

No. Not originally. You must understand the Germanic year was very different than the Roman, and therefore our own. For example, their year was divided into sixths, which could then be combined into thirds or halves. This led to only three recognized seasons (they did not have an Autumn) and several double-months. Holidays were often named after the months in which they fell, therefore the holiday of Yule could fall anywhere in the double-month of Yule. Originally, Yule fell anywhere from mid-November to January in Germania, and mid-December to mid-January for the Anglo-Saxons. But that Yule was a solstice festival goes against what we understand of their reckoning of time.
"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."
-Miles, Clement A., "Christmas in Ritual and Tradition", chapter 1 section IV, p.25
After Charlemagne, that changed. There were many attempts by kings and emperors to Christianize the pagans of northern Europe. Charlemagne (768-814) was one. Charlemagne was a scourge of German paganism and fought bitterly to wipe it out. He changed their entire method of reckoning time, renamed months, altered the beginning and ending points of months, and otherwise “Romanized” their reckoning of time. Haakon I of Norway (934-961) is another. Haakon rearranged pagan holidays to make them more like Christian holidays, in order to make Christianity more acceptable to pagans in the hopes of converting them in time. He had to balance his desire to introduce Christianity to Norway with the political expediency necessary to unite the realm. The following is a quote from the Saga of Haakon the Good:
King Haakon was a good Christian when he came to Norway; but as the whole country was heathen, with much heathenish sacrifice, and as many great people, as well as the favor of the common people, were to be conciliated, he resolved to practice his Christianity in private. But he kept Sundays, and the Friday fasts, and some token of the greatest holy-days. He made a law that the festival of Yule should begin at the same time as Christian people held it, and that every man, under penalty, should brew a meal of malt into ale, and therewith keep the Yule holy as long as it lasted. Before him, the beginning of Yule, or the slaughter night, was the night of mid-winter, and Yule was kept for three days thereafter. It was his intent, as soon as he had set himself fast in the land, and had subjected the whole to his power, to introduce Christianity.”
The point of this quote is to show that an effort was made to bring the timing of Yule into line with Christmas in order to make Christianity more palatable to the pagan Norse. If the timing had to be brought into alignment, then it was not aligned at first. Yule was not on December 25 originally, despite what every single pagan website out there tells you.

Do the Twelve Days of Christmas come from Yule?

No. This can be demonstrated by a little math. Yule comes from the northern Europeans. St. Boniface was the first Christian missionary to establish Christian churches in many parts of Germania. He did this in the 700's AD. The Christianization of the Norse happened over the next 300-400 years. So, the northern Europeans were evangelized beginning in the 700's. When did the Twelve Days of Christmas start? Well before the 500's AD. The Second Council of Tours (566-567 AD), cannons xi and xvii, proclaimed the importance of the fasts of Advent and the days between Christmas and Epiphany (Twelve Days of Christmas). If the Council of Tours declared the sanctity of these practices in 567, we can be assured the practices long predated the declaration by the Council. Therefore, the Twelve Days of Christmas originated in Christendom more than 200+ years before missionaries were sent to Germany and Scandinavia. Therefore, it is simply not possible that the Twelve Days of Christmas was adopted from Yule.

Doesn't the name "Yuletide" mean Christmas mixed with Yule?

No ...odd as that may sound. We need to know something about the Germans to understand why not. The Germans of that time had a peculiar habit of naming things after the month in which they fell. This is exactly the same thing that caused the Passover season to be named "Eastertide." The name Easter does not come from the name of any goddess. The name comes from the month in which the holiday fell - Eastermonath. (In Gernany, it was Ostar and Ostarmonath. Easter and Eastermonath are Saxon.) So it is with Christmas. Christmas falls in the double months named Yule, so it got the name Yuletide. It was natural for Germanic people to rename it after the month because that's just what they did. Since Christianity gained the forefront in the region, the name Yuletide has not referred to Yule at all. For example, see the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1912) article on "Yuletide." The article has almost nothing to do with Yule at all but is entirely about Christmas. Yule, as it was used long ago, often simply meant a time of celebrating. Or for another example, the earliest written record of a Yule Log is from the 1620-30s by a man named Robert Herrick, but he used the term "Christmas Log." The term Yule Log appears later. It seems apparent that the terms Yule and Christmas were simply interchangeable, not because of the celebrations, but because the English language is heavily influenced by the German. These German names made their way west into the British Isles and on into the Americas. When we hear the name Yuletide, our natural reaction is to think of Yule, not Christmas. This simply betrays our lack of familiarity with the peculiarities of history. So, the next time you hear the word Yule in the carol "Deck the Halls", try to resist the improper urge to assign a pagan connotation to the reference.

Does the Yule Log come from pagan Yule traditions?

Uncertain. The earliest written record of a Yule Log is from the 1620-30s by a man named Robert Herrick, but he used the term "Christmas Log." There are no older records. The term Yule Log appears later. All older claims of the log tradition are unsupported speculation and conjecture. Is it possible? Maybe. Definite? No. It is equally possible that the log is indeed a Christmas log which later adopted the name Yule, along with other things (as we discussed in the section above). It seems apparent that the terms Yule and Christmas were simply interchangeable.

Does the Yule Log come from Mithra worship?

No. The earliest written record of a Yule Log is from the 1620-30s by a man named Robert Herrick. This is far too late for Mithras. There is room for error in the Druid origins claim because of lack of source material. Many practices of the Druids are unknown. That is not the case here. There definitively was no such thing as a Mithra Log. This claim is patently false. 

Claims like these come from people who care less about truth than pushing a narrative. Blaming everything we don't like on Mithra is neither honest nor godly. If you come across claims like this, ask for evidence. Since there is none, you will most likely be summarily dismissed, accused of opposing God, or sent to a website that has many claims with very little if any source material. I originally got this claim from a website where the entire thing was a person writing on behalf of God, putting words into God's mouth, and condemning just about everything. It was pure fire and brimstone blasphemy. Be aware there are many out there who have no idea how to research, have an agenda to push, and are not above making things up as they go. Mind your source!

Aren't there many encyclopedias and sources that say Christmas is pagan origin?

Yes. This much is quite true. But are they right? That is highly debatable. Standing on the authority of an encyclopedia simply because it is an encyclopedia is the logical fallacy called Appeal to Authority. Any authority can be wrong (even ABD). What matters is the truth. Dig for the facts and mind your sources! People tell me fairly regularly, "I can cut and paste ALL day on the pagan origins of all these things." Appealing to the number of sources is a logical fallacy called Appeal to Popularity. Numbers are worthless. Quality is all that matters. It was Adolph Hitler who famously observed, "A lie told often enough becomes the truth." Mind your source material!
When we dig into the facts in the best sources we have, we find that most of these encyclopedias being referred to are very old and very wrong. Take for example the oft-quoted New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1952) article on “Christmas.” Not only is the article vague and speculative, but the dates of Saturnalia and Brumalia are simply incorrect, and some of its information is contradicted by the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1912) article on “Yuletide”. An encyclopedia can only tell us what current learning is. If future evidence proves current thinking wrong, the wrong information cannot be un-published from encyclopedias past. This is the danger of old encyclopedias (and old encyclopedias are a mainstay of anti-Christmas enthusiasts.) For example, most older encyclopedia articles on Christmas, including the New Catholic Encyclopedia, relied heavily on the research of Franz Cumont. Since the 1970s, Franz Cumont's conclusions about Mithras have since been proven false. What do we do with those old encyclopedias? They are good for knowing where learning used to be but not good for knowing where learning currently is. If one wants accurate, reliable information, one should not go to old encyclopedias. 

Does Christmas come from Hanukkah?

Inconclusive. Some people think the dating of Christmas was influenced by the Jews keeping Hanukkah on the 25th of the month of Kislev, and Kislev usually falls in December. So when the Gentile Christians moved towards December as the date of Christ's birth (doing so based heavily on Jewish folklore), the 25th as a date may have been a natural choice as it already held significance. But whether or not this genuinely influenced the early Christians is inconclusive. We lean towards no, but still find it an interesting tidbit.

Did the switch from Julian to Gregorian calendars affect Jesus' birth day?

Yes and no. The Julian calendar was flawed and loses one day every 130 years. In time, this became an issue, mainly because it pushed the spring equinox backwards towards February, and Easter, which is tied to the equinox, was happening far too soon. In 1545, the Council of Trent decided to do something about it. A new, more accurate, calendar was devised which would fix the issue. Part of the plan was to correct the date by ten days and bring the equinox back into alignment with the year 325 AD, which was the year of the Council of Nicea. The calendar was first implemented in 1582. That year, the month of October was ten days shorter than it would have been. Now, in all countries that use the Gregorian calendar, the year aligns to how things would have been in 325 AD ...but not the year Jesus was born. Since this is the case, regardless of what calendar date Jesus was born on, that date on our calendar today and the one in the year Jesus was born still would not match. They are about 2-3 days off. 
It does affect the date. So we answer yes. However, a date is still a date (December 25 is still December 25). So we answer no. We really have a matter of opinion here. Which is going to be more important to you - the stellar alignment or the date?

So how did Christmas start, then?

Here is our version of why Christmas started, based on the best evidence we have seen.
By mid-first century, heresies arose concerning the nature of Jesus' humanity. Gnostics were claiming that human flesh is evil; some were denying that Jesus was truly a human being. Seriously, some Gnostics even claimed Jesus never used the bathroom. So, a great interest arose in the church regarding the details of Jesus early life. The Gospels, especially John's, contained many details in answer to these heresies, but they never said precisely when Jesus was born. In the 100's AD, Christians began searching for answers. Some in Egypt calculated Jesus' birth in May. Birthday celebrations arose by mid-second century. The Eastern churches eventually accepted January 6th as the birth date. This celebration is known as Epiphany. In about 198, Clement of Alexandria calculated Jesus' birth to late November. In 200-211 AD, Hippolytus (of Rome), who was also a disciple of Irenaeus who was a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of John the Apostle, calculated Jesus' death to March 25th and then added 9 months. March 25th + 9 months = December 25th. Hippolytus seems to have been familiar with Clement. To make this leap Hippolytus employed an old Jewish tradition that said important people die on the day they were conceived. Julius Africanus (160-240 AD) very much appears to have agreed with Hippolytus' calculation. (Although, he does not directly say this. You have to coax it from what he wrote.) As did John Chrysostom (349-407) and Augustine (354-430). The calculation of March 25th as the conception date it still celebrated to this day as the Feast of the Annunciation. For several years, the churches of the East preferred Epiphany over Christmas. Eventually it was settled that Christmas would be held in honor of the birth and Epiphany in honor of early events of Jesus' life such as the presentation at the temple and the visit of the Magi. The time between Christmas and Epiphany has come to be known as the Twelve Days of Christmas. 

Is there a time difference between when Christmas was first calculate and first celebrated?

Yes. We know and can demonstrate that Christians in the second century were calculating the date of Jesus' death and birth. These dates took a while to catch on with other Christian thinkers. It seems it took the entire third century for the idea of Jesus being born on December 25 to catch on. It wasn't until the fourth century, in the 300s AD, where we first see definite evidence of religious services on December 25. So, the answer is yes, there is over a century between the time December 25 was calculated to the time Christians officially began honoring the day.
We would like to note that Epiphany had been observed for some time by that point. It is not entirely accurate to say no celebration of Jesus' birth was held until the 300s. It is merely took decades to move the birth celebration from January 6th to a December 25th.

Here is a quick timeline of events to help put things in perspective:

This timeline only includes relevant milestones that we at ABD have personally verified.

·46 BC - Julius Caesar sets December 25 as the solstice. Due to errors in the calendar, the solstice moved 1 day every 130 years.
·90 AD - December 25 was no longer the solstice. Now only traditionally the solstice.
·150-190 AD - Christians begin celebrating Jesus' birth, eventually as Epiphany.
·190-200 AD - Clement of Alexandria calculates Jesus' birth to late in the year.
·200 AD - Tertullian sets Jesus' crucifixion on March 25.
·202-211 AD - Hippolytus uses the March 25 date to calculate Jesus’ birth as December 25.
·221 AD - Sextus Julius Africanus agrees with March 25 date for the conception.
·243 AD - Pseudo-Cyprian concludes the birth and the death are linked (demonstrating the idea really was popular in Christian scholarly thinking in that time).
·245 AD - Origen takes a stand against birthdays.
·274 AD - Aurelian elevates Sol worship. Dies the next year.
·336 AD - The Commemoration of the Martyrs is written. Contains an undisputed mention of Jesus born on December 25.
·354 AD - The Filocalian Calendar is written. Contains the only mention of "Natalis Invicti" on December 25.
·362 AD - Emperor Julian “the Apostate”, gives us the first explicit reference to a celebration of the sun on December 25.

Is March 25th the correct date of the crucifixion?

No, most likely. The March 25th date of the crucifixion cannot be correct because, barring some highly unusual incident, Passover was not on that date in any year close to when Jesus was crucified. We know beyond any doubt our Lord was crucified on Passover.
The date of Passover can be estimated. There are several different versions, of course, but check any version for any year from the late-20's to the mid-30's AD, and you will see Passover is never on that date, let alone never on a Friday on that date. The date of Passover was postponed, rarely, to prevent a holy day from falling on Friday and causing a double-Sabbath. That would mean Passover would naturally fall on a Thursday and be postponed to Friday. We see no Thursday Passovers at all in that time range. No Thursday Passovers also eliminates the possibility of a natural postponement, where some meteorological event stopped the sighting of the New Moon and the declaration of the start of the month of Nissan. The most popular choice for the crucifixion is early April.

Why isn't Theophilus of Caesarea on your list?

Because I am convinced it's a fake quote. 
There are several people who say that around 180 AD, Theophilus of Caesarea  said something like, "We ought to celebrate the birth-day of our Lord on what day soever the 25th of December shall happen." That's a game changing quote. Why wouldn't I include it? The answer is because I can't confirm the source.

Every time I see the quote from Theophilus, the sources cited are the same, and it looks like this: (Magdeburgenses, Cent. 2. c. 6. Hospinian, de origen Festorum Christianorum). Note these two things: Magdeburg and Hospinian.
The Magdeburg Centuries is a scholarly work written by a group of eight Lutheran ecclesiastical scholars from Magdeburg Germany in the 1500s. It covers the first 13 centuries of church history, with the quote coming from century 2. This is a respected work in Protestantism. So, it isn't like this work is without merit.
Then there is Rudolph Hospinian, who was also a Lutheran scholar from the 1500s. Best as I can tell, Hospinian was not one of the authors of the Magdeburg Centuries.
So why does one quote appear to have two sources? Am I dealing with two separate works cited here and they say the same thing? I don't know. I can't find either of them in English. The real problem I have is that the 
Magdeburg Centuries supposedly cites a quote from Theophilus of Caesarea, but I can't find the original. Well, something about that makes me suspicious.

Roger Pearse quite convincingly argues the Theophilus quote is a fake.


Are all evergreens forbidden by God?

No. Absolutely not. God delights in the use of trees and greenery in His worship.

(ISA. 41: 19) I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, the myrtle and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine and the box tree together
(ISA. 60: 13) The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; and I will make the place of My feet glorious.

Note -- Isaiah 60: 13 is AFTER Isaiah 44: 14-17! Verses about these same trees being used to craft pagan idols. In Isaiah 41, God plants the trees. In Isaiah 44, man uses them as false gods. In Isaiah 60, God redeems them for His worship. It's a picture of our own redemption. Very much a Christmas lesson.

