CRITICISM OF DECEMBER 25 CHRISTMAS
1. December 25 is a pagan festival!
Many Evangelicals (including a considerable part
of Messianic Jews of nonsynagogual rites) claim traditional Christmas to
have been an adopted pagan solar festival. This claim originates from
hatred for the Catholic Church and, as a result, it is of emotional
character, based on primitive associations without any profound study of
If Mithraic rituals demonstrate affinity to Christian ones, it matters that Mithras does not sacrifice himself: he slays a bull. Although this deity is Old-Persian, there is evidence to suggest that the cult had been artificially created in the Roman Empire for a military elite. Eventual efforts are not excluded to profit from Mithraism as a rival of spreading Christianity, however Christianity was most a religion of lower classes in the beginning, not of the elite. Elements of secret elitism rather equate Roman Mithraism with Freemasonry. The main thing is that Mithraism was introduced in Rome not earlier than in the 1st c., contemporarily with the Christian faith spreading and becoming rival, but the Mithraic cult withered away in the 4th c. already. Therefore there are meen grounds to hypothesize a Mithraic influence over a religion coming from Jewish Abrahamic faith. Even more: if, as it is assumed, Roman Mithraism had been artificially created in some province of the Roman Empire, one has much more grounds to see Christian elements in Mithraism, not vice versa! One should first analyze provenance of all elements of Roman Mithraism, what are definitely Persian, and what may be artificially Christian, i.e. purposely emulating Christian rituals. Neither enemies of Christianity, nor its Evangelical friends have ever had an idea of such a matter. Thus, as concerns Mithraism, opponents of December 25 Christmas should demonstrate what namely Mithraic elements, when, why and in what traceable way penetrated into Christianity. All idle talks about resemblances (including Nativity on a Day of Sol Invictus of ostensible December 25, multiplied through copying from one another everywhere but nowhere documented) hang in the air without pointing a clear way of influence.
As for Saturnalia, this was an authentic pagan festival of the winter solstice. Nevertheless the winter solstice itself lasts from December 21 till December 23. December 23 was namely END of the feast in Rome! Why on earth “the Catholich Church” had to invent Nativity on December 25, not on 21, 22, or at least on 23! December 25 has nothing to do with the winter solstice, not to say about real historic pagan festival!
Emperor Aurelian really introduced a festival of the Unconquered Sun (Sol invictus) in the Roman Empire, but this was too late, in 274, when a new non-Jewish and nonpagan Christian religion had been already formed in all its main features (grounds of faith, all canonical texts, classical liturgy – how could emerge a new influence then!) in no conjunction with any solstice. There is also no documents pointing to December 25 as a day fixed by Aurelian for this new festival, except a single (!) calendar of 354 showing races (CM, Circenses missus ‘games ordered’) in honour of N.INVICTI (Natale Invicti ‘Birthday of Unconquered [Sun]’) on December 25, what equally could have appeared as a relic of a random Anti-Christian measure against Christmas on that day (S.E. Hijmans). Nevertheless, if the date for the new festival was really fixed by Aurelian on December 25, which obviously had nothing to do with Saturnalia and the winter solstice (having ended on December 23), but this could not make any influence on Christianity being already full-shaped as a new religion in 274, then only one explanaition is possible: the date was taken namely from Christian Christmas, not from paganism in an opposite way. Such misuse of Christian date, as said, could be only an Anti-Christian measure proposing a pagan alternative to the Christian festival, as a method of a typically ideological contest. All other explanations by various opinion-makers appear to be in contradiction with apparent interests of the early Church not to associate itself with any pagan practices.
(2) As for pagan elements in Christianity, they penetrated folkways in almost all traditional Christian festivals. The Church prohibited some of them tolerating others in a Christionized folklore form. They survived due to pagan traditions of believers, their mentality and folkloric memory. Of course, a relative nearness in time between December 25 and Saturnalia was favourable for the Church to oust pagan rites, however it is namely the Hanukka 25 Light Day number coincidence which shows that Judeo-Christian celebrations are 3 ages earlier than the era of Constantin!
Nevertheless one also should not ignore a calendar symbolism of the “newborne sun” in turn. Days of the growing autumn darkness give place to growing light. This is a splendid symbolism of the Hanukka Light as well as for coming of the Messiah. This was not accidental that G-d consecrated the beginning of the year on the first day of the spring month Nisan.
(3) It is correct that the first Christians named Messiah Y-shua‘ the Sun of Truth, leaning on a clearly non-pagan allegory by Malachi 4, 2 (3, 20). In 321 this allegory probably helped Emperor Constantin the Great, yet not fully christionized and not baptized, to identify the day of Resurrection with the day of Sun as the first day of the week, excusing soldiers and servants from duties on Sunday in the interest of Christians to partcipate in the Eucharist. In a very foolish way this edict is often mentioned as “a change of Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday”, just say the Jewish Sabbath had ever been a free day in the Roman Empire. To inform haters of the Catholic Church, no Roman Catholic Church did exist in 321, but Sunday had been a day for Eucharist gatherings in Rome and in Alexandria still from days of persecutions, when Christians did not want to be detected due to rites of the rebels Jews.
(4) This was in 66, yet before the ruination of the Second Temple in 70, when Nero provoked first serious ethnic conflicts between the Jews and the Greeks in Caesarea. More than a million Greeks and Jews became victims of such conflicts during the Kitos War of 115–117, when Jewish insurgents demolished pagan sanctuaries in many Roman provinces. Some provinces were strongly depopulated during these conflicts, but Cyrenaica and Crete became uninhabited as a result. At this time, with all probability, an Anti-Semitic Greek interpolation concerning the Jews “They do not please G-d and are inimical to all men” appeared in Paul's 1st Epistle to Thessalonians, in spite of insightful efforts of Paul himself to warn proud Romans against humilating the Jews (Rom 11: 18). After a compact habitation of the Jews in their homeland had been destroyed as a result of Bar Kohhba's revolt in 130–134 (ca. half of the autochthones lost), a Jewish Christian minority remaining in Pella, in Decapolis, became unable to defened themselves against the Greeks without help of the majority, therefore they had to lead among all Jewish refugees in percentage. No one Jewish bishop remained in Palestine (cf. situation in today Syria and Iraq). Thus former Christian ties with disappearing Judeo-Christian Center in Judea rapidly sank into oblivion. Pharisees and Sadducees, so sincerely and strongly criticized by Messiah Y-shua‘ straight in a passionate Jewish way (cf. Matthew 16:23), appeared to be replaced with an ethnonym “Jews” in many places of John! At the same time the words of Y-šūa‘ “The Kingdom of G-d shall be taken from you and given to people (Hebr. gōj) bringing forth the fruits thereof”, said to “chief priests and elders of the people” (Matthew 21:43), became reinterpreted as been said to the whole Jewish nation. The Greek translation and its ethnic interpretation (cf. also “nation” in KJV) helped to form coming religious Anti-Semitism and a “theory of replacement”. For the first time the Jews, as a nation, were named Deiciders in 325, in Constantin's letter to the 1st Council of Nicea On the Date of Easter (possibly written with a help of some clever Greek, since the Emperor could not even make sense out of the Arianism). Only Messiah Himself, His Mother, a pair dozen of pupils and first bishops suddenly retreated from their nationality and miraculously became members of a new... pure gentile G-d's nation! Not less miraculously disappeared the whole Church of Jacob in Judea, i.e. thousands of Jewish Christians only in the second thirth of the 1st c. (see Acts 2:41, 4:4, 21:20). Thousands of Judeo-Christians, having escaped Greek knives as refugees in Syria and Arabia, had to become foergotten as quick as possible, as if not having existed at all. Nobody in Palestine and in Nicea were interested in their return. On the contrary, Anti-Jewish laws became even more severe under Constantin. This is why Eusebius did hints in his Church History to some “Heretics Ebionites” who either rejected Y-shua‘ as G-d, or rejected Paul's epistles [the latter is correct, of course: see an altercation between Paul (Rom 4:2, 4:4–6, Hebr 10:8,31) and Jacob (Jacob 2:21–22,25, Acts 21:20–21)], or between Paul (Galatians 2:1,4–7,11–13) and Peter (2 Peter 3:15–17)].
One should not wonder, therefore, that namely Martin Luther, an offspring of this new Gentile Christianity of Constantin the Great and its reformer, this Martin Luther, whom Evangelicals praise as a Redeamer from the Roman Church “Whore of Babylon”, namely he was the first to convert religious Anti-Semitism into a racist one !
These are results of circumstances formed by all events of the first three centuries of the New Christian era. They were very favourable for a new version of Christianity to break away from its original authentic Abrahamic roots, piety and mentality, adopting its faith to mentality and customs of Graeco-Roman Antiquity. Christians Greeks and Romans proposed own theoretic inventions concerning the date of Nativity, and nobody knew, or even took care of the fact, that non-hellenized Jews celebrated Temple festivals only, they never celebrated birthdays in a pagan manner. On the other hand, there are many places in the OT, where conception and being in a womb are mentioned, and this is reflected in the Gospel too. This is possibly a feature of the Orient (in Japan an age of a person is calculated plus nine months after the birth). This is especially important in case of Incarnation. If G-d comes into the world, He comes essentially in conception, not in birth. Therefore coming of the Sun of Truth more fits to Incarnation than to Birth. Or at least both are the same because an “Aristotelian logic” is alien to a religious Semitic mentality.
