If there is one thing my enforced upbringing in a religious cult taught me it is NEVER to take things at face value. This along with question everything.
Now, you may be fully aware of the origins of Christmas, and whether you are a believer in a god or not, it is always good to review the facts. This is especially true if one is blessed with children. I am happy for my children to choose their own path in life, but I will of course guide them. It disappoints me immensley that God, the Bible and the Christian faith is taught as fact in British schools whether they claim to be christian or not. Evolution and Science are largely ignored. But that is a conversation for another time.
So where did the Christmas come from?
I. When was Jesus born?
A. Popular myth places Jesus birth on December 25th in the year 1 C.E.
B. No translation of The New Testament gives a date or year for Jesus’ birth. The earliest gospel, that of the book of Mark, written about 65 CE – begins with the baptism of an adult Jesus. This would suggest then that the earliest Christians lacked interest in or knowledge of Jesus’ birth date.
C. The year of Jesus birth was actually determined by Dionysius Exiguus, a Scythian monk, “abbot of a Roman monastery. His calculation went as follows:
a. In the Roman, pre-Christian era, years were counted from ab urbe condita (“the founding of the City” [Rome]). Thus 1 AUC signifies the year Rome was founded, 5 AUC signifies the 5th year of Rome’s reign, etc.
b. Dionysius received a tradition that the Roman emperor Augustus reigned 43 years, and was followed by the emperor Tiberius.
c. The Bible account at Luke 3:1,23 indicates that when Jesus turned 30 years old, it was the 15th year of Tiberius reign.
d. If Jesus was 30 years old in Tiberius’ reign, then he lived 15 years under Augustus (placing Jesus birth in Augustus’ 28th year of reign).
e. Augustus cam to power in 727 AUC. Therefore, Dionysius calculates Jesus birth in 754 AUC.
f. However, Luke 1:5 places Jesus’ birth in the days of Herod, and Herod died in 750 AUC – four years before the year in which Dionysius places Jesus birth.
D. Joseph A. Fitzmyer – Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Catholic University of America, member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and former president of the Catholic Biblical Association – writing in the Catholic Church’s official commentary on the New Testament, states the following about the date of Jesus’ birth, “Though the year [of Jesus birth is not reckoned with certainty, the birth did not occur in AD 1. The Christian era, supposed to have its starting point in the year of Jesus birth, is based on a miscalculation introduced ca. 533 by Dionysius Exiguus.”
E. The DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was born on November 18. Based on historical records, Fitzmyer estimates that Jesus birth occurred on September 11, 3 BCE.
II. How Did Christmas Come to Be Celebrated on December 25?
A. Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia, this was a week long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. During this period, Roman courts were closed, and Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during the week long celebration. The festival began when Roman authorities chose “an enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “Lord of Misrule.” Each Roman community selected a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the festival’s conclusion, December 25th, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering this innocent man or woman.
B. The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian (in his dialogue entitled Saturnalia) describes the festival’s observance in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions these customs: widespread intoxication; going from house to house while singing naked; rape and other sexual license; and consuming human-shaped biscuits (still produced in some English and most German bakeries during the Christmas season).
C. In the 4th century CE, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to take the pagan masses in with it. Christian leaders succeeded in converting to Christianity large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians.
D. The problem was that there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia. To remedy this, these Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, to be Jesus’ birthday.
E. Christians had little success, however, refining the practices of Saturnalia. As Stephen Nissenbaum, professor history at the University of Massachussetts, Amherst, writes, “In return for ensuring massive observance of the anniversary of the Savior’s birth by assigning it to this resonant date, the Church for its part tacitly agreed to allow the holiday to be celebrated more or less the way it had always been.” The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets (a precursor of modern caroling), etc.
F. The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that Month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. However, Christmas was and still is celebrated by most Christians.
G. Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for the amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city. An eyewitness account reports, “Before they were to run, the Jews were richly fed, so as to make the race more difficult for them and at the same time more amusing for spectators. They ran… amid Rome’s taunting shrieks and peals of laughter, while the Holy Father stood upon a richly ornamented balcony and laughed heartily.”
H. As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries CE, rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the city streets to the jeers of the crowd, pelted by a variety of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition in 1836 to Pope Gregory XVI begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to riots across the country. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women were raped. Two million rubles worth of property was destroyed.
III. The Origins of Christmas Customs
A. The Origin of Christmas Tree
Just as early Christians recruited Roman pagans by associating Christmas with the Saturnalia, so too worshippers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees”. Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest, or brought them into their homes and decorated them, and this observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.
B. The Origin of Mistletoe
Norse mythology recounts how the god Balder was killed using a mistletoe arrow by his rival god Hoder while fighting for the female Nanna. Druid rituals use mistletoe to poison their human sacrificial victim. The Christian custom of “kissing under the mistletoe” is a later synthesis of the sexual license of Saturnalia with the Druidic sacrificial cult.
C. The Origin of Christmas Presents
In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas (see below).
