Should a Christian celebrate Christmas?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

When they first hear it, many are perplexed by the seeming ridiculousness of this question. "Of course Christians should celebrate Christmas," they say, "after all, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian faith, isn't it?" But, it isn't that simple. There has been controversy over the observance of Christmas since the time Christmas began being celebrated. Why, you ask? It is unlikely that Jesus was born on December 25. Further, many of the traditions that go along with Christmas have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ. So, again, the question: should Christians celebrate Christmas?

First, let's look at December 25. The first record of December 25 being Jesus' birthday is found in the writings of Hyppolytus, who lived from 170-236 A.D. December 25 is also identified as Jesus' birthday in the writings of John Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem. There is good reason to be suspicious of December 25, however. The days immediately preceding December 25 were the days on which the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a festival for the Roman titan Saturn. Many believe that December 25 was chosen so that Christmas would replace Saturnalia. Some Christmas traditions do seem to be similar to aspects of the ancient Saturnalia celebration.

There is absolutely nothing in the Bible which indicates the day, or even time of year, that Jesus was born. Based on information given regarding the conception of John the Baptist (Luke 1), some Bible scholars believe the fall, September-October, would be a much more likely time for Jesus' birth. Whatever the case, the key point is that the Bible does not say on what day Jesus was born. So, ultimately, December 25 is no more or less likely to be Jesus' birthday as any other day of the year.

Second, in regards to Christmas traditions, it is absolutely true that Christmas trees, bells, candles, lights, holly, mistletoe, Santa Claus, reindeer, etc., etc., have nothing to do with what the Bible says about Jesus' birth. Some of these traditions do have clear parallels in non-Christian religions and/or pagan origins. At the same time, none of these traditions are evil, sinful, or anti-Christian in and of themselves. If a person is bowing down to a Christmas tree and worshipping it, yes, obviously that is a sin. But, if a Christmas tree is simply a decoration, it is no more or less wrong than any other decoration. The determining factor in the rightness/wrongness of it is faith (Romans 14:23).

For me, what it comes down to is this — was Jesus born? Yes. Is Jesus' birth worth celebrating? Yes. Was Jesus born on December 25? Probably not. Is December 25 just as good as any other day of the year? Yes. Should Christians allow Santa Claus and Christmas trees to becoming the focus of Christmas? Absolutely not. Can Christians use these cultural traditions to point people to the true meaning of Christmas? Absolutely!

Related article: "Should Christians celebrate Christmas?"


Image credit: Suzanne Taylor Hood; "Santa & Nativity 2014"; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  | Celebrating-Holidays

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Published 1-7-12