Guest Author - Vance Rowe
December 25 is the day that Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is not very clear why that day was picked to celebrate Christmas although many researchers say it was a Christian replacement to pagan winter celebrations. In fact, not many in the first two Christian centuries claimed any knowledge of the exact day or year in which he was born. The oldest existing record of any kind of a Christmas celebration is found in a Roman almanac that says in 336 A.D. there was a Christ's Nativity festival led by the Church of Rome.
However, as important as the Christmas holiday is to Christians, many early Christians and many Christians today, feel that the most important Christian holiday is Easter which signifies the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Early in the fourth century, as Christianity began to take hold in Rome, there were still Roman pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. It was called “natalis solis invicti” or the "birthday of the unconquered sun". Natalis solis invicti is the Roman name of the winter solstice. Every winter, the Romans honored the pagan god Saturn with a festival that began on December 17 and usually ended on December 25 with a winter-solstice celebration in honor of the beginning of the new solar cycle. During this festival, families and friends would exchange gifts with each other.
The Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition Volume II, p. 903 says this about Christmas: “In the Roman world the Saturnalia (December 17) was a time of merrymaking and exchanging of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithras, the Sun of Righteousness. On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain, and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian.”
According to the Bible and numerous other publications, including the Catholic encyclopedia, Jesus was born in the fall, long before winter begins. Luke 2:8 tells us that when Christ was born, “And there were in the same country shepherds “abiding in the field”, keeping watch over their flocks “by night.” Two other books in the Bible, Ezra and Song of Solomon tell us that winter was the rainy season and that the shepherds could not stay in the cold, open fields at night. So if they were abiding in their fields when Christ was born, it would have to be in the late summer or early fall. (Ezra 10:9-13) and (Song of Solomon 2:11). So if this is true, are Christians wrong for celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25? The Bible says we are. In Matthew 15: 8-9, Jesus says: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me and in vain they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” (NKJV)