Evergreen trees (Cyprus) were used to build and finish the Temple. Evergreen branches (myrtle, palm) were used to build booths during the Feast of Booths. The tree is innocent! It is the quite specific use of the tree that makes the difference. If used to worship God, He is pleased. If used to make an idol god, He is displeased. More accurately, it's the heart that makes the difference.

Did the Christmas Tree originate in worship of Semiramis and Nimrod?

No. As stated earlier, there is no evidence whatsoever for this. None. In fact, there is ample evidence to disprove it. Ancient Mesopotamia has no such tradition. Not only is there no evidence for the tradition in the first place, there is no evidence trail leading from deep ancient Mesopotamia to Germany in the 1500s. It is not sufficient to claim that a certain ancient people found symbolism in trees. It is also necessary to prove a link to the modern Christmas Tree. We can no more say the Christmas Tree comes from ancient Mesopotamia than we can say evergreen swags come from the Feast of Booths. As it stands, there is no similar ancient tradition and there is no clear link to the modern tradition. Until we see real evidence, we must conclude all such tales are fabrications.

Did the Christmas Tree originate in worship of Isis and Osiris?

No. There is no evidence for this whatsoever. There was a tree involved in the myth of Osiris, but exactly what kind of tree is in dispute. Most candidates were not even evergreen. None were pine. Even so, the Egyptians did not decorate with trees in response to the myth. The details surrounding this myth have absolutely nothing in common with the Christmas Tree. They are unrelated. Once again, it is not enough to claim a tree existed in a myth ergo Christmas Tree. We have to prove that they truly correlate. These do not.

Did Egyptians decorate their homes with evergreen trees in December?

No. Egypt isn't Germany. Egypt doesn't have a “winter.” Ancient Egypt recognized three seasons which were tied to the flooding of the Nile. December is in the rainy season, when the world is at its greenest. There is no psychological reason why anyone would bring evergreen into their homes in Egypt in the rainy season.

Did the Christmas Tree originate in worship of Cybele and Attis?

No. There is no evidence for this whatsoever. The cult of Cybele would decorate a tree with violets at the Spring “Hilaria” festival. On March 22nd, the tree was then brought to the temple, the next day the tree was mourned for, then the next day the tree was given a funeral and sometimes even buried. This is a far cry from the Christmas Tree. These people did not bring trees into their homes to decorate. Correlation does not prove causality. There has to be an actual line of evidence leading from one place (Hilaria, spring, Rome, 100 AD) to another place (Christmas, winter, Germany, 1500's AD). What people seem to forget when they dig for things like this is that the Romans did not invent the Christmas Tree, the Germans did.

Did Virgil speak of decorating trees for the Bacchus festival?

Yes. Virgil, in "Georgics" [agricultural things], Book 2, said that they hung images of Bacchus on trees. "Thee with glad hymns, O Bacchus, and to thee Hang puppet-faces on tall pines to swing." And that is all that he said. The tradition apparently was one where people would tie ropes to trees and swing from them. However, to prevent from getting hurt they started tying images of Bacchus to the tree so he could hang there. Decorated trees is a similarity, but the other details are quite different. Correlation does not prove causation. We require a lot more than merely what barely even seems to be surface similarity. That a tree was involved is insufficient. There were several instances of trees being decorated in ancient times. There also needs to be an actual line of evidence leading from one place (Bacchus, Rome, 100 BC) to another place (Christmas, Germany, 1500's AD). What's more, if this is the true origin, then the source cannot be any of the other things people claim.

Did Romans decorate their homes with evergreen trees in December?

No. Rome had no such tradition of decorating with evergreen trees. One would think if the tradition were really unbroken to the time of Nimrod that somebody in the Mediterranean would observe it. Rome did have a tradition of decorating with evergreen swags for the New Year. 
Tertullian, in his book "On Idolatry", chapter 15, written somewhere from 203-211, specifically stated that the Romans decorated with Laurels (a fragrant evergreen): "You will now-a-days find more doors of heathens without lamps and laurel-wreaths than of Christians." But, then again, this same Tertullian, in his book "Apology", chapter 35, written just a few years earlier in about 197 AD, says Christians did neither of those things: "Why, on the day of gladness, do we neither cover our door-posts with laurels, nor intrude upon the day with lamps?" So, we find ourselves understandably confused here. Did they, or didn't they? Bear in mind, decorating wasn't a pagan religious thing necessarily, but more a national event, it was swags not trees, it was laurels not pine, on doorways not indoors, and it was at New Year's not December 25th. The claim implies that all of these things happened anciently on December 25th but that simply is not the case. Know that before Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, Roman New Year was March 1, not January 1 (technically, the New Year was moved to Jan 1 in 153 BC, but most people ignored that until Caesar's reforms). So, if this was a New Year tradition, it originated as a spring tradition, but was carried to January. My point is, these things had nothing to do with December. The Christmas garlands of evergreen may have originated from this Roman practice as best as anyone can tell. 
But don't be too quick to condemn garlands. The Temple in Jerusalem was decorated in garlands of silver. Garlands, in and of themselves, are not pagan.

Does Jeremiah 10 condemn Christmas Trees?

No. Jeremiah 10 is neither for nor against Christmas Trees. Jeremiah 10 is not talking about Christmas Trees or any precursor to the Christmas Tree at all. There simply was no such tradition in that place at that time for Jeremiah to talk about, let alone one so pervasive that Jeremiah should actively warn against it. Jeremiah 10, just like Isaiah 40, talks about chopping down a tree then carving it into an idol to worship. Jeremiah and Isaiah speak about the useless futility of a hand-made god in comparison to the One Living God. What was Jeremiah talking about? Something much more like this, an Asherah:

This claim was popularized by Herbert Armstrong in the mid-1900s. Our article on Jeremiah 10 and Christmas Trees goes into far greater depth on this than we can do here. The entire issue is that one must read Christmas Trees into Jeremiah 10. One never reads Christmas Trees out of Jeremiah 10. We prefer to let the Bible interpret the Bible.

Where did the Christmas Tree tradition come from, then?

The origin of Christmas Tree is not perfectly clear. The traditional story of Martin Luther is certainly just a legend. But the origin is without a doubt Germanic and from around Luther's time. Most likely, the Christmas Tree tradition comes from another peculiar German tradition. From the eleventh century to the fifteenth century, the medieval Germans had a tradition of putting on Biblically-themed plays. One of them, the “Paradise Play” which was held on the Feast of Adam and Eve on December 24th, had a prop called the “Paradise Tree.” This tree mimicked the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Apples, Communion wafers, and other items decorated the tree. By the time the plays were finally shut down, the people had already begun to copy the Paradise Tree in their own homes. The move from public to private seems to be spurred on by the Reformation. The earliest known record of a decorated Christmas Tree is from the year 1521. The decorated tree caught on slowly and only began to gain real popularity in Germany in the late 1600's. This tradition made its way into England in 1800 when the German wife of King George III imported the tradition. This is generally recognized as when the tradition truly caught on.

I have read so many people claiming their chosen pagan group (usually Druids) loved trees, therefore that's where the Christmas Tree comes from. We here at this blog demand a lot more than just that type of flimsy reasoning. Commonality does not prove causality. Since we are on the topic of Druids, they were mainly from the area of England/Scotland/Ireland and parts of France - notice Germany is missing - their preferred tree was oak, not pine, and they died out long before the 1500s. These facts make the druids a very poor source.

Didn't St. Boniface start the tradition of Christmas Trees?

