Season: 8 Episode: 108
There’s a rumor going around social media that says Christmas is a pagan holiday. Should Christians stop celebrating Christmas because some people say it’s ruled by pagan rituals? Shanda tackles how to face Christmas and arms you with responses you can share to help others understand why Christmas belongs to Christians
“Christianity is the only religion where God came to man. Every other religion is man striving to reach God.”
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Merry Christmas and welcome back to another episode of Her Faith Inspires podcast where we take cultural issues and align them to biblical truth. I want to remind you that registration for the online classes is LIVE. Go to shandafulbright.com to register. I have How to Study the Bible Like a Scholar, Baseline Apologetics, and Apologetics 101. If you want to hear more about them, go to episode 106, “Seeking God”. I explain each of those classes at the end of the episode.
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Today’s episode is inspired by a listener who asked me a question about Christmas being a pagan holiday.
She’s seen much of what I’ve seen online where women are telling other women not to celebrate Christmas because of its pagan roots. I heard this last year and someone asked me about it but I brushed it off. It seems like every holiday you get people yelling at other christians not to dress up for Halloween, or don’t celebrate Easter because the easter bunny is evil.
I saw all kinds of those arguments going down in October and I was like, “Just keep scrolling, Shanda.” I will not get into those kinds of debates. They probably have their time and place but I really don’t want to waste my time on that kind of stuff. We have bigger fish to fry in this world here, people. Dressing up for a harvest party ain’t one of them!
The reason I want to take on this one is for two reasons: 1) a listener requested it and that’s something I’m willing to invest in and 2) I think Christmas is a bit different than Halloween in the sense that this pagan argument is becoming more and more out in the open and seems to be catching some fire. It probably has a lot to do with social media, but either way, I want to talk about whether or not its pagan and whether you and I should celebrate it.
Here’s what we’ll tackle:
- Why do people claim Christmas is a pagan holiday? What are the reasons they give?
- Should Christians celebrate Christmas because some people don’t celebrate it for the same reasons we do?
- How do we address these issues with others this season and for all christmases to come?
What’s the history behind the claim that Christian is a pagan holiday?
So the short answer is NO, Christmas is not a pagan holiday. It is a Christian holiday. We celebrate Christmas because of Christ. Spoiler alert: the word Christmas has Christ’s name in it.
So right away the claim that Christmas is a pagan holiday is wrong. Now, are there some things that are celebrated that have nothing to do with the brith story of Christ? Of course. What are those things?
If people say some Christmas symbols mean blah, blah blah, that doesn’t mean that’s what they mean or represent today. Our culture doesn’t put trees in the house to idolize or symbolize anything other than a pretty tree that smells good and we place presents under. But some people will say the tree is a symbol of pagan worship. Not in our culture and I don’t know of any other culture that puts trees in their houses to worship them.
Santa Claus isn’t worshiped.
If you do Santa with your kids, I am not going to tell you you’re evil. We did Santa with our kids and my eleven year old knows he’s not real. Stockings aren’t evil. Candy is only bad if you eat too much of it, not because it represents some evil pagan ritual.
I see people talking about all of these Christmas traditions as pagan practices and I haven’t witnessed any of it from anyone I know. So if someone says Christians should not celebrate Christmas, I’m not convinced and I can’t stop, won’t stop. If that’s your conviction because of something you’ve read or got stuck in your head, keep it to yourself but don’t try and convince everyone else that they’re engaging in sin because they don’t follow your lead.
There are a lot of Christmas traditions that we personally do that aren’t religious. For example, we bake gingerbread cookies every year and we go on a gingerbread hunt. We build snowmen when we go to the snow. We watch all the Christmas movies. We leave cookies out for Santa. We fill stockings. We hang lights. We go to dinner and get a tree.
But we also do things that point to christ: the advent calendar, manger scene, Christmas worship music (I love the Adore album by Chris Tomlin), we are doing a Christmas advent devotional as a family. We make sure we keep Christ as the center because that’s the whole reason for Christmas.
And that brings me to the second question:
Should Christians celebrate Christmas since some people don’t celebrate it for the same reasons we do … such as Christ’s birth?
If you’ve been listening to me long enough, you know that I say all the time this is a post Christian culture. Christmas programs are no longer called Christmas programs, they’re holiday programs. It’s not longer Christmas vacation, it’s winter break.
I remember when I was in college and I worked at an insurance company. Guess who was in charge of the holiday party? You guessed it … me. Well, I sent out invites to our office and I wrote Christmas party on the invites. My boss came to me and said, “You need to change it to holiday party.” I said NO. It’s a Christmas party, dude. Everyone is wearing red and green, call it what it is.
He was Jewish.
Anyway, he told me not everyone celebrates Christmas so I need to be sensitive. I probably wouldn’t do that today. I would probably do the whole, “Happy Hannukah, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays” to include everyone because I’m not going to get that confrontational, especially if I don’t want to close the door on hopefully sharing Christ with them, but I didn’t back down at 23. I was a lot feistier then and probably just plain rude. Don’t be 23 year old Shanda.
But no, do not stop celebrating Jesus’ brith because other people don’t celebrate for that reason. I think the whole pagan argument is weak. Very, very weak. Even if some do pagan things. If we stopped celebrating things because they don’t all have Christian roots, you’d have to stop celebrating most things because the enemy distorts, or tries to distort, what God has instituted … I mean look at marriage for example.
If people don’t want to celebrate Christmas and they say they’re Christians, that’s up to them.
Where I take issue with this is when people want to judge others for celebrating the holiday just because they don’t. For example, the verse I refer back to on this is Romans 14 where Paul is talking about how some observe some days as more important than others and some observes each day alike. He says that each one should be fully convinced in their own minds.
I am fully convinced that I am celebrating Christ’s birth at Christmas. Some may be fully convinced they won’t celebrate Christmas because they think it’s pagan. This is where we say, “To each their own.”
But Paul goes on to say that this is not a sin whether you do or don’t. So guess what I’m not going to do … make someone else feel like a sinner if they don’t do it my way. But I also won’t feel like a sinner just because I’m not doing it your way. This is why again, I don’t get into the Halloween debate. Because I don’t personally know of any Christians sacrificing to satan. So I’m not going to tell them what they should do or shouldn’t do based off my own convictions.
So this is for you if you’re confused or not sure if you should celebrate Christmas. If you celebrate Christ’s birth and always have and you’re wondering what these people are talking about, go about your business. Keep your traditions and your family celebrations and celebrate Christ. He is worth it.
How do we address these issues this season?
I’ve already mentioned how to face the holidays personally and with family. I’ve mentioned how to deal with those who post adamantly that Christians should not celebrate Christmas because it’s pagan. But I think the message we convey this season will help put it into perspective for others.
Last year, I did a few theological Christmas episodes that I want to link back to today and I encourage you to go listen to those because as Christians we need to be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks for the hope that is within us. How does that apply to whether or not we should celebrate Christmas? Understand the history and reason for Christmas.
We can easily say what has become cliche … Jesus its the reason for the season, and He is. But I mean to really know the theology behind Christmas as well. To help you with that, go back and listen to episode 54: Born to die, episode 55: peace in times of chaos (referencing the angels declaration of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men”), and episode 56: Jesus is so offensive.
Those will help give some theology to why we celebrate Christmas as Christians. Now, remember … these are other Christians saying you shouldn’t celebrate Christmas because it’s pagan. So theology is going to help them or others if they ask you why you celebrate it.
There are a few things to remember about Christmas in America:
First, most people are familiar with the manger scene. More people go to church at Easter, Christmas and Mother’s Day than any other day of the year. When we say cliche things like, “Jesus is the reason for the season” and have nothing to back it up, it falls on deaf ears.
Most people deny the virgin birth (by the way, I talk about that on episode 54). They look at the manger scene as a decoration, not a reminder of when God became man. So we have to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us.
And that brings me to the second point, people need hope right now. Jesus is the hope of the world. Greg Koukl talks about dropping the words that people relate to religion and start using other words to draw them back into the conversation because Americans have heard this for too long. But they still need hope. How do we convey the message that Jesus is that hope?
Think about it: we have high inflation rates, Covid is here to stay, crazy stuff going on in government and politics, and I haven’t mentioned the personal struggles people have with losing their jobs, income or other struggles. We need a message of hope.
Arguing with people about whether or not they should celebrate Christmas isn’t going to help anyone.
So here are some tips for how to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you:
- Be specific about what Christmas means: Immanuel, God with us. God came to man to redeem His creation. Christianity is the only religion where God came to man.
2. Hope: Without Christ being born of a virgin birth, we are all lost in our sin. Jesus took on flesh so that He could identify with our struggles, hurt and temptations. We have a God who cared so much about us, we can’t even say, “You don’t get it, God.” We can’t say that because He came and dwelt among us.
3. Peace: There will never be peace on earth. The world cannot offer it. No vaccine can bring it because just when we think we’re in the clear, we will be reminded that we live in this world and the world cannot offer what it did not give. Only Christ brings peace because He reconciled us to the Father.
I would get that specific as to why we celebrate Christmas.
There is more we can say, but I don’t want to overwhelm you, and honestly, I think just that will be enough to make people think. Choose one of these reasons for why you celebrate Christmas and it will put a pebble in someones shoe.
I have a personal standard for myself: I will not engage on secondary or tertiary issues with other Christians. I might in a private conversation but not in public. I won’t argue over which version of the Bible to read, which Christian denomination you should attend, etc, etc. I cal those things splitting hairs and it really makes Christianity look less desirable because the world is watching,
I personally don’t get offended when other Christians don’t celebrate Christmas. I don’t get offended with Christians dress up for Halloween. I am not going to message them and tell them they’re wrong and why I think so. Those are not primary issues of the Christian religion and I just won’t do it because in my opinion, there are bigger fish to fry.
We have bigger FISH to fry here, people! Why are we arguing over things that will not keep someone out of heaven or send them to hell?
The Bible tells us to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within you. So do that and leave the arguing to those who have nothing better to do.
I want to close this out by reminding you that Christmas is a Christian holiday. It belongs to us because we celebrate His birth. If you celebrate Christmas, do not let anyone make you feel bad about it. If you know in your heart why you celebrate it, then keep doing that.
And if you don’t celebrate Christmas because you think it’s pagan, don’t put that burden on anyone else. That’s your conviction, not a biblical mandate that we are required to follow.
For me, Christmas is one of the best times of year. I love all the Christmas movies, family traditions and Christmas songs. The main thing I want to do is honor Christ for the sacrifice He made by taking on flesh and identifying with my weakness because He was God incarnate.
He was born for the sole purpose of dying. He made a way to the Father. He was prophecy fulfilled when God clothes Adam and Eve with animal skin in Genesis 3. He is my Savior and my God and my soon coming King. I will celebrate His birth because I know what that means.
Even though I die, I will live because Jesus made a way when He became THE way and hung on a tree.
So I say to you what I said to the follower who asked whether or not she should celebrate Christmas: DECK THE HALLS, GIRL. DECK. THE. HALLS.
I’ll have another Christmas episode for you next week. You don’t have to send me a Christmas gift but I will take a 5 star rating and review. If you would go to iTunes and leave that for me if you enjoy this podcast, I would love it and appreciate it so much.
If you have any questions about this or anything I share, send me an email at email@example.com. Merry Christmas and I’ll catch you on the next one.