Courtesy: Ms Virginia
I am grateful to her for providing me such comprehensive information.
Definition: Days usually marked by time off from secular work and school for commemoration of an event. Such days may also be occasions for family or community festivities. Participants may view them as being religious or as being largely social or secular affairs.
Is Christmas a celebration based on the Bible?
Date of the celebration
M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia says: “The observance of Christmas is not of divine appointment, nor is it of N[ew] T[estament] origin. The day of Christ’s birth cannot be ascertained from the N[ew] T[estament], or, indeed, from any other source.”—(New York, 1871), Volume II, page 276.
Luke 2:8-11 shows that shepherds were in the fields at night at the time of Jesus’ birth. The book Daily Life in the Time of Jesus states: “The flocks . . . passed the winter under cover; and from this alone it may be seen that the traditional date for Christmas, in the winter, is unlikely to be right, since the Gospel says that the shepherds were in the fields.”—(New York, 1962), Henri Daniel-Rops, page 228.
(Luke 2:8-11) There were also in that same country shepherds living out of doors and keeping watches in the night over their flocks. 9 And suddenly Jehovah’s angel stood by them, and Jehovah’s glory gleamed around them, and they became very fearful. 10 But the angel said to them: “Have no fear, for, look! I am declaring to YOU good news of a great joy that all the people will have, 11 because there was born to YOU today a Savior, who is Christ [the] Lord, in David’s city.
The Encyclopedia Americana informs us: “The reason for establishing December 25 as Christmas is somewhat obscure, but it is usually held that the day was chosen to correspond to pagan festivals that took place around the time of the winter solstice, when the days begin to lengthen, to celebrate the ‘rebirth of the sun.’ . . . The Roman Saturnalia (a festival dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture, and to the renewed power of the sun), also took place at this time, and some Christmas customs are thought to be rooted in this ancient pagan celebration.”—(1977), Volume 6, page 666.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia acknowledges: “The date of Christ’s birth is not known. The Gospels indicate neither the day nor the month . . . According to the hypothesis suggested by H. Usener . . . and accepted by most scholars today, 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 northern skies, the pagan devotees of Mithra celebrated the dies natalis Solis Invicti (birthday of the invincible sun). On December 25, 274, Aurelian had proclaimed the sun-god principal patron of the empire and dedicated a temple to him in the Campus Martius. Christmas originated at a time when the cult of the sun was particularly strong at Rome.”—(1967), Volume III, page 656.
Wise men, or Magi, led by a star
Those Magi were actually astrologers from the east. (Matthew 2:1-2, NW; NE) Although astrology is popular among many people today, the practice is strongly disapproved in the Bible. (See pages 144, 145, under the main heading “Fate.”) Would God have led to the newborn Jesus persons whose practices He condemned?
(Matthew 2:1-2) After Jesus had been born in Beth′le•hem of Ju•de′a in the days of Herod the king, look! astrologers from eastern parts came to Jerusalem, 2 saying: “Where is the one born king of the Jews? For we saw his star [when we were] in the east, and we have come to do him obeisance.”
Matthew 2:1-16 shows that the star led the astrologers first to King Herod and then to Jesus and that Herod then sought to have Jesus killed. No mention is made that anyone other than the astrologers saw the “star.” After they left, Jehovah’s angel warned Joseph to flee to Egypt to safeguard the child. Was that “star” a sign from God or was it from someone who was seeking to have God’s Son destroyed?
(Matthew 2:1-16) After Jesus had been born in Beth′le•hem of Ju•de′a in the days of Herod the king, look! astrologers from eastern parts came to Jerusalem, 2 saying: “Where is the one born king of the Jews? For we saw his star [when we were] in the east, and we have come to do him obeisance.” 3 At hearing this King Herod was agitated, and all Jerusalem along with him; 4 and on gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people he began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They said to him: “In Beth′le•hem of Ju•de′a; for this is how it has been written through the prophet, 6 ‘And you, O Beth′le•hem of the land of Judah, are by no means the most insignificant [city] among the governors of Judah; for out of you will come forth a governing one, who will shepherd my people, Israel.’” 7 Then Herod secretly summoned the astrologers and carefully ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearing; 8 and, when sending them to Beth′le•hem, he said: “Go make a careful search for the young child, and when YOU have found it report back to me, that I too may go and do it obeisance.” 9 When they had heard the king, they went their way; and, look! the star they had seen [when they were] in the east went ahead of them, until it came to a stop above where the young child was. 10 On seeing the star they rejoiced very much indeed. 11 And when they went into the house they saw the young child with Mary its mother, and, falling down, they did obeisance to it. They also opened their treasures and presented it with gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 However, because they were given divine warning in a dream not to return to Herod, they withdrew to their country by another way. 13 After they had withdrawn, look! Jehovah’s angel appeared in a dream to Joseph, saying: “Get up, take the young child and its mother and flee into Egypt, and stay there until I give you word; for Herod is about to search for the young child to destroy it.” 14 So he got up and took along the young child and its mother by night and withdrew into Egypt, 15 and he stayed there until the decease of Herod, for that to be fulfilled which was spoken by Jehovah through his prophet, saying: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, seeing he had been outwitted by the astrologers, fell into a great rage, and he sent out and had all the boys in Beth′le•hem and in all its districts done away with, from two years of age and under, according to the time that he had carefully ascertained from the astrologers.
