December entry for the Folklore contest
Each year on December 25th a huge population of the world stops to remember the birth of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Many ask where did the celebration of Christmas come from?
There are several schools of thought on this question. The most accurate school of thought however, from both a historic and Biblical standpoint is that Christmas is merely a man made holiday. Never once does God's word mention the word "Christmas". In fact the celebration of Christ's birth wasn't even mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, which records the actions of the Apostles and other Christians after the formation of the church on the day of Pentecost 33 AD. On the same hand the Apostle Paul who wrote nearly 2/3 of the New Testament books failed to mention the celebration of Christmas. None of the other Apostolic writers mentioned Christmas or celebrating the birth of Christ either.
The first mention of Christmas in historical documents dates many centuries after the formation of the church. Apparently the church had carried out its commission and had preached the gospel to every known nation. The Catholic church was in full power and even kings obeyed its will. The church however faced a serious problem. One such problem was the winter solstice. For many the winter solstice had long been celebrated as a huge feast. Pagan beliefs were that the fertility gods died at this time each year. Thus everything was dormant. Even the days were shorter as the sun god became weaker. The gods were revived only by the worship they received from their followers. Thus the celebration of the winter solstice was a great event each year. A huge log, known as the yule log, was cut and burned. The length of time the yule log burned determined how long the solstice celebration continued. Evergreen trees played a huge role in the celebration. They were often decorated with various things such as ropes, vines, and other such things. Candles were often hung from them so the gods would see them and colored eggs were also hung on them. Colored eggs were viewed as symbols of fertility. The people would then have a huge feast. Gifts were often exchanged and in some cultures, slaves were given the right to rule their masters for a period of time. If the slave punished the master for any reason the master was forbidden to retaliate later.
Thus the winter solstice was a very big deal for many. It became a problem for the church because converts wanted to revert back to their old ways at least long enough to celebrate their religious holidays. Pagans had no issues with believing in Jesus. They saw Him as another god to add to their plurality of gods. If he wanted main billing they were fine with that. The problem was that Jesus didn't want "main" billing. He wanted "only" billing for He alone is God. The powers that be in the church, particularly the papacy, knew this. Thus to solve the recidivism issue with converts, they threw the baby out with the bath water and adopted the pagan holidays, giving each of them a Christian meaning. Thus the winter solstice celebration became Christmas, the spring solstice celebration became Easter, fall was Halloween, and summer seems to have been left pretty much alone.
If one studies the scripture in depth the realize that Jesus was not born anywhere near December 25th. For one thing the Romans would never have issued a decree for a census at that time of year. Doing so would have created a logistical nightmare for both their subjects and themselves. Remember that the weather is foul even in Israel in December but the decree was for the entire Roman Empire, many parts of which were under deep snow or other inclement weather.
Secondly the arrival of the magi gives us further clues. They were human like anybody else. They wouldn't have traveled in bad weather. It's also very unlikely that they visited the infant Jesus. He was likely somewhat older when they found Him.
Another clue is the description of His clothing. Mary is said to have wrapped him in "swaddling" clothing, which loosely interpreted means "light" clothing.
Finally we can ask any shepherd in Israel and they will quickly tell you that they would never be in the fields at night with their sheep in December!