D. The Origin of Santa Claus
a. Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 CE and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 CE on December 6th. He was only named a saint in the 19th century.
b. Nicholas was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE and created the New Testament. The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil” who sentenced Jesus to death.
c. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to a sanctuary in Bari, Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity called The Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill the children’s stockings with her gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted annually on the anniversary of Nicholas’ death, December 6.
d. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden –their chief god and the father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a long, white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing.
e. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he did (and they should) distribute gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.
f. In 1809, the novelist Washington Irving (most famous his The Legend of Sleepy Hollow andRip Van Winkle) wrote a satire of Dutch culture entitled Knickerbocker History. The satire refers several times to the white bearded, flying-horse riding Saint Nicholas using his Dutch name, Santa Claus.
g. Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.
h. The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862 through 1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Before Nast, Saint Nicholas had been pictured as everything from a stern looking bishop to a gnome-like figure in a frock. Nast also gave Santa a home at the North Pole, his workshop filled with elves, and his list of the good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was his red outfit.
i. In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.
IV. The truth about Christmas
- One can easily say that Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly. For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.
- Christmas celebrates the birth of the Christian god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.” It is a 24-hour declaration that Judaism is no longer valid.
- Christmas is a lie. There is no Christian church with a tradition that Jesus was really born on December 25th.
- December 25 is a day on which Jews have been shamed, tortured, and murdered.
- Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents, and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of the most depraved pagan rituals ever practiced on earth.
Many who are excitedly preparing for their Christmas celebrations would prefer not knowing about the holiday’s real significance. Most Christians will cry out how we should ‘put the Christ back in to Christmas’ but you now know better. In the Welch household our holiday celebration has NOTHING to do with any of the above, it is all about family, friendship, being together and celebrating life. However, we are not ignoring the origins of the holiday known as Christmas, we just choose to have a celebration of our own – Mythmas.
 Addison G. Wright, Roland E. Murphy, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “A History of Israel” in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, (Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1990), p. 1247.
 The first mention of a Nativity feast appears in the Philocalian calendar, a Roman document from 354 CE, which lists December 25th as the day of Jesus’ birth.
 Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Prophane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England (London, 1687), p. 35. See also Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas: A Cultural History of America’s Most Cherished Holiday, New York: Vintage Books, 1997, p. 4.
 Nissenbaum, p. 3.
 David I. Kertzer, The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican’s Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001, p. 74.
 Kertzer, p. 33, 74-5.
 Clement Miles, Christmas Customs and Traditions: Their History and Significance, New York: Dover Publications, 1976, pp. 178, 263-271.
 Miles, p. 273.
 Miles, p. 274-5.
 Miles, pp. 276-279.
 John 8:44
Adapted from an article written by Lawrence Kelemen
Christmas can be a stressful time
The expense of buying gifts, the pressure of last minute shopping and the heightened expectations of family togetherness can all combine to undermine our best intentions. Some practical suggestions can help you reduce your ‘Christmas stress’
Budgeting for Christmas
For all of us, the Christmas aftermath includes massive credit card bills that can take months to clear, unless you had the fortune to bag the £131,000,000 Euromillions prize. But, Christmas doesn’t have to be a financial headache if you plan ahead. Stress reduction strategies include:
- Work out a rough budget of expected Christmas costs as early as possible. This includes ‘hidden’ expenses such as food bills and overseas telephone charges.
- Calculate how much disposable income you have between now and Christmas. A certain percentage of this can be dedicated each week (or fortnight or month) to covering your expected Christmas costs. Don’t be discouraged if the amount seems small. If you save £5, £10, or £20 per week over a year, it can provide you with a decent nest egg.
- If your nest egg isn’t enough to cover your estimated expenses, consider recalculating your Christmas budget to a more realistic amount.
- If you have trouble keeping your hands off your Christmas nest egg, consider opening an account with a Christmas Saver type club.
If you have a large circle of extended family or friends to buy gifts for, it can be very costly. You might be able to reduce the stress and cost of Christmas for everyone if you suggest a change in the way your family and friends give presents. For example, you could suggest that your group:
- Buy presents only for the children.
- Have a Secret Santa, where everyone draws a name out of a hat and buys a present only for that person.
- Set a limit on the cost of presents for each person.
Stress reduction strategies for successful Christmas shopping include:
- Make a list of all the gifts you wish to buy before you go shopping. If you wait for inspiration to strike, you could be wandering aimlessly around the shopping centre for hours. Perhaps you could get to know the interests of family and friends to help you when choosing gifts (remember money is also a great gift as it allows people to choose what they want).
- Cross people off the list as you buy to avoid any duplication – easily done!
- Buy a few extras, such as chocolates, just in case you forget somebody or you have unexpected guests bearing gifts.
- If possible, do your Christmas shopping early – in the first week of December or even in November. Some well-organised people do their Christmas shopping gradually over the course of the year, starting with the post-Christmas sales.
- Buy your gifts by mail catalogue or over the Internet. Some companies will also gift-wrap and post your presents for a small additional fee.