(5) Since Christmas celebrations start on December 24 after the sunset, this in turn points to a Jewish calendar, in which a new date starts after the sunset of the previous date. All Jewish festivals are celebrated in this way.
2. Christ could not be born in winter, He was born in autumn!
One very popular statement of December 25
criticizers more is that Christ could not be born on this date in
(7) This is not all! During the main festivals of Pesah (Pesach), Šavū‘ōt and Sukkōt, when pilgrims from the whole country and abroad had to come to Jerusalem, kohens of all courses had to arrive and serve there together. Here one faces the last and final problem more: there were only 24 families of the descendants of Aharaon in time of David, however there had to be ca. 300 kohens of correspondent families 530+ years later. Let us divide 300 : 24 = at least 12 kohens of each course (!) had to be on duty in the Temple every eight days. This is more than necessary for eight days. One should pay attention to the words of Luke about Zekharyah: ... while he executed his priest's office before G-d in the order of his course, According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the Temple of the L-rd. (Luke 1:8–9) [Incense Altar is in mind. After entering the Temple from the east, the gold-plated Incense Altar was seen in the centre of Sanctuary between the eastern entrance curtain and the western curtain of the Holy of Holies; there were also a golden Menorah near the southwestern corner of the Sanctuary before the curtain of the Holy of Holies, and the gold-plated Table of Showbread near the northwestern corner symmetrically.] This explains what Luke's words “his lot was to burn incense” mean: all kohens of a course performed each different tasks of their service by lot during their eight days of service! Cf. Talmud on Temple practice during festivals: “On the eighth day they cast lots, as on other festivals. It was so regulated that the order which offered bullocks one day were not permitted to offer bullox the next day, but it went in rotation” (Tractate Sukkā, 5, mishnah 6). Theoretically one could attempt to examine all Jewish years with all courses and festivals from 539 BC to (theoretical) Nativity in the 5th/4th year BC, as many people correct Dionysius' The Little mistake. However who knows whether Zekharyah did not serve one day only and whether he was obliged to wait till all relatives of his course would finish thir duty in the Temple?
(8) As for sheep grazing in fields in winter, this is also confirmed in Talmud: “Cattle found all the way from Jerusalem to Migdal Eder, and in the same vicinity in all directions, are considered, if male, as whole-offerings, and if female as peace-offerings. R. Jehudah says: If they are fit for Passover-offerings they may be used for such purpose, providing Passover is not more than thirty days off” (Tractate Shekālīm ‘shekels’, 7, mishnah 4 (d) ). Migdal Eder is near Bethlehem in Judea, but thirty days before Pesah may be February!
Winters in Judea are horribly “cold”: usually ca. +8 degrees! Of course it may rain and rarely even snow in winter. Site Bethlehem and Jericho Tours informs:
“The winter months in Bethlehem are from November to March and although it does get cold the Bethlehem winter weather is still warm comapared to European winters. The temperatures in Bethlehem in winter range from an average minimum 7C in January to an average high of 25 C in November and April. January and December are the months when there is most likely to be rain in Bethelehem and they are also Bethlehem's coldest months”.
Ferrell's Travel Blog focuses namely on Messiah's Birth in winter: “We find many Bedouin shepherds watching their sheep on the eastern slopes year round, including winter months. The temperature around Jerusalem and Bethlehem is fairly temperate in the winter. Only a small amount of rain falls on the eastern slopes of the central mountain range. Both Jerusalem and Bethlehem are located on this ridge.” Itis strongly recommended to read an article “Awassi sheep” in Wikipedia: The Awassi sheep breed is common in most of the Middle East countries including /.../ Lebanon, Israel, Palestine [?] /.../ They have unique physiological characteristics such as /.../ walk long distances over pastures for grazing, tolerating extreme temperatures and enduring adverse feeding conditions.
It seems that all arguments of December 25 criticizers are invented by dilettantes and cannot withstand serious analysis.
No grounds exist to negate the coincidence of the number 25 dates in Kislev and in December as the main argument for Hanukkah having been festival of the coming G-d (Emmanuel) in time of apostle Jacob. Messianic Jews have no need to celebrate December 25 instead of Kislev 25 as Jewish Christmas.