That’s a question many Christians have this time of year—and it’s a good one to ask. And while the answer may be somewhat complicated, it’s worth discussing.
One concern some believers have about celebrating Christmas is that there’s no solid evidence that Jesus was born on December 25.
This is certainly true. We celebrate Christmas on December 25 because the Roman Catholic Church adopted a pagan celebration of the winter solstice. The holiday was called Saturnalia, which was a festival the Romans celebrated for their god Saturn, who’s similar to the Greek god Kronos. The festivities lasted from December 17 to December 23.
So where does this celebration come from?
Saturn and Bible History
According to Bodie Hodge, the concept behind Saturn and Kronos stem from a person found in Scripture—one of Noah’s descendants.
The descendants of Javan, one of Noah’s grandsons, inhabited the land of Greece. Interestingly, the name for Greece in Hebrew is actually Javan!
Javan had four sons: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim (Cethimus), and Rodanim (Dodanim). If you travel to Greece, you can visit some cities and islands whose names are derived from Javan’s sons. (Do you remember how Paul came from Tarsus? That word comes from Tarshish.)
Hodge points out that many other gods and demi-gods in Greek mythology are based on real people. For example, “Hellen” is likely derived from Elishah. In a similar way, Kronos is a variant of Cethimas/Kittem.
It isn’t that hard to imagine Noah’s immediate descendants being raised up to god-like status when you remember that mankind before the Flood lived incredibly long lives. Noah himself lived to be 950 years old while his sons lived to be hundreds of years old as well. Shem had his first child at 100 and died at around 600 years old.
As the generations continue in Genesis 9, we see the average lifespan decrease drastically. By the time Abraham was born 9 generations later, the age of 100 was considered old for childbearing.
In light of this, it makes sense that people would raise those who lived hundreds of years longer to god-like status, including Kittim. It’s likely that Saturn/Kronos is derived from this descendant of Noah.
This in no way justifies the pagan ideas and rituals in the holiday festival Saturnalia, but it’s interesting that even this unbiblical holiday stemmed from biblical history.
Do Christmas Trees Have Pagan Roots?
It’s common to hear people say that the historical origins of the Christmas tree are pagan. People will offhandedly mention that Christmas trees were borrowed from pagan religious festivals and then adapted to Christianity. And no one seems to question that logic.
But if you look more closely at those claims, you’ll find there aren’t many facts to back them up.
Most traditions that are associated with pagan festivals are only remotely similar to Christmas celebrations. And furthermore, if you study what the Scripture has to say about evergreens, you’ll find lots of information!
Numerous Bible passages associate evergreens with God’s favor toward His people. (Look at Numbers 24:6, Psalm 104:16, and Isaiah 41:19 to start.) Evergreens are also talked about in reference to testifying about God’s goodness (Psalm 148:9 and Isaiah 55:13). When God promised to revive Israel in Isaiah 41:19, He specifically mentioned planting cedar, cypress, and pine trees in the wilderness.
Clearly, evergreens are not merely part of pagan rituals—they’ve long been a biblical symbol.
Remember the Real Reason for Christmas
When Christians celebrate Christmas, we’re not worshipping pagan gods or even the holiday itself. We’re worshipping Jesus Christ, the one true God who was born in a manger as a baby boy and grew up to deliver us from our sins.
This is the true meaning of Christmas, and this is why we celebrate. Christmas is a time to remember and reflect on the miracle God did by sending His Son to Earth as a baby. It’s a time to marvel at the mystery of God becoming man—the divine wrapping Himself in flesh.
And as we admire the infant Christ, we must also take time to remember why He came. God didn’t simply think it would be fun to send His Son to Earth. He did it because mankind rebelled against Him, severing the relationship man had with the Father.
This sin not only brought physical death and decay into our world, but it brought spiritual death, too. But when Jesus Christ died on the cross, He took the Father’s ferocious anger that we deserved. Our sins were put on Him so that, by faith, we could receive salvation and even become the righteousness of God!
This Christmas, let’s remember to focus on Jesus and the gospel. As fun as Christmas trees, presents, giving, and big family dinners are, the truth of salvation must always be the center of our celebration.
So Merry Christmas from the Answers.tv team!
Enjoy Christmas at Answers.tv
Join Ken Ham and Buddy Davis for some Christmas fun! Laugh, sing along, and learn in this engaging Christmas variety show, which was shot live in front of hundreds of guests at the Creation Museum. Click here to watch Christmas With Ken & Buddy!
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