More people are unhappy, miserable, depressed, discouraged, deep in debt, and violent during the holiday season than at any other time of the year. There is precious little peace on earth or goodwill among men. There doesn't seem to be much of Christ in the commercialized "Christmas" that began last September in the stores! Just how Christian are these holidays anyway? Where did we get all these customs? What does the Bible have to say about them?
MERRY CHRISTMAS, Happy New Year!" millions wished one another as the holiday season swung into high gear. But what was behind the forced outward cheerfulness of these greetings? Behind the veneer of glittering lights, tinseled trees, sweet music, gaily wrapped gifts and all the other holiday paraphernalia? Tension, frustration and disgust. Depression, violence and lawlessness. In short, the greatest mountain of misery, unhappiness and woe of the entire year!
The REAL Christmas Spirit
The real Christmas spirit is anything but one of "peace on earth, goodwill to men." Policemen who draw Christmas duty see what the real Christmas spirit is like. One policeman said, "I have been an officer for over 19 years. We get more calls from neighbors to go out and settle family fights on Christmas Eve than on any other night of the year, including New Year's. You walk into a house which is gaily decorated, the tree is aglow, beautifully wrapped gifts are under the tree and the husband and wife are throwing things at each other. The kids are crouched in the corners scared out of their wits." At Christmas, the number of murders reaches its annual year-long peak. As the relatives gather, old irritations often flare up into outbursts of rage and violence. "There certainly are more depressions, suicidal gestures and cries for help at Christmas than at any other time," says psychiatrist Edward T. Auer of the St. Louis University Medical School. Suicide Prevention Centers across the nation report that they have more calls in the week before Christmas than at any other time of the year. Auto deaths also reach their annual peak on Christmas day — often because the drivers have imbibed too heavily in another kind of Christmas "spirit." As a result of holiday revelry with such customs as "kissing under the mistletoe," private lie detector operators report that the week following Christmas is the busiest one of the year for them. Husbands are suspicious of their wives and wives of their husbands, and many want their mates to take the lie test to find out the truth about their total Yule activities. At Christmas time personal debts skyrocket. Many stretch their credit to the limit and buy goods way beyond their means. Millions of other spend hard-earned money for junk merchandise and toys which are broken by New Year's. And to add insult to injury — the very gifts they'll be paying for on 18% revolving charge accounts for half the year to come — the gifts that weren't appreciated, and may have started a violent family argument — those gifts are on sale at one third to one half off come December 26! The spirit of Christmas is also graphically illustrated by the fact that more shoplifting occurs during December than in any other month of the year. U.S. merchants lose more than 500 million dollars to shoplifters during the holiday season. It is estimated that 90 percent of these thefts are committed by "ordinary" people, as opposed to professionals. And 90 percent of these "ordinary" shoplifters are women!
