Since Christ was not born on December 25, then how did this particular day come to be a part of the church calendar? History has the answer.
Instead of this day being the time of our Saviour's birth, it was the very day and season on which the pagans for centuries had celebrated the birth of the Sun-god. A study into this shows how far apostate church leaders went in their effort to merge Christianity and paganism into one apostate religion - even to placing the birth of Christ on a date to harmonize with the pagan birthday celebration of the sun-god. It was in the FIFTH Century that the Roman Catholic Church commanded that the birth of Christ be observed forever on December 25 - the day of the old Roman feast of the birth of Sol (one of the names of the sun-god). [Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 6, p.623]
In pagan days, this birth of the sun-god was especially popular among that branch of the "Mysteries" known as Mithraism. Concerning this, we read: "1. The largest pagan relIgious cultwhich fostered the celebration of December 25 as a holiday throughout the Roman and Creek worlds was the pagan sun worship - Mithraism. This winter festival was called 'the Nativity' - the 'nativity of the SUN.' " [The Golden Bough, p. 4713]. And not only was Mithra, the sun-god of Mithraism, said to be born at this time of the year, but Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Bacchus,Adonis, Jupiter, Tammuz, and other sun-gods were also supposedly born at what is called the "Christmas" season - the winter solstice. [Doane, p. 474; Hislop, p.933]. Says a noted writer: "The winter solstice (was) the time at which all the sun-gods from Osiris to Jupiter and Mithra had celebrated their (birthdays), the celebration being adorned with the pine tree of Adonis, the Holy of Saturn, and the Mistletoe tappers represented the kindling of the newborn sun-god's fire..." [Man and His Gods, p.2013].
Now, the fact that the various sun-gods that were worshipped in different countries were all believed to have been born at the same season (in the old fables), would seem to indicate that they were but different forms (under different names) of the original son of the sun-god, Tammuz, of Babylon, the land from which sun-worship originally spread.
In Babylon, the birthday of Tammuz was celebrated at the time of the Winter solstice with great feasts, revelry, and drunkenness; the same way many celebrate it today. The ancient celebration spread and became so much an established custom that "in pagan Rome and Greece, in the days of the Teutonic barbarians, in the remote times of ancient Egyptiancivilization, in the infancy of the race East and West and North and South, the period of the winter solstice was ever a period of rejoicing and festivity." [Curiosities of Popular Customs,p.242]. When this mid-winter festival came to Rome, it was known as the Saturnalia (Saturn being but another name of Nimrod or Tammuz as "the hidden god"). This feast was the most vile, immoral feast that ever disgraced pagan Rome. It was a season of license, drunkenness, and debauchery, when all restraints of law were laid aside. And it was from this very feast at Rome that the merry-making of this season passed into the Roman Catholic Church and on down to our present civilization: "It is a matter of common knowledge," says one writer, "that much of our association with the Christmas season - the holidays, the giving of presents and the general feeling of geniality - is but the inheritance from the Roman winter festival of the Saturnalia survivals of paganism." [The Legacy of Rome p.242].
GIFT GIVING AT CHRISTMAS
Surely the giving of gifts is taken from the nativity story, some will say. But if we read carefully we shall see that the gifts were given to CHRIST - not exchanged among themselves. So, fromwhere did this custom of people exchanging presents between themselves come from? In the book "Christian Feasts and Customs" by Francis Weiser [p.110-111], we read this: The practice of giving presents was also an old Roman custom, called "strenae." On New Year's Day the people of ancient Rome, exchanged gifts of sweet pastry, lamps, precious stones, and coins of gold or silver, as tokens of their good wishes for a happy year.
This custom and even its name (etrennes) have been preserved among the French people to the present day. In most countries, however, the present-giving has become a part of theactual Christmas celebration. In Germany the packages of Christmas gifts were called "Christbundles." They contained candy, sugar plums, cakes, apples, nuts, dolls, and toys; useful things like clothes, caps, mittens, stockings, shoes and slippers; and things "that belong to teaching, obedience and discipline," such as ABC tables, paper, pencils, books; and the "Christ rod." This rod, attached to the bundle, was a pointed reminder for good behavior. Another form of presenting gifts was the old German custom of the "Christmas ship," in which bundles for the children were stored away. This was adopted in England to some extent, but never attained general popularity, though special carols for the occasion were sung in both countries.
GIFTS AND GIFT-BRINGERS
A popular Christmas custom in Britain is "boxing" on the feast of Saint Stephen, December 26. It originated because in medieval times the priests would empty the alms boxes in all churches on the day after Christmas and distribute the gifts to the poor of the parish. In imitation of this practice, workers, apprentices, and servants kept their own personal "boxes" made of earthenware, in which they stored savings and donations throughout the year.
At Christmas came the last and greatest flow of coins, collected from patrons, customers, and friends. Then, on the day after Christmas, the box was broken and the money counted. Thiscustom was eventually called "boxing" (giving and accepting presents). Each present is a box, and the day of presentation is Boxing Day. Tertullian mentions that the practice of exchanging gifts at this season was a part of the pagan Roman Saturnalia. When this midwinter festival was adopted into the Roman church, this custom was also adopted. As usual, however, apostate leaders tried to find some point of similarity between the pagan and Christian religion - to make the merger seem less obvious. In this case, reference was made to the fact that the wise men when they came to see the Christ-child presented to Him gifts. Some suppose that this is where the custom of exchanging gifts at Christmas time came. But not so.
The wise men did not exchange gifts among themselves. They presented their gifts to JESUS, who was born king of the Jews (It was an Eastern custom to present gifts when coming into the presence of a King). But these gifts were not birthday gifts. When the wise men arrived, it was some time after the day on which Jesus was born. By this time he was no longer in a stable, but in a HOUSE (Matt 2:9-11). Obviously, the gifts of the wise men were not Christmas gifts.
By Keith Hunt