Is Christmas a Pagan Holiday?
December 25, 2010 3 Comments
Similarity of forms does not necessarily imply inheritance, e.g. since birds and bats both fly, it does not follow that bats are the offspring of birds. For the case of Christmas, there are three possibilities: (1) Christmas is borrowed from a Pagan Winter Solstice celebration, (2) a Pagan Winter Solstice celebration is borrowed from Christmas, and (3) neither feasts borrowed from each other. If we can neither rigorously prove any of these three propositions, your guess is as good as mine with 33% chance of success. I shall bet on the first, you bet on the second, and we shall know the answer after we die when we meet Jesus as the Just Judge.
It is true that there are previous cults (e.g. Mithras) prior to Christianity, with Mithras being a wise man like Christ. But there is something astonishingly paradoxical in Catholic Faith that marks it distinct from Paganism. In Paganism, man with his supreme efforts can become a deity (e.g Hercules); in Catholicism, God the Son became a helpless baby, the Son of Man. In Paganism, man worships goddesses like Venus and Astarte; in Catholicism, Mary, a daughter of Eve, became the Mother of God yet remains only human. The pagan gods are promising wealth, fame, glory; Christ promises heaven but only through the humiliation of the cross. If Catholicism is simply a new Paganism, why did the Roman Emperors persecute Catholics for more than 300 years and why did the Roman Empire have to give up its pantheon of gods including Mithras before converting to Christianity? Paganism is incompatible with Catholicism. The Catholic Church has always been countercultural: the Church eradicated crucifixion, gladiators, and slavery and developed the teachings on Just War, Social Justice, and Human Rights. The Catholic Church has a vitality that can only be explained by its divine institution.
The Catholic Church is universal, a mustard tree that gives home to all the nations of the earth. Yet the church is also local because it sends its roots to all the cultures of the world, purifying what is good, and rejecting the bad. So the Church adopted the pagan symbols like Christmas trees and baptized them as Christian symbols (read the lyrics of “O Tannenbaum”), in the same way as the Church accepts little children and adult sinners into its fold and baptizes them as adopted sons and daughters of God. The Church assimilates local cultures as man eats food: the nutrients remain with the body; the rest goes out as feces and urine. The Catholic Church remains the same Catholic Church founded by Christ: the mustard seed became a great tree, the baby became a man.