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December 23 2019


Christmas Traditions  --  Kathy Capoccia

“Christmas” celebrations are foreign to the pages of Scripture: Biblically, “Christmas” does not exist. There is no account of Christians gathering to celebrate the birth of Christ to be found anywhere in the New Testament. Even the wise men of Matthew’s account, who came in response to the appearance of His birth star in the sky, did not celebrate together about His birth (MAT 2:1-13); they traveled from their own country bearing gifts in order to worship the child (and the Scriptures indicate that this occurred long after Jesus was born—his family was living in a house, not a stable, and Jesus could have been as old as two years of age). Christians did not begin to celebrate the birth of Christ until the 2nd century AD. The Roman Catholic Church did not begin its “Feast of the Nativity” until AD 336.

Even the word “Christmas” itself is not Biblical: it comes from 4th century AD Roman Catholicism. The “mas” of Christmas comes from the Mass, or Eucharistic service of western Catholicism. That rite was concluded with the words, “Ite, Missa Est” (“Go, as it is ended”), with Missa (dismissal) eventually becoming the name of the rite itself. The Old English word, “Christmas” dates from 1050 AD; it was derived from the phrase, “Christes Maesse,” or “Mass of Christ.” “Xmas” is a 13th century form of shorthand representing the full word “Christmas” (“X” is the Greek abbreviation, chi, from Khristos, Christ). The word, “Christmas,” did not find full usage until the 9th century AD.

December 25th is not the true birth date of Christ. This day was apparently chosen to coincide with pagan mid-winter festivals in order to unify pagan and Christian worship celebrations within the Roman Empire. The Empire encompassed a vast territory encircling the Mediterranean Sea, stretching from Europe (England, Ireland, Spain, France, southern Germany, Italy, Sicily, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania, Macedonia, Greece), to Asia Minor (southern Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Crete), to the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon, Israel), and to Africa (northern Egypt and the Nile Valley, northern Libya, Tunisia, northern Algeria, Morocco). The mystery religions of the Near East, India and Egypt had been spread to Europe by the Roman legions, and the Norse, Teutonic, and Celtic beliefs had spread eastward by the same means, so that various religious festivals were observed throughout the Empire at the same time.

December was an exceptionally important religious month. In Egypt, December 21st marked the date of the celebration of the death and resurrection of Osiris, the god of the underworld and judge of the dead, the husband of Isis. The end of the month saw the observance of the birthday (Dec. 26th) of Horus, son of Isis, the sun god and proto-type of human rulers, with a twelve-day festival conspicuous for its decorations of palms with twelve shoots (for the twelve months of the year). In northern Europe the Norse held a twelve-day feast of the solstice at the end of December. Jews throughout the Empire observed Hanukkah, or “the feast of lights” during December. Greeks worshipped Apollo, Attis, Dionysus, Helios, Herakles, Perseus, and Theseus in December. December also encompassed the celebration of the Roman Saturnalia, or “Saturn (god of the grain harvest) Festival,” a seven-day fair and festival of the home which began on December 17th (Saturn’s birthday) and ran through the 23rd. It was an emotional time of feasting open to everyone, celebrated with the exchange of gifts, merry-making, and decorating with boughs of laurel and evergreens. Lamps and candles burned continually, and a feeling of “goodwill” towards man prevailed. Schools were closed, the army was “at ease,” slaves were let off their duties and allowed to “supplant” their masters, friends visited each other, processions of people danced through the streets in masks, hats or blackened faces—there was a Lord of Misrule who presided over the festival—and each household chose a mock king to preside over the festivities. Another popular holiday on the Roman calendar, Kalendae or Kalends (literally, “the first of the month”), or “New Year’s Day,” was only a few days beyond the Saturnalia. Kalends was dedicated to the two-headed god, Janus, who looked forward to the future and backward to the past. It was celebrated with a feast, garlands of evergreens and the exchanging of small gifts, particularly of lamps with which to light one’s path into the future. December 25th, the winter solstice by the Julian calendar, the day of the least sunlight of the year, was the day on which day many sun-worshiping pagans worshiped the sun (lest the sunlight should disappear altogether); they also held festivals shortly thereafter in gratitude for lengthening days. This date, December 25th, had early been identified with both the Persian sun-god, Mithras, the god of light, truth and righteousness (represented by a bull) and the Syrian god, Sol Invictus,(the unconquered sun)celebrated with feasting, masquerades, a relaxation of order and temporary role reversals. December 25th was also the birthday of the lesser known Phoenician sun and fertility god, Baal (who was also represented by a bull). After AD 274/5, the Emperor Aurelian combined the nativity/god-men/savior cult observances of Apollo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus, and Theseus, into one, the Dies Natilus Invictus Solis (“Birthday of the Unconquered Sun”) celebrated on December 25th and concerned with the death and rebirth of the sun.
Reposted byKerisha Kerisha
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