What are the origins of Christmas and can a Christian celebrate it?

by Matt Slick

Christmas is the most popular holiday in America. Both the secular and the sacred celebrate it, but for different reasons. Some see it as the greatest business time of the year which is fueled by the exchange of gifts. Others consider it the time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Either way, it is a very important holiday.

The word “Christmas” comes from two old words: Christes maesse. It means, “the Mass of Christ.” This comes from the Catholic Mass, that practice where the priest re-offers the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross during the time of Communion.1

The Origins of Christmas

The origins of Christmas go back to before the time of Christ when many ancient cultures celebrated the changing of the seasons. In the northern hemisphere in Europe, for example, the winter solstice, which was the shortest day of the year, occurs around Dec. 25th. These celebrations were based on the decline of winter. Since during winter animals were penned, people stayed in doors, crops didn’t grow, etc., to know that winter was half over and on its way out was a time of celebration.

In the ancient Roman system of religion, Saturn was the god of agriculture. Each year during the summer, the god Jupiter would force Saturn out of his dominant position in the heavenly realm and the days would begin to shorten. In the temple to Saturn in Rome, the feet of Saturn were then symbolically bound with chains until the winter solstice when the length of days began to increase. It was this winter solstice that was a time of celebration and exchange of gifts as the hardness of winter began to wane and the days grew longer.

December 25th specifically coincided the day of the birth of the sun-god named Phyrgia a culture in the ancient Balkans.

In the Roman Empire, by the time of Christ the winter festival was known as saturnalia. The Roman Church was unable to get rid of saturnalia, so early in the 4th Century, they adopted the holiday and tried to make it a Christian celebration of the Lord’s birth. They called it the Feast of the Nativity. This custom has been part of western culture ever since…

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What are the origins of Christmas and can a Christian celebrate it? | Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry