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Chapter 4 : What Does Santa have To Do With Yeshua’s Birth?

Chapter 4
What Does Santa have To Do 
With Yeshua’s Birth?


I remember my own experiences growing up in a traditional Christian home at Christmas time.  My mother always let me set up the nativity scene as the house was being transformed with all of the holiday decorations.  She used this time to teach me about Jesus’s birth (at this point I did not know about His Hebrew name Yeshua).  I remember feeling a great deal of confusion about what this all had to do with Santa, with his sleigh and reindeer; and what about the lights and all the Christmas trees?  What did all of this have to do with Baby Jesus’ birth?  I’m confident that my mother’s intentions were pure, but in my child’s mind this never made sense and as an adult it still was not clear.  

When I experienced new rebirth as an adult believer, I remember discussing this with my pastor.  He explained it to me that all of these traditions were acceptable as long as I kept the emphasis on Jesus.  He explained how a Christmas tree was okay because it could remind us that Jesus died on a tree for our sins.  This comforted me for a period of time, this “Christianization” of familiar customs.  I raised my children until their teenage years with these Christianized traditions.  

Then one fall day in 1999 a young man brought in an article to church that he had found on the Internet advertising a Christmas tree farm.  This article explained the original pagan roots of the Christmas tree.  This began a quest for the members of the church where I attend. All the members, and especially the young people, diligently searched the libraries and the Internet for information.  When we came together everyone would share what each had discovered.  We searched the scriptures and cried out to God for His forgiveness as we discovered we had participated in pagan pageantry unaware. We all felt so disgusted and dirty, but mostly we felt deceived by Satan.  

What we discovered was many of the familiar customs observed today predate the birth of Yeshua.  Christmas, as we know it today, has its roots in pagan sun worship. There is no Biblical record of the early church celebrating the birth of Jesus. The historical record does not reveal any celebration by the Christian church until the third century.  By the fourth century it’s observance became gradually accepted over time.   As the church rejected her Jewish heritage she became open to the syncretism of beliefs with sun worshiping masses as has previously been outlined in the earlier chapters of this book. 

“What we discovered was many of the familiar customs observed today predate the birth of Yeshua.”

After Yeshua’s death the only thing that mattered to most Christians was His Second Coming.  To these people Yeshua’ physical birth was pointless to celebrate and at worst evil (Count 35).  It was not until the third century that the church decided to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Many scholars believe that Yeshua could not have been born on the twenty-fifth of December.  Scripture states that at the time the angel visited the shepherds, the shepherds were feeding their sheep in the open fields by night.  The climate of Palestine in the winter is harsh and therefore it was not customary for the shepherds of Judea to watch their flocks in the open fields any later than October (Heiliczer 4).  The date of December 25 was “chosen to counter the pagan festivities connected with the winter solstice” (Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia, 415; World Book 528).  Pope Julius I fixed the date as December 25, however some Christians did not like a date so closely linked to pagan holidays (Barth 10,11).

Centuries before Christ there were pagan festivals that celebrated the rebirth of the sun during the winter solstice, which is the same time of year that Christmas is celebrated. One of these festivals was the Roman Saturnalia.  This holiday was celebrated not only in Rome, but also in all of occupied Europe (Sansom 33).  Saturnalia was celebrated in honor of Saturn, the sun god and the god of vegetation.  Rich and poor joined together as equals from December 17 until December 24 for a seven-day celebration of drinking, feasting, dancing, and gift giving (Hole 10,11).  During Saturnalia the people that had been frugal all year became extravagant in their spending, much like today’s commercialized Christmas (Sansom 33).

The Romans also adopted a similar celebration held on December 25 that originated in Persia.  It was called Natalis Solis Invicti, the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, in honor of their sun god Mithras.  The worship of Mithras spread from Persia to the Roman Empire during first century.  This pagan god is associated with Constantine who ruled over a society that worshipped many gods, and saw no problem in adding the beliefs of yet another deity.  The society of this time was very similar to the condition Paul found Athens as recorded in the book of Acts.  Paul’s spirit was “…provoked within him when he saw the city was given over to idols” (17:16).  Paul said he perceived that they were very religious because they had so many objects of worship.  The people of Athens had idols of every god imaginable and even one to the Unknown god (17:16-23). Paul’s observation of the culture helps us to see the spirit of the times the early church grew up in.

 In Tristram Coffin’s book The Illustrated Book of Christmas Folklore, Coffin states, “They converted the Mithraic Birthday of the Unconquered Sun into a celebration of their Unconquered Son” (3). Thaumaturgus, bishop of Neocaesarea, who lived in the mid-third century, directed Christmas to be like the heathen feasts but in honor of past saints and martyrs. It is no wonder that heathen customs influenced our present-day Christmas (Crippen 13).

There were many other winter solstice celebrations including Dies Natalis Invicti, which was celebrated in Rome by order of the Emperor Aurelian (274 AD), a devout worshipper of Baal the sun god (Miles 23).  The Teutonic tribes of Northern Europe worshipped their god Woden or Odin (Krythe 3-4).  The Latin sun-worshippers observed the winter solstice in honor of the birthday of Osiris in Alexandria (James 231). The Egyptian holiday at this same time honored Isis, mother of the sun god Horus (Barth 9).  The Saxons had a festival also celebrated on December 25, to honor their pagan sun god Thor.  They called this day of feasting Mother Night, Mid-Winter, or Yule (Sandys 4). The Teutons and the Celts had their own pagan celebration in tribute to the field gods.  This festivity was called Julmond and lasted ten to twelve days in December in effort to gain favor with the field gods (Coffin 5).

In ancient Babylon the winter solstice was honored in celebration of the birthday of Tammuz.  His mother, Semiramis, claimed the rays of her deceased husband, Nimrod, the sun god, impregnated her.  Tammuz, the sun-god child, was born on December 25.  This mythical union between Samiramis and Nimrod can be seen in various other cultures such as Isis and Osiris. You can sense the web of deceit Satan was sowing even before the birth of Christ through these idolatrous myths.

Celebration of this newly developed Christianized pagan holiday grew until the Reformation of the 1500’s. In England and some of the English colonies the holiday became outlawed because of its pagan qualities and non-religious customs (World Book 528).  In Massachusetts during the first two centuries the Puritans made Christmas illegal and the fine was five shillings (Nissenbaum 3).  William Prynne, a puritan, said this about Christmas: “Our Christmas lords of misrule, together with dancing, masques, mummeries, stage players, and such other Christmas disorders, now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them” (Coffin 7).

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