People are so prone to emotional distress and violent outburst during the holiday season that doctors and psychiatrists have been studying this tendency for more than 20 years. They call this malady "Christmas Neurosis" or the "Holiday Syndrome." In a special study of the "Holiday Syndrome," two physicians and two psychiatric social workers from the University of Utah Medical School listed hives, overeating, crying jags, dishonesty, sexual deviation and just plain orneriness as some of the "Christmas reactions" people develop around Thanksgiving and carry with them until after the first of the year. People who acted normally during the rest of the year were found to suddenly cash bad checks, join nudist colonies, become cruel to their families and do any number of strange things as the Christmas season approached. What are the symptoms of "Christmas Neurosis"? Fatigue, anxiety, the desire to escape, regression to childhood, increased irritability, a wish for a magical solution to problems, temporarily casting aside restraint, and feelings of loneliness and insecurity all play a part. But the most common symptoms are "depression and deep anger, though victims may conceal them gallantly under the requisite degree of "ho-ho" heartiness. Reaction against the "pressure of having to be happy" is cited as the reason for this anger and depression. The holiday season is idealized as the time when warmth, sweetness and joy permeate the air and all problems are solved — or at least temporarily suspended. The problem is that it doesn't work out that way! People try to make sure that they get their full share of holiday pleasures by greedily indulging themselves in food, drink and sex. But few are able to enjoy to the full all the holiday pleasures they think they have coming to them. So they become resentful, depressed, moody and unpredictable. Just because everyone is supposed to be happy at Christmas, they assume that everyone is happy — everyone, that is, except them! This makes them feel deprived and resentful of those whom they think ARE happy. Actually, the truth is, just about everyone feels as sour as they do — but most are struggling to hide it so they won't appear to be a "wet blanket" dampening the holiday mood. People who have experienced a recent divorce, death in the family or a family brawl, or who have a loved one in Vietnam, often feel resentful because the idealized warmth and togetherness of their "perfect" Christmas has been wrecked. Others feel deprived of holiday joy because of unpleasant memories of the past. Or because of pleasant memories which can't be relived (hence the tendency of childhood regression). Or because of the nagging fear of holiday debts. Or the dread of having to put up with the in-laws again. Or the fear of not receiving many expensive gifts — expensive to prove that you are highly thought of, or many gifts to prove that a lot of people like you. Some react to these pressures, fears and memories by going into a moody huff and becoming nasty. They feel, "If I can't be happy, I'm going to do all I can to make sure you aren't happy either." What an attitude!
The Incongruities of Christmas
Doesn't it seem paradoxical — and more than a little ironical — that at a time when millions mouth the words "Peace on earth, good will to men" there are more thefts, murders, drunken orgies, family brawls, suicides and violent deaths on the highway and in our homes than at any other time of the year? Doesn't it seem a little strange that the mails are burdened down with billions of cards bearing the message "Merry Christmas" — while the very ones sending these cards are decidedly un-merry, frustrated, emotionally upset, "blue" and swearing that they'll never go through with this again!? Isn't it a little odd that millions wish their friends a "Happy New Year" —while they are busily striving to make the beginning of their own new year as Unhappy as possible? Unhappy because of a heavy load of holiday debts. Unhappy because the new year will begin by paying the penalty for sins of excess, licentiousness, lust and greed. Think further. Isn't it a little hypocritical to teach our children a fantastic package of lies while we are supposedly honoring the One who said, "Thou shalt not bear false witness"? (Matt. 19:18) And isn't it a little contradictory that guns and other toys of violence should consistently be among the best sellers at Christmas — the time idealizing "peace on earth" and supposedly honoring the One who said "Thou shalt do no murder"? (Matt. 19:18) Isn't it somewhat unusual to spend more than $200 per family (in the U.S.), with many spending as much as ten percent of their annual income, to buy more than 30 gifts (on the average) to give to friends, instead of giving to the One whose birth they are supposedly honoring? Further, Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:3-5). Yet what could possibly characterize the Christmas spirit more than getting? From the small tots who tell department store Santas what to GET them for Christmas, to adults who push and shove in stores as they claw over the merchandise to GET what they want to buy so their gifts will GET the approbation of others, to merchants who hope to GET riches from the holiday commerce, to the crying jags and "blues" of inward-turned self-pity, to the spiteful attitude of deliberately making others Unhappy because that's the way you are — from one end of the spectrum to the other, the entire spirit of Christmas is one of GETTING FOR THE SELF. There are individual exceptions, but they are increasingly rare. Yes, when you really stop to think about it, the incongruities of Christmas are truly overwhelming! Why do some keep such a day anyway? Where does it come from? Is Christmas really a Christian festival after all? What does God say about Christmas? Do you know? If you haven't already done so, it's high time you took a penetrating X-ray view of Xmas and dared to ask a few questions about it.
When WAS Christ Born?
