Is Christmas a Pegan Holiday?

And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. We looked upon His glory the glory of the one and only from the Father, full of grace and truth [John 1:14 TLV].

God can use you to share Christ Jesus [Yahusha] and God’s love with others. Often people are more open during the Christmas season and ready to hear the Good News. There is a change in the air, the feeling that things are different, lighter and cheerier. For most Christians, a spirit of joy and tenderness is triggered at this time of the year when they remember His birth. Is also a good day to spend time with family [since there are too few times we can do so] and an excellent time to discuss the birth of the Messiah.

Among many followers of Christ Jesus, the holiday of Christmas is reviled, perhaps because of the commercialism, but also because they understand its pagan origins. Was Christ Jesus really born in Bethlehem during the winter?

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’” [Luke 2:8–12]

We suspect that the shepherds were watching over the sheep intended for sacrifice in the daily Temple ceremonies. However, Jerusalem can be cold in late December, making it unlikely that the shepherds would have been able to graze their sheep at that time of the year, sleeping with them outside. While the Bible does not specify the month of His birth, we do have some clues that lead us to determine the approximate timing;

Miryam [Mary] conceived when her cousin Elisheva [Elizabeth] was in her sixth month of pregnancy [Luke 1:24–26]. Elizabeth probably conceived early in the fifth month of the Jewish calendar [Av or early July]. This is likely since the angel Gabriel appeared to her husband Zachariah while he was serving in the Temple as a priest in the division of Abijah [Luke 1:5], and advised him that Elizabeth would become pregnant [Luke 1:11–24].The Talmud and other historical sources reveal that the Abijah served during the last two weeks of the fourth month of the Jewish calendar [Tammuz], which is about late June. And the Bible says that after Zechariah came home from his service [in early Av], Elizabeth conceived [Luke 1:23–25].

Now nine months of pregnancy and another six months of Mary’s pregnancy [15 months total] brings us to the seventh month of the Jewish calendar [Tishrei], during which falls Sukkot [Feast of Tabernacles]. Luke 2:6-7 also tells us that ‘But while they were there, the time came for her to give birth— and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped Him in strips of cloth and set Him down in a manger, since there was no guest room available for them’. There were no rooms available at the time likely because of the census and festival. The Apostle John tells us how Christ Jesus is the Word that tabernacled among us. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt [eskēnōsen] among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]. The word that John uses in Greek for dwell and tabernacle share the same root word, skéné. “But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles [skēnopēgia] was near …” [John 7:2]

Through these Biblical, historical, and linguistic clues, we can come to a fairly educated guess that Christ Jesus may have, indeed, been born during the Biblical Festival of Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles. This is one of the three specified Holy Festivals [Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot] that God tells the Jews that they must observe in Jerusalem. Sukkot occurs in late September or early October, depending on the year. We don’t know exactly the year Christ was born. We also know that two of these Biblical Holy Festivals were fulfilled as He was crucified on Passover, and that the promise of the Holy Spirit came on Shavuot [Pentecost].

Neither Yahusha’s Jewish disciples nor the Gentile followers in the first and second centuries celebrated the birth of Christ Jesus. And there is no extra-Biblical evidence supporting the existence of this celebration in the writings of the early Church fathers, such as Irenaeus [c. 130–200] or Tertullian [c. 160–225]. So, it is fair to say that for the first 300 years after Yahusha’s birth, there was still no celebration of a Christmas.

In the 3rd century, the Roman Empire, which at the time had not adopted Christianity, celebrated the rebirth of the Unconquered Sun [Sol Invictus] on December 25th. This holiday not only marked the return of longer days after the winter solstice but also followed the popular Roman festival called the Saturnalia [during which people feasted and exchanged gifts]. It was also the birthday of the Indo-European deity Mithra, a god of light and loyalty whose cult was at the time growing popular among Roman soldiers.

About 100 years before Christianity, Egyptian Mithraists introduced the festival of Sunday, dedicated to worshiping the sun, into the Roman Empire. Later, as Christianity grew, church leaders wished to increase the numbers of the church. In order to make the gospel more attractive to non-Christians, pagan customs were incorporated into the church’s ceremonies. The custom of Sunday worship was welcomed by Christians who desired to differentiate themselves from the Jews, whom they despised because of the Jews’ rejection of Christ Jesus. The Roman Emperor Constantine I, a ‘sun-worshiper’, professed conversion to Christianity, though his subsequent actions suggest the “conversion” was more of a political move than a genuine heart change. Constantine named himself Bishop of the Church and enacted the first civil law regarding Sunday observance in A.D. 321. Brothers and sisters, are we worshiping the same God when we fellowship on Sundays and not Saturday? Exodus 20:8 clearly says ‘Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy’ as one of the ten commandments.

As for the popular Christmas tree, this, too, is a tradition of extra-biblical origin—and one with an ancient pagan precedent. In fact, we can see that precedent condemned in Scripture—look at this passage from Jeremiah with this favorite Christmas tradition in mind: ”Thus says the Lord: “Do not learn the way of the Gentiles; do not be dismayed at the signs of heaven, for the Gentiles are dismayed at them. For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it will not topple. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good” [Jeremiah 10:2–5].

Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of His dear son.

It is well🙏🏾

Amen, Amen, Amen.