Should Christians celebrate Christmas? The celebration of Christmas has become a hot topic in recent years. Are Christmas trees idols? Is Santa Claus stealing the spotlight? Isn’t Christmas a Pagan holiday? What is the point of celebrating Christmas anyway? Well, friends, I’m here to answer all of that and more! And most importantly, I want to help you think Biblically about how and why you celebrate. So pour a cup of peppermint coffee or some cinnamon hot cocoa and let’s chat- should Christians celebrate Christmas?
What are we celebrating?
Before we dive into all the topics and questions that are always brought up around Christmas, let’s first discuss what we are celebrating.
The truth is people celebrate a lot of different things and label it all “Christmas.”
For some Christmas is all about elves, the North Pole, evergreens, and Hallmark movie marathons. There is nothing controversial about that in our culture. You can call that Christmas all day long and no one really cares. The minute you call it the birthday of Jesus; however, suddenly feathers are ruffled and people insist you are celebrating a Pagan holiday.
So what are you celebrating?
This is something that each of us needs to look over our holiday and decide for ourselves. I will give a defense of Christmas in a moment, but the truth is you don’t need one unless you are actually celebrating the birth of Jesus.
So choose this day what you will celebrate, but as for me and my house, we celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?
First things first we have to answer this question. Whether it is Halloween, Easter, Christmas, or March 13th (just throwing out a random date) someone insists, “That’s a Pagan Holiday!!”
So apparently Pagans don’t work they just celebrate every day of the year as one of their ‘holy days’.
Before we dig into the origins of Christmas or the history of December 25th or why that day was chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus, we must first get this straight.
It does not matter if it is a Pagan holiday or not.
I know some of you may be upset that I just said that but hear me out. When I say September 11th you probably immediately think of September 11th, 2001. Now the reality is a lot of things have happened on September 11th and a lot of people have birthdays on that date.
Imagine just for a second walking into a birthday party on September 11th. You see candles ablaze on a big chocolate cake, smiles on everyone’s faces as they sing, and party hats clinging to everyone’s heads. Do you immediately assume they are celebrating the terrorist attacks? Do you instantly deem them all evil for such a party on a day reserved for remembrance?
Of course not.
So why does this reasoning fly out the door when the word Pagan is thrown in.
Our celebrations should reflect what we are celebrating. (That is a profound statement that we will revisit in a bit.) But if it walks like a Christian, talks like a Christian, and bears fruit like a Christian- it is probably Christian. And the same can be said for Pagan days.
Now we can talk about whether or not December 25th is a holy Pagan day.
Does Christmas have Pagan origins?
There are a handful of celebrations that are often credited with being where our modern-day Christmas started. The most common is the Pagan festival, Saturnalia.
Saturnalia is an ancient Roman celebration of the god, Saturn. It began on December 17th and eventually extended into a three-day and later six-day festival centered around the winter solstice. (December 17-December 23rd)
If you search online you will absolutely find articles claiming that modern-day Christmas has pagan roots. The claim is that Christmas is simply a repackaged version of the festival of Saturnalia, but what you won’t find is historical proof from the time.
Just for further proof let’s examine how this festival was celebrated vs our modern-day Christmas celebrations.
Christmas vs Saturnalia
Saturnalia was marked by a time of lawlessness.
Norms were overturned, slaves became masters, and previously illegal things were suddenly acceptable.
Something I find odd is how much this festival seems to be celebrated online. Not only is it claimed that Christmas derived from it- absent historical proof– it is also spoken of very highly even though there are actual records of human sacrifice during Saturnalia.
Candles seem to be a common theme (but of course it is wintertime) as well as naked singing in the streets- I suppose you could equate that to singing Christmas carols, though I think that’s a bit of a stretch.
Christmas as a celebration of Jesus’s birth has nothing to do with Saturnalia- or Horace, Mithra, or anyone else. (I’ll drop a video down below that addresses each of those a bit more in detail.)
Mamas, this is why it is so important to study and teach your children Apologetics and to dig deep into topics for themselves. Satan loves nothing more than to take something that should bring honor to God and pervert it.
But let me also add here, even if Christmas is a repackaged version of Saturnalia (I truly believe it isn’t but hear me out.), does it matter?
If this day was once used for human sacrifice and the worship of false gods and early Christians repurposed and redeemed those days to celebrate the true God, is that a bad thing?
Our God redeems and gives new meaning to all kinds of things, so I don’t see an issue here. As long as you are celebrating the true God- Yahweh, Jesus, Christ, and the Holy Spirit- I see no issue!
What does the Bible say about Christmas?
This may shock some of you since the word Christmas is missing from our Bible, but in fact the first Christmas story is actually in there.
Not the one about Ralphie and his Red Ryder B.B. gun or the poem about Old St, Nick but the real one.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.Luke 2: 4- 7
Now if the story ended there, there wouldn’t really be anything to celebrate. But this baby- this tiny baby laid in an animal’s trough- is the Son of God. The Promised One. The one the whole world has been waiting on.
Four hundred years of silence broken with the cry of a tiny baby boy.
I imagine Mary examining Him, as we Mamas do all of our babies when they are born. His tiny hands grasped onto her finger. Hands that would someday be nailed to a rugged cross.
The same breath that made Adam a living soul, now breathing in the dusty air of a hay-covered floor. Someday the breath will be extinguished from His lungs once more, but on the third day- His lungs will fill again so that He can breathe life into all of us.
Where else would you expect a spotless lamb to be born other than right here in the stables of Bethlehem?
The Bible says a lot about Christmas from the Old Testament to the New- starting in Genesis when our Messiah was first promised:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
So is the birthday of Jesus worth celebrating? Absolutely.
Every. Single. Day.
But is it okay to celebrate on December 25th?
In short, yes.
My friends God made every single day. He didn’t give Satan control over any of them. Not even Halloween.
But why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25th? Was that actually the day Jesus was born?
Most likely no.
We don’t know the exact date of Jesus’s birth, but there was a belief in the Jewish culture that a prophet would die on the day they were conceived, since Jesus died about March 25th, His birth date was assumed December 25th.
We do not have to celebrate Jesus’s birthday on December 25th, but there is nothing wrong with doing so.
Romans 14:5 says, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind.”
We have the freedom to celebrate Jesus on whatever day however we choose. Even on December 25th!
Are Christmas Trees Idols that we bow down to?
Well, mine isn’t though I tend to be under it picking up pine needles a lot.
I’m just kidding- well kind of.
This idea comes from Jeremiah 10:2-5:
“Do not learn the ways of the nations
or be terrified by signs in the heavens,
though the nations are terrified by them.
For the practices of the peoples are worthless;
they cut a tree out of the forest,
and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.
They adorn it with silver and gold;
they fasten it with hammer and nails
so it will not totter.
Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field,
their idols cannot speak;
they must be carried
because they cannot walk.
Do not fear them;
they can do no harm
nor can they do any good.”
Sounds a little bit like a Christmas tree, right?
Honestly no, no it doesn’t. If you come to this passage with a Christmas tree in mind, then perhaps, but if you just read this while reading through the book of Jeremiah you would most likely never imagine it as a Christmas tree.
Because it wasn’t a Christmas tree, it was a tree made into an image and worshipped.
The most important thing to grasp here is that in context this passage is about idols.
All throughout history man has longed to serve a god we can see with our own eyes.
I think that’s a good desire. I think it is a natural longing to want to see our Savior face-to-face. We were made to be in fellowship with Him and had sin not entered the world, we would be in perfect fellowship with Him.
But generations of people have taken that natural longing and tried to fulfill it by creating an image that they can call “god” and place their trust in.
This is what we see here in Jeremiah, they leave the Creator to worship creation. They cut down the trees, shape them into creatures, and cover them in gold- like the golden calf in the wilderness, and then they worship them.
I have never felt the urge to pray to my Christmas tree any more than I feel the urge to pray to my couch. If you do, then I would absolutely skip the tree.
Can Christians Celebrate Santa Claus?
I’m going to be blunt on this one, but please before you get angry with me or leave a rude comment- just hear me out.
I have some issues with Santa.
We tend to explain Santa away by calling him Saint Nicholas and exclaiming how fun and harmless he is for our children. He has become such a cornerstone of childhood that no one wants to have this conversation.
I’m not saying you can’t pretend Santa exists, but think about what we have made him into.
He is all-knowing. He knows when you are sleeping or awake. If you’ve been bad or good. He has this list with your name on it if you are naughty or nice. In a single night, he flies all around the earth delivering toys, so be sure and be extra good because Santa is watching.
Mamas, please think about how that sounds.
We are giving him attributes that only God has. We are making him into a godlike figure rewarding the good and punishing the bad. Our children are acting in accordance with what Santa wants rather than with how God instructs.
And then comes the cherry on top, one of these people we are lying about being real, and the other we are hoping they commit their life to serving.
It’s fun, I know. The platter of half-eaten cookies and neatly packaged gifts left under the tree. The snowy footprints and excitement of anticipating his arrival, but what in the world does that have to do with Jesus?
I hear all the time, “Oh yes, we do Santa at our house, but they know it’s about Jesus.”
I believe you. They do know it’s about Jesus- I have no doubt you are teaching them that, but when Santa is in the picture who are they more fixated on?
My kids get fixated on Santa and they know he isn’t real!
Leave it to Satan to re-order the letter of his name and steal a day that should be all about Jesus. I’m kidding. But it does shift the focus and we as Mamas need to be very aware of that.
Should Christians give gifts on Christmas?
I have two thoughts here, so I will share them both and then leave the choice to you!
- I think gifts are fine! God gave the greatest gift ever given on that first Christmas to show His love for us, and we can express our love for others by giving a gift also. God loves a cheerful giver. So by all means, give a gift from the heart! See the joy on your children’s faces as they glow beneath the lights of the Christmas tree surrounded by ribbon and crinkled paper. Enjoy every minute of it Mama, Christmas is a wonderful time of year.
- Or save it for another day. This is something I have been thinking of doing this year. My husband is Mexican. In Mexico, they give gifts on January 6th, also known as Rosca de Reyes or Three Kings Day. It commemorates the day the wise men brought gifts to Jesus. I think this would be an amazing day to give gifts and let Christmas Day be a stand-alone day to celebrate Jesus. It also gives us an excuse to drag out the holiday a little longer. I doubt we would wait until the 6th, but even the day after Christmas would be great! Either way you choose to do it is completely fine so long as we keep the main thing the main thing!
So Should Christians Celebrate Christmas?
My answer is- absolutely.
Of course, Christians should celebrate Christmas!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him, nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:1-5, 10-14
That my friends is worth celebrating.
If others choose this date to worship their false gods or idol trees, then let us be such a light celebrating our true Savior that they too may be drawn into His presence!
How Shall We then Celebrate?
It matters much less how you celebrate and much more where your heart is.
A couple of years ago we had a baby right before Christmas. We chose to sit out on the family get-togethers that year and just stay home. While I missed seeing my whole family on Christmas, it ended up being one of my favorite Christmases ever.
There was no rush, no schedule or pressure. I sat on the floor listening to worship music and painting my daughter’s fingernails. I stared at my new baby and watched as my husband cooked us all Christmas dinner.
Dinner that night was absolute chaos. Our candle-lit dinner quickly turned into spilled juice, fire hazards, and hubbub- but I’m laughing and swooning over the memories even as I write this. We never lost focus that day. Even in the wild moments, I was so aware that it was a day to remember the God who gave His all for us.
The true meaning of Christmas isn’t found in our yearly Christmas traditions or the decorative limbs of an evergreen tree, the true meaning of Christmas is found in Christ Jesus. It is a day for remembering that He chose to lay aside His glory and honor, to put on flesh, and to come down here to earth to live and die for us.
The celebration of the birth of Christ is always worthy to be remembered, but it is about so much more than Christmas presents or even manger scenes. The Christmas holiday reminds us of the depths that love is willing to go.
So how should you celebrate- with a grateful heart fixed on Jesus- that’s really all that matters.
From One Mama to Another-
I have a little secret, just from one Mama to another, I really don’t like what our culture has done to Christmas.
It feels like a competition now.
Who buys the best gifts, spends the most money, or bakes the best cookies?
I find myself almost growing bitter around the whole idea of it, but I think it’s high time we see Christmas like a kid again. The joy, the wonder, the mystery, and the beauty of it all. All of it is best summed up by a tiny baby in a manger.
So what are we celebrating at Christmastime?
If our focus is a fat little man with reindeer and obsessive consumerism then we are crushing it! But if our focus is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ- then I fear we are greatly missing the mark.
Mamas, we cannot change the displays at Wal-Mart or the Santa meet-and-greets in the mall, but we can change how Christmas looks within our homes.
May our focus this year be entirely on Jesus.
Anything worth doing is worth doing simply
I’ve so enjoyed this chat with you all, but one more thing before we return to our busy lives.
My Nana had a saying- “anything worth doing is worth doing right.”
But after five kids I’ve nuanced it a bit- anything worth doing is worth doing simply.
Extravagant affairs make beautiful pages in magazines but they often make for really tired, exhausted, and burnt out Mamas.
I want you- and me– to enjoy Christmas too.
Keep it simple.
Buy cookies from the store or bake them ahead of time and put them in the freezer. Don’t stress over gifts and spend a ton on things you can’t afford.
Take a breath.
Take it all in.
You won’t get this Christmas back, so fix your eyes on Jesus and keep the celebration simple.
The first Christmas was simple too and it changed the entire world forever.