This Masquerade Called Christmas
VISIT the Kelly family around the corner and the Joneses across the street on Christmas day and you will see that they celebrate the occasion about the same way thousands of other people do throughout the world. The Kellys are Catholics, have nine children, and are quite poor. The Joneses are Protestants, have three children, and are well-to-do. Circumstances like these make the annual December celebration in the two homes very different in many details.
For example, in the Kelly home is a tiny artificial Christmas tree left over from year before last. The Joneses have such a huge freshly-cut evergreen its top had to be removed to get it into the house. Nevertheless, in all purpose and intent, the spirit of the occasion in the two homes is essentially the same. Both houses are filled with an unusual atmosphere of mirth, and as they sit down to special Christmas dinners they momentarily forget their everyday sorrows and worries. Faithfully, they have attended their respective churches earlier in the day, where they heard the clergymen extol Christmas as a Christian celebration in honor of Jesus Christ.
But pause and think. What do such things as the Christmas tree with its trimmings and the holiday’s other accessories—mistletoe, holly, candles, yuletide logs, fruits and nuts, mince pies, and roast pig—have to do with the birth and life of Christ? Why the ever-increasing emphasis on the “Christmas spirit”: excessive wining and dining, drunkenness and licentiousness? Where did the “Santa Claus” myth originate? If December 25 is Christ’s birthday, then why do the Eastern and Orthodox churches celebrate Christmas on January 7?
WHEN WAS JESUS BORN?
The Bible, all will agree, is the only reliable history on the subject, and fortunately it does not leave us in doubt as to what time of the year Jesus was born. Zechariah, the priestly father of John the Baptist, was serving at the temple in the eighth course of the priesthood called that of “Abijah”. This was in the early part of June, and at that time the Lord’s angel informed him that Elizabeth his wife would shortly conceive a son who would be named John. (Luke 1:5, 8, 13, 23-28, AS) So when Jehovah’s angel visited Elizabeth’s cousin, Mary, during the sixth month of Elizabeth’s conception this would mark the time of year as December. The record, therefore, shows that it was at that time in December that this Mary, the mother-to-be of Jesus, became pregnant. Consequently, Jesus was not born in December, but rather, nine months later, around the latter part of September or the first of October.—Luke 1:26, 27, 30, 31, 36.
Furthermore, the Scriptures say that shepherds were in the open fields attending their flocks when Jesus was born. Hence it was autumn time before the rainy season, and not in December, when the flocks would be wintering in sheepfolds. (Luke 2:8-20; Ezra 10:9, 13) Moreover, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan river about the time of his thirtieth birthday, and that was not in the chill of winter. (Luke 3:21-23) Let it also be called to mind that Jesus was nailed to the tree when thirty-three and a half years old, and since this occurred at passover time in the spring of the year, necessarily he was born thirty-three years and six months previous, that is, in the fall of the year and not in December. So all the scriptures are very definite in proving that Jesus was not born anywhere near December 25 or January 7. Hence it is wrong to celebrate either of these dates as Jesus’ birthday.
Then how does it come that these dates have been so universally accepted for the celebration of Christmas? A look at ancient paganism shows that people thousands of years before Christ was born worshiped the ever-rising, ever-setting, never-dying sun as the source of life and immortality. Yearly they watched the days grow shorter until the winter solstice, on December 21, was reached, and then in jubilation over its “return” they held a great feast in honor of the “reborn” sun. When the tower-building experiment at Babel became confused sun worshipers were scattered throughout the world, and so among the early Scandinavians, Anglo-Saxons and Celts, as well as the Egyptians, Persians and others, riotous December feasting with drunken revelry and lewd rites were held. This feast among the pagan Romans was known as the “feast of Saturnalia”.
The obvious conclusion drawn from these facts is that the celebration of December 25 is purely of pagan and demonic origin. Says the Catholic Encyclopedia (vol. 3, page 727): “The well-known solar feast, however, of Natalis Invicti [‘Birthday of the Unconquered’], celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date.”
Early Christians had nothing to do with this pagan holiday. “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts,” says the Catholic Encyclopedia. However, as time went on and the Roman Catholic Church endeavored to win over more pagans, the clergy pinned a “Christian” label on the pagan Saturnalia on December 25 and sponsored it as the “mass of Christ” or “Christ-mass”.
Not only do the clergy admit this, they even try to justify it. James M. Gillis, C.S.P., editor of the Catholic World (Dec. 2, 1945), wrote: “It is a well-known fact that the popes and councils in the early Church deliberately placed a Christian festival on or near the day of a previously existing pagan carnival, with the purpose of ousting the heathenish and generally licentious celebration.” But how has the continued celebration of this pagan holiday with a Christian label on it ousted the heathenish celebration? Under clergy sponsorship and blessing the pagan customs have continued down until the present time.
ORIGIN AND MEANING OF XMAS CUSTOMS
Evergreens were used by the ancient sun worshipers as a symbol of immortality. In Egypt, where pine trees are not available, the green branches of palm trees were substituted. In India, oleander twigs were used, and the pagans of Rome decorated their homes for the grand Saturnalia feast with green boughs. Ivy and holly were likewise considered sacred by the ancient Greeks and others. The Druids held mistletoe especially sacred, and in their mystic rites on December 25 “the privilege of the mistletoe” allowed a youth to kiss a girl beneath it as long as the berries lasted, one for each kiss.