Note that the Bible account does not say that they found the babe Jesus in a manger, as customarily depicted in Christmas art. When the astrologers arrived, Jesus and his parents were living in a house. As to Jesus’ age at that time, remember that, based on what Herod had learned from the astrologers, he decreed that all the boys in the district of Bethlehem two years of age and under were to be destroyed.— Matthew 2:1, 11, 16.
(Matthew 2:1) After Jesus had been born in Beth′le•hem of Ju•de′a in the days of Herod the king, look! astrologers from eastern parts came to Jerusalem,
(Matthew 2:11) And when they went into the house they saw the young child with Mary its mother, and, falling down, they did obeisance to it. They also opened their treasures and presented it with gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
(Matthew 2:16) Then Herod, seeing he had been outwitted by the astrologers, fell into a great rage, and he sent out and had all the boys in Beth′le•hem and in all its districts done away with, from two years of age and under, according to the time that he had carefully ascertained from the astrologers.
Gift giving as part of the celebration; stories about Santa Claus, Father Christmas, etc.
The practice of Christmas gift giving is not based on what was done by the Magi. As shown above, they did not arrive at the time of Jesus’ birth. Furthermore, they gave gifts, not to one another, but to the child Jesus, in accord with what was then customary when visiting notable persons.
The Encyclopedia Americana states: “During the Saturnalia . . . feasting prevailed, and gifts were exchanged.” (1977, Volume 24, page 299) In many instances that represents the spirit of Christmas giving—an exchanging of gifts. The spirit reflected in such gift giving does not bring real happiness, because it violates Christian principles such as those found at Matthew 6:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 9:7. Surely a Christian can give gifts to others as an expression of love at other times during the year, doing so as often as he wants to.
(Matthew 6:3-4) But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, 4 that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.
(2 Corinthians 9:7) Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Depending on where they live, children are told that gifts are brought by Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, Père Noël, Knecht Ruprecht, the Magi, the elf Jultomten (or Julenissen), or a witch known as La Befana. (The World Book Encyclopedia, 1984, Volume 3, page 414) Of course, none of these stories are actually true. Does the telling of such stories build in children a respect for truth, and does such a practice honor Jesus Christ, who taught that God must be worshiped with truth?—John 4:23-24.
(John 4:23-24) Nevertheless, the hour is coming, and it is now, when the true worshipers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for, indeed, the Father is looking for suchlike ones to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”
Is there any objection to sharing in celebrations that may have unchristian roots as long as it is not done for religious reasons?
Ephesians 5:10-11: “Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord; and quit sharing with them in the unfruitful works that belong to the darkness, but, rather, even be reproving them.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-18: “What fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Be′lial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? . . . ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing”’; ‘“and I will take you in, . . . and you will be sons and daughters to me,” says Jehovah the Almighty.’”
Genuine love for Jehovah and a strong desire to be pleasing to him will help a person to break free from unchristian practices that may have had emotional appeal. A person who really knows and loves Jehovah does not feel that by shunning practices that honor false gods or that promote falsehood he is in any way deprived of happiness. Genuine love causes him to rejoice, not over unrighteousness, but with the truth. (See 1 Corinthians 13:6)
(1 Corinthians 13:6) It does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.
Compare Exodus 32:4-10. Notice that the Israelites adopted an Egyptian religious practice but gave it a new name, “a festival to Jehovah.” But Jehovah severely punished them for this. Today we see only 20th-century practices associated with holidays. Some may appear harmless. But Jehovah observed firsthand the pagan religious practices from which these originated. Should not his view be what matters to us?
