Perfect Theology: Is Jesus Really the Reason for the Season? Facts About the History of Christmas and Saint Nicholas Part 4

Image of nativity

The Roman Catholic Church Connects Christmas

During the 4th Century, the pope, Julius I, in hopes of getting more people into the Catholic Church, found success as he decreed the celebration of Christ’s birthday would fall during the pagan fertility festival on December 25th, as throughout history, all gods have been given the birthday of December 25th.

In his excellent article, The History of Christmas, Lawrence Kelemen writes, “‪In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it.  Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians. ‪The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.”

“In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been,” states a history professor from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Stephen Nissenbaum.

The Christians of the time, generally speaking, were aware Christ wasn’t born on December 25th. They had little success in taming the customs of the day, and so they began to blend in with society. Even  History of Santaduring the ban of Christmas by the Puritans from 1659 through to 1681, because of its wicked and pagan origins, in Massachusetts, Christians still celebrated. Just like we do today.

What Should Christians do with Christmas?

Do we, as Christians, really want to place a birthday celebration of Christ at all, let alone on this day? While we no longer run in the streets from house to house naked or go about destroying property and raping one another, some of the customs we still hold. These initiated by Norse mythology and Druids, pagans and idolaters. Things like the mistletoe and the Christmas tree.

What am I to make of all of this as a Christian? Can I really have the Savior of the world in direct competition with a fat man in a red suit? Can I really teach my children the two can cohabit? The god, Odin, beside the Creator, the Almighty, the Alpha and Omega portrayed as a helpless baby?

Is it a compromise for believers to get involved with such pagan traditions? Is it so cut and dry? Is there a way to still celebrate and yet stand apart?

Watch this space…

By Jori Sams

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