|Dr. Samuel Bayo Arowolaju||Tuesday, January 9, 2007|
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THE FALLACIES OF CHRISTMAS
hanked God, it is over. The Christmas or what is fast becoming 'crazymass' is over and done with this year at least. For now and until another eleven months there would be peace and sanity in the home, workplace, malls, stores, radio and TV stations. The rush for Christmas sales and Christmas parties will have to wait until December 2007 at least. Christmas is the greatest one-day celebration on earth. And though one day and only one day is allocated to it on the Gregorian calendar, yet it seems like a year. Above all, it is capable of taken the peace and joy out of many homes and many people for about 25 to 30 days in the name of preparations for Christmas. Yes, truly, truly I say to you, for some people, Christ has been taken out of their Christmas. And when this happen as it is often the case, what is left is that which can be called 'Crazymass'. Many celebrants either do not know or have forgotten that Christ is the reason for the season.
Christmas is supposed to be an annual Christian celebration of the birthday of Jesus Christ of Nazareth born in Bethlehem about 2000 years ago. December 25 of each year on the Gregorian calendar seems to be 'eternally' fixed as the Christmas day. Unlike Easter the other Christian celebration, which has no fixed date, Christmas seems to be the only thing happening on December 25 of each year that it is if nothing else matters on that day. So, it has rubbed many people born on December 25 of their legitimate birthday celebrations. In most places, and to many people, it is uncommon to celebrate or set aside that day for something else like marriage, funeral or graduation except Christmas only.
The word Christmas is from two old English words "cristes maesse", which in modern English simply mean Christ Mass. So it attaches Christ with the word right from the onset. Yet, the Church, which was founded by Jesus Christ, did not celebrate any mass for Christ until the first one at about 336 CE in Rome. It is strange to note that the birthday of Jesus was not first celebrated in Bethlehem where He was born. It was not celebrated in Nazareth in His childhood home, not in Capernaum where lived as an adult and where his earthly Ministry based at the bank of the Sea of Galilee. Surely, Christmas was not first celebrated in Jerusalem where the Church was born on the Day of Pentecost when about three thousand people become Christian in just one day. In fact Christmas was not celebrated in Jerusalem until when Bishop Juvenal was head of the church there between 424 and 458. It was in Rome, the pagan capital of the Ancient world more than three decades after the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. This in itself is enough to challenge our knowledge and understanding of what is Christmas.
Using the teaching of Jesus Christ, the Master and Teacher Himself, we need to seek, in other to find out the authenticity of Christmas and the origin of December 25 being a Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. This is more so now when especially we find banners, billboards and posters on the streets and church electronic sign boards now eloquently proclaiming in brilliant colors and lightning: "HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS". I have done my private seeking and my findings are presented below in what I now consider as THE FALLACIES OF CHRISTMAS.
The greatest fallacy of Christmas is that Jesus Christ was born on December 25. In fact there is record of the actual date of his birth on any day in December of any year. We have said earlier that the pagan city of Ancient Rome was the first place that Christmas was celebrated and on December 25. This day, historically, was the climax for the celebration of the festival marking the rebirth of the Unconquerable Sun god or what was called "Dies Natalis Solis Invicti" or simply "Solis Invictus". The celebration usually started on December 22 was concluded on December 25. It was the celebration to of the time or day when the daylight began to be longer than nighttime in winter, which is usually a day after solstice or what was called the rebirth of the sun.
It should be noted that before this time, one of the characteristics of winter is nighttime being longer than daylight. In some places, there could be sunset at about 4pm and sunrise at about 7am the following morning. The opposite is equinox when the day and the night shared the same time period or hours. There are usually one solstice in June and another one in December which usually starts by the 21st of the month with the increased time or hours for day over night in this period. This is why the celebration normally started by December 22 but usually ended on December 25. History therefore has it that it was this day that was converted to the celebration of the Christmas including Christmas Eve after Christianity became the official state religion under Emperor Constantine I, who converted and became the first Christian Roman Emperor.
It was not likely to be difficult to convert the pagan day of December 25 which originally was for the celebration of the rebirth or reappearance of the undefeated or unconquerable sun god to the celebration of the birthday of Jesus because the Emperor had just been converted to Christianity and he legalized the religion. Secondly, Jesus is the Son of God and the celebration they were having was for the sun god. So, "sun of god" could easily be swapped with the Son of God. Also, Jesus proved Himself undefeated and unconquerable by death by His resurrection and reappearance in the same way the pagans saw the sun becoming undefeated and unconquerable by its having more days after the change of season from December 22. Using the same day and logic would have given the pagan worshippers a sense of belonging and a pride of identity especially with the Emperor joining in their celebration without changing the day. It is therefore no wonder that paganism was allowed to continue with Christianity until it was officially banned in February of 390. I hope we can still remember that the Syrian Sun-god was called Baal.
Most students of History of Christianity will remember the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (272 - 337), as the first Roman Christian Emperor. He made Christianity the state religion and contributed in no small way to the spread of Christianity in Europe and other parts of the world. We can still also remember the Milan Edit of 313 which officially legalized Christianity after decades of persecution including torture and death. The Council Nicaea of 325 came also under the purview of Constantine where major doctrinal decisions and worship about Christianity were taken. It is also very important for Christians to note that it was the same Constantine I who decreed on March 7, 321 that Sunday must be a day of rest for the world and Christendom. Sunday was "dies Solis" meaning the day of the sun god. Constantine decreed:
"On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed. In the country however persons engaged in agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits because it often happens that another day is not suitable for grain-sowing or vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such operations the bounty of heaven should be lost."
From the above, we can see why and how millions across the world including non Christians celebrate the 'birthday' of Jesus Christ on December 25 every year when Jesus Himself or His immediate apostles and disciples (the Early Church) never did. We can also see how and why by the decree of one man (Emperor Constantine I), the day of the Sun became Sunday a day of worship and or work free day for millions across the world. It is on record that Jesus throughout His life worshipped on the Day of Sabbath (the Seventh Day of the week), which the LORD God declared as the Day of Rest as recorded by Moses in the story of the Creation and in the Ten Commandments. Jesus however resurrected on the First Day of the week and when the early Church was persecuted out of the Sabbath congregation in the Jewish Synagogues on Sabbath, it started worshipping on the First Day of the Week but it was never called Sunday. Along with the Christmas on December 25, are the other paraphernalia of Christmas without which Christmas as we know it now seems incomplete but which to many people has become part of the fallacies of Christmas as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Let us consider them below.
Santa Claus: Santa Claus (called Father Christmas in some places) is the corrupt form of Saint Nicholas who was born near Turkey about 280. He was known and admired for his generosity and kindness especially for children. It was said of him that he traveled well around and gave away all his inherited wealth to the sick and poor during which time he saved three sisters from being sold as slaves or into prostitution by their father to pay their dowry. The story has it that St. Nicholas gave each of the three girls, gifts of gold coins separately found in a pair of shoes, another in a pair of stocking hung to dry by the fire place while the third was found through a window. Today, many still put Christmas gifts in long hanging stockings.
St. Nicholas ended up being the most popular Saint in Europe during the Renaissance and up to the Protestant Reformation that a feast in his honor was celebrated on December 6 the anniversary of his death. Saint Nicholas became Santa Claus when a group of Dutch families who moved to New York in late 18th Century gathered to celebrate the anniversary of his death. The name became Sinter Nikolass which was the Dutch variant of Saint Nicholas, from which the modern day Santa Claus evolved. So, we can see that it was not even part of Roman pagan origin of Christmas. It was a Dutch addition to the taste of Christmas. In the United States and England, children hang stockings on their bedpost or near a fireplace on Christmas Eve, hoping that it will be filled with treats by Santa while they sleep. In Scandinavia, similar-minded children leave their shoes on the hearth. This tradition can be traced to legends about Saint Nicholas and not Jesus Christ. From all indications, in most cases and in most places, Christmas as it is celebrated today varies from people to people, from culture to culture none of which reflects those about the birth of Jesus but about one legend or fairy tale or the other.
Christmas Trees: Since most trees and plants wither or appear dead in winter, most people in those days cherish evergreen plants especially during this time as a sign and hope of life. So, some people use them to decorate their homes during winter festivals. Some fetish cultures used pine or fir or such evergreen plants to keep away witches, evil spirits or sickness from their homes. In the Egyptian worship of the Sun god of Ra, worshipers decorate their homes with green palms as a sign of the triumph of life over death. In Rome the solstice is indicative that the farms and field will soon be green again. So, their homes and temples of Saturnalia the god of Agriculture were decorated with evergreen boughs. The Druids of Northern Europe decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a sign of ever lasting life while the Vikings in the Scandinavia saw the evergreen plants as the products of the Balder, their sun god.
However, Christmas Tree as it is called and used as part of Christmas celebration started in Germany about 16th Century. Devout Christians made Christmas pyramids decorated with evergreens in their homes. It is said that Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer was the first to add a lighted candle to a tree after seeing the brilliance of the stars on a winter night. It is on record that it was the German settlers in Pennsylvania who brought the tree tradition to America in the 1740s but a Christmas Tree was not on display until the 1830s. Yet, the American first saw Christmas Trees as pagan symbols not acceptable initially and it was resisted as part of Christian worship or celebration of Christmas.
In New England, the Puritans stood their grounds for a while against what they called "pagan mockery" of Christmas. The powerful Oliver Cromwell preached against what he called the "heathen traditions" of Christmas. In 1659, the General Court in Massachusetts made a law against the observance of any other thing but church service on December 25. People were fined for hanging decorations. That was how far the Puritan Ethics could go before the influx of the German and Irish immigrants in the 19th and 20th Centuries when Christmas Trees and ornaments became very popular. The invention of electricity brought glow and color to Christmas decorations with Trees not only in homes but also town or city squares across the country. Today, in many homes, Christmas celebration is virtually incomplete without either a live or synthetic ornamented Christmas Tree.
Christmas Cards and Carols: Historically, the origin of Christmas Cards was traced to one John Callcott Horsley of England at about 1843, which means just in the 19th Century. It was created by him for a friend named Sir Henry Cole with the message: "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You." And in the US, it was started in the middle of 19th century by one R.H. Pease in New York and another German immigrant at about 1850. Christmas Carol also started in England by some wandering musicians who sang in homes and castles for money and hot meal.
From vantage position we could see that Christmas was not originally a Christian Religious celebration. It is therefore no wonder that in England it was banned by the Puritan rulers in 1647. The ban was lifted in 1660 though some Anglican Clergies maintained the ban in their churches. In the United States of America Christmas did not officially become a Federal Holiday until 1870 and this was because it was seen as serving a "valid secular purpose" thereby maintaining the separation between the State and religion. So, the present Christmas break for Congress was not there.
The most worrisome of the celebration of Christmas even by some liberal Christians today is the Christianization of the pagan customs, traditions and rituals which have no bearing with Jesus Christ whose birthday they pretend to celebrate. And this in itself is the very origin of Christmas. Many non-Christians now celebrate Christmas without knowing who Jesus is. The economic impact of Christmas is so large that sales are recorded in billions of dollars from retail shops across the countries all over the world that there is what officially is called "Christmas Shipping season". This is the time when retail store start to bring Christmas items or merchandize into their stores, usually a month or even more before Christmas.
In fact we are all witnesses to the increasing commercialization of Christmas to an extent that non-secular and no-Christian countries now allow the sales of Christmas items as a way of boosting their trade and commerce. There is doubt that the reason for the season which is Jesus is almost lost in the hurly-burly of Christmas shopping or the cacophonies of the commercial blitz that normally precede Christmas Day. Shopping is no longer limited to the physical stores on the ground as billions of items and dollars are now sold on the Internet or on the phone backed by commercials on the Radio, TV and billboards. The commercialization and socialization of Christmas is further displayed even in some churches and by some Christians by what they wear to churches on Christmas days - usually special, designer wears including shoes and head wears or hair styles. Yes, to many of these people, that is the only day in the year they attend church services. Some have special meals that day. It is estimated that most people don't finish paying their debts owed to Christmas until four to six months after Christmas. The 'religious' greeting of Happy or Merry Christmas is fast being replaced with Happy Holidays, as a classical manifestation of the socialization of Christmas.
From 336, more than three hundred years after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ when the first Christmas was celebrated and now; depending on the people, culture and tradition, many things have been introduced to the celebration of Christmas across the world, which have become nothing but fallacies. Santa is fast replacing the Savior; the lighted decorated evergreen tree in the living room or city centers is replacing the Cross on the Hill of Calvary. More than ever before and with no sign of reduction in speed, Jesus is fast loosing His place and position in Christmas celebration as the reason for the season. To those with discerning Spirit, Christ is moving out of Christmas making Roman pagan worship of December 25, the 'Crazymass' the mass of the people are now celebrating; running from store to store, from mall to mall and from one party to the other in what has become the greatest fallacies of Christmas.
Watch out for The Facts of Christmas.
© 2006 - Dr. Samuel Bayo Arowolaju