From the commercialization of Jesus Christ’s not-birthday to its pagan origins.
Another holiday season is in full swing, and we’re already seeing the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth over the so-called “war on Christmas.” But would Jesus have even approved of our culture’s most treasured holiday? If we want to keep the Christ in Christmas, we might have some explaining to do, because we’re pretty sure Jesus would never have celebrated Christmas. Here are the seven reasons why.
As the ardent socialist he would be if he were alive today, Jesus would whole-heartedly reject the capitalistic, consumerist, commercialized holiday that advertisers have turned December 25th into. And supporting this theory are a multitude of pesky Bible quotes that we usually prefer to ignore.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24“And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’” Matthew 19:23-24“Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’” Matthew 19: 21
Recently, Pope Francis released his first apostolic exhortation, in which he decries capitalism.
“In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”
Jesus wasn’t very frugal anyway, always giving things away to help the poor and whatnot, so he wouldn’t have had money saved up to buy presents. But we know he liked to party, so he could perform some cool magic tricks for you at dinner.
6) Christmas trees.
Christmas trees are a remnant of Germanic pagan traditions that couldn’t be further removed from the Christian faith. But even more importantly, Jesus has a rocky history with trees. Remember his encounter with the fig tree? It didn’t go so well. Jesus was hungry, the fig tree hadn’t produced fruit yet because it wasn’t the season for it, so he cursed the tree and it withered. There’s a reason he was a carpenter and not a lumberjack. Case closed.
5) It’s not even his birthday!
Sure the sentiment is nice, but December 25th wasn’t the day Jesus was born. The date was chosen largely to align with a variety of pre-existing winter festivals (see below). A few years ago astronomers calculated that Jesus might have actually been born in June.
4) The Bible’s not big on birthdays.
Even IF December 25th was Jesus’ birthday, he still wouldn’t celebrate it. In the few instances where birthdays are described in the Bible, they usually lead to murder. For example, Matthew 14: 6-10 talks about King Herod’s birthday, in which Herodias’ daughter dances for Herod, which is so pleasing to him, he declares he will give her anything she wants. And she asks for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. For those who aren’t aware, John the Baptist was a good, God-fearing man, who baptized Jesus! But ask and ye shall receive, so Herod acquiesced to her request. Birthdays were also viewed as having pagan origins because someone or something was being idolized and worshipped, which is why Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays.
If there’s one thing God doesn’t like, it’s worshipping false idols. Yet many of our modern Christmas traditions have pagan origins that would make our Lord and Savior see red. Aside from the Christmas trees, celebrating Christmas on December 25th stems from Roman pagan traditions. Roman pagans introduced the holiday Saturnalia, in which a week-long period of drunken lawlessness ensued between December 17-25, culminating in a human sacrifice. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival, hoping to refine the practices and convert the pagan masses.
2) Santa is the devil.
I mean his name is an anagram for Satan and he dresses all in red. Hmmmm. Santa’s origin was born from Saint Nicholas, who was the Bishop of Myra. He was idolized and eventually a tradition spread to commemorate his death on December 6th by filling children’s shoes with candy. Over time, he took on attributes of the Germanic god Wotan (or Odin for the Thor fans), depicted as a white-bearded old man who rides across the sky to lead the Wild Hunt and gives small presents to children. With the help of novelist Washington Irving and Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast, the story and image of Santa Claus were complete. All that was left was mass commercialization, which the Coca Cola Corporation kindly stepped in, creating a coke-drinking Santa in 1931 that wore a bright red fur-trimmed suit. Hence Santa was born — part saint, part pagan god, and all commercial idol.
1) Jesus was a Jew.
Even Reform and irreligious Jews face the “December dilemma” of trying to reconcile their religion and traditions with the more dominant Christmas-celebrating culture they’re a part of. Sure, many Jews do celebrate Christmas along with Hanukkah, but we’re guessing Christ, who was a fairly religious guy by all accounts, would have abstained.