By Analea Styles
To begin this post, we want to be clear that we are not condemning Christmas or the classic Christmas traditions and symbols. This post is merely to inform and encourage you to think about what we truly celebrate during this season and why.
The Christmas holiday has been a beloved celebration for hundreds of years for many Christians. Many people believe that Christmas really began with the birth of Christ and is a purely Christian holiday but this is actually not the case. Here are a few examples of Christmas traditions that have roots in ancient pagan practices.
December 25 was historically celebrated by pagan religions in ancient times as the birth (or re-birth) of the sun god. Feasts and celebrations typically revolved around the time of the winter solstice (usually between December 20-23). This was the shortest day of the year and marked the end of winter and the beginning of longer days to come. In ancient Babylon this day marked the birth of Tammuz, the reincarnated Nimrod, and was celebrated with revelry and drunkenness.
The Yule Log and the Christmas tree
What is “now so common to us, was equally common in pagan Rome and pagan Egypt” as well as many other ancient countries. In Egypt the sacred “Christmas” tree was a palm, while in Rome it was the fir. In the Babylonian religion, the Yule Log was a symbol of Nimrod, who was slain by his enemies; the tree symbolized his reincarnation – the slain god come back to life.
Wreaths, Holly and Mistletoe
In most ancient religions, the sun god was very prominent and at the time of the winter solstice, when the sun reached its lowest point in the sky, the people would celebrate the return of longer days with many symbols. Mistletoe and holly were used because they were considered sacred to the sun god.
Mistletoe has long been considered magical and mysterious. In European folklore it was connected with fertility and life as well as protection against poison. It was cut at both summer and winter solstices and used to decorate houses and to ward off evil spirits. Kissing under the mistletoe is associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia, which occurred late in December.
The wreath, round like the sun, was made with evergreen boughs to symbolize that the sun was undying and self-renewing.
The lighting of candles for festivals also predates the Christian era. It was a common practice for pagans to light candles to encourage the waning sun god at the winter solstice. They were also lit on the altars of the Babylonian god, one of the peculiarities of worship to him on the eve of his festival.
Should we even celebrate Christmas?
Though December 25 was not necessarily the date that Christ was born it is still important for us as believers to take time to celebrate and remember what Christ did for us, beginning with His incarnation. Just as the angels and shepherds celebrated that day with great joy (Luke 2:13-20), so it is fitting that we should rejoice as well!
And though ancient pagans may have been the first to celebrate on this day or use the popular symbols we use to decorate during this season, it is important to remember that they don’t belong to the pagans. God created mistletoe, holly, and evergreen trees; Jesus came as the Light of the world. Though Satan may use these symbols for his counterfeits and distortions, they are not evil in and of themselves. But it is important for us to evaluate our use of them. If ever they become more important that Christ, or keep us from giving all glory to God, or cause a brother or sister in Christ to stumble, then perhaps we should reconsider their use.
Alexander Hyslop wrote:
“The very customs of Christmas still existent cast surprising light at once on the revelations of grace made to all the earth, and the effort made by Satan and his emissaries to materialize, carnalise and degrade them.”
There are only two kingdoms, God’s and Satan’s. And even at Christmas, Satan is hard at work. Whether it is ancient pagan traditions of the past or our culture’s traditions of materialism and greed around this season, he strives to blot out the true reason we should celebrate – the beautiful, humble arrival of Emmanuel, God with us. Let us not forget to truly celebrate the coming of Christ, our Lord and Savior who was born of the virgin, “since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).
 Hislop, Alexander. The Two Babylons. (Ontario, CA: Chick Publications). 97
 “The Plain Truth about Christmas”. http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/False%20Religions/Other%20Pagan%20Mumbo-Jumbo/christmas.htm. Accessed Dec. 1, 2013.
 “Mistletoe, Its history, meaning, and traditions”. http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/history/mistletoe.htm. Accessed Dec. 1, 2013.
 Terrier. J.R.
 Hislop, Alexander. 97
 Ibid. 99