Our answer here is no. St. Boniface evangelized the Germanic people in the early 700s. As the story goes, he was travelling in the area of Hessen when he came across some pagans worshipping at a large oak which he called the Tree of Jupiter. He cut it down - supposedly, he chopped once and a strong wind blew the tree over from there. Then he planted an evergreen as a symbol of Jesus. The pagans converted and a church was built from the wood. This is claimed by many Catholics as being the origin of the Christmas Tree tradition.
Is this even historical? We cannot know. But there doesn't seem to be any real or legendary connection between that story and the Christmas Tree. Why didn't the tradition catch on for another thousand years, and why did Catholics avoid Christmas Trees in favor of Nativities? From what we have found, we are more convinced that the origin of the Christmas Tree tradition descends from the Paradise Plays. 

Didn't Martin Luther start the tradition of Christmas Trees?

It seems not. But he might be the origin of one of the decorations. As the story goes, Martin Luther was walking one night through the woods when he saw the starlight gleaming through the trees. This is claimed by many Protestants as being the origin of the Christmas Tree tradition.
Is this even historical? It is doubtful. There seems to be two differing opinions about this event. The first is that this story is the origin of Christmas Trees. The second is this is only the origin of lights on the Christmas Trees. Of these, the second is far more believable. Even though the timing is very good, with Martin Luther living around the time Christmas Trees began - the strongest claim to the first recorded Tree is in 1510 - the rest of the details do not fit. We find it hard to accept that Martin Luther went for a walk and that caused people to chop down trees, bring them home, and decorate them. It is far easier to believe that Martin Luther went for a walk and that caused people to add lights to their Christmas Trees. From what we have found, we are more convinced that the origin of the Christmas Tree tradition descends from the Paradise Plays.

Is the song "O Tannenbaum" secretly a worship song?

No. The song "O Tannenbaum" is not about a Christmas tree. Tannenbaum refers to any fir tree. A Weihnachtsbaum is a Christmas tree. The song isn't O Weihnachtsbaum. When the song was translated into English, they changed fir tree to Christmas tree and made it into a Christmas song.
The song is about the tree, not to the tree. Huge difference. People sing songs about things all the time. They sing about love, about home, and about hot dogs. No one accuses people of secretly worshipping hot dogs. If you are going to go around claiming songs about things are really secret forms of worship, you should hold to your own standard and stop listening to any song that isn't specifically about God.
Claims like this are particularly grieving, seeing as they are patently ridiculous on their face, yet people keep repeating them like they know something clever. It's not clever. It just makes you look silly when you say things like this.


Aren't some Christmas traditions from pagan origin?

Yes. That much is not in dispute. But not the majority by any means. A few - mistletoe, holly, swags of greenery - all of these definitely appear to have been borrowed from non-Christian sources. I say appear because the history is somewhat spotty. Some historians claim these items are not nearly as pagan as they are accused of being. For example, according to Ronald Hutton:
"...there seems to be no reference to the use of mistletoe in medieval or Tudor English Christmases" p.73
"The custom of kissing under a bunch of foliage appears to have commenced in the late eighteenth century..." p.75
Hutton, Ronald. Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. ch.4. Oxford Press, 2001.
So, even though mistletoe was without a doubt part of ancient Druidic ritual, its presence in recent Christmas is so far removed from the extinction of the Druids that it is highly improbable that one is a continuation of the other. Even the way the Druids used mistletoe bears no resemblance to its use at Christmas. So, what at first appears to be pagan isn't so simple on closer inspection.

And what of gift giving, didn't that come from Saturnalia? Not likely. If it did, it took an indirect route. Few people remember the Feast of St. Nicholas on December 6. This was the primary gift giving day of the season, not Christmas. It wasn't until after the Protestant Reformation that Christmas became the primary gift giving day, as Martin Luther and King Henry VIII made changes to distance themselves from the Catholic Church. Prior to the reformation, Christmas was about going to Mass and having a nice family meal with some games and various festivities. St. Nicholas' Day has a valid Christian reason for the gifts - it honored the generosity of St. Nicholas Bishop of Myra. If there is some hold over from Saturnalia in St. Nicholas' Day, I haven't read anything claiming it.

The idea we argue against here is this: a thing is used in paganism and also in Christianity, therefore Christians adopted it from pagans. (We speak on the "once pagan always pagan" claim elsewhere, so I will skip that.) Just because one thing comes after another thing doesn't mean they are related. This is the logical fallacy of "post hoc ergo propter hoc" or "after this therefore because of this". Mistletoe was used by pagans. Mistletoe is used by some Christians. But what we do not have is a historically documented connection. There seems to be a very large gap between the two. Also, the specifics of the usage are not at all the same. Druids used mistletoe as a medicinal magic while Christians - after the 1600s - simply decorate and kiss under it. The people are not the same, the time is not the same, the use is not the same. Are they genuinely related? Only in the barest surface sense.

Let's take a moment to understand the people who started using items like holly and mistletoe as Christian symbols. In a culture where most people are uneducated and illiterate, images and symbols hold a far greater place than what we now may be used to. These items were useful as symbols to teach about Jesus. Such things as these were all the learning tools many people had. If holly could be used to teach about the crown of thorns and the blood, then why not use it? Because it was also used by pagans? They might not have even known it was used that way. Just because we know about that doesn't mean they did.

Where does Santa Claus come from?

Santa Claus is a complicated mix of three previous characters: the real Saint Nicholas the Bishop of Myra, the German Protestant Christkindl (Christ Child), and the English Protestant Father Christmas. When Bishop Nicholas died on December 6, 343, he became so beloved that he is arguably the most popular saint in Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. It was inevitable that legends would develop. His generosity led to the custom of gift giving on his feast day, December 6. It was not until centuries later that Christmas became the day of gift giving. When Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation, he ended the veneration of saints and their feast days. He moved the gift giving tradition to Christmas Eve and created a new gift bringer: the Christkindl (the Christ Child). When King Henry VIII of England split from the Catholic Church, he also ended veneration of saints, moved gift giving to Christmas Eve, and created a new gift bringer: Father Christmas. Henry borrowed the appearance of the Roman god Saturn for this new character. This is the same appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Present we read about in Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol." Note that Father Christmas is not Saturn; only the outward appearance was borrowed. This appearance, it should be understood, has since been almost entirely replaced by modern Santa imagery.
We should also mention the German Weihnachtsmann. In the 1800s, Germany was experiencing a secular movement. It was the secular Germans who borrowed imagery of Father Christmas and Saint Nicholas to create the Weihnachtsmann. This gift bringing character has changed in the recent years to bear a much closer resemblance to the original Saint Nicholas.

In America's great melting pot is where these figures merged into a new one. In 1809, Washington Irving (of Headless Horseman fame) wrote a history of the Dutch in New York. In it, he shared a poem about Saint Nicholas (although Protestant, the Dutch loved St. Nicholas and he was the patron saint of New York). This St. Nicholas wore a wide-brimmed Dutch hat and trunk clothes, smoked a pipe, laid his finger on his nose, and drove a flying wagon. This poem was the inspiration for Clement Moore's infamous "A Visit From Saint Nicholas" (aka. Twas The Night Before Christmas) in 1823. It was a hit! This was a game changer for Santa. Moore's St. Nick relied on popular Dutch imagery in his day - his clothes were either red or green fur (you can see the Dutch is blending with the English), he rode in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. 
For the first time we have the jolly, plump Santa. And due to the growing popularity of stoves and stove pipes over open hearths and chimneys, Santa was now much smaller with miniature sleigh and reindeer, as he had to fit into the small stove pipes. The image changed again in 1862 when Thomas Nast (creator of the Republican Elephant and Democrat Mule) popularized Santa in red fur. The North Pole was introduced at this time; no doubt as a slight to the Confederate South. Until then, Saint Nicholas was often depicted as living in New Jerusalem or some other Heavenly estate. Modern Santa Claus had arrived - just in time to almost die out because now even the stove pipes had been replaced by radiators and duct heating. The last step for our modern Santa was in the 1930s when Haddon Sundblom (creator of the Quaker Oats man) created the iconic image of the modern Santa Claus for a Coca Cola ad campaign. This ad campaign single-handedly saved Santa. The rest is history.

