Christmas is the celebration and observance, by Christians, of the Birth of Jesus Christ from the Virgin Mary.
According to Elizabeth A. Dice, in her book, Christmas and Hanukkah, Christmas had a history of its own before the world celebrated December 24th’s Eve and the 25th, Christmas Day. In its origin, Christmas comes from “Christ’s mass.” To the Christians, it’s a time of happy celebration and gathering in order to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. 1
In the New Testament, Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem. However, there was never a specified date to the birth. Thanks to the writings of Sextus Julis Africanus, a Christian historian who attempted to combine biblical writing with real historical texts, the perception of Creationism was changed.
Africanus insisted that the world was created on March 21st, with
the day God made light on March 25th. He continued to calculate
Jesus’s date of conception to be on March 25th, thousands of years
later. Thus, people assumed nine months later, December 25th, to be the
date of Jesus Christ’s birth. A theory that strengthens why this date was chosen
was because it shared the time of the winter solstice, the shortest day of the
year, and the marker that crops and farming would begin to increase in
productivity, thus gaining Pagan followers more easily.
With respect to connections to the most ancient Pagan groups, Mesopotamians held a 4,000 year old, 12 day festival called Zagmuth for their prime god, Marduk. It is believed that this is the first cultural ritual followed the winter solstice in December.2
The Norse of Scandinavia celebrated a similar holiday called Yule. It started from December 21st, on winter solstice, and into January. Due to the sun’s return, fathers and sons brought home logs for the fire, after which a large feast would ensue. To the Norse, each spark from the fire symbolized an addition to the cattle supply in the next year.
In fact, the end of December marked the perfect time for celebration in most of Europe. Cattle was slaughtered to avoid feeding them through the winter, while also supplying a large influx of fresh meat for the community and family. Coincidentally, beverages like wine and beer was also usually finally fermented for the winter time.3
In addition, in the 4th century CE, Christianity took
on the Saturnalia festival hoping in order to attract pagans. Christian leaders
succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising
them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians. The
last day of the festival, December 25th, was held onto.
Pagan influences, of course, can be seen throughout the
Christmas ways. Mistletoe, for instance, is of Celtic origin. The idea of
hanging mistletoe was a Celtic custom.
1. Dice, Elizabeth A.. Christmas and Hanukkah . New York, NY: Chelsea House, 2009. Print.