December 25, 2006

The Twelve Days of...Untruths

It's Christmas morning. The kids dragged you out of bed early to open presents, and their squeals of delight still echo through the house. There's a pile of wrapping paper and ribbons in the corner, ready to go into tomorrow's garbage. Some of the family has arrived early for Christmas dinner, and the smells of ham, turkey and apple pie are making your guest's mouths water. You're making your best effort to get along with everyone, particularly the ones you don't like.

Because it's Christmas! Peace on earth, goodwill among men!

Too bad all of this is based on a lie.


The facts are (or should be) well known, and can be found in fifteen or twenty minutes of searching through your local library. Or, for the impatient, ten seconds of Googling.

Christmas' pagan origins

The Wikipedia article on Christmas

Christmas Day (from the Urban Legends Reference Page)

Encyclopedia Britannica Online

There are some variations of details, but these articles agree: 1) Jesus was most likely not born on December 25; and 2) the holiday has its origins in a pagan festival (Mithras or Saturnalia) chosen to soothe the uneducated pagan masses.

Therefore, if those are the facts, why do we celebrate it?


I write this from the point of view of a Christian who has never celebrated Christmas. The brand of Christianity I subscribe to has made this known for some time, and as a result, the holiday was never a part of my life, even when I was a child.

I never felt the least bit deprived by this. It was explained to me why we did not participate in Christmas, and as I got older and could look it up for myself, I agreed. (Of course, the fact that I got presents all year round, and not because it was the time of year when people were forced into giving them, probably helped.) My family was not rich, and as I observed the financial straits other people were forced into, and the stresses they endured, the wisdom of not celebrating this ridiculous holiday was driven home.

It's funny that I share my opinion of this with a lot of atheists: to me, Christmas is as logical as the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Or I suppose we could call it the Flying Santa Monster, since adding St. Nicholas to the mix only deepens the absurdity. The tale of Mr. Claus could actually qualify as a form of child abuse, as the venerable old fellow does not exist. Why do we think this particular lie is a-okay to tell our children?

It's fine and dandy to want family togetherness. Why do you have to do it one day out of the year? Why do you give gifts just on Christmas and birthdays, and why do you feel it necessary to spend beyond your means? (There was a poll on the front page of the paper this morning, with 62% of respondents saying they had overspent their budgets.) At least I don't have to worry about making the house payment next month, and furthermore I don't have a mess to clean up in the kitchen.


But my overwhelming objection to Christmas is the fact that the Bible commands us to celebrate Jesus' death, not his birth. These words come from the mouth of Christ himself.

"Then he took a loaf of bread; and when he had thanked God for it, he broke it apart and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body, given for you. Eat it in remembrance of me.' " (Luke 22:19, The Living Bible)

Paul reiterates this more than twenty years later.

"For this is what the Lord himself has said about his Table, and I have passed it on to you before: That on the night when Judas betrayed him, the Lord Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks to God for it, he broke it and gave it to his disciples and said, 'Take this and eat it. This is my body, which is given for you. Do this to remember me.' In the same way, he took the cup of wine after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new agreement between God and you that has been established and set in motion by my blood. Do this in remembrance of me whenever you drink it.' For every time you eat this bread and drink this cup you are re-telling the message of the Lord's death, that he has died for you. Do this until he comes again.' " (1 Corinthian 11:23-26, The Living Bible)

Folks, a simple--and simplistic--birthday celebration pales next to this. Considering the materialistic mess Christmas has turned into, I cannot imagine Christ would be pleased.

But even if all that was stripped away, the holiday would still be wrong in and of itself.


Niwi said...

I have to comment that Christmas is a) one of my favorite holidays, and b) a huge deal in my family.

That being said, we really don't celebrate it as a religious holiday, but as a family celebration, which I do love. It's never about the money spent on presents for us, but about finding something that makes another person happy and shows you were thinking of them.

With my grandmother living in a separate place and me being off at college, holidays make a nice time to get everyone together for a few days, just to relax. Even if we (rarely) go to Mass (my grandmother's Roman Catholic), it's more about spending time with my grandmother than the religious aspect.

As aware as I am of all the problems surrounding Christmas, I can't dislike or be against the holiday.

Andrew said...

Of course, even if he had been born on 25th December, various calendar reforms would make that meaningless.

Alastair said...

Great blog!

Had to comment on Christmas - it is not the actual date of Jesus birth that is celebrated but the supreme act of God's love in giving us Jesus. there isn't actually a command to celebrate any part of Jesus life or death anywhere in the Bible, the Communion is an act of Remembrance - but the Church very early on realised that this amazing, earth shattering events,were a very good reason to party! The most famous and powerful verse in Scripture is 'God so loved the world that he gave his only son...etc' John 3.16 - it's that incarnation, God made flesh, that makes the celebration of Christmas special. So what if it's been crapped on, commercialised, and generally messed about with - Jesus is about reclaiming that which was lost to sin, not about complaining about it. Sorry, that sounded like a criticism, it's not! I understand completely why Christmas is a deliberate non-big deal with you.

As for its origins in pagan ritual, well, again we reclaim what the world offers and give it God's meaning - so a festival of light in pagan religion becomes a festival of the light of the world - for Christ is all in all, as St Paul said.

Long response to a great post...sorry to have gone on, i just got all carried away!