As the streets are dressed up in flamboyant lights and people begin their shopping for gifts, some may ponder over the reason for these festivities. Does Christmas truly have its roots from the Bible? In December 2018, the World Mission Society Church of God Singapore (SGWMSCOG) hosted a Bible Seminar titled “Whose Birthday is Christmas” to solve the mystery.
Drawn to the seminar were individuals in search of the origin of Christmas as well as other biblical truths. Scanning through the entire Bible, however, one would never be able to find the word ‘Christmas’. This answers the first question that was posed to the audience, ‘Is Christmas truly a Christian festival?’. Jesus Christ’s birth has been celebrated over the centuries as ‘Christmas’ on December 25. This date even made its mark as a public holiday in many nations and reckoned as “the day the Savior was born”. If this is not the day the Savior was born, whose birthday is it?
Studying historical evidence from various sources such as Encyclopedia Americana, Encyclopedia Britannica and History of Christian Church led to a single conclusion. December 25 was not officiated as Christmas until about the 4th century, and was instituted to be celebrated as the “rebirth of the sun” instead of the holy birth of Christ. The day was chosen to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the winter solstice – Saturnalia, Sigillaria, and Brumalia. Saturnalia used to be a festival of merry-making; Sigillaria was a festival where children received gifts while Brumalia was a festival to honour the ‘Unconquered Sun’ (the sun god). It appears that Christmas took its roots from these three pagan festivals that took place around the end of December.
CHRISTMAS … This date was not set in the West until about the middle of the 4th century and in the East until about a century later.ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA, GOLIERT INC., 1996
Origins of Christmas … the day was chosen to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter solstice. when the days begin to lengthern, to celebrate the “rebirth of the sun.” … The Roman Saturnalia (a festival dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture,, and to the renewed power of the sun), also took place at this time, and some Christmas custom are thought to be rooted in this ancient pagan celebration.ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA, GOLIERT INC., 1996
CHRISTMAS … Christmas on Dec. 25 is first known to have been celebrated in Rome in the second of the 4th century.ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, INC.
Decenber 25 in Rome.-This was the date of a pagan festival in Rome. chosen in A.D. 274 by the emperor Aurelian as the birthday of the unconquered sun (natalis solis invicti), which at the winter solstice begins again to show an increase of light.ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA, INC.
… Indeed, Christmas itself was superimposed over the ancient festivals that celebrated the winter solstice; … In the third century, when sun cults like the Mithraic religion of Persia found their way to Rome, days in December were given over to celebrate the rebirth of Sol Invictus: te invincible sun. … The attitude of the early church toward all this indecent jollity was predictably frosty. … But not for the last time, ecclesiastical pragmatism shrewdly prevailed over killjoy zeal. Since there was no general agreement about the exact date of the birth of Jesus(Passover was another popular suggestion), it must have seemed helpful to have it supersede the Saturnalia, which petered out on its seventh day, Dec. 24. So the rebirth of the sun became insted the birth of the Son of God.THE NEWYORK TIMES, DECEMBER 24, 1991
The Christmas church took over many pagan ideas and images. From sun-worship, for example, came the celebration of Christ’s birth on the twenty-fifth of December, the brithday of the Sun. … The Christmas festival was probably the Christian transformation or regeneration of a series of kindred heathen festivals – the Saturnalia, Sigillaria, Juvenalia, and Brumalia – which were kept in Rome in the month of December, in commemoration of the golden age of universal freedom and equality, and in honor of the unconquered sun, and which were great holidays, especially for slaves and children.THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY, TIM DOWLEY, LION PUBLISHING, 1994
In other words, Christmas only appeared approximately 300 years after Jesus ascended. Christmas was adopted from Rome and was originally celebrated as the birthday of the official sun god of Rome. This pagan festival would later evolve into the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Centuries later, it has become a heavily commercialised tradition celebrated across the world. Thus, Christmas was never the “birthday of Jesus”, nor “the day the Savior was born”. Historical sources reveal the pagan roots of this supposedly holy affair.
Riding on the joy of this merry-making season, many rationalise that celebrating Christmas is a sacred way for them to commemorate the coming of Jesus as the Savior without paying any tribute to the sun-god. In line of logic, would it be acceptable to celebrate the birthday of other deities to commemorate Jesus’ coming? After understanding that Christmas is non-biblical, the audience was introduced to a biblical festival that Jesus Christ established in remembrance of Him.
Luke 22:7-8,19-20 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.”… And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”.. In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
This festival is the Passover of the New Covenant. Even after Jesus’ ascension, apostle Paul continued to teach about the Passover.
1 Corinthians 11: 23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
According to the Bible, the Passover is observed once a year, on the 14th day of the first month, the month of Nisan, at twilight based on the sacred calendar (Leviticus 23:4-5). This is a Christian festival that was clearly recorded in the Bible that Jesus and His disciples observed.
“It was an interesting bible seminar. I was very shocked to find out that December 25 is actually not the birthday of Jesus. I will not celebrate Christmas anymore. If I have the opportunity, I will observe the Passover.” said Yong Xin, 20, an invited guest.
“This was an informative bible seminar. I already knew the origin of Christmas was not the birthday of Jesus, I have also heard about the Passover before this.” commented Gabriel, 29.
The answer to this age old question ‘Whose birthday is Christmas?’ has finally been revealed. God has already prepared the New Covenant Passover since 2,000 years ago for us to remember Him by. Besides, what gift can be compared with the gift of God which is eternal life?