The Christmas lunch (or dinner)
Preparing a meal for family and friends can be enjoyable but tiring and stressful at the same time.
Some tips to reduce the stress of Christmas cooking include:
- If you are cooking lunch at home, delegate tasks. You don’t need to do everything yourself.
- Consider keeping it simple – for instance, you could always arrange for a ‘buffet’ lunch, where everybody brings a platter.
- Make a list of food and ingredients needed. Buy as many non-perishable food items as you can in advance – supermarkets on Christmas Eve are generally extremely busy.
- Write a Christmas Day timetable. For example, 11.30am – put turkey in the oven.
- You may need to order particular food items (such as turkeys) from your supermarket by a certain date. Check to avoid disappointment.
- Consider doing your food shopping online. The store will deliver your groceries to your door. (Keep in mind this option is more expensive than visiting the supermarket yourself.)
- Book well in advance if you plan to have lunch at a restaurant. Some restaurants may be fully booked for months before Christmas, so don’t wait till the last minute.
Stress, anxiety, and depression are common during the festive season. If nothing else, reassure yourself that these feelings are normal. Stress reduction strategies include:
- Don’t expect miracles. If you and certain family members fight all year long, you can be sure there’ll be tension at Christmas gatherings.
- Avoid known triggers. For example, if politics is a touchy subject in your family, don’t talk about it. If someone brings up the topic, use distraction and quickly move on to something else to talk about.
- Use relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or focusing on your breath to cope with anxiety or tension.
- Family members involved in after-lunch activities (such as cricket on the back lawn) are less likely to get into arguments. Plan for something to do as a group after lunch if necessary.
- People under stress tend to ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs. Try to remember that drugs can’t solve problems or alleviate stress in the long term.
The little extras
Other ways you might be able to reduce the stress include:
- Write up a Christmas card list and keep it in a safe place so that you can refer to it (and add or delete names) year after year.
- Plan to write your Christmas cards in early December. Book a date in your diary so you don’t forget.
- Christmas cards with ‘Card only’ marked on the envelope can be posted at a reduced rate during November and December.
- Overseas mail at Christmas time takes longer to arrive. Arrange to send cards or presents in the first half of December to avoid disappointments (and long queues at the post office).
- For great savings, buy Christmas necessities (such as cards, wrapping paper, ribbons and decorations) at post-Christmas sales.
General health and wellbeing
Some other ways to keep your stress levels down include:
- Moderation – it may be the season to be jolly, but too much food and alcohol is harmful. Drink driving is a real danger, unacceptable, and illegal. If you can’t (or don’t want to) step off the social merry-go-round, at least try to eat and drink in moderation.
- Sleep – plan for as many early nights as you can.
- Fitness – keeping up your regular exercise routine can give you the fitness and stamina to make it through the demands of the festive season.
Where to get help
- Your Family
- Your GP
- Financial planner
- Your local community health centre
Things to remember
- Save a percentage of your disposable income throughout the year to provide a nest egg for Christmas expenses.
- Make a list of all the gifts and food you wish to buy and shop early.
- Don’t expect miracles – if you and certain family members bicker all year long, you can be sure there’ll be tension at Christmas gatherings.
“Merry Bloomin Christmas”
I for one have a chuckle and allow myself a little eye roll at all of these folks moaning about how much earlier retailers begin their pre-christmas sales pitch each and every year. I mean for a start it signals the start of a season of jolly happy smiling materialism! But seriously, Xmas is for kids! It’s really not about religion, it’s not about how much you spend, it’s about spoiling your children, having fun as a family, and regaining a bit of our own lost innocence from youth.
Sure the retailers are there just to empty our pockets and then bleed us of a little more money, what do you expect they’ve had a shit 24 months! But without wishing to state the bloody obvious minus these money grabbing bastards you’d be up crap street without a paddle! I mean you’d have to sit down each evening with the kids in bed and actually spend time away from the TV and use your grey cells to creatively dream up something your kids actually wanted! Let’s face it that’s nigh on impossible. Even in our house where TV is strictly monitored and the Disney channel and CBeebies rule, there are the odd times one of the god of toys adverts is on and at least one little voice pipes up “I wish I could have that!” despite the fact that the ever growing mountain of toys has most of the house in its domain!
Actually my eldest pleasantly surprised me by packing up a black bin bag full of toys she felt were good enough to donate to the local charity shop. He reasoning was that other children may not get anything so she wanted to make space for her new toys and also help other less fortunate kids. My heart swells with pride. Admittedly some of them were a little worse for wear, but most will fetch £2-5 each.
So back to the plot.
Life is what you make it and so is Xmas. It can be a pain in the arse, or an absolute pleasure. You won’t avoid the expense, you won’t avoid the odd mishap or argument. But if you go at it in the right spirit you’ll come out with a broad smile upon your face.
So don’t be a Scrooge, get the decorations out, treat yourself to a new bauble or two and get in the spirit!
Here’s to Xmas, the 3 month long season of excess!
I can’t wait…so my list starts below: