Is the Christmas Holiday Pagan? - 01/12/2004
hi there...i am a christian and i thought your website was very helpful...except the one thing i was trying to find out ...wasnt here...and it was concerning christmas and easter..(particularly christmas)....a person of the JW religion brought up a good point...but it wasnt answered...and a close friend of mine brought up the same point to me....christmas definatly is a time for celebrating the birth of jesus...but why the tree , lights, presents ect?....that does sound a little pagean?...i was really confused bc i never intended it to be that way....and if it is wrong i want to know?...another thing...cant JW's celebrate jesus birth ...just without all the "toppings"..?....it would be very helpful if i knew this,....thank you for your time...
yours in christ,
CONTENDER MINISTRIES RESPONSE:
Hi Kyleen. Thanks for writing to us, and thanks for the kind words. You're not the first person to write to us with this question. The Jehovah's Witness doctrine against celebrating holidays (including birthdays) does seem to raise a lot of questions. First, let's address the celebration of holidays, especially Christmas.
First of all, the word "holiday" itself means "holy day." At one time, all true holidays were religious observances. Christmas comes from "Christ's Mass", a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is said that the selection of December 25th for this holiday was designed to replace the Roman pagan celebration of Saturnianism with a Christian celebration. I see nothing wrong with that. Today, more and more Christian churches are using the occasion of Halloween to establish enjoyable Christ-centered celebrations for their children. The origin of the Christmas tree is somewhat muddled. It is true that even before Christ, pagans used trees to decorate during pagan observances, especially during the winter solstice. In fact, many religions used a tree for some symbolic reason or another. Does this make Christmas trees pagan? I would say no. Many non-Christian religions also had some form of baptism practice too, but that does not make Christian baptism evil or pagan. The first mentions of Christians decorating trees at Christmas seems to have Germanic origin. Some say that practice started when Boniface went on a mission to the Germans, and was so disgusted at their pagan practice of giving adoration to the oak tree, that he cut down an oak tree and a fir tree grew in its place. The fir tree then became symbolic of Christianity and was brought inside at Christmas time. Another story talks of a 7th century monk who went on a mission journey to Germany, and used the triangular shape of the fir tree to illustrate the doctrine of the Trinity. From there, the fir tree was incorprated into the Christmas celebration. Martin Luther was said to be the first to decorate a Christmas tree with lights. The story goes that he was walking home at night and was so struck by the bright stars shining through the forest, that upon returning home, he placed candles delicately on their Christmas tree. Is the Christmas tree pagan? For many people it was. For some, it may still be. Can it be a traditional part of the celebration of Christmas apart from pagan meaning? Certainly!
The Bible does not command nor condemn the annual remembrance of the birth of Jesus Christ. The Bible does not command nor condemn a celebration involving the exchange of presents - with or without religious meaning. As I see it, the only danger is in creating idols of the practice or symbolism involved in our celebrations. But if we can celebrate Christmas without assigning the symbols or traditions some significance that overshadows the gospel, then I see no problem with its celebration. The same applies to Easter. Indeed, for some people, Easter and Christmas are the only occasions for which they will attend church. I see a wonderful opportunity to reach these people and make the gospel something very real to them during the other 363 days of the year. ANYONE can celebrate Christmas without all the toppings. If you choose to do so, then God bless you as you do.
As for the JW refusal to celebrate holidays, I personally don't care whether they do or don't. This doctrine is not relevant to the issue of salvation or biblical orthodoxy. JW's and the Watchtower society have serious problems with doctrine, and their reluctance to celebrate holidays or salute the flag are not among them. I hope this has answered your question. God bless you as you contend for the faith.
Ben and Jennifer Rast