Category Archives: Pagan

CHRISTMAS: A HOLY HOLIDAY OR A SECULAR CELEBRATION?

It has already begun. The banter that often times occurs every year. Should we say, “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays?”  Was Jesus born on December 25th? Do I even want to celebrate Christmas at all? Is Christmas an authorized Christian holiday? Is Christmas a pagan holiday? Why do I have to buy so many gifts?  Yes, the questions can be quite endless.

Historically speaking, it is generally agreed that the original origins of Christmas can ultimately be traced back to Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. Like many holidays, Christians took the idea of Saturnalia and made it their own. The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336 c.e., during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine. A few years later, around 350 c.e., Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on December 25th. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival.

Fast forward to the 17th century when certain Puritans banned Christmas because they thought that celebrating Christmas was too pagan and unbiblical. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was actually fined a penalty. In fact, Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday in America until June 26, 1870. While a lot more could be said in regards to the historicity of Christmas, the above historical information should suffice for the purpose of this article.

With that being said, how should Christians celebrate Christmas? The answer to this question actually depends upon you. In addressing the church in Rome, Paul wrote, “One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it.” (Rom. 14:5-6a). We do not know when Jesus was born, but that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with taking a day out of the year to give special acknowledgment and celebration of such.

Last month we celebrated a day called Thanksgiving. While we should be thankful everyday of our lives (1 Thess. 5:18), there is nothing wrong with taking one day out of the year to dedicate and meditate upon thankfulness even more so. Nativity tree2011.jpgChurches typically celebrate Father’s Day and Mother’s Day (and at some churches Mothers may even get a rose!). While we should honor our father and mother everyday of the year (Eph. 6:1-2), there is certainly nothing wrong with taking a day out of the year to give special thought and appreciation to fathers and mothers.

So is Christmas a Christian holiday or a secular celebration? Well, it depends upon how you celebrate it. Personally, I enjoy the morally pure secular celebration of Christmas with its traditions as well as thinking about and celebrating the birth of Christ and being especially appreciative this time of year that Jesus was born. I don’t know when Jesus was born. No one living today does know. However, I am thankful that we live in a country where one day out of the year many people turn their attention to Jesus when they might otherwise not.

From bethanybernard.theworldrace.orgAs stated before, there is no such thing as Father’s Day or Mother’s Day in the Bible. But I am told to honor my father and my mother. Therefore, I am personally thankful that I live a country that celebrates such honoring. The same is true with Thanksgiving and Christmas.  While we should respect each others decisions and consciences, we must also be careful not to “judge each other in these matters” (Rom. 14:4). So whether you “Bah Humbug,” “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas,” make sure that you “do it unto the Lord and for His glory” (Rom. 14:6; 1 Cor. 10:31).

– Kevin Pendergrass

CHRISTIANS AND HALLOWEEN

Should Christians celebrate and participate in the holiday known as Halloween? This question and debate inevitably comes up every year. Before we get around to looking at this question from a biblical standpoint, I want us to take a quick look at the history and origin of Halloween (http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween).

The origin of Halloween is Celtic in tradition. Over 2,000 years ago, the Celts would celebrate the end of their harvest season on October 31st. This was known as the Festival of Samhain. They believed that ghosts returned on that night to destroy their crops and possess the living. The Celts would dress up by wearing animal heads and skins. They did this in hopes to confuse and/or drive away the “ghosts.” When the Romans conquered Celtic territory, they took this holiday and ended up combining it with two of their own Holidays: Feralia, a day to remember the dead and Pomona, a day to celebrate the goddess whose symbol was the apple (the next time you find yourself “bobbing for apples” you can thank the Romans)!

In the 7th century, Pope Boniface took this day and idea and created All Martyr’s Day (which eventually became All Saint’s Day celebrated on November 1st). This fusion holiday become known as All-Hallows. Therefore, October 31st ended up becoming All-Hallows Eve and then eventually Halloween. Halloween began gaining popularity in America in the 1800’s as communities celebrated by dressing up and going door to door for treats. Halloween is now the second largest commercial holiday in America and has come to be a good excuse to get lots of free candy and dress in fun costumes.

Now that we know a little history about this Holiday, let’s turn our attention to the Bible. Even though the Bible obviously doesn’t directly address Halloween, there are principles and guidelines that can and should be considered. The Bible says in Romans 4:15 that, “Where there is no law, there can be no sin.” Sin is violation of the law (1 Jn. 3:4). Those who believe that celebrating Halloween is sinful are obligated to provide the law in the New Testament in which they feel is being violated (either implicitly or explicitly).

Some who oppose Halloween reason that it would be wrong because the holiday has its origin in “pagan” roots. However, to be consistent with that line of reasoning, that same person would also have to argue that it’s wrong to celebrate any birthdays, Valentine’s Day and even the days of the week since these are all of pagan origin. Some have identified this inconsistency and have come to the conclusion that any and every “holiday” or “celebration” is wrong because of the pagan association of its origin. While I respect the attempted consistency, I believe their fundamental premise is faulty. Something can be originally associated with sin, yet still be used for good. For example, in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14, Paul speaks of meats that were associated and originally used for idol worship. Some brethren believed that these meats shouldn’t be bought and eaten because of their origin and association with idol worship. Paul explained that there was nothing wrong with eating or buying these meats as long as one could properly disassociate it with the pagan origin (1 Cor. 8:4-8). Paul also urged the Christians to be sensitive to the conscience of those who couldn’t disassociate it (1 Cor. 8:9-13; Rom. 14:14-16). “Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:22-23).

I believe that a fair parallel can be drawn between the above passages and the subject under discussion. If someone has a problem disassociating Halloween from its pagan origin and it bothers their conscience, then they shouldn’t participate in or celebrate Halloween. If, on the other hand, one sees Halloween as just another fun day to celebrate with friends and family while carving pumpkins, dressing up, playing pretend and enjoying candy, I have yet to find where the Bible would condemn such.
Another point that is sometimes brought up is how this holiday can be abused. Examples of this may include participation in ungodly parties, immodest and sexually provocative costumes and vandalism. However, a distinction must be drawn between a holiday in and of itself versus the way someone chooses to celebrate it. This would be similar to condemning driving a car just because there are some who choose to speed, text while driving or participate in drunk driving. The abuse of a practice can never intrinsically condemn its use.
I have a friend who does not celebrate Halloween because he does not like the attention and the focus that, he believes, is placed upon “sin/darkness” (spiritually speaking). I explained to him that I do not see any spiritual darkness in this holiday as far as the way I celebrate it. It is a fun time where kids (and adults) get together and have a fun time dressing up. It is a time where my wife and I can test our pumpkin carving skills (she always wins by the way), and it is a time where the community comes together and enjoys each other’s company in fall festivals and other “Halloween” events. I respect my friend’s decision and he respects mine. At the end of the day I believe when it comes to this subject we should “not judge one anther any longer, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way” (Rom. 14:13).

– Kevin Pendergrass