Volume Two is quotes all derived from academic sources i.e. encyclopedias. TRUTH ON THE WEB MINISTRIES PRESENTS:


Volume Two of "The X-mas Files"


Encyclopedia Britannica

"...Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the church...." -Encyclopedia Britannica, 1946 edition


"On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites . . . Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, Vol. II, p. 903, "Christmas").


"December 25, the birthday of Mithra, the Iranian god of light and...the day devoted to the invincible sun, as well as the day after Saturnalia, was adopted by the [Roman Catholic] church as Christmas, the nativity of Christ, to counteract the effects of these festivals." [The New Encyclopædia Britannica.]


Encyclopedia Americana

"Christmas... It was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons [eg Passover - death of Christ] rather than their birth..." "...A feast was established in memory of this event [the assumed birth of Jesus] in the fourth century. In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever ON THE DAY OF THE OLD ROMAN FEAST OF THE BIRTH OF SOL [SUN], as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed." Emphasis added. -Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 Edition


"The idea of using evergreens at Christmas also came to England from pre-Christian northern European beliefs. Celtic and Teutonic tribes honored these plants at their winter solstice festivals as symbolic of eternal life, and the Druids ascribed magical properties to the mistletoe in particular." [The Encyclopedia Americana International Edition. New York: Grolier, 1991. p666.]


Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia

"How much the date of the festival depended upon the pagan Brumalia [December 25] following the Saturnalia [December 17-24], and celebrating the shortest day of the year and the 'new sun'...cannot be accurately determined. The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence...The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ's birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mespoptamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival." (New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article "Christmas")


"Christmas: The supposed anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, occurring on Dec. 25. No sufficient data … exist, for the determination of the month or the day of the event… There is no historical evidence that our Lord’s birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or early postapostolic times. The uncertainty that existed at the beginning of the third century in the minds of Hippolytus and others—Hippolytus earlier favored Jan. 2, Clement of Alexanderia (Strom., i. 21) "the 25th day of Pachon" (= May 20), while others, according to Clement, fixed upon Apr. 18 or 19 and Mar. 28—proves that no Christmas festival had been established much before the middle of the century. Jan. 6 was earlier fixed upon as the date of the baptism or spiritual birth of Christ, and the feast of Epiphany … was celebrated by the Basilidian Gnostics in the second century … and by catholic Christians by about the beginning of the fourth century. The earliest record of the recognition of Dec. 25 as a church festival is in the Philocalian Calendar (copied 354 but representing Roman practise in 336)." -A. H. Newman, "Christmas," The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. 3, p. 47. Copyright 1909 by Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York


Catholic Encyclopedia

"Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church...the first evidence of the feast is from Egypt." "Pagan customs centering around the January calendars gravitated to Christmas." "...In the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his [Jesus] birthday. It is only sinners who make great rejoicings over the day in which they were born into this world" -Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911 Edition, published by the Roman Catholic Church


The New Catholic Encyclopedia says: "The birth of Christ was assigned the date of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar, January 6 in the Egyptian) because on this day, as the sun began its return to the northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun)."


The well-known solar feast of Natalis Invicti,'the Nativity of the Unconquered Sun,' celebrated on 25 December, has a strong claim on the responsibility for our December date," (Catholic Encyclopedia, vol.3, p.727, article, "Christmas.")


Colliers' Encyclopedia

"The use of evergreens to decorate homes at Christmas has an unmistakable pre-Christian origin." [Colliers' Encyclopedia. New York: P. F. Collier, 1991. p404.]


"The practice of exchanging presents at Christmas stems from the ancient Roman custom called Strenae. During the Saturnalia, Roman citizens used to give "good luck" gifts (strenae) of fruits, pastries, or gold to their friends on New Year's Day." [Colliers' Encyclopedia. New York: P. F. Collier, 1991. p404.]


The World Book Encyclopedia

"The ancient Romans held year-end celebrations to honor Saturn, their harvest god; and Mithras, the god of light. Various peoples in northern Europe held festivals in mid-December to celebrate the end of the harvest season. As part of all these celebrations, the people prepared special foods, decorated their homes with greenery, and joined in singing and gift giving. These customs gradually became part of the Christmas celebrations." [The World Book Encyclopedia, Chicago: World Book, 1995. p528.]


According to The World Book Encyclopedia, Pope Liberius of Rome, in 354 A.D., ordered December 25th observed from that time forward as the birthday of Christ, and chose the date "because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the Sun"


"The custom of giving gifts to relatives and friends on a special day in winter probably began in ancient Rome and northern Europe." [The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1995. p534.]


"Ancient Celtic priests considered the plant [mistletoe] sacred and gave people sprigs of it to use as charms. The custom of decorating houses with mistletoe probably came from its use as a ceremonial plant by early Europeans." [The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1995. p528.]


