Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?

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Image from Pixabay. Adapted for Redemption of Humanity. Used under licence.

Last edited on 21/Apr/2021

Christian Answer

The Bible Permits Christians to Celebrate Christmas

The answer to this question is no; there is nothing pagan at all about Christmas. Christmas is a Christian holiday that purely celebrates the birth and incarnation of Jesus ChristGod manifested in the flesh—nothing more or less. This is not pagan. To the contrary, Christians should rejoice that the vast majority of churches have designated a day in the year where Christians all around the world gather together to celebrate, remember, and honour Christ’s birth and incarnation. The Bible permits Christians to celebrate holidays that honour the Lord, such as Christmas, in Romans 14:5–6, which says:

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honour of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honour of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Why Some People Think Christmas Is Pagan

The question of whether or not Christmas is a pagan holiday arises out of the misconception that it has its origins in the feast of Sol Invicti or Natalis Invicti, a festival of the Mithraic Mysteries—a mystery cult in the Roman world—which also occurred on the 25th of December.¹ The story behind this is that the Christians at the time naturally did not want to partake in this popular pagan festival that surrounded them, so the church decided to make something positive out of it; they made their own festival at the same time, where instead of celebrating the sun-god’s birth, Mithra, they celebrated Jesus’ birth and incarnation.²,³

In this way, the Christians didn’t miss out on partaking in festivities like the Romans around them were, and they also turned a negative time of the year dedicated to glorifying a false god into something positive by glorifying Christ instead. Rather than being a holiday that came from and succumbed to a pagan culture, Christmas is a holiday that conquered the pagan culture of the time.

The Real Origins of Christmas

The real origins of Christmas come from the Bible’s own accounts of Jesus’ birth—a birth that’s worth celebrating, honouring, and remembering, because unlike anyone else who has ever lived, Jesus came into the world to save us from our sins:

Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

This in and of itself is a good enough reason to celebrate Christmas. You can choose whether or not you wish to celebrate Christmas this year, since celebrating it isn’t a divine commandment, but know that if you do, you will be joining millions of Christians around the world on that day in celebrating, honouring, and remembering the time God loved us so much that he took upon himself human form, so that he could one day go to the cross to pay for our sins, and give us eternal life.

Reference List

1. Fr. Shmitz, M, IS CHRISTMAS A PAGAN HOLIDAY?, Bulldog Catholic, <https://bulldogcatholic.org/is-christmas-a-pagan-holiday/>

2. Sproul, R C 2016, Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?, Ligonier Ministries, <https://www.ligonier.org/blog/celebration-christmas-pagan-ritual/>

3. Koukl, G 2013, Is Christmas Pagan?, Stand to Reason, <https://www.str.org/articles/is-christmas-pagan#.XAeu1mushhE>

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