Did Santa Claus evolve from Odin?

No. There are many claims that Santa evolved from Odin, but that is not the case. Santa Claus is entirely a product of Christianity, and is very recent. Odin was styled after Saturn. Because of vague similarities between Saturn and Odin, and because of Henry VIII's Father Christmas was patterned on Saturn's appearance, some people have concluded that Santa evolved from Odin. Granted this is logical, but it is incorrect. The Father Christmas / Weihnachtsmann characters, with their traditional appearances borrowed from Saturn, were all products of their time and place.

Does God condemn Christmas traditions?

No. We find that people condemn these things ...despite what is in the Bible or Christian practice. Most of the traditions associated with modern Christmas can be found in the Bible. In addition to novel holidays (EST. 9: 20-28; JON. 10: 22-23), and gift-giving (EST. 9: 22), God also lists the use of statues in His worship (EXO. 25: 17-19), garland, bells and fruit (EXO. 28: 33-34; 39: 25-26; II COR. 3: 16), lights, flowers and ornamentation (EXO. 25: 31-37), greenery (LEV. 23: 40; NEH. 8: 13-15), and other things I could list but won't. It doesn't appear to matter if things are in the Bible. Some people just don't seem to care. Sadly, it seems all some people want is to maintain the narrative of condemnation. I get email and comments from people regularly who stretch beyond limit to condemn Christmas. One even claimed if there were any pagan holidays in December or the neighboring months then Christmas was pagan. By that standard, all things whatsoever are pagan!

Is Santa just an anagram of Satan?

No. The etymology of Santa is known and clear. This is schoolyard nonsense and too silly to seriously respond to.

Does Santa Claus come form the ancient Hittite god Santa?

No. This is based on false etymology. Just because words sound alike does not mean they are related. The etymology of Santa Claus is known and clear. Santa comes from a shortening of the word saint, and Claus comes from a shortening of the name Nicholas - specifically Saint Nicholas. This is its origin. There is no ambiguity here. 
There are no other connections whatsoever between Saint Nicholas and the minor Bronze Age Anatolian warrior god of plagues and possibly the underworld from 1800 BC. Other names for this god include Sananta, Saanda, Sandes and Sandas. It is speculated the name comes from the word for anger. These details do not point toward any kind of a connection.

Is "once pagan always pagan" a valid Biblical position to take?

Unlikely. God Himself used many things that were previously pagan in order to teach us about Him. Temples, a "holy of holies", priests, days of rest, feast days, harvest festivals, circumcision, alters, sacrifices, arks (ie. Ark of the Covenant), a mercy seat, prayers, music, incense, sacred documents, tithes, and many more things were all of pagan employ long before Moses wrote the Torah. Why the very Ark of the Covenant itself is patterned directly from the Egyptian palanquin. The Spirit of God was carried around for years on an Ark patterned directly after an Egyptian religious box. Did you know Hebrew originally had no vowels? Other languages had vowels. Are vowels pagan? Spacing between words and left-to-right orientation are both of pagan origin. There are a great many other things I could list here, but I will spare you. We can see that "once pagan always pagan" is neither practical nor Biblical. The phrase isn't in there; the implication isn't in there. Now consider the many inane claims that even Jesus himself came from pagan myths and you will see that pagan similarities do exist, and that some people are more than willing to take this line of thinking to a wild extreme in order to justify themselves.
Paul directly addressed the idea of 'once pagan always pagan'. People were worried meat offered to idols was still pagan and would contaminate them. Paul said no. 
(I COR. 10: 25-28) 25 Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake; 26 for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.” 27 If any of those who do not believe invites you to dinner, and you desire to go, eat whatever is set before you, asking no question for conscience’ sake.   
It was only when the meat was still being used in a pagan capacity that Paul said to avoid it. 
(I COR. 10: 28) 28 But if anyone says to you, “This was offered to idols,” do not eat it for the sake of the one who told you, and for conscience’ sake; for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness.”
So we are left with some choices: 1) throw out the entire day because of a handful of incidentals, 2) enjoy the day but abstain from the particular traditions that make us uncomfortable, 3) enjoy the day and all of the traditions in their new, redeemed meanings.

Some people know Christmas decorations are nothing, while others are terribly afraid of these things defiling their conscience. Neither group is condemned by Paul, but both are commanded to live in peace and patience with one another. Paul goes through it again in I Corinthians 10: 23-33, and again in Romans 14: 5-13. Therefore, it is crystal clear that calling people "pagan" or "Nimrod worshipers" or whatever epithet is thrown around - from either side - is against the law of love and contrary to the Bible both in word and in Spirit.

Doesn't Deuteronomy 12:2-4 condemn anything of pagan origin?

No. That is an attempt to proof-text a few verses and craft a new context for them.

(DEU: 12: 2-4) 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.

In verses 2-4 God says to destroy the places where the heathen nations worshiped their gods. He did not want to be worshiped that way. In verses 5 to the end of the chapter, God speaks of a place where He will be worshiped. The focus in this chapter is the place. But why did God do this? In the Old Covenant, people and place are important. The point of the matter is to keep Israel separate and prevent them from turning to idolatry. God chose the people and land of Israel for Himself. The rest was given over to idolatry. Other laws were enacted for this very same reason - to keep Israel separate - such as meats laws, circumcision, and marriage prohibitions. This chapter has nothing to do with "once pagan always pagan." For evidence, consider God commands Israel to destroy temples and altars and images ... and then He turns right around and commands them to build a temple with altars and images [Yes, images! (EXO. 25: 18-22)]. If this chapter was about once pagan always pagan, God would not have done this. Once pagan always pagan does not factor in. Yet when the time came, Jesus obsoleted this chapter about place, explaining to the Samaritan woman that true worship would not be this way any longer (JON. 4: 20-24).

Doesn't Deuteronomy 12: 29-32 condemn making new Christian traditions?

No. That is an attempt to proof-text a few verses and craft a new context for them.

(DEU. 12: 29-31) 29 “When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

This particular topic is far more complicated than we can cover here, but let's touch on some basics. First, these verses must be taken in the context of the chapter (also see the section about verses 2-4 above) which this claim completely ignores. The chapter is about Israel displacing the heathen nations in Palestine, it is about keeping Israel separate and distinct, it is regarding the practices of the abrogated Old Covenant, and it is directly about abominable practices that would draw Israel away from God. Second, neither the Jews nor the overwhelming Christian community in their combined history have taken these verses as a ban on new traditions. Third, the idea of banning novel traditions does not come from this chapter, it is read into this chapter. People who proof-text this selection of verses have already come to their conclusion regarding traditions and are looking for some form of justification. Fourth, the people who make stands on this proof-texted selection of verses are generally violating it themselves. Not a single one of them keep the tenets of the Old Covenant as written; legion are the excuses why not. All of them have their own novelties, quite a few borrowed from other religious groups. Sixth, this objection assumes Christmas in general comes from paganism, which we have and many others have demonstrated it does not.
Lastly, if creating new holidays and traditions without a direct command from God were indeed banned, we wouldn't see the Jews doing exactly that in Esther 22, and we wouldn't see Jesus observing Hanukkah in John 10.

Do Matthew 15: 9 and Mark 7: 7 condemn Christmas and its traditions?

No. That is an attempt to proof-text a few verses and craft a new context for them.