"In ancient Rome, people used decorative wreaths as a sign of victory and celebration. The custom of hanging a Christmas wreath on the front door of the home probably came from this practice." [The World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book, 1995. p535.]


MacMillan Compact Encyclopedia.

"In the West it [Christmas] has been celebrated on 25 Dec since 336 AD, partly in order to replace the non-Christian sun worship on the same date." [MacMillan Compact Encyclopedia. Toronto: MacMillan, 1995. p122.]


The Cambridge Encyclopedia.

"The practice of celebrating Christmas on 25 December began in the Western Church early in the 4th-c; it was a Christian substitute for the pagan festival held on that date to celebrate the birth of the unconquered sun." [The Cambridge Encyclopedia. New York: Cambridge University Press, 990. p257.]


Chambers's Encyclopædia

"When Christianity spread northwards it encountered a similar pagan festival [to Saturnalia], also held at the winter solstice, the great Yule-feast of the Norsemen. Once again Christmas absorbed heathen customs. From these various sources come the Yule log, the Christmas tree, introduced into England from Germany and first mentioned in 1789, the decorating of houses with mistletoe and holly and churches with evergreens, especially holly and ivy, as well as the provision of a feast." [Chambers's Encyclopædia. London: International Learning Systems, 1973. p538.]


World Popular Encyclopedia

"The observance of December 25 [as a Christian festival] only dates from the fourth century and is due to assimilation with the Mithraic festival of the birth of the sun" (World Popular Encyclopedia, Volume 3).


Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible

"Gradually a number of prevailing practices of the [heathen] nations into which Christ came were assimilated and were combined with the religious ceremonies surrounding Christmas. The assimilation of such practices generally represented efforts by Christians to transform or absorb otherwise pagan practices." (The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 1, page 805)


Everymans Encyclopedia

"The practice of decorating houses and churches is pagan in its origin, and the mistletoe so widely used for that purpose was the sacred plant of the Druids." [Everymans Encyclopedia. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967. p1,672.]


"The Roman festival of the winter solstice was celebrated on 25 Dec. (dies natalis solis invictus). The Celtic and Germanic tribes held this season in veneration from the earliest times, and the Norsemen believed that their dieties were present and active on earth from 25 Dec. to 6 Jan." [Everymans Encyclopedia. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967. p1,672.]


"The custom of presenting friends with gifts at Christmas dates back to the time of the ancient Romans." [Everymans Encyclopedia. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1967. p1,672.]


New Standard Encyclopedia

"Christianity thus replaced a pagan holiday with a Christian one, while keeping the same symbolism-the birthday of Christ corresponds to the birth of a new year. Many of the pagan customs became part of the Christmas celebrations." [New Standard Encyclopedia. Chicago: Standard Educational, 1991. pC-320.]


Encyclopedia International

"Pagan celebrations on December 25 had included feasting, dancing, lighting bonfires, decorating homes with greens, and giving gifts. So when this became a Christian festival, the customs continued, but with a Christian meaning imparted to them." [Encyclopedia International. USA: Lexicon, 1980. p414.]


Merit Students Encyclopedia

"The Yule log is another of the many Christmas traditions that originated among the Germanic tribes. It was burnt during the winter solstice celebrations, and its name comes from jol, the Old Norse name for their pagan festival. The word "Yule" has since become a synonym for Christmas." [Merit Students Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillan, 1983. p470.]


"The custom of exchanging gifts at Christmastime stems from an ancient Roman practice. During the Saturnalia the Romans presented their emperor and each other with tokens of good luck, called strenae." [Merit Students Encyclopedia. New York: MacMillan, 1983. p470.]


Webster's Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia

"The sending of gifts had its origin in the Yule gifts of northern countries of Europe and ancient Rome." [Webster's Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia. New York: Webster's Unified, 1970. p361.]


MSN Encarta Encyclopedia

"Scholars believe that the festival is derived in part from rites held by pre-Christian Germanic and Celtic peoples to celebrate the winter solstice. Christmas festivals have been observed by Christians since the 4th century and incorporate many pagan customs, such as the use of holly and mistletoe" (MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Concise Edition, article: Christmas)


"... most scholars believe that Christmas originated in the 4th century as a Christian substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Before the introduction of Christmas, each year beginning on December 17 Romans honored Saturn, the ancient god of agriculture, in a festival called Saturnalia. This festival lasted for seven days and included the winter solstice, which usually occurred around December 25 on the ancient Julian calendar. During Saturnalia the Romans feasted, postponed all business and warfare, exchanged gifts, and temporarily freed their slaves. Many Romans also celebrated the lengthening of daylight following the winter solstice by participating in rituals to glorify Mithra, the ancient Persian god of light (see Mithraism). These and other winter festivities continued through January 1, the festival of Kalends, when Romans marked the day of the new moon and the first day of the month and year.