(Exodus 32:4-10) Then he took [the gold] from their hands, and he formed it with a graving tool and proceeded to make it into a molten statue of a calf. And they began to say: “This is your God, O Israel, who led you up out of the land of Egypt.” 5 When Aaron got to see this, he went to building an altar before it. Finally Aaron called out and said: “There is a festival to Jehovah tomorrow.” 6 So on the next day they were early in rising, and they began offering up burnt offerings and presenting communion sacrifices. After that the people sat down to eat and drink. Then they got up to have a good time. 7 Jehovah now said to Moses: “Go, descend, because your people whom you led up out of the land of Egypt have acted ruinously. 8 They have turned aside in a hurry from the way I have commanded them to go. They have made a molten statue of a calf for themselves and keep bowing down to it and sacrificing to it and saying, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who led you up out of the land of Egypt.’” 9 And Jehovah went on to say to Moses: “I have looked at this people and here it is a stiff-necked people. 10 So now let me be, that my anger may blaze against them and I may exterminate them, and let me make you into a great nation.”
Illustration: Suppose a crowd come to a gentleman’s home saying they are there to celebrate his birthday. He does not favor the celebration of birthdays. He does not like to see people overeat or get drunk or engage in loose conduct. But some of them do all those things, and they bring presents for everyone there except him! On top of all that, they pick the birthday of one of the man’s enemies as the date for the celebration. How would the man feel? Would you want to be a party to it? This is exactly what is being done by Christmas celebrations.
This is some additional information about something else.
What underlies holidays in memory of the “spirits of the dead”?
The 1910 edition of The Encyclopædia Britannica states: “All Souls’ Day . . . the day set apart in the Roman Catholic Church for the commemoration of the faithful departed. The celebration is based on the doctrine that the souls of the faithful which at death have not been cleansed from venial sins, or have not atoned for past transgressions, cannot attain the Beatific Vision, and that they may be helped to do so by prayer and by the sacrifice of the mass. . . . Certain popular beliefs connected with All Souls’ Day are of pagan origin and immemorial antiquity. Thus the dead are believed by the peasantry of many Catholic countries to return to their former homes on All Souls’ night and partake of the food of the living.”—Volume I, page 709.
The Encyclopedia Americana says: “Elements of the customs connected with Halloween can be traced to a Druid ceremony in pre-Christian times. The Celts had festivals for two major gods—a sun god and a god of the dead (called Samhain), whose festival was held on November 1, the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The festival of the dead was gradually incorporated into Christian ritual.”—(1977), Volume 13, page 725.
The book The Worship of the Dead points to this origin: “The mythologies of all the ancient nations are interwoven with the events of the Deluge . . . The force of this argument is illustrated by the fact of the observance of a great festival of the dead in commemoration of the event, not only by nations more or less in communication with each other, but by others widely separated, both by the ocean and by centuries of time. This festival is, moreover, held by all on or about the very day on which, according to the Mosaic account, the Deluge took place, viz., the seventeenth day of the second month—the month nearly corresponding with our November.” (London, 1904, Colonel J. Garnier, p. 4) Thus these celebrations actually began with an honoring of people whom God had destroyed because of their badness in Noah’s day.— Genesis 6:5-7; 7:11.
(Genesis 6:5-7) Consequently Jehovah saw that the badness of man was abundant in the earth and every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time. 6 And Jehovah felt regrets that he had made men in the earth, and he felt hurt at his heart. 7 So Jehovah said: “I am going to wipe men whom I have created off the surface of the ground, from man to domestic animal, to moving animal and to flying creature of the heavens, because I do regret that I have made them.”
(Genesis 7:11) In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on this day all the springs of the vast watery deep were broken open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.
Such holidays honoring “spirits of the dead” as if they were alive in another realm are contrary to the Bible’s description of death as a state of complete unconsciousness. — Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10; Palms 146:4.
(Ecclesiastes 9:5) For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all, neither do they anymore have wages, because the remembrance of them has been forgotten.
(Ecclesiastes 9:10) All that your hand finds to do, do with your very power, for there is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in She´ol, the place to which you are going.
(Psalm 146:4) His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his thoughts do perish.
Regarding the origin of belief in immortality of the human soul, see pages 101, 102, under the main heading “Death,” and pages 379, 380, under “Soul.”
What Bible principles explain the viewpoint of Christians toward ceremonies commemorating events in a nation’s political history?
John 18:36: “Jesus answered [the Roman governor]: ‘My kingdom is no part of this world.’”
John 15:19: “If you [Jesus’ followers] were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”
1 John 5:19: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”
(Compare John 14:30; Revelation 13:1-2; Daniel 2:44.)
(John 14:30) I shall not speak much with YOU anymore, for the ruler of the world is coming. And he has no hold on me,
(Revelation 13:1-2) And it stood still upon the sand of the sea. And I saw a wild beast ascending out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, and upon its horns ten diadems, but upon its heads blasphemous names. 2 Now the wild beast that I saw was like a leopard, but its feet were as those of a bear, and its mouth was as a lion’s mouth. And the dragon gave to [the beast] its power and its throne and great authority.
(Daniel 2:44) “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite;