Scripture is silent
There is no command in Scripture to observe Christmas. There is no day to be observed except the Lord's Day. Here are some findings that can help you make an informed decision about Christmas.
The early Church did not celebrate Christmas
Christmas was not celebrated by the church Jesus first started. It was not celebrated during the first few centuries of the church. As late as A.D. 245, Origen (Hom. 8 on Leviticus) repudiated the idea of keeping the birthday of Christ, "as if he were a king Pharaoh."
"Early Christians did not celebrate the birth of Christ. Birthdays in themselves were associated with pagan practices; the Gospels say nothing about the actual date of Christ's birth." [Golby and Perdue. The Making of the Modern Christmas.]
Is "Christmass" a Roman Catholic invention?
The concept of the Mass is embedded in the English term Christmas, its etymology being traced to the Old English words Christes maesse, meaning the mass or festival of Christ. [Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971. Vol. 1, p408.]
"In the Roman Catholic Church three masses are usually said to symbolize the birth of Christ eternally in the bosom of the Father, from the womb of Mary and mystically in the soul of the faithful." [Taylor, James. The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974. p223.]
Is the date of Christmas a Roman Catholic invention?
The New Catholic Encyclopedia says: "the birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian) because on this day, as the sun began its return to the northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun)."
The syncretism with paganism as a missionary strategy is clearly revealed in Pope Gregory I's instructions to missionaries, given in A.D. 601: "Because they [the pagans] were wont to sacrifice oxen to devils, some celebration should be given in exchange for this . . . they should celebrate a religious feast and worship God by their feasting, so that still keeping outward pleasures, they may more readily receive spiritual joys." [Bede. "Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation." Encyclopedia Britannica, 1961. 5:643.]
Is the date of Dec. 25 also pagan?
"The celebration of the Nativity of Christ on 25 December, just after Saturnalia, is first attributed in the calendar of Philocalus in AD 336, and the day may have been chosen in opposition to the festival held that day in honour of Sol Invictus, whose temple was dedicated in AD 274 by Aurelian." [Scullard, H. H. Festivals and Ceremonies of the Ancient Roman Republic. New York: Cornell University Press, 1981. p207.]
"In the West it [Christmas] has been celebrated on 25 Dec since 336 AD, partly in order to replace the non-Christian sun worship on the same date." [MacMillan Compact Encyclopedia. Toronto: MacMillan, 1995. p122.]
"December 25, the birthday of Mithra, the Iranian god of light and . . . the day devoted to the invincible sun, as well as the day after Saturnalia, was adopted by the [Roman Catholic] church as Christmas, the nativity of Christ, to counteract the effects of these festivals." [The New Encyclopædia Britannica.]
"The practice of celebrating Christmas on 25 December began in the Western Church early in the 4th-c; it was a Christian substitute for the pagan festival held on that date to celebrate the birth of the unconquered sun." [The Cambridge Encyclopedia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 990. p257.]
Is Santa Claus a Roman Catholic invention, too?
The Catholic Pocket Dictionary of Saints has this to say about old Nicholas: "His popularity, already great, increased enormously in the West when his relics were brought to Bari in 1087, and his shrine was one of the great pilgrimage centers of medieval Europe.
"He is the patron of storm-beset sailors (for miraculously saving doomed mariners off the coast of Lycia), of prisoners, of children . . . which led to the practice of children giving presents at Christmas in his name and the metamorphosis of his name, St. Nicholas, into Sint Klaes, or Santa Claus, by the Dutch. It should be noted though that the figure of Santa Claus is really non-Christian and is based on the Germanic god Thor, who was associated with winter and the Yule log and rode on a chariot drawn by goats named Cracker and Gnasher." [The Catholic Pocket Dictionary of Saints.]
The "12 Days of Christmas" are a Roman Catholic invention "By 529 AD, it was a civic holiday, and all work or public business (except that of cooks, bakers, or any that contributed to the delight of the holiday) was prohibited by the Emperor Justinian. In 563, the Council of Braga forbade fasting on Christmas Day, and four years later the Council of Tours proclaimed the twelve days from December 25 to Epiphany as a sacred, festive season." [Nicholas, Mike. "Midwinter Night's Eve: Yule."]
Is Christmas rooted in paganism and superstition? You decide.
"Christmas is a very old holiday. It clearly started as a celebration of the passing of the winter solstice, and the start of the sun's return journey from the north to the south . . . The ancient Romans observed this time with a festival dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture, and it was called Saturnalia . . . When Emperor Constantine decreed Christianity as the new faith of the Roman Empire, early in the fourth century, the Christians gave the holiday an entirely new name and an entirely new meaning." [Gaer, Joseph. Holidays Around the World. Boston: Little Brown, 1953. p133.]
"25 December was a particularly good date for a Christian festival celebrating new life, because there were several pagan festivals all doing much the same thing. The Romans honoured their god Saturn between 17 and 23 December. Saturnalia was a festival in celebration of Rome's Golden Age, which all hoped one day would return. Many of its festivities became part of the traditional Christmas . . . When Christianity became the official religion of the Emperor Constantine, in the early part of the fourth century AD, the pagan celebrations of the 25th stayed to become part of Christmas." [Muir, Frank and Jamie. A Treasury of Christmas. Glasgow: William Collins, 1981. p14.]
"During Saturnalia, everyone feasted and rejoiced, work and business were for a season entirely suspended, the houses were decked with laurel and evergreen, visits and presents were exchanged between friends, and clients gave gifts to their patrons. The whole season was one of rejoicing and goodwill, and all kinds of amusements were indulged in by the people." [Wheeler, J. M. Paganism in Christian Festivals.]
"The ancient Romans held year-end celebrations to honor Saturn, their harvest god; and Mithras, the god of light. Various peoples in northern Europe held festivals in mid-December to celebrate the end of the harvest season. As part of all these celebrations, the people prepared special foods, decorated their homes with greenery, and joined in singing and gift giving. These customs gradually became part of the Christmas celebrations." [The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1995. p528.]
"Although it now celebrates the birth of Jesus, Christmas has its roots in holidays far more ancient and retains strong traces of pagan festivals incorporated as Christianity spread across Europe and the world." [The Mystical Year. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, no date. p120.]
"The Roman festival of the winter solstice was celebrated on 25 Dec. (dies natalis solis invictus). The Celtic and Germanic tribes held this season in veneration from the earliest times, and the Norsemen believed that their dieties were present and active on earth from 25 Dec. to 6 Jan." [Everymans Encyclopedia. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967. p1,672.]
Is Christmas a compromise with pagan idolatry? You decide.
"Christianity thus replaced a pagan holiday with a Christian one, while keeping the same symbolism-the birthday of Christ corresponds to the birth of a new year. Many of the pagan customs became part of the Christmas celebrations." [New Standard Encyclopedia. Chicago: Standard Educational, 1991. pC-320.]
"It was the policy of the early [Roman Catholic] Church to transform pagan festivals wherever possible instead of trying to abolish them, and by giving ancient practices a Christian significance, to purify and preserve for the new faith whatever was innocent and deeply-loved in the old. In the yet-unconverted world of the fourth century, December 25 was already a sacred day for thousands of people throughout the Roman Empire. It was Dies Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun." [Hole, Christina. Christmas and its Customs. London: Richard Bell, 1942. p9.]
"In early times this day [Christmas] was not one of the feasts of the Christian Church. In fact, the church fathers frowned upon the celebration of birthdays and thought them a heathen custom." [The New Book of Knowledge. New York: Grolier, 1979. p289.]
"Practically every country in the world, from China to India, from South America to the Middle East, held celebrations at this time of year . . . It was not until the fourth century that Pope Julius I declared that December 25 should be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus Christ, and Christmas as we know it began. We now celebrate Christmas every year, with a little bit of pagan superstition, a Norse Yule log, Druid candles, a drop of wine from Saturnalia, and a feast from the winter solstice." [Brandreth, Gyles. The Christmas Book. London: Robert Hale, 1984. p9.]
Are today's Christmas customs pagan?
"Many of our Christmas customs have their roots in pagan ceremonies that were already hoary with age in the fourth century AD." [Hole, Christina. Christmas and its Customs. London: Richard Bell, 1942. p9.]
"When Christianity spread northwards it encountered a similar pagan festival [to Saturnalia], also held at the winter solstice, the great Yule-feast of the Norsemen. Once again Christmas absorbed heathen customs. From these various sources come the Yule log, the Christmas tree, introduced into England from Germany and first mentioned in 1789, the decorating of houses with mistletoe and holly and churches with evergreens, especially holly and ivy, as well as the provision of a feast."
[Chambers's Encyclopædia. London: International Learning Systems, 1973. p538.]
"The Saturnalia, extending from December 17 to December 24, was an age-old observance of tribute to the god Saturn, whose name means plenty or bounty. It was a time of rejoicing, hilarity and merrymaking . . . . Of prime significance is the spirit of brotherhood that prevailed at that season of the pagan year. And this humanitarian touch was carried over into the Christmas observances of Christians." [Foyle, Daniel J. The Christmas Tree. New York: Chilton, 1960. p17.]
"Pagan celebrations on December 25 had included feasting, dancing, lighting bonfires, decorating homes with greens, and giving gifts. So when this became a Christian festival, the customs continued, but with a Christian meaning imparted to them." [Encyclopedia international. USA: Lexicon, 1980. p414.]
"The period was characterized by 'processions, singing, lighting candles, adorning the house with Laurel and green trees, giving presents' . . . it is to the merriment and bestowing of favours at the Saturnalia time that we owe our common Christmas practice." [Hottes, Alfred Carl. 1,001 Christmas Facts and Fancies. New York: A.T. De La Mare, 1954. p14.]
"During the Saturnalia, normal life turned upsidedown. Gambling was declared legal, courts were closed, and no one could be convicted of a crime . . . . Christians began absorbing these old customs and infusing them with Christian meaning in order to spread their faith." [The Glory and Pageantry of Christmas. Maplewood, NJ: Time-Life Books, 1963. p114.]
Holly and ivy "
The tradition of bringing holly and ivy, or any evergreen, into the house is another Christmas practice which goes back to the Romans." [Muir, Frank and Jamie. A Treasury of Christmas. Glasgow: William Collins, 1981. p62.]
"Christmas incorporated many other pagan customs. Holly and ivy, for instance, sacred to the ancient gods Saturn and Dionysus, were believed to have magic power against evil." [The Mystical Year. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, no date. p121.]
"Many other Christmas decorations used today were once pagan symbols. The Romans used flowers and leafy boughs in their rites. Records show that the Saxons used holly, ivy, and bay in their religious observances." [The New Book of Knowledge. New York: Grolier, 1979. p291.]
"Some authorities maintain that its [the Christmas tree's] origins lay in the pagan worship of vegetation." [Muir, Frank and Jamie. A Treasury of Christmas. Glasgow: William Collins, 1981. p64.]
"The Christmas tree is of ancient origin." [Webster's Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia. New York: Webster's Unified, 1970. p361.]
"Even the Christmas tree, which came into common use only in nineteenth-century Germany, is perhaps a throwback to a great tree from Norse mythology that was named Yggdrasil." [The Mystical Year. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, no date. p121.]
"The Christmas tree is the symbol of the spirit of the Yuletide in many homes. The custom came from Germany and dates to long ago when primitive people revered trees-particularly evergreens." [The New Book of Knowledge. New York: Grolier, 1979. p291.]
The use of evergreens to decorate homes at Christmas has an unmistakable pre-Christian origin." [Colliers' Encyclopedia. New York: P. F. Collier, 1991. p404.]
"In ancient Rome, people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory and celebration. The custom of hanging a Christmas wreath on the front door of the home probably came from this practice." [The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1995. p535.]
"The use of evergreens was so closely associated with the garlands of pagan days that in many of the early Church celebrations they were forbidden." [Hottes, Alfred Carl. 1,001 Christmas Facts and Fancies. New York: A.T. De La Mare, 1954. p15.]
"The idea of using evergreens at Christmas also came to England from pre-Christian northern European beliefs. Celtic and Teutonic tribes honored these plants at their winter solstice festivals as symbolic of eternal life, and the Druids ascribed magical properties to the mistletoe in particular." [The Encyclopedia Americana International Edition. New York: Grolier, 1991. p666.]
"The ceremony of the Yule log, like so many of the oldest Christmas traditions, was thoroughly pagan in origin." [Muir, Frank and Jamie. A Treasury of Christmas. Glasgow: William Collins, 1981. p59.]
"The Yule log is another of the many Christmas traditions that originated among the Germanic tribes. It was burnt during the winter solstice celebrations, and its name comes from jol, the Old Norse name for their pagan festival. The word "Yule" has since become a synonym for Christmas." [Merit Students Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillan, 1983. p470.]
Mistletoe was always known to have played an important part in the rituals of the Druids, and consequently, was never really accepted by the Church." [Muir, Frank and Jamie. A Treasury of Christmas. Glasgow: William Collins, 1981. p63.]
"Ancient Celtic priests considered the plant [mistletoe] sacred and gave people sprigs of it to use as charms. The custom of decorating houses with mistletoe probably came from its use as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans." [The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1995. p528.]
"The Druids gave the world the tradition of hanging mistletoe in the house." [The New Book of Knowledge. New York: Grolier, 1979. p291.]
"The practice of decorating houses and churches is pagan in its origin, and the mistletoe so widely used for that purpose was the sacred plant of the Druids." [Everymans Encyclopedia. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967. p1,672.]
"The idea of giving presents goes back to the Romans." [Muir, Frank and Jamie. A Treasury of Christmas. Glasgow: William Collins, 1981. p84.]
"The custom of presenting friends with gifts at Christmas dates back to the time of the ancient Romans." [Everymans Encyclopedia. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967. p1,672.]
"The custom of exchanging gifts at Christmastime stems from an ancient Roman practice. During the Saturnalia the Romans presented their emperor and each other with tokens of good luck, called strenae." [Merit Students Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillan, 1983. p470.]
"The early church . . . cleverly transferred its significance [pagan gift-giving at Saturnalia] to a ritual commemoration of the gifts of the Magi." [Discovering Christmas Customs and Folklore.]
"The giving of presents at this time of year has been a custom that has quite naturally lingered through the ages from the Saturnalia and Kalends celebrations when garlands of flowers, candles and dolls were presented as symbolic gifts to bring good luck and prosperity for the future. Although the early Christian Church turned its nose up at pagan rituals, its members saw that they were missing out on the present-giving and cleverly decided to adopt the practice in remembrance of the gifts brought to the infant Jesus by the kings and the shepherds." [Brandreth, Gyles. The Christmas Book. London: Robert Hale, 1984. p100.]
"Because gift-giving was so essential a part of the pagan celebrations [of Saturnalia], the early Church frowned upon it as sternly as upon other and more questionable New Year celebrations." [Hole, Christina. Christmas and its Customs. London: Richard Bell, 1942. p25.]
"The practice of exchanging presents at Christmas stems from the ancient Roman custom called Strenae. During the Saturnalia, Roman citizens used to give "good luck" gifts (strenae) of fruits, pastries, or gold to their friends on New Year's Day." [Colliers' Encyclopedia. New York: P. F. Collier, 1991. p404.]