Millions believe that Christmas is the day on which Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem. Yet the encyclopedias and other reliable authorities — including the Catholic Encyclopedia — will frankly tell you that Christ was NOT born on this date. Jesus was not even born in the winter season! When the Christ-child was born "there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night" (Luke 2:8). This never could have occurred in Palestine in the month of December. The shepherds always brought their flocks from the mountainsides and fields and corralled them not later than October 15 to protect them from the cold rainy season that followed that date. It was an ancient custom among Jews of those days to send out their sheep to the fields and deserts about the Passover (early spring), and bring them home at the commencement of the first rain in about mid-October, according to the Adam Clarke commentary, vol. 5, page 370. (See notes on Luke 2:8) Continuing, this authority states: "As these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is a presumptive argument that October had not yet commenced, and that, consequently, our Lord was NOT born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could He have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground, the nativity in December should be given up. The feeding of the flocks by night in the fields is a chronological fact.... See the quotations from the Talmudists in Lightfoot." Though the exact date of Christ's birth is entirely UNKNOWN, Jesus could not possibly have been born on December 25! Our in-depth article "When Was Christ Born?" does, however, explain this particular subject much more thoroughly than room permits here. Write for your free copy. Why then do some observe December 25th as the date of Christ's birth when He wasn't born anywhere near that day? For the answer to that question we have to go back to the origin of Christmas.
How Christmas Began
Did you know that thousands of years before Christ — before there ever was a CHRISTIAN — people, just as we do today, went out into the forests and cut down evergreen fir trees? They trimmed the branches, brought the trees into their homes, nailed them down and decorated them with gold and silver ornaments. They exchanged gifts, sent greeting cards, played games, sang songs and feasted in a gala festive season. And this was all done on the same day of the year — the equivalent of our December 25. But Jesus Christ wasn't the central figure of the festival. Rather, it was the pagan god Sol — the SUN-GOD! It was HIS BIRTHDAY. The Romans celebrated December 25 as the Brumalia or birthday of the new sun. In most any public library you can get proof of this in a book entitled 4000 Years of Christmas, by Earl Wendel Count. The very name of this book proves that the Christmas holiday isn't Christian. It was celebrated 2000 years before the birth of Christ in honor of pagan gods! Christmas originated in the original Babylon of ancient Nimrod! It stems from roots whose beginning was shortly this side of the Flood! Nimrod, grandson of Ham, son of Noah, was the real founder of the Babylonish system that has gripped the world ever since — the system of organized competition — of man-ruled governments and empires, based upon the competitive and profit-making economic system. Nimrod built the tower of Babel, the original Babylon, ancient Nineveh and many other cities. He organized this world's first kingdom — a kingdom in opposition to the government and the rule of God. The very name Nimrod, in Hebrew, is derived from "Marad," meaning "he rebelled." From many ancient writings, a considerable amount is learned of this man, who started the great organized worldly apostasy from God that has dominated this world until now. Nimrod was so evil, it is said he married his own mother, whose name was Semiramis. After Nimrod's untimely death, his so-called mother-wife, Semiramis, propagated the evil doctrine of the survival of Nimrod as a spirit being. She claimed a full-grown evergreen tree sprang overnight from a dead tree stump, which symbolized the springing forth unto new life of the dead Nimrod. On each anniversary of his birth, which was December 25, she claimed that Nimrod would visit the evergreen tree and leave gifts upon it. This is the real origin of the Christmas tree! Through her scheming and designing, Semiramis became the Babylonian "Queen of Heaven," and Nimrod, under various names, became the "divine son of heaven." Through the generations, in this idolatrous worship, Nimrod also became the false messiah, son of Baal, the sun-god. In this false Babylonish system, the "Mother and Child" (Semiramis and Nimrod reborn) became chief objects of worship. This worship of "Mother and Child" spread over the world. The names varied in different countries and languages. In Egypt it was Isis and Osiris. In Asia, Cybele and Deoius. In Pagan Rome, Fortuna and Jupiterpuer. Even in Greece, China, Japan, and Tibet are to be found these "Mother and Child" counterparts, long before the birth of Christ! Christmas honors the birthday of the pagan sun-god! No wonder there is not a single word in the New Testament, or anywhere in the Bible, telling us to observe Christmas. No wonder Christians of the first century, under the inspired teachings of Peter and Paul and the other apostles, never observed it. No wonder there is no Bible authority whatsoever for its observance. But How did this pagan custom come to be called "Christian" — and WHEN?
