The Winter Festival
Taken partly from Babylon Mystery Religion, by Ralph Woodrow
(used with permission)
CHRISTMAS-DECEMBER 25 -- this is the day designated on our calendars and on our hearts as the day of Christ's birth. But is this really the day upon which Christ was born? Are today's customs during this season of Christian origin? Or is Christmas a result of a mixture between paganism and Christianity? This is a question that some will not even want to consider. Many have heard the rumor, many have thought through the question and justified the celebration of the holiday and many just plain don't want to hear about it. But please, give these facts some place in your mind so that you may know the truth and live accordingly.
The word "Christmas" is not found anywhere in the scriptures of course, and, as we shall see, December 25 is definitely not the date on which Christ was born. It is evident that Jesus was not born during the middle of winter, for at the time of his birth, the shepherds were living out in the fields with their flocks. As the bible says: "There were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). As is well known, the shepherds in Palestine do not "abide in the fields" during the winter season because of the extreme, cold temperatures. The shepherds always bring their flocks in from the mountain slopes and fields no later than October 15th!
Further proof of this conclusion may be seen from the fact that at the time Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary had gone to Bethlehem to be taxed (Luke 2:1-5). There are no records of this period whatsoever that would indicate that the middle of the winter was the time of taxing. Even Jesus said, when talking of the end times, "pray that your flight not be in the winter" (Matt. 24:20). And so the harshness of the winter season in Palestine, even though it is less harsh than what is experienced in much of the United States, it is harsh enough to stop people from traveling and certainly to stop the shepherds from tending their flock at night. And so we see that Christ could not have been born in the Winter. On the other hand, there is evidence that taxes were paid in the fall season of the year. This was the logical time for the taxes to be paid since this was at the end of their harvest. There is also evidence that when Joseph and Mary made this trip, it was the time of a great feast at Jerusalem. This is the most logical reason why Mary went with Joseph, to attend the feast, as they also did on later occasions (see Luke 2:41), for there was no law that required a woman's presence at a taxing.1
We know that the time they went to pay taxes was also the time of one of the great feasts at Jerusalem because of the enormous crowd, so enormous in fact, "there was no room in the inn" at Bethlehem (Luke 2:7). Jerusalem was normally a city of only 120,000 inhabitants, but (according to the Jewish historian, Josephus) during the feasts, sometimes as many as two million Jews would gather there. With such vast throngs of people coming to the feast, not only would Jerusalem be filled, but the surrounding towns also, including Bethlehem, which was only five miles to the south. Mere taxation would not cause a crowd this big to be in Bethlehem, for each person returned to his own city to be taxed. Even most scholars, among them A.T. Robertson, a late professor of New Testament Greek at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, sets the time of Christ's birth in the summer or early fall. And so, taking all of these things into consideration, it seems evident that Joseph and Mary made the journey, not only to pay their taxes, but also to attend a great feast at Jerusalem. This was at the end of the harvest season that they were taxed and this was also the time of the Feast of Tabernacles. All of this, as well as the evidence already given would mark the birth of Christ not in the winter and therefore not December 25th!2
The Merging of Paganism with "Christianity"
Since Christ was not born on December 25th, then how did this particular day come to be a part of the church calendar? History has the answer. Instead of this day being the time of Christ's birth, it was the very day and season on which the pagans for centuries had celebrated the birth of the Sun-god! A study into history shows how far apostate church leaders went in their effort to merge Christianity and paganism into one apostate religion, even to placing the birth of Christ on a date to harmonize with the pagan birthday celebration of the sun-god!
There are four points in our calendar which are called "Solstice" or "Equinox" points, two of each. The equinox occurs when the sun crosses the equator of the earth and day and night are everywhere of equal length. The sun does not actually cross the equator but with the earth's natural tip on its natural axis as it orbits around the sun it seems to. Then either one part of earth gets the most sun or the other part does. But on these two occasions, the days are equal in length everywhere and this occurs about March 21st and September 23rd.
The Solstice is a little bit different. Earth orbits around the sun in an ellipse. When the earth is farthest from the sun, we have the two points that are known as Solstice. They occur when the sun is at its greatest distance from the celestial equator, about June 21st when the sun reaches its northernmost point on the celestial sphere, and about December 22nd when it reaches its southernmost point. The solstice in December is the time when the days of the year, in our hemisphere, are the shortest.
Pagan man saw this and feared that the days would get shorter and shorter and finally cease to exist. When the day came for the sun to overcome the darkness, and for the sun to cause the days to be longer it meant that there was not going to be eternal night. The sun had won another fight and so pagan culture had festivals and feasts on this day. It was celebrated in China, in India, in South America, in Mexico, in Africa and in many other cultures. There were presents exchanged, green trees decorated in honor of the sun-god and great celebrating.
When Christianity gained influence in the fifth century they outlawed the pagan holiday with little success. Finally they adopted the holiday into the church and changed the words and meanings of the festivities to fit with "christianity". It took many years to effect this. It took much propaganda and it took many penalties and reprisals against those who continued with the old festival but eventually the "christian" community won the day. Then there was a change from the Gregorian calendar to the present day calendar, and with that change Christmas or the Solstice shifted a few days so that December 25th became officially recognized as a Christian day.
