Christmas Has a Long Reach
Not only does it now spread around the world; it also reaches far back into antiquity
YOU are jostled by the crowds that pack the department store. For the five hundredth time in recent weeks you hear over the loudspeakers the lilting tune of “Jingle Bells.” It goes well with the cash registers ringing up sales. Santa Claus is there in his red suit and white beard, giving presents to children that line up to sit on his lap. The “Merry Christmas” signs scattered about are in English, but the babble of voices surrounding you are in a strange tongue. You wonder where you are.
You are in Japan, a land the population of which is less than one percent Christian in religious affiliation. Since World War II Christmas has become a major celebration there.
Recently, Japanese Buddhists played up Christmas by decorating a 53-story building in Tokyo with colored lights outlining the form of the virgin Mary.
Regarding Japan, Newsweek magazine observed some time ago:
“Christmas is now the biggest holiday of the year. . . . The last days of December swim by in a series of parties in homes, offices, factories, and nightclubs that leave the nation with a colossal hangover on which to start the new year.”
Forests of Christmas trees decorate the shopping areas. Christmas cards are on display, but usually show the holy family and the angels with slanted eyes and black hair. Santa Clauses are everywhere, many of them women. One department store executive said: “We find women are better at winning the confidence of children, especially the little ones.” They are also popular with the bigger celebrators, for pretty-girl Santas are in restaurants and strip-tease Santas are in nightclubs.
HONG KONG, SINGAPORE, SOUTH KOREA, HAWAII, AFRICA
In Hong Kong 90 percent of the population is non-Christian Chinese, but by mid-October business districts are resplendent in Christmas decorations and jammed with shoppers. The rotund, white-bearded, red-suited gentlemen are everywhere, holding children on their laps and handing out presents. Communist-owned stores have been foremost in climbing onto the Christmas bandwagon.
In Singapore two months before Christmas huge signs at department stores proclaim “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!” Paintings depict Santa Claus and the birth of Jesus. Live Santas in the traditional red suits distribute sweets to children.
Christmas is one of the biggest holidays in South Korea, for nonbelievers as well as the 14 percent of the population who declare themselves to be Christian. The night spots are filled on Christmas eve, but family parties are more prevalent. Shoppers crowd into the department stores to buy gifts. Santa Clauses are present, as also are Christmas trees.
In Hawaii the Buddhists exchange Christmas gifts, decorate their homes for the holiday and hold family feasts.
Many non-Christian Africans in Kenya regard Christmas as a time for celebrating. On Christmas day they feast, drink beer, exchange gifts and dance. They work themselves into a frenzy from drumming and dancing all night. Many of their huts have Christmas trees decorated with flowers. Instead of the usual fir trees they use banana fronds or such evergreens as cypress trees.
COMMERCIALIZED CHRISTMAS REACHES COMMUNIST LANDS AND JEWRY
One traveler commented on his return to the United States:
“Recently, as we went through the inner sanctum of the Kremlin, the guide pointed to the ultramodern new Bolshoi theater and said, ‘That is where we put up a big fir tree and hold our Christmas celebration each year, the only difference being that we hold it on January 7, and you on December 25.’ In East Berlin last December, I was surprised to see very large, decorated Christmas trees in public places.”
Jews generally reject Jesus Christ, but most of them decorate their business places with Christmas ornaments, join in the office parties and send out holiday greeting cards. Regarding Hanukkah, Rabbi Morris Kertzer states in his book What Is a Jew?:
“American Jews have transmuted this minor festival into a major one largely because its traditional customs so closely parallel the Christmas celebration which occurs at the same time. . . . In imitation of the general atmosphere prevailing in December, Hanukkah is now marked by exchanges of gifts for young and old, and homes are gaily decorated with a variety of Hanukkah symbols.”
A former president of The Union of American Hebrew Congregations asked: “Has not Christmas become a universal holiday observed by all?” After mentioning how the Jews are swept up into the gift-giving and hilarious partying of Christmas, he says:
“If I were a Christian minister instead of a Jewish teacher, there is nothing that I would lament so much, and bitterly resent, as this wholesale transformation by myriads of Christians, by some Jews, and many non-believers in either Judaism or Christianity, . . . of such a holy day into so heathen a holiday, devoid of its profounder spiritual significance.”
CHRISTMAS REACHES BACK INTO ANTIQUITY
“Put Christ back in Christmas!” This is the cry frequently heard by many who sincerely wish to honor Christ Jesus on the anniversary of his birth. They fail to realize that Christ was never in Christmas. The Puritan Church of England not only ignored Christmas; they also prosecuted any unregenerated souls that dared to keep it in secret! In early New England, Christmas celebrations were forbidden by law because the Puritans were offended by the non-Christian origins of its customs and traditions.
On December 25 both Romans and ancient Greeks celebrated the birth of the unconquered sun. The practice traces back to Babylon. Nimrod was deified as the sun-god. When cut down by his enemies he was represented by a log, and when reborn he was symbolized by an evergreen tree. After documenting this, Dr. Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons states:
‘Now the Yule Log is the dead stock of Nimrod, deified as the sun-god, but cut down by his enemies; the Christmas-tree is Nimrod redivivus—the slain god come to life again.”
The log was burned on the eve of December 24; by the next morning it had been replaced by an evergreen tree. Dr. Hislop shows the pagan origins of the other customs surrounding Christmas—the candles, the feasting, the wassail bowl, the mistletoe, the giving of gifts and others.—Pp. 91-103.
Jesus was not born on December 25, but in the fall when shepherds were with their flocks out in the open fields. Moreover, Christians did not celebrate his birth, but were commanded to memorialize his death by the Lord’s Evening Meal, which he instituted on the night of his betrayal. “Keep doing this,” he said, “in remembrance of me.”—Luke 22:19, 20.
Protestants get their Christmas customs from the Catholics. The Catholics got them from ancient Rome, as British cardinal Newman admitted that the Catholic Church did “transmute the very instruments and appendages of demon-worship to an evangelical use” and that much of his church’s customs “are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.” From the Romans the Christmas practices reach back through Greece, Persia, Egypt, Assyria and finally to Babylon and Nimrod the sun-god.
Christmas has nothing to do with Christ. It is saturated with demonism. Neither of these facts will cause its demise. It survives and spreads because it is commercial. More and more, Santa Claus and Saint Nicholas are becoming “Saint Gimme.”