How WE Got Christmas
As true Christianity began to spread in the first century, false pagan teachers quickly began to emerge. They taught a counterfeit Christianity which blended the truth of God with pagan fables which were so popular in the Roman world. Notice Paul's warning of this very thing: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own LUSTS [desire for pleasure] shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall TURN AWAY their ears from the truth and shall be turned UNTO FABLES" (II Tim. 4:3, 4). Paul said people would reject the truth and begin to follow myths — and they did just that! Instead of continuing to observe the days God sanctified, as the first Christians did, the apostatizing majority, who called themselves "Christians," soon began to invent their own traditions and to "Christianize" their former pagan practices. One of the most widespread of these practices was the observance of the Saturnalia which was celebrated from December 17th to the 22nd. All governmental offices and schools were closed. Then on December 25th, the ancient Brumalia was celebrated in honor of the birthday of the sun-god — just as it had been done for thousands of years before. Greeting cards were traded, gifts were exchanged — there was feasting and celebrating beginning on the "eve" before — just like our "Christmas Eve" today. (See 4000 Years of Christmas) Bishops in the West, and especially at Rome, saw that by allowing converts to retain this and other pagan holidays, they could induce many thousands to enter the church. Tertullian lamented this trend when he said in 230 A.D. that instead of observing "... festivals, once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia (December 24) the Matronalia, are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year's day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar" (from De Idolatria, chapter 14). In less than two centuries after Christ's death, professing "Christians" were following their former pagan practices — including the observance of December 25, the birthday of Sol the sun-god. Tertullian's testimony is one of the earliest indications that Christians were mislabeling the birthday of the physical s-u-n as the birthday of the S-o-n of God. This adoption of idolatrous heathen festivals proceeded slowly until "Christianity" — aptly termed by some authorities as "baptized paganism" — became the state religion of the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine. Then the pagans flocked to the churches bringing ever more of their customs with them. Within forty years the celebration of the 25th of December as the birthday of Christ became widespread, as is fully explained in the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, by James Hastings, article "Christmas." The Catholic Encyclopedia also states that by 354 A.D. Christmas celebration on the 25th of December had begun. This source further freely admits: "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church.... The first evidence of the feast is from Egypt." "Pagan customs centering around the January calends gravitated to Christmas." Encyclopedia Britannica makes the same admission: "Christmas (i.e., the Mass of Christ) was not among the earliest festivals of the church...." And the Encyclopedia Americana says: "Christmas... was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons rather than their birth... (but) a feast was established in memory of this event [Christ's birth) in the fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever on the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol, as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed." Notice! These recognized historic authorities show Christmas was not observed by Christians for the first two or three hundred years — a period longer than the entire history of the United States as a nation! Though it got into the Western or Roman Church by the fourth century A.D., it was not until the fifth century that the Roman Church ordered it to be celebrated as an official "Christian" festival! Now read what the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia says in its article on "CHRISTMAS": "How much the date of the festival depended upon the Pagan Brumalia (Dec. 25) following the Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24), and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the 'new sun'... cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence.... The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ's birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mesopotamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun-worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival.... Yet the festival rapidly gained acceptance and became at last so firmly established that even the Protestant revolution of the sixteenth century was not able to dislodge it." And that is how we came to have Christmas! Many details could be added about the origin of the yule log, the mistletoe, Santa Claus, and a host of other customs which surround the Christmas celebration. But these are explained in our booklet, Plain Truth About Christmas, which is free for the asking, for those who would like to pursue the subject further. Only one other custom will be mentioned here.
Is Exchanging Gifts Scriptural?
