It's Beginning to Look, Uh, Not Like Christmas
Fri., Dec. 23. 2005 10:19am EST
As you may already know, Christmas wasn't officially celebrated by the Christian church until the fourth century A.D., and the Orthodox church celebrates it January 6.
We asked Don Veinot, of the Illinois-based counter-cult ministry Midwest Christian Outreach, for some of his comments as to the origins of Christmas. He replied:
"Well, so far (various) scholars have placed the birth of Christ in every month of the year (depending on which scholar you talk to). It seems the general consensus is that He was probably born in the spring (shepherds wouldn't have their sheep grazing in the winter (smile) ... A number of cultures around the world had various pagan celebrations focusing on the solstice and the Church essentially embued it with new meaning -- a sort of born-again day if you will. It also coincides with Hanukkah."
He pointed us to some information on the following website:
"Ancient Roman observances of the Natalis solis invicti and the Saturnalia occurred in December and involved much feasting, singing, parades and other forms of celebrating. Not to be outdone, when the Church adopted Christmas it introduced a major Christian celebration and feasting became a part of the festivities. As the centuries wore on, depending upon the country, a Christmas goose, turkey or other animal was adopted as the main course in the Christmas feast."
"Telesphorus, the second Bishop of Rome (125-136 AD) declared that public church services should be held to celebrate 'The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour.'
"In 320 AD, Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified 25 December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ. 26 December was traditionally known as St Stephen's Day, but is more commonly known as Boxing Day. This expression came about because money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive season. This money was then distributed during to the poor and needy after Christmas.
"The placement of Hanukkah is tied to both the lunar and solar calendars. It begins on the 25th of Kislev, three days before the new moon closest to the Winter Solstice. It commemorates an historic event -- the Maccabees' victory over the Greeks and the rededication of the temple at Jerusalem.
"But the form of this celebration, a Festival of Lights (with candles at the heart of the ritual), makes Hanukkah wonderfully compatible with other celebrations at this time of year. As a symbolic celebration of growing light and as a commemoration of spiritual rebirth, it also seems closely related to other observances."