It was in the fifth century that the Roman Catholic Church commanded that the birth of Christ be observed forever on December 25th, the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, one of the names of the sun-god!3
In pagan days, this birth of the sun-god was especially popular among the branch of the "mysteries" known as Mithraism. Concerning this we read: "The largest pagan religious cult which fostered the celebration of December 25th as a holiday throughout the Roman and Greek worlds was the pagan sun worship, Mithraism. Their winter festival was called 'the Nativity', the "nativity of the SUN".4 And not only was Mithra, the sun-god of Mithraism, said to be born at this time of the year, but Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Bacchus, Adonis, Jupiter, Tammuz, and other sun-gods were also supposedly born at what is today called the "Christmas" season, the winter solstice!5
Says a noted write: the "winter solstice (was) the time at which all the sun-gods from Osiris to Jupiter and Mithra had celebrated their (birthdays), the celebration being adorned with the pine tree of Adonis, the holly of Saturn, and the mistletoe.. ..tapers represented the kindling of the newborn sun-god's fire..."6
Now the fact that the various sun-gods that were worshipped in different countries were all born at the same season (in old fables), indicates that they were but different forms (under different names) of the original son of the sun-god, Tammuz, of Babylon, the land from which sun-worship originally spread.7 In Babylon, the birthday of Tammuz was celebrated at the time of the winter solstice with great feasts, revelry, and drunkenness, the same way most people celebrate it today! The ancient celebration spread and became so much an established custom that "in pagan Rome and Greece, in the days of the Teutonic barbarians, in the remote times of ancient Egyptian civilization, in the infancy of the race East and West and North and South, the period of the winter solstice was a period of great rejoicing and festivity."8
When this mid-winter festival came to Rome, it was known as the Saturnalia, Saturn being but another name for Nimrod or Tammuz as "the hidden god". This feast was the most vile, immoral feast that ever disgraced pagan Rome. It was a season of license, drunkenness, and debauchery when all restraints of law were laid aside. And it was from this very feast at Rome that the merry-making of this season passed into the Roman Catholic Church and on down to our present civilization! "It is a matter of common knowledge", says one writer, "that much of our association with the Christmas season, the holidays, the giving of presents and the general feeling of geniality, is but the inheritance from the Roman winter festival of the Saturnalia- survivals of paganism."9
Tertullian, one of the early church fathers, mentions that the practice of exchanging gifts at this season was a part of the pagan Roman Saturnalia. When this mid-winter festival was adopted into the Roman church, this custom was also adopted. As usual, however, apostate leaders tried to find some point of similarity between paganism and Christianity - to make the merger seem less obvious. In this case, reference was made to the fact that the wise men, when they came to see the Christ-child, presented to him gifts. Some suppose that this is where the custom of exchanging gifts at Christmas time came. But not so! The wisemen did not exchange gifts among themselves. They presented their gifts to JESUS who was born king of the Jews. (It was an Eastern custom to present gifts when coming into the presence of the King). But these gifts were not birthday gifts. When the wisemen arrived, it was some time after the day on which Jesus was born. By this time, he was no longer in a stable, but in a HOUSE (Matt. 2:9-11). Obviously, the gifts of the wisemen were not Christmas gifts.
Other pagan practices that are included in the holiday of Christmas are the use of the round wreath, the mistletoe, the use of the Yule log, the wassail bowl, holly, red berries, Santa Claus, the undue commercialism of the season, the use of candles during the holiday, etc. The wassailing bowl of Christmas had its precise counterpart in the "Drunken festival" of Babylon. The candles, in some parts of England, lighted on Christmas-eve, and used as long as the festive season lasts, were equally lighted by the Pagans on the eve of the festival of the Babylonian god, to do honor to him; for it was one of the distinguishing peculiarities of his worship to have lighted wax candles on his altars. For complete documentation on these and other pagan carry-overs see The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop.
Finally, in connection with the customs of the "Christmas" season, we will mention the Christmas tree. An old Babylonish fable went like this: Semiramis, the mother of Tammuz, claimed that overnight an evergreen tree sprang up from a dead tree stump. The dead stump supposedly symbolized her dead husband Nimrod; the new evergreen tree was the symbol that Nimrod had come to life again in the person of Tammuz!
