Christmas or Hanukkah?

Every December, Christians around the world struggle with the commercialism and latent paganism saturating Christmas celebrations as well as the losing competition between Jesus and Santa Clause. The hustle and bustle of shopping for everyone on the Christmas list, being sure not to disappoint, is exhausting. Many families go into debt, spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars that they do not have, simply because of expectations. In addition to all this, many Christians make it their mission to “keep Christ in Christmas,” straining against the tsunami push back from our secular society which wants to keep Christmas but wants no part of Jesus Christ.

The ‘Birth’ of ‘Christmas’

Jesus Christ has never been the primary focus of ‘Christmas.’ The early Christians did not celebrate Christ’s birth for the first three-hundred years after Christ. Not until control of Christianity was usurped by the ‘Christian’ Emperor Constantine, thereby giving birth to the state-church of Roman Catholicism, did Christians begin to celebrate a holiday in honour of Christ’s birth.

Constantine was embraced by the Roman church in large part because of the Edict of Milan where he outlawed religious persecution. He supported the church in Rome financially, and granted many privileges and positions of power and wealth to clergy. But, his benevolence came with a huge price tag. Constantine inserted himself into church politics and doctrinal matters, personally appointing the bishops he chose, removing those he did not like, and overseeing church councils where official doctrinal creeds were developed. Pleasing the Emperor became a high priority among the church leadership.

The merging of Jesus’ birthday with the birthday of Sol Invictus was a move for political convenience, to bring harmony between pagans and the Church of Rome. Constantine and subsequent ‘Christian’ emperors sought to use religion to keep the empire unified. The Roman Catholic Church was competing with the worship of Sol Invictus (the Unconquered Sun) for official status as the favoured religion of Rome. Consequently, Jesus’ birthday was conveniently placed on December 25th, the already recognized and publicly celebrated birthday of the sun god, Sol.

Coincident in time with the festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti was also the festival of Saturnalia which occurred throughout the previous week, in honour of the god Saturn. Virtually all the trappings of the pagan festivals of these popular Roman gods were absorbed and blended together into what we now call Christmas.

These rituals included decorating trees, wreaths, mistletoe, exchanging gifts, public carolling, exchanging social roles by dressing up in costumes, partying, drinking, promiscuity, and the like. What we now call Christmