The Gentle Way Book

Tom T. Moore

How did December 25th become the day that is celebrated as Jesus’ birthday?  The origin of this celebration dates back many centuries to the time when the early Catholic Church was trying to convert large numbers of pagans to Christianity. 

Roman pagans at that time celebrated the holiday of Saturnalia from December 17-25 when the pagans would force one person from each community to gorge on food and drink for one week and then sacrifice that person.  During this time the Roman courts were closed, so there was widespread intoxication, sex, rape, and people going from house to house singing naked.  They also consumed human-shaped biscuits. 

In the 4th Century, the Catholic Church was able to convert masses of pagans to Christianity by promising them they could continue their celebration.  The church chose December 25th at the end of the celebration as Jesus’ birthday.  The singing in the streets was the forerunner of caroling today. 

In order to convert more pagans, the Catholic Church allowed the Asheira Cult, which worshiped trees in the forest and brought them into their homes, to continue this practice—thus the origin of the Christmas tree. 

The origin of Christmas presents dates all the way back to pre-Christian times during that same Saturnalia celebration where the most despised citizens were forced by the emperor to bring him presents.  Later there was general gift giving among the citizens, and so the Catholic Church changed it to the supposed gift giving of St. Nicholas.

Nicholas was a Bishop involved in assembling of the Bible during the Council of Nicaea in 325-327.  He was not given sainthood until the 19th Century.  A group of sailors moved his bones from Turkey to Bari, Italy where they rid the community of a lady nicknamed Grandmother who filled the stockings of children, and established a cult of Nicholas.  They sent each other gifts on December 6, the date of Nicholas’ death.  The cult spread north and was adopted by pagans who worshipped Woden.  Woden sported a white beard and rode a horse through the heavens.  This was changed into riding the horse through the winter heavens with heavy winter clothing.  The Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult (in order to convert more pagans) and changed the gift giving to December 25th. 

In 1809 Washington Irving referred to Saint Nicholas by his Dutch name Santa Claus.  In 1822 Dr. Clement Moore wrote the famous “Night Before Christmas” referring to Saint Nicholas. 

You have to admit it is really amusing that all of our Christmas traditions and rituals were from pagan celebrations.   And you can also look upon it as tragic, that the early Christians would stoop to incorporate pagan practices in order for their church to grow and PROSPER—as that was the name of the game. 

I have read where there are doubters as to Jesus’ actual existence.  I would remind you that three of the largest religions of the world, all of which began in Israel, include him in their histories, with three quite divergent opinions of his significance.  This man was the Master of Love, whatever else you believe.




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