'Tis the Season: Christmas and "Pagan Origins"

by cabasilas 40 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • cabasilas

    Some thoughts on the so-called "pagan origins" of Christmas:

    Christmas and "Pagan Origins"

  • Atlantis


    Thank you for posting the link. That site has some very good articles worthy of keeping for witnessing to JW's.


  • Heaven

    The term pagan is from the Latin paganus, an adjective originally meaning "rural", "rustic" or "of the country." As a noun, paganus was used to mean "country dweller, villager." I have yet to fully understand what is so heinous about being Pagan.

    Here is the content of the article in the original post by cabasilas:

    Christmas and "Pagan" Origins

    The article below gives another perspective on the so-called “pagan origin” of the Christmas tree. But, first a few thoughts on the concept of “pagan origins.” Some groups, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, make much of supposed “pagan origins” of various customs so that partaking in a holiday like Christmas is viewed as if it were offensive to God.

    It’s important to adopt a bit of balance here. Lots of things in our daily lives have “pagan origins.” For example, our calendar honors pagan gods in the names of the months and days of the week (Janus, Mars, Juno, Woden [Wednesday], Thor [Thursday], Saturn, etc.)

    The Jehovah's Witness Calendar for 1935 purified from pagan influences -- from their 1935 Yearbook

    In fact, at one point the Jehovah’s Witness leadership even promoted an alternate calendar because the current calendar was considered pagan. (See the series of articles from the Witness publication Golden Age (now Awake!), entitled “The Calendar of Jehovah God.”) Witness leaders backed down on that campaign when they realized how unrealistic it would be to live under an alternate calendar.

    On the back of every American dollar bill is a symbolic eye which has its origins in the pagan Egyptian god Horus.

    Similarly, on the back of the American dollar bill is a blatant “pagan symbol,” the “eye of providence” which comes from the “eye of Horus.” For those readers uncomfortable with these dollars, contact me and I can arrange to dispose of them for you.

    Another example: many marriage customs have “pagan origins” such as wedding rings and the wedding veil. Witness leaders gave very good counsel regarding how to view the issue of origins with the wedding ring:

    Of course, our concern is greater as regards the use of wedding rings, since this relates, not to minor secular matters, but to the marriage relationship, which the Christian rightly views as sacred before God. Really, the question is not so much whether wedding rings were first used by pagans but whether they were originally used as part of false religious practices and still retain such religious significance. (January 15, 1972 Watchtower, p. 63)

    Despite the possible pagan origins of wedding rings, Watchtower leaders counsel that there is nothing wrong with using them.

    Actually, this is a very good principle laid out here. Does anyone think we are honoring the god Janus by using the name January on our calendar? Or, when we use money that has a symbol of an ancient Egyptian pagan god on its reverse — does that somehow honor him? Or, do couples who get married with wedding rings or a bride with a wedding veil somehow honor some long-forgotten pagan religion? Certainly not. Chasing down such “pagan origins” is a fruitless task.

    Next, an excellent article exploding the so-called “pagan origins” of the Christmas tree:

    In Defense of the Christmas Tree

    By Fr. Daniel Daly

    Several years ago during the Christmas season, a religious program on television caught my attention. The program featured a discussion on the dangers of cults, especially to young people. I found myself agreeing with the panelists as they warned young people about the hazards of involvement in occult or “new age” spirituality.

    During the interview, however, one participant made a statement that shocked me.

    “…and the Christmas tree is pagan too…,”

    he asserted. The Christmas Tree? Pagan? Could it be that something most of us enjoy so much might be actually pagan in origin? Despite its growing commercialization, the Christmas tree is still associated with the fondest memories of our early childhood. Who does not remember approaching the tree on Christmas morning?

    Today people are so captivated by it that some even put it up in November! It finds a place in the homes of believers and unbelievers alike.

    Most people are aware that the Christmas tree came to America with immigrants from Germany, but just where did the Christmas tree originate? Are its origins to be found in paganism, as the speaker suggested?

    The Christmas tree does not date from early Germanic times. Its origins are to be found in a tradition that has virtually disappeared from Christianity, the Liturgical Drama. In the Middle Ages liturgical plays or dramas were presented during or sometimes immediately after the services in the churches of Western Europe. The earliest of these plays were associated with the Mysteries of Holy Week and Easter. Initially they were dramatizations of the liturgical texts. The earliest recorded is the Quem quaeritis (“Whom do you seek?”) play of the Easter season. These plays later developed into the Miracle and Morality plays. Some were associated with events in the lives of well-known saints. The plays were presented on the porches of large churches. Although these liturgical dramas have now virtually disappeared, the Passion Play of Oberammergau, Germany is a recent revival of this dramatic form.

    One mystery play was presented on Christmas Eve, the day which also commemorated the feast of Adam and Eve in the Western Church. The “Paradise Play” told the well-known story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Paradise. The central “prop” in the play was the Paradise Tree, or Tree of Knowledge. During the play this tree was brought in laden with apples.

    The Paradise Tree became very popular with the German people. They soon began the practice of setting up a fir tree in their homes. Originally, the trees were decorated with bread wafers commemorating the Eucharist. Later, these were replaced with various kinds of sweets. Our Christmas tree is derived, not from the pagan yule tree, but from the paradise tree adorned with apples on December 24 in honor of Adam and Eve. The Christmas tree is completely biblical in origin.

    The first Christmas tree dates from 1605 in Strasbourg. By the 1700s the custom of the Christmas tree was widespread among the German people. It was brought to America by early German immigrants, and it became popular in England through the influence of Prince Albert, the German husband of Queen Victoria.

    The use of evergreens at Christmas may date from St. Boniface of the eighth century, who dedicated the fir tree to the Holy Child in order to replace the sacred oak tree of Odin; but the Christmas tree as we know it today does not appear to be so ancient a custom. It appears first in the Christian Mystery play commemorating the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

    How legitimate is it to use a fir tree in the celebration of Christmas? From the very earliest days of the Church, Christians brought many things of God’s material creation into their life of faith and worship, e.g., water, bread, wine, oil, candles and incense. All these things are part of God’s creation. They are part of the world that Christ came to save. Man cannot reject the material creation without rejecting his own humanity. In Genesis man was given dominion over the material world.

    Christmas celebrates the great mystery of the Incarnation. In that mystery God the Word became man. In order to redeem us, God became one of us. He became part of His own creation. The Incarnation affirms the importance of both man and the whole of creation. “For God so loved the world…”

    A faith which would seek to divorce itself from all elements of the material world in search for an absolutely spiritual religion overlooks this most central mystery of Christmas, the mystery of God becoming man, the Incarnation.

    “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

    Enjoy your Christmas tree.

  • ProdigalSon

    The fundies call it "heathen".

    JW's call it "pagan".

    It means: anything not Judeo-Christian.

    Same "us against the world" mentality here as everywhere else, nothing new.

    "Pagans" sacrifice their children in the fire.

    "Pagans" commit sodomy.

    "Pagans" do all sorts of things detestable to Jehovah.

    "We have the truth, and everything else is from Satan and offensive to God."

    "He who can balance himself on this tightrope of truth in a matrix of lies will gain everlasting life."

    In the meantime, everything in Judeo-Christianity came from "Pagans".

  • garyneal


  • BurnTheShips
    How legitimate is it to use a fir tree in the celebration of Christmas? From the very earliest days of the Church, Christians brought many things of God’s material creation into their life of faith and worship, e.g., water, bread, wine, oil, candles and incense. All these things are part of God’s creation. They are part of the world that Christ came to save. Man cannot reject the material creation without rejecting his own humanity. In Genesis man was given dominion over the material world.
    Enjoy your Christmas tree.

    I put the lights on the tree last nite! At nearly 8' tall, it is beautiful, and the house smells wonderful.

