Image via WikipediaWho’s Lying about Christian Holidays?
I have heard “Winter Solstice” so many times this Christmas Season it makes me sick. We have artificial “Holiday” programs that avoid everything to do with Jesus Christ. How did it get this way? Why does it seem so many, even in our own local communities and schools, are so concerned about offending people who don’t live here? And why do they have to show their so-called “concern” by slamming and offending Christ and Christians?
The main Christian Holy-days that are run over today are Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, Ash Wednesday, and Hallow E’en (All Saint’s Eve’). So in this series of articles for Word of the Week we are going to look into the actual history of these holidays or Holy Days. There are more Holy Days that could be listed: All Souls Day, The Annunciation, St. John’s Day, Holy Innocents, and so many, many more. But I think that we can start to understand what has happened by looking at these five holidays that have been significantly changed by the culture around us.
Let us start with “Winter Solstice” or Christmas. It is ironic that there is already enough information available to anyone who cares to discover the truth about Christmas. But the Politically Correct way we are told to understand Christmas is that the Romans celebrated the “rebirth of the sun” on December 25th. Then, Christianity (especially the Roman Catholic Church) wanted to eliminate the pagan elements and claimed that Christ was born on this same day to pervert the pagan holiday into a Christian Holy Day.
Just in this past December a scholar from Trinity College at the University of Melbourne, Australia, named Andrew McGowan wrote an article for the magazine Biblical Archaeology Review on this very topic. The article is very helpful because the author went to the original writings. So we will do the same.
Three main questions: 1) When did the Romans celebrate the winter solstice? 2) When did the earliest Christians celebrate Christmas? 3) And when was Christmas associated with the pagan holiday of the winter solstice?
Question 1) So, when did the Romans celebrate the winter solstice? It was the shortest day of the year, in our calendar, December 21 or 22. The Romans didn’t use our modern calendar. And several of the Roman emperors added months and days to their official year to honor one emperor or another. The origins of our modern calendar date several centuries after the birth of Christ.
The main point of this calendar mess is that even with the calendar reforms of Julius Caesar in 46 B.C. the winter solstice hardly ever occurred on December 25. The months were for watching the Moon. The winter solstice would occur on a different day each year because it was based on the Sun.
It is important for us to notice that none of the early Christian writers pointed to the winter solstice as an important religious date. And it is just as important to notice that those early Christian writers wrote that Christ was conceived on what is March 25th in our modern calendar. Nine months later is December 25th.
The winter solstice was not an issue for the Christians of the first four centuries in our calendar. Christ’s conception and birth was. December 25th was celebrated in the early church because it was nine months after Christ’s conception.
2) So, we have begun to answer the question: When did the earliest Christians celebrate Christmas? Scholars in the late 1800s began to confuse this question, even though Christians all around them celebrated on the days had been handed down as tradition everywhere around them. The tradition to celebrate Christmas on those days was almost one thousand nineteen hundred years old when these scholars began questioning it.
It is possible for traditions to become confused and changed. It only takes one or two generations for this to happen in a small area, like Grygla. But this tradition was spread all across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas. And the tradition was consistent. There was a difference between the Eastern Orthodox Christians and the Western Christians on which day should be emphasized. Should the Christian Church primarily celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, when His birth was announced to the people of Israel, or on January 6th when the Gentile Wise men, or Magoi, visited him. Both days are celebrated in the Eastern and the Western Church. And both days were based on the early Church figuring from Scripture that Jesus was conceived in the Spring of the year at the time of the full moon of Passover.
Around the year 200 A.D. the Church Father Hippolytus in his Commentary on Daniel 4.23.3 says:
“For the first advent of our Lord in the flesh, when he was born in Bethlehem, eight days before the kalends of January [December 25th], the 4th day of the week [Wednesday], while Augustus was in his forty-second year, [2 or 3BC]”
Clement of Alexandria, who wrote 193-215 AD, in his work entitled “Stromata” writes:
“From the birth of Christ, therefore, to the death of Commodus are, in all, 194 years, 1 month, 13 days. And there are those who have determined not only the year of our Savior’s genesis, but even the day, which they say took place in the twenty-eighth year of Augustus on the 25th of Pachon…”
Christ’s genesis, or conception on the 25th of Pachon was in what our calendar would equate with March 25th. The celebration of Christ’s birth would be nine months later: December 25th, in our calendar.
I want to emphasize that I’m not trying to pin down which day Christ was actually born, but to point out when the earliest Christians actually celebrated the birth of Christ. I am also showing that the choice of that date had nothing to do with any pagan celebration of the winter solstice in Rome.
It was not until much much later that scholars and others would begin to claim that Christians tried to mingle the celebration of Christ’s birth with the celebration of the winter solstice.
3) So we come to the question: When was Christmas associated with the pagan holiday of the winter solstice?
In the 18th and 19th centuries some scholars found a manuscript from the 12th century in a marginal note of the writings of the Syriac biblical commentator Dionysius bar-Salibi conjectured that in ancient times the Christmas holiday was actually shifted from January 6 to December 25 so that it fell on the same date as the pagan winter solstice.
We must remember what was happening in Bible scholarship at that time. During this period many unbelieving academics were trying to show how Christianity evolved out of pagan religions. They reasoned that Christianity--as they thought of it--was the highest evolved religion. They had no written evidence; they had no material evidence. But they seized upon this marginal note of Dionysius who noticed that the dates were close together and conjectured that the dates could be related.
Dionysius did not understand why January 6th was chosen nor did he understand why December 25th was chosen. He just wrote what he thought. From that conjecture a great number of unbelieving academics have woven a fictionalized “history” of Christmas and it’s relationship to the pagan winter solstice.
Neo-paganism reared its head in the late 1960s in Europe and the United States. And the myth of the winter solstice being the source of Christmas has been preached from college professor to four generations of students trying to comply so they could earn their degrees.
Now, even listening to the local radio stations and their little segments on the “history of the holidays” one hears this fictional tripe.
But in point of fact, December 25th was chosen by the Church to celebrate Christ’s birth long before any interest in pagan Roman festivals was ever reborn. December 25th as the Birth and January 6th as the Epiphany of our Lord have been celebrated by the Christian Church since the earliest times. While there were other dates that were proposed in the early Church, by the year 350 these dates were pretty much agreed upon as the celebration dates for these feasts.
Christmas is not a pagan holiday. December 25th is not a day stolen by the Christian Church from pagans. It is the day nine months after the early Christians understood when Christ was conceived according to Scripture.