Lighted candles in the window hark back to the wax candles used by the Roman celebrators of the Saturnalia. The yule log was annually burned at the December festival by the Scandinavians. Long before so-called Christians in Italy took up the practice, the Chinese and Hindus used fireworks to make their worship of the demons as noisy as possible.
Even the special Christmas dishes of food and the use of potent alcoholic drinks originated with the pagans. Back in the days of Jeremiah, those that turned away from Jehovah’s pure worship baked special cakes for their goddess, “the queen of heaven,” and it is from that ancient practice that such things as “gingerbread men”, mince pies and the like originated. (Jer. 7:18) It was the Druids who roasted a boar’s head for their goddess Freya, and since then roast pig has been considered very appropriate for the Christmas dinner. The forerunner of the season’s punch bowl was the Anglo-Saxon wassail bowl with its intoxicating brew. Gluttony in both eating and drinking was as much a part of the celebration among the pagans as it is today among people of Christendom. The Bible, however, condemns such.—Prov. 23:21; Gal. 5:19-21; Phil. 3:19.
That red-cheeked, double-chinned, bewhiskered “jolly good fellow” called Santa Claus has had a much shorter association with the holiday than the other accessories. Some claim that a saintly bishop of Myre by the name of Nicholas, who lived in the fourth century after Christ, was the first “St. Nicholas”, and down through the dark Middle Ages he was considered the patron saint of pawnshops and beggars. He was depicted as a simple, pale and rather ascetic personage, until a cartoonist got hold of him in 1863 and dressed the “saint” up in gay togs. “St. Nick” in reality is a personification of the Devil, as The Century Dictionary points out.
The Devil has done everything possible to blaspheme and reproach the true and living God and to turn the people away from His pure worship. To accomplish both of these wicked purposes, as is done when so-called Christians celebrate Christmas, the Devil has employed every device of deception. Two major features of his scheme have been exposed, namely, the labeling of a pagan holiday as Christ’s birthday, and the continued use of pagan customs, symbols and practices in the name of Christ. In addition, Satan has so successfully bound the hearts and affections and emotions of the people to this God-dishonoring celebration that even when they are informed of the outright paganism of the whole affair many people are inclined to hold on to it as a cherished possession. “So what?” is their attitude. Overlook the bad features and look at the good that is accomplished, they say. Look at the spiritual uplift that is annually obtained—gifts to the poor, inspiring carol songs, Bible reading about ‘peace on earth, good will toward men’. A closer examination of these features, however, will also show them to be clever parts of the masquerade.
You may be surprised to learn that the giving of Christmas gifts is as pagan in its origin as the other customs. You object to this on the grounds that “wise men” brought gifts when Jesus was born? Well, that is just the point. Those “wise men” were devil-worshiping magi from the East, from Persia, and they came at the instance of the Devil and would have carried out his purpose of betraying Jesus to wicked Herod had God not intercepted the plan. On the other hand, God-fearing shepherds also came, but there is no record that they indulged in the pagan gift-giving practice. (Matt. 2:1-11; Luke 2:8-20) Tertullian and others tell how exchanging of gifts was a part of the Saturnalia celebration. And the hymns they sang at that feast were predecessors to the Christmas carols.
Let us be honest about the giving of food baskets to the poor at this season. What about the rest of the year? Will once-a-year giving by a nation that calls itself Christian appease God’s anger for its deliberate withholding necessities of life from the poor in order to keep prices high? Indeed not! No outward splurge of charity to Christmas funds will erase the wanton and sinful destruction of food and material—the killing off of pigs, the burning of coffee, the plowing under of cotton, the dumping of milk, eggs and potatoes. Surely God will hear the cry of the needy who are doled out a portion of food on Christmas and are neglected, forgotten and oppressed the rest of the year.—Ps. 9:16-18; Jer. 5:26-29; Amos 8:4-7.
Frankly, those that sing the loudest at Christmastime about “Peace on earth” are the very ones that are foremost in fighting against the only means of obtaining that lasting peace, namely, by and through God’s kingdom over which Christ Jesus rules. Hypocrites they are who honor God with their lips but with their hearts, minds and course of action oppose him. (Matt. 15:8) True Christianity, on the other hand, is not a once-a-year affair. It is a full-time, an all-the-time, way of life, a life filled full of singing Jehovah’s praise and the praise of his beloved Son, a life devoted to the doing of their will and the keeping of their commandments.—John 14:21, 23, 24; 15:9, 10; 1 John 2:3-6.
Let the Kellys and the Joneses and all the other sincere, honest and upright people who have slavishly celebrated the pagan holiday called Christmas now make a break for freedom. Let them come away into the pure worship of Jehovah God the Life-giver as that worship is set forth in the great Book of freedom and truth, the Bible. This will mean not only everlasting life to them, the following of such a Christian course, but also a happy life of eternity filled full of joy and gladness and pleasures forevermore.—John 17:3, NW.