Many ask, "Isn't giving gifts at Christmas scriptural? Didn't the wise men give gifts at the birth of Christ? But here is the surprising answer: "The custom of giving presents was a feature of the Romans during their winter festival, the Saturnalia," says John Then in his book, Christmas, page 91. Professing "Christians made presents to their children on Christmas morning, under the pretense that they were the gift of the Christ child.... This age-old custom can be traced to the dawn of history" — to paganism! Did trading gifts at Christmas come from Scripture? No! It came from pagan tradition and was falsely labeled "Christian" — a deception to fool little children practiced by millions today. Millions of sincere but deceived people spend precious dollars they can't afford just to give unappreciated gifts to friends on a day that doesn't honor Christ. How silly to claim to honor Christ, when giving gifts to one another on a day that isn't His birthday at all. The wise men didn't give gifts to one another. "Opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh" (Matt. 2:1-11 RSV). Why? Because it was Christ's birthday? No! Jesus had been born many days before. Rather, the wise men were coming to worship Jesus because he was a King; and in the East it was unthinkable to come into the presence of a King without a gift.
Does It Make Any Difference?
But so what? Aren't the facts in this article more or less common knowledge? Sure they are! They are published in newspapers, and cheerfully admitted by religious editors each year. Then does it make any difference? Not if there isn't any God. But there is a God. And that God says the observance of pagan customs and holidays makes a great deal of difference to Him. He warns: "Take heed to thyself that thou be not snared by following them [pagan peoples)... and that thou enquire not after their gods saying, How did these nations serve their gods ? even so will I do likewise. THOU SHALT NOT DO SO UNTO THE LORD THY GOD: for every abomination to the Lord, which he hateth, have they done unto their gods..." (Deut. 12:30-31). God gives us in His Word — the Bible — the way to worship Him. And He condemns our attempt to worship Him through the invented lies of pagan peoples. Now notice what God says about the Christmas tree: "Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven [being concerned when the sun shines for so short a time in December]... for the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold, they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not" (Jer. 10:2-4). Could anything be plainer? God condemns pagan, heathen practices — including the Christmas tree. Yet many who know Christmas is pagan to the core still refuse to give it up. Some give the weak excuse that it means so much to the children. But what does it mean to your children? Lies. Deceit. Paganism. Do you know what happens when children find out the truth about the Santa Claus lie? Two New York educators found out when they interviewed about 50 pupils of the age where the break with fantasy usually occurs. "Mom and Daddy are liars," one child told them. "Christmas doesn't mean anything now," said a second disillusioned child. "Next they'll tell us there ain't no God, neither," snapped a third. "Things just don't add up," said a fourth confused youngster. And so it went. Is that the way you want your children to feel about you — and about God? Of course not!
What You Can Do
God warns His people concerning this world and its false, counterfeit, Babylonish ways: "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues" (Rev. 18:4). God's plagues are about to fall on this world for its many sins — including the worship of pagan deities and days which God condemns. So what should YOU do about Christmas? You should obey God! Wouldn't you really be glad to escape the debt, the frustration, the rat race of commercialism?! You've got plenty of time to explain to your children —before this season descends on you again! You'll be surprised and impressed at how gladly your children and relatives will respond — and how truly thankful they'll be. And more than that, you can determine NOW that you are going to get deeply involved with the REAL, living Christ and His Work of warning the world of what is ahead. It is ironic — and another one of the amazing incongruities of Christmas — that most people are robbing Christ at the very time they claim to be honoring Him. While spending every available dime on gifts for friends and relatives in this commercialized season, they are forgetting Christ. They take — steal — the very money that belongs to Him. Notice what Malachi says in his prophecy for us today: "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you" (Malachi 3:8, 9, RSV). Many have been robbing God of His tithes and offerings by spending God's own money on Christmas gifts instead of giving Him what is due. Yet this, too, is an important part of obeying God and coming out of the ways of this world. Yes, God condemns Christmas and its pagan counterfeit customs. But only you can decide whether or not you will obey — and cut yourself free from the frustrations of today's world and its way!