Although the Gospels describe Jesus' birth in detail, they never mention the date, so historians do not know on what date he was born. The Roman Catholic Church chose December 25 as the day for the Feast of the Nativity in order to give Christian meaning to existing pagan rituals. For example, the Church replaced festivities honoring the birth of Mithra, the god of light, with festivities to commemorate the birth of Jesus, whom the Bible calls the light of the world. The Catholic Church hoped to draw pagans into its religion by allowing them to continue their revelry while simultaneously honoring the birthday of Jesus. ...

Over the next 1000 years, the observance of Christmas followed the expansion of Christianity into the rest of Europe and into Egypt. Along the way, Christian beliefs combined with existing pagan feasts and winter rituals to create many long-standing traditions of Christmas celebrations. For example, ancient Europeans believed that the mistletoe plant held magic powers to bestow life and fertility, to bring about peace, and to protect against disease. Northern Europeans associated the plant with the Norse goddess of love, Freya, and developed the custom of kissing underneath mistletoe branches. Christians incorporated this custom into their Christmas celebrations, and kissing under a mistletoe branch eventually became a part of secular Christmas tradition." (MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Deluxe Edition, article: Christmas, section II: Origins of Christmas)


"During the Reformation of the 16th century, Protestants challenged the authority of the Catholic Church, including its toleration of surviving pagan traditions during Christmas festivities. For a brief time during the 17th century, Puritans banned Christmas in England and in some English colonies in North America because they felt it had become a season best known for gambling, flamboyant public behavior, and overindulgence in food and drink.

....Colonists from England, France, Holland, Spain, and other countries also gradually modified their Christmas ceremonies as they encountered new cultures and traditions in the New World. For example, in large towns, where diverse groups lived close together, the common ground for celebration could often be found in public and secular festivities rather than in potentially divisive religious ceremonies. Thus, at least in New York City, the winter's holidays often culminated on New Year's, not Christmas." (MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Deluxe Edition, article: Christmas, section II: Origins of Christmas)


"In the United States and Canada, many elements of modern Christmas celebrations did not emerge until the 19th century. Before then Christmas had been an ordinary workday in many communities, particularly in New England, where early Puritan objections to Christmas celebrations remained highly influential. Among some groups, Christmas was an especially boisterous event, characterized by huge feasts, drunkenness, and raucous public revelry. In an English tradition that survived in some parts of North America, Christmas revelers would dress in costume and progress from door to door to receive gifts of food and drink. Most holiday gifts were limited to small amounts of money and modest presents passed from the wealthy to the poor and from masters to their servants. Families almost never exchanged Christmas gifts among themselves.

....Christmas gained increased prominence largely because many people believed it could draw families together and honor children. Giving gifts to children and loved ones eventually replaced the raucous public celebrations of the past, and Christmas became primarily a domestic holiday. (MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Deluxe Edition, article: Christmas, section II: Origins of Christmas)


"The Bible provides no guidelines that explain how Christmas should be observed, nor does it even suggest that it should be considered a religious holiday. Because of the lack of biblical instructions, Christmas rituals have been shaped by the religious and popular traditions of each culture that celebrates the holiday....Christmas observances have also assimilated remnants of ancient midwinter rituals that celebrate the returning light of the sun following the winter solstice. For example, many cultures continue the pre-Christian custom of burning Yule logs during the midwinter season; the Yule log symbolizes the victory of light over the darkness of winter. The tradition of lighting the Yule log is still observed, especially by Europeans. Families light the log on Christmas Eve and keep it burning until Epiphany. Some families save the remains of the Yule log to help kindle the fire the following year. According to ancient tradition, the ashes provide protection against bad luck during the year.

"During the Christmas season Italians perform music at shrines of the Virgin Mary. They also play songs at the homes of carpenters in honor of Saint Joseph, who was a carpenter. On Christmas Eve, after a day of fasting, Italians enjoy a feast of eels and a spaghetti dish with anchovies called cennone. Santa Claus is not a prominent figure in Italian folklore. Instead, Italian children wait for La Befana, a good witch who rides her broom to their homes on Epiphany to distribute gifts. According to folk belief, La Befana—whose name refers to the word Epifania (Epiphany)—was too busy to accompany the Three Wise Men on their journey to visit the infant Jesus in Bethlehem. Now, to atone for her failing, she visits all good children, leaving treats. She also visits bad children and leaves them lumps of coal or bags of ash. (MSN Encarta Encyclopedia (online), Deluxe Edition, article: Christmas, section VII: Around the World, B: Among Roman Catholics, 1: In Italy)




©2002 Truth On The Web Ministries: All the articles originated by Kenneth Hoeck and/or Brian Hoeck may be freely distributed or mirrored as long as presented in their entirety (including this statement), attributed to Truth on The Web, and proper author credit given.