"The custom of giving gifts to relatives and friends on a special day in winter probably began in ancient Rome and northern Europe." [The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1995. p534.]
"The sending of gifts had its origin in the Yule gifts of northern countries of Europe and ancient Rome." [Webster's Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia. New York: Webster's Unified, 1970. p361.]
Witches still celebrate the season that Christmas was intended to replace
"Remembering that most Christmas customs are ultimately based upon older Pagan customs, it only remains for modern Pagans to reclaim their lost traditions. In doing so, we can share many common customs with our Christian friends, albeit with a slightly different interpretation. And thus we all share in the beauty of this most magical of seasons, when the Mother Goddess once again gives birth to the baby Sun-God and sets the wheel in motion again." Nicholas, Mike. "Midwinter Night's Eve: Yule."]
"Witches celebrate eight major festivals or sabbats each year. . . .The first is Yule, 20 or 21 December." [Russell, Jeffrey B. A History of Witchcraft: Sorcerers, Heretics, and Pagans. London: Thames and Hudson, 1980. p168.]
God commanded Israel to destroy all idols
From Schwertley, Brian. The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas. Southfield Reformed Presbyterian Church. Southfield, MI.
God has such a strong hatred of idolatry that Israel was not just commanded to avoid the worship of idols. Israel was also specifically ordered to destroy everything associated with idolatry.
"Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree: and ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place. Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God. . . . [A]nd that thou enquire not after their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods? even so will I do likewise. Thou shalt not do so unto the LORD thy God" (Deut. 12:2-4, 30-31).
Jacob loved God and hated idolatry
When Jacob set out to purify the camp (i.e., his household and attendants) the earrings were removed as well as their foreign gods (Gen. 35:4), because their earrings were associated with their false gods. They were signs of superstition.
Elijah loved God and hated idolatry
When Elijah went to offer his sacrifice, in his contest with the prophets of Baal, he did not use the pagan altar. He did not take something made for idols (such as the Saturnalia) and attempt to sanctify it for holy use (such as Christmas), but instead he rebuilt the Lord's altar. Christians should not take the pagan festival of Yule or Saturnalia and dress it with Christian clothing, but rather sanctify the Lord's day, as did the apostles.
Jehu loved God and hated idolatry
When Jehu went up against the worshipers of Baal and their temple, did he save the temple and set it apart for holy use? No! He slaughtered the worshipers of Baal: "they brake down the image of Baal, and brake down the house of Baal, and made it a draught house unto this day" (2 Ki. 10:27).
Josiah loved God and hated idolatry
Moreover, we have the example of good Josiah (2 Ki. 23), for he did not only destroy the houses, and the high places of Baal, but his vessels also, and his grove, and his altars; yea, the horses and chariots which had been given to the sun.
Manasseh loved God and hated idolatry
We have also the example of penitent Manasseh, who not only overthrew the strange gods, but their altars too (2 Chron. 23:15).
Does celebrating Christmas show unfaithfulness to Christ?
"If your wife had boyfriends before you married her, would you be offended if she had pictures of her old boyfriends on her dresser? Would it bother you if she celebrated the various anniversaries relating to her past relationships? Would you be offended if she kept and cherished the various rings, jewelry and mementos given to her by her old boyfriends? Of course you would be offended! The Lord God is infinitely more zealous of His honor than you are; He is a jealous God. Could Israel take festival days to Baal, Ashteroth, Dagon and Molech and alter them to make them pleasing to God? Of course not!
"When the church has something relating to worship and religion in common with the unbelieving pagan world, the church, in that area, is bound together with unbelievers. The church has no business celebrating a pagan holiday with the pagan world. What hypocrisy! What wickedness! Church growth, ecumenical fellowship, pragmatism and keeping the peace have taken precedence over doctrinal integrity and pure worship. All this is spiritual lukewarmness and compromise!"