    Even if it is a connection to our pre-Christian ancestors, I embrace it as part of our heritage.

    Happy holidays to everyone.


  • BurnTheShips

    This wikipedia entry on Christmas Tree is fascinating, and seems to run counter to what I was taught as a JW:


    The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with the celebration of Christmas. The Christmas tree is often brought into a home, but can also be used in the open, and can be decorated with Christmas lights (originally candles), ornaments, garlands and tinsel during the days around Christmas. An angel or star is often placed at the top of the tree, representing the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity. The tradition of decorating an evergreen tree at Christmas started in Germany in the 16th century.

    The origin of the Christmas tree is obscured by uncertainties of oral histories of pre-literate European cultures. For example, according to Christian lore, the Christmas tree is associated with St Boniface and the German town of Geismar. Sometime in St Boniface's lifetime (c. 672-754) he cut down the tree of Thor in order to disprove the legitimacy of the Norse gods to the local German tribe. St. Boniface saw a fir tree growing in the roots of the old oak. Taking this as a sign of the Christian faith, he said "...let Christ be at the center of your households..." using the fir tree as a symbol of Christianity. [ 1 ]

    The tradition of the Christmas tree as it is today known is fairly young. It was established by Martin Luther as a Protestant counterpart to the Catholic Nativity scene. Luther established the Christmas tree as a symbol of the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. [ 2 ]


  • WTWizard

    I also heard that the first lit Christmas tree came from a monk that saw the moon through the branches of an evergreen tree in winter. This monk was so enthralled that he cut a tree down, brought it inside, and lit it with candles. This somehow stuck as a Christmas tradition.

    I suppose seeing the moon through a fir tree in winter is pagan.

  • PSacramento

    Couldn't care less about the pagan origins of anything, LOL !

    As Paul said, whatever you do, do in Christ.

    Fact is, pretty much every tradtion we have has a pagan origin since it was dome long before any established religion.

    Baptisims have the pagaon origins of ritual washings.

    We all know about wedding rings and honeymoons.

    Having a building for worship has its origins in pagan shrines.

    I'd be hard pressed to find ANYTHING in the judeo-Christian traditions that do NOT have pagan origins.

  • fulltimestudent

    I do not have a problem with 'pagan' customs or thoughts and I do share (these days) in chrissie celebrations, however I thought that the reasoning in the article the cabasilas drew our attention to is somewhat shallow. But then I am a Post-christian, that is, I have experienced Christianity (or, the JW version of it) and have now moved forward (or up).

    For an anti-christmas argument by a person who appears to be a conventional 'Christian' you could look at John Beardsley's, Biblical Discernments Ministries site, in which he strongly argues against the concept of Christmas*. I think the WTS writing desk would be proud of John's turn of phrase, as he concludes, "Let us put away all of the mixture of Pagan customs and take up His mantle and His pure worship, and show the confused world that there is a difference." Jeez- I could've said that myself once.

    And it's not that hard to find other conventionally Christian sites who also do not appear to like 'christmas'.

    * Should a Christian Celebrate Christmas? www.rapidnet.com/jbeard/bdm/psychology/xmas/celeb.com


    As to the word pagan, our modern usage seems dependent on early Christianity coining the word to use in propaganda battles against the established religion of the time. Something perhaps, similar to the propaganda battles fought by the Watchtower. As I understand the usage, the word pagani first appeared in this sense in early fourth century Christian inscriptions, a colloquial word, Christian slang to describe non-Christians.

    Paradoxically, early Christianity was adapting 'pagan' thinking all the time, and much of what modern evangelical Christians think of as 'pure' Christianity has been derived and adapted from pagan sources.

    So go ahead and enjoy your Chrissie decorations and celebrations, but go a bit easy on the Chrissie piss-ups, they're bad for your liver. hoho, and also go easy on the overspending, that's bad for your bank-balance and mortgage - another hoho,

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