(MAT. 15: 9) And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.
(MAR. 7: 7-8) And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men —the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”

What is the context of these verses? Jesus was accused of violating the law, so He turned the tables and accused the religious establishment in Israel of putting minutiae of law over and above the weightier matters of the law - love and the value of human life. Turns out it was not He but their legalism that had actually nullified the law - to the point where a person could give money to the temple and justify ignoring their elderly parents and thus violating the commandment to honor father and mother. Jesus was telling the Pharisees that their hands and cups were clean but their hearts were filthy. Jesus ultimately undoes the very point of the people who look to these proof-texted verses for aid against Christmas tradition. Nothing from the outside defiles a person, but what comes from inside can.

(MAR. 7: 14-16) 14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!”

Christmas trees and holly cannot defile you, but a heart of false accusation and condemnation against your brother can. In the words of Jacob Marley:
"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The deals of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Can I accidentally commit idolatry?

No. I am shocked by how often I have been asked this over the years. It is impossible to accidentally commit idolatry. Idolatry cannot come from outside of you. Idolatry must come from inside, from the heart. Idolatry is not a thing or a thoughtless act (such as stooping down to pick up a gift from under a tree equals kneeling in worship of the tree). Idolatry is an act of worship. Learn from the story of Naaman the Syrian who was healed of his leprosie by Elisha the prophet (II KIN. 5: 1-19). Naaman was obligated to kneel to the idol at the temple of Rimmon but his heart did not worship there (v. 18), and God pardoned him (v. 19).
My heart goes out to people who seriously ask questions such as this. The fear; the uncertainty in their Lord to love and keep them! False teachers have done this to people. But no incidental act is more powerful than God. No trinket can undo the victory Jesus gained on the cross. Listen to Him:

(JON. 10: 27-30) 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.

Did a court case in Salon, Ohio in 1990 prove Christmas has no religious roots?

No. How can it have no religious roots of it was started by Christians? Or pagans for that matter? This claim is utterly ridiculous. The point made wasn't about its roots, anyway. It was about its current state. The least anyone could do is describe it correctly.
If you've never heard of this one, count yourself lucky. This is the first argument made against Christmas in the Restored Church of God's anti-Christmas booklet "The True Origins of Christmas" written by Dave Pack. The very few other places I've found this claim all copy the RCG's book. I can only assume this claim is largely ignored because anyone not motivated by confirmation bias finds it quite simplistic. 
What happened was the school board for Salon, Ohio, a small suburb outside of Cleveland, took it upon themselves to ban any Christmas celebration, claiming it violated church and state know, because of its religious roots. The parents sued and based their defense on the current state of Christmas being a secular celebration observed around the world. The parents won, and Christmas was reinstated.
How does anyone write a book about true origins and completely misrepresent their very first point? It's not like 1990 is the ancient past and source material is hard to come by.

For more about Dave Pack, we recommend the Banned By HWA! blog:


Was Jesus born on December 25th?

No one knows. He could have been born on this day. He could have been born on another day. There is no definite answer. There are plenty of reasons both for and against. Some people say that astronomy proves Jesus was born on or near December 25th. The evidence is interesting, but ultimately inconclusive. There is too much guessing. December 25 is a serious option simply because of the Course of Abijah. The priests served twice, so the other Abijah date would place the nativity in either late June or early September. You end up with either Jesus Christ or John the Baptist being born at Christmas time. A third alternative is that Jesus was born on or very close to the Feast of Trumpets. That could even make Jesus' birthday September 11th. Imagine the implications of that!

The long and the short of the research here at As Bereans Did is not that December 25 is the correct date, but that it is not a pagan date. It can be innocent of paganism yet be incorrect. If it's right it's right, if it's not it's not, but it isn't borrowed from paganism. That's all we here have ever claimed.

Doesn't the Course of Abijah rule out December 25th?

No. There are so very many interpretations for when the Course of Abijah served that it is nearly impossible to tell which is the correct one. The courses also served twice per year. Which one was Luke referring to – the first or the second? I can't tell you how many websites I've read that say the course of Abijah ran in (pick a month .. let's go with June here) therefore Jesus was born in September. Not so fast! The timing of the Course of Abijah was one of the earliest supporting proofs given in defense of December 25th. John Chrysostom was known to have used it. Therefore it cannot preclude a December 25th date. There are ways to calculate the courses of Abijah that very much support a December 25th birth. Therefore, the course of Abijah can only support December 25th or be neutral about December 25th, it cannot rule December 25th out.

Was Jesus born during the Feast of Tabernacles?

Unlikely. No one knows, but with Tabernacles there is valid reason to conclude the likeliest answer is no. If the time of year was Tabernacles, or Passover or Pentecost for that matter, every male should have been in Jerusalem. Luke doesn't say a thing about Tabernacles at all. Luke tells us why Joseph was in Bethlehem – he was there for the census. Luke appears to say people went to their homes for this census (LUK. 2: 3). If all people, or even some people, were in their home towns, then these people were not in Jerusalem. Hence why the Inn in Bethlehem was full. Joseph's ancestral home was Bethlehem. It is possible he may have owned land there. That is why he and others were there. Joseph should not have stayed in Bethlehem for the Feast, nor either should the other people who had filled the Inn before he got there, nor either should the people whose stable Joseph stayed in, nor either should the shepherds who were in the fields. None of them should have been in Bethlehem. They would have missed the Feast contrary to the law. If this were at Tabernacles then those people would be in and around Jerusalem. To put Jesus' birth at Tabernacles is too problematic to be a good option.

Do shepherds outside at night mean Jesus' birth could not be in the winter?

No. Bethlehem produced sheep for the sacrifices in Jerusalem. They had shepherds outside all year round. December is the rainy season, a prime time for feeding in the arid Israeli climate. That time period wasn't far from the peak of the Roman Warm Period, which made climate was warmer than we see it today. Now, bear in mind that Jerusalem is on the same latitude as Tucson, Arizona, Dallas, Texas, San Diego, California, Bermuda, the Sahara Desert, and etc, and you can see that their idea of "cold" is not at all the same as the white Christmas many people dream of.

Does a birth in winter ruin the symbolism because sheep don't lamb in winter?

No. Sheep can lamb in winter.

Was the census of Luke 2 in the winter?

Uncertain. The census in Luke 2: 1-5 is one of the most heavily debated points in all of the New Testament. Some say the entire census itself was unlikely to have happened, and give reasons. Others say it was certain, and give reasons. For the purposes of this question, we are surprised to find the scholars so busy debating the fact of the census itself that virtually no discussion happens on the time of year a census would be held. I notice some in the anti-Christmas camp, like the United Church of God, quote Alexander Hislop for his position that the census absolutely would not have happened in the winter due to the bitter weather. We do not hold anything Alexander Hislop has to say in any positive regard. We have multiple articles explaining why Hislop is wholly unreliable. (Also, Read Ralph Woodrow's book The Babylon Connection for more detail.) Hislop's claim Rome would never have subjected its citizens to a census in winter because it was simply too cold does not convince us. We deal with shepherds in the field elsewhere here. But winter was unusually opportune time in Rome for such things. Romans did not go to war in winter. It is precisely this excess of down-time that led to winter being so filled with feast days. This is all circumstantial. We need something more solid here. The best information we can find merely indicates these events could last for months, sometimes years, and the citizens involved could appear for registration whenever it suited them. Therefore, it is not best to think of anyone calling a census or tax in winter, per se, but to think of it as a census or tax being called which might stretch for months and include the winter. Therefore, precisely when Augustus or anyone else commanded the registry is little help in knowing when Joseph decided to comply with it. In the end, we can confidently say we cannot make any definitive statement one way or the other at this time. Let's just leave it as - it's possible. 
Remember, our point here at ABD is not that December 25 is the day of Jesus' birth, just that it wasn't pagan. And it wasn't, even if Jesus was born at another time of year.

What are the Twelve Days of Christmas?

They are the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany.


Did the English outlaw Christmas for a time?

Yes. King Charles I oppressed the Puritans, but they rose up in a civil war and took power in England. The English government was heavily influenced by Puritans under their new leader, Oliver Cromwell. The Puritans were pious anti-Catholics who despised anything overly festive and anything Catholic. Since Christmas was both festive and came to us through the Catholics, they hated it. The name was changed from Christ-mass to Christ-tide (to further remove Catholic elements). At first, people were still allowed to close shops and attend special church services. Christmas was ordered to be a day of fasting. Government officials were allowed to raid homes and confiscate goods and food upon the mere suspicion that people were celebrating Christmas privately in their homes. Suspicion that a family was eating a dinner that might be more fancy or larger than what is expected on a normal day was grounds for such a raid. It wasn't just Christmas that they banned, but most holidays. Eventually shops were ordered to remain open and the day commanded to be a normal day without special church services or other festivities.
The question we ask is – is this really the example people should follow?

Did the early colonialists in America outlaw Christmas?

Yes, but not all early colonialists. It was the Puritans of New England that outlawed Christmas. Other Protestants, like the Dutch in New Amsterdam (New York City), loved Christmas. The Puritans in America were in most things exactly like their counterparts in England – except they were even more radical. These are the people who fled to America partly because they were oppressed and partly because they didn't think the anti-Catholic reformations of Puritans in England went far enough. The Puritans in America banned Christmas. No enjoyment was allowed to be sought, not even the most mundane. Playing card games on the day brought penalties. Not the best example to follow, if you ask us.

Was Christmas shunned by early Americans?

Yes, but not all Americans. It was mainly the Puritans of New England that shunned Christmas. Some, like the Dutch of New Amsterdam (New York City), very much loved Christmas. Some anti-Christmas groups will tell you a great deal about the Puritans outlawing Christmas, but will not type a single word about the Dutch who brought us Santa Claus. I have heard a very big deal made of the first Capitol Christmas Tree being purchased in 1889, but that ignores the fact that Christmas Trees weren't popular until the latter 1800s, and ignores the fact that the first Christmas Party in the Whitehouse was in 1800. That was the very year John Adams and his family moved into the Whitehouse as its first occupants. On November 1, 1800, John Adams moves in. Less than two months later, they have a Christmas party. So yes, some early Americans shunned Christmas but not all.


Isn't Christmas the worst time of the year for crime?

No. According to modern statistics, crime rates are not higher in winter but lowest in winter. It only makes sense that people who turn to crime for gain are too lazy to face the elements. They would rather prey on their fellow man in the comfort of good weather.

Doesn't the suicide rate skyrocket at Christmas?

No. Suicide rates are not higher in winter but spring.


Should I observe Christmas if I don't know the exact right day of Jesus' birth?

That's up to you. But let's examine whether this is actually a consistent standard to go by or a convenient excuse to use. We don't know the exact right day for many things. Take for example the decades-long argument in Armstrongism over when Pentecost should fall. There are several interpretations on how to calculate Pentecost. Would you say it is right to dump Pentecost? I doubt it. Or when is the exact right day for Passover? Armstrongism follows the modern Jewish calendar to determine Passover. Problem is, the modern Jewish calendar is different from the ancient Jewish calendar. They are not the same by any means. So we don't really know when the exact correct date of Passover should be. Would you advocate no longer celebrating Passover, then? I doubt it. Now think about this, if we don't know when Passover should be then we don't really know when any of the other Holy Days should be. What's even more, IF the Lunar Sabbath theory is correct, then people haven't been observing the weekly Sabbath on the right day. So I ask again, is it a consistent rule or a convenient excuse to reject something because we don't know the exact right day it should fall on? Appears to me to be an excuse.

Should I observe Christmas if it wasn't among the early feasts of the church?

That's up to you. Christmas was not among the earliest feasts, this much is true. The early feasts of the church were basically ordered around the weekly and annual gatherings to celebrate the death and resurrection and various fasts, and were different from area to area. The church was in its infancy and many things were not fleshed out at that point. Many people have an honest and well-meaning desire to "return to original Christianity" but most of those people have little real understanding of exactly what that means or all it entails. We recommend using your best judgment in faith and much prayerful consideration. But if your concern is that the church cannot make new annual feasts, please see the next point.

Should I observe Christmas if we aren't directly commanded in the Bible to celebrate Christmas?

That's up to you to decide. But let's look further into that. The Bible nowhere says to avoid holidays it does not command. This idea didn't come from the Bible. The Jews had days they were required to observe. They could observe no fewer, but nothing said they could observe no more. In fact the Bible shows the opposite. The Jews made up holidays and God not only recorded it in the Bible but personally took part in those days. Hanukkah is not commanded, but Jesus participated (JON. 10: 22). Or take Purim for example. Esther 9: 27 tells us, “The Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time...”.  
Now look what else they did:

(EST. 9: 22) "as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor."

Sounds an awful lot like Christmas, doesn't it?
So what can we see here? It is not at all a sin to create a holiday to honor God. It is Biblical to do so. God apparently even participates.

Should I observe Christmas if, in the Bible, only pagans celebrate their birthdays?

That's up to you to decide. Let's investigate this claim a little more before you make up your mind.
The claim begins by stating the only birthdays mentioned in the Bible are ones being observed by pagans (Pharaoh in GEN. 40:20, and Herod Antipas in MAT. 14: 6 and MAR.6: 21). The argument continues that since only pagans are seen doing it, and it wasn't a Jewish custom, it is a pagan practice and therefore is not allowed. Origen is usually cited in support. Now, let's look at some counter arguments.
  • The Bible says nothing specifically for or against birthdays, and only mentions them as part of the narrative of events.
  • Birthdays are not religious observances and therefore are not technically pagan, regardless of who was or was not involved. A thing must be religious in order to be pagan in the context we are concerned with here. It is disingenuous to elevate something to a religious act in order to condemn it as pagan. This means anything and everything the Jews didn't do is now a sin. Is that really wise?
  • Most of the people using Origen as a support disagree with Origen's other positions. He is one of two Early Church Fathers not canonized as a saint (Tertullian is the other), so even most mainstream Christians disagree with some of his ideas. So, are his opinions authoritative or not?
  • Jesus' birth is not like our own. Our birthdays mark us being one year older. Christmas does not. Christmas is not a "birthday" in the same respect as Pharaoh's or Herod's or anyone else's. It commemorates the first day only. Jesus is God made flesh. Although every birth is a miracle in one sense, Jesus' birth is a miracle in quite another sense entirely. It is arguably the second most important event in the history of mankind.
  • The same people saying 'Jews didn't do something therefore we shouldn't do it' also say 'the things Jews did do aren't things we should do.' In other words, they don't really care what the Jews did or didn't do. This is just an argument of convenience.
  • Many of the people who argue against Jesus' birthday celebrate other birthdays.
  • The two birthdays we mentioned at first aren't really the only birthday celebrations mentioned. There is another: Jesus' own. There was a celebration. The angels sang and praised God and gave news of great joy, and the shepherds worshipped. To say we only see two birthday celebrations is not exactly true. The one and only birthday heaven itself celebrated is the one we should most resolutely avoid?
If you are getting hung up on the birthday aspect, I humbly suggest you are missing the point. Honoring this birth, specifically, is hardly comparable to a any other birthday. It isn't a birthday celebration quite so much as it is a celebration of the Incarnation of God in flesh, come to save us from ourselves.

Does Christmas distract from the death and resurrection?

No. What an odd thing it would be if the incarnation - which is necessary for the death - somehow distracted from the death. Was the incarnation of our Lord not a miraculous work of God, foretold by prophets, attended by angels, accompanied by signs (the star, the presence of John the Baptist, the visitations both to Mary and Joseph, born of a virgin, the death of the innocents), rich with prophetic imagery (the manger prophesying Jesus as true food from Heaven, the prophetic words of Elizabeth calling Mary the Mother of her Lord, the gifts of the Magi predicting Jesus' death), and did it not fulfill the specific timing as prophesied in Daniel?? The birth was no small event! Some have claimed that the birth distracts from the God's plan for mankind. The birth and the death are linked; they are mutually dependent. If the birth somehow distracts, then what doesn't? If the birth distracts, then so does the Old Testament - especially the Exodus - and so does His childhood, and so does His 3-year ministry, and all the Christian era after His resurrection, and all other things besides. OR! We can see all of these things as parts in a single story, all necessary, all linked, all wonderful, all bringing glory to God. Nothing distracts because it's all part and parcel of the glorious story that God has been authoring from the very beginning.

Doesn't Christmas make God look weak, focusing on a baby?

I don't think so at all. No more than remembering His death makes Him look weak, focusing on a corpse. Was Jesus once a baby? Yes. Then, He was once a baby. It is simply so. Was He once a wandering preacher? Yes. Then, He was once a man wandering about in the dust. It just is. Was He once dead? Yes. Then, He was once a corpse. Is what it is. To remember these things doesn't make God become these things, it just remembers important milestones in history. Do you have children? Do you remember them as babies? Does that make your children become babies? No. (Some days I wish it did!) It's just an important milestone in their lives. We remember God in His glory before the incarnation, as a baby, as a man, as a corpse, and again in His glory today. We can remember it all! None of it takes away from anything else. All are necessary parts of His plan.

Doesn't the Bible say not to 'learn the way of the Heathen'?

Yes, the Bible says that. But what was the actual context of what the Bible means? Jeremiah was talking about learning the God-rejecting ways of Gentile pagan idolatry and the worship of false gods. “Learn not the way of the heathen” in this context begs the question that Christmas was heathen to begin with. The entire thrust of our research here at ABD leads us to conclude that Christmas and Christmas Trees were never pagan to begin with. Paganism must be assumed contrary to the evidence. Then, from that false starting point, all forms of accusation are heaped on top of these things. All of this in wanton abandonment of the fact that Christmas is meant to honor Jesus Christ, not some false god.

If it's Jesus' birthday, why give gifts to everyone but Him?

And how exactly do you propose we give Him gifts? His address is certainly not listed and everything belongs to Him already. Or, we could give to Him the way He told us to - by giving to others.

(MAT. 25: 40, 45) 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

Now, if anyone gives you grief about this response, perhaps you might ask them how they give money to God by cutting a check to churches. Why do we give money to everyone but Him?

Should I observe Christmas since Santa has replaced Jesus?

That's up to you to decide. I will not be so foolish as to argue that Santa has not replaced Jesus. In the secular Christmas, it is clear Santa has replaced Jesus! You would not be alone if you actively avoid Santa. Many Christians do. However, it hardly seems reasonable to also avoid Christmas in an attempt to avoid things that remove Jesus from Christmas. It comes very close to you doing the same. What would the difference be between your effort and the secular effort? Not much. Some people will claim Santa Claus is a lie and Christians do not lie - all the while lying about the origins of Christmas. Well, that moral superiority didn't last long. Do what your conscience and faith demand. Only, please do not do it with judgment and condemnation in your heart towards your fellow Christian whose conscience and faith have led them to a different decision.

Should I observe Christmas when Santa is a lie?

That's up to you. Is Santa real? We all know the answer is no. If you don't like him, leave him out! But let's look at this love of truth just a little closer. A great deal of anti-Christmas material is based off of the claims of Alexander Hislop. Those claims are lies! So, no sooner have some groups explained their rejection of lies when they start handing out lies. That didn't age well! This entire FAQ was written to counter lies. You need to make a choice. Do you have a standard or don't you? Do you reject lies, or do you love some?

Should I observe Christmas since it has become so commercial?

That's up to you to decide. It has become quite commercial lately. Not because of Christians, mind you. It has become commercial despite Christians. I suggest rather than abandoning it we instead should reclaim it. Observe Christmas but turn it back into the holy memorial of our Savior's birth.

What if I take the word pagan out and put the word worldly in, now can I stop observing?

It's all up to you. You see the day isn't pagan, but you're still uncomfortable about the secular aspects. Look, if you dislike it so much, then by all means just stop. No need for the word games. Nothing in the New Covenant is forcing you to observe any day. If you don't observe, then to the Lord do not observe it. Simple as that. But, yet again, please leave the moral superiority at home. No one is any better or worse than anyone else if they abstain or observe, so long as they do it in faith. Is consumerism worldly? Yes! Bludgeoning your fellow Christian with the word "worldly" is no better than bludgeoning them with the word "pagan". Same act, different weapon. As the song goes, try a little tenderness. Here's an idea! Leave the worldly parts out of your celebration, retain the parts that benefit you, and let's retake the day together. We can sort out the details later.

Here are some resources to aid you in finding the truth about Christmas:

Material on ABD:

Falsely Accused? Christmas Trees and Germanic Paganism

Falsely Accused? Christmas Trees Were Christian Theater Props

Falsely Accused? Catholics Rejected Trees as Too Protestant?

Falsely Accused? Nazi Christmas Propaganda Lives On

Falsely Accused? You Decide

On Nimrod And Christmas Trees part 1

On Nimrod And Christmas Trees part 2

On Nimrod And Christmas Trees part 3

Nimrod's Birthday Was January 6?

Jeremiah 10 and Christmas Trees

A Dialogue On Jeremiah 10

The Plain Truth About December 25th

The Plain Truth About December 25th (full study)

The Quotes Before Christmas

Crazy About Christmas

Established And Imposed

Material off-site from ABD
(We add to this list as we find new material we like. Just because something is on this list does not mean it was source material for this post.):

"Calculating Christmas: Hippolytus and December 25" on Biblical Archaeology Review

"Calculating Christmas" on

"Calculating December 25 as the Birth of Jesus in Hippolytus’ Canon and Chronicon" on TCScmidtBlog

"Christmas Day – Was Jesus Really Born On December 25th" on

"Christmas and Paganism"  [ep.148] on

"Christmas In Rome Through The Ages" on

"Christmas Is Not Pagan", on

"Christmas: Pagan Festival or Christian Celebration?" on

“Christmas Reconsidered” (book) by Ralph Woodrow

"Debunking Pagan Holiday Myths" on

"December 25th Was Not An Ancient Pagan Holiday" on

"Early Christian Chronology and the Origins of the Christmas Date: In Defense of the 'Calculation Theory'" by Philip Northraft on

"Have Yourself a Very Pagan Christmas! (not)" on

"Horus Ruins Christmas" on Lutheran Satire

"Is Christmas A Pagan Holiday?" Dr. Michael Heiser's podcast [ep.195] on

"Is Christmas Pagan? No!" on

"Is Christmas Pagan?" on Stand To Reason

"Pagan Origins of Christmas" on Pious

"Hebrew Roots Movement, the Law and Christmas", on

"Redeeming Christian Holy Days: The Christians Stole December 25th" on

"Should Christians Celebrate Christmas" on

"Spurious Correlations" on

Star of Bethlehem documentary, on

"St Nicholas of Myra: A Guide to the Real Santa Claus" on

"The Word Became Flesh" Vance Stinson, of the Church of God International (CGI) [an Armstrongist splinter church] gives a message affirming much of what we've said here for years, on YouTube.

"The Pagan Origin of Christmas?" on Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries (OODE)

"Was Christ Actually Born on December 25" on

"Was Christ Born on December 25th? Yes!" By Dr. Taylor Marshall on YouTube

"What Day Was Jesus Born?" Dr. Michael Heiser's podcast [ep. 138] on

"Why December 25" on [I don't see any COG quoting this one.]

"Why December 25th" on

[Last updated: 01/19/2024]