This idea spread and developed to such a degree that the various nations all have had their legends about sacred trees! Among the Druids, the oak was sacred; among the Egyptians, it was the palm; and in Rome, it was the fir, which was decorated with red berries during the Saturnalia!10 Among the Scandinavians, the fir tree was sacred to their god Odin. "The Scandinavian god Woden or Odin was believed to bestow special gifts at Yuletide to those who honored him by approaching his sacred FIR TREE."11 And even as other rites of the Yuletide season were absorbed into "Christianity", so also is the wide-spread use of the tree at this season a carry over of an ancient practice! "The Christmas tree recapitulates the idea of tree worship, with the gilded nuts and balls symbolizing the sun. The festivities of the pagan winter solstice have been absorbed into the celebration of Christmas. The use of holly and mistletoe come from the pagan, Druidic ceremonies, the use of the Christmas tree from the worship paid to Odin's sacred fir."12
In at least ten Biblical references, the "green" tree is associated with idolatry and false worship.13 The "green" tree refers to trees that are green all year round, since, of course, all trees are green at one time or another. So the "green" trees that the scriptures are talking about are the evergreen trees or trees within that family! Taking all of this into consideration, it is interesting to notice the reading of Jeremiah 10:1-5 and compare it with today's custom of decorating a tree :
Now of course the people in the days of Jeremiah, as the context goes on to show, were actually making an idol out of the tree. We are not inferring that people today who put trees in their homes during the Christmas season are worshipping the tree, but that the use of the tree is plainly and totally a carry over from paganism. Whatever the difference may be between the ancient use of the tree as compared with present day customs, no one can deny that these things of which we have been speaking are customs of men. And God says: "The customs of the people are vain "(Jeremiah 10:3)-and "the temple of idols have nothing in common with the temple of God. "(II Corinthians 6:16)
One Error Leads to Another
The Christmas celebration was adopted into the Roman church during the fifth century. In the sixth century, missionaries were sent through the northern part of Europe to gather pagans into the Roman fold. They found that the 24th of June was a very popular day among these people. In order to induce them into the "church", as was the usual custom after the falling away, apostate church leaders would allow them to continue celebrating their pagan holiday, only they would attempt to associate it with some Christian event. But what event could they associate with June 24th? They had already adopted a day to celebrate the birth of Christ-December 25th. And this error led to another error. They noticed that June 24th was approximately six months before Jesus, why not set June 24th as the day to celebrate John's birthday? And this is what they did. To this day, June 24 is known on the papal calendar as St. John's Day or the Nativity of St. John! But obviously, such an idea is built on a false foundation, for John was not born on June 24; and mixing his name with this day was but a cover up, so the old pagan holiday could be continued-now within the "church".
In ancient times, this day was set aside for Baal worship. In Britain, before the entrance of Christianity there, the 24th of June was celebrated by the Druids with blazing FIRES in honor of Baal (the sun-god, Nimrod in deified form). The writings of such noted historians as Herodotus, Wilkinson, Layard, and others tell of these ceremonial fires in different countries. When June 24th was adopted into the "church" and renamed as St. John's day, so also were the sacred fires adopted and renamed as "St. John's Fires"! "I have seen the people running and leaping through the St.John's fires in Ireland..", says one writer of the past century, "proud of passing through unsinged, thinking themselves in a special manner blessed by the ceremony."14 In reading of such rites, we are reminded of similar practices into which the backslidden children of Israel fell when they would "pass through the fire to Molech" (Jer. 32:35; Ezek. 20:31). Obviously, none of these practices had any connection with John the Baptist.
The mixture of Christianity and paganism is seen in the word "Christ-mass" itself. Though it includes the name of Christ, it also mentions the "mass". Now the mass, with its rituals, elaborate ceremony, pagan prayers for the dead, transubstantiation rites, etc. is most assuredly a continuation of paganism.15 Considering then that the name of these pagan rites, the Mass, is connected with the name of Christ in the word "Christ-mass", we immediately see an attempt to merge two conflicting systems together! Actually, to attach the name of Christ with the word "Mass", a pagan and hedonistic ritual (for conclusive proof of the pagan origin of the Mass see The Two Babylons)16 is but to pollute the Holy name of our God! And God says: "Pollute ye my holy name no more"! (Ezekiel 20:39)
The days and times we have mentioned were all adopted into the calendar of the Roman church from paganism. We wonder if the apostle Paul were to be raised up to preach to this generation, if he would not say to the professing church today, as he did the Galatians long ago: "You observe days, and months, and times, and years, I am afraid of you, lest I have labored in vain "(Gal. 4:9- 11). To what days did Paul give reference? The context shows that the Galatians had been converted from the pagan worship of the "gods"(Gal.4:8), and so it is evident that when some of them went back to their former worship, the days and times they were observing were those days and times that were set aside to honor these pagan gods! And yet, it was these very days that the fallen church merged into her worship, changing them slightly, disguising them with Christian sounding names, and their observance has continued to this day!
The most common objections to separating oneself from the Christmas festival will now be answered. The objections that will be answered are:
The facts that have been discussed should cause every true believer to doubt the godliness of the Christmas celebration. The scripture says: 'everything that is done with a doubting conscience is sin' (Romans 14:23).
Many things associated with Christmas require abstinence but the Spirit of God will lead as one asks for His guidance and His light. Why not try to help those who are being led into suicide by lying spirits during this season, to trust the Holy Spirit to lead you to such hurting people as these and to others who may be ripe for harvest. He will guide as one walks in the truth on this matter. Before ignoring this call of God to be separate from the world, heed His word to us...
"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says without reason that the Spirit He caused to live in us tends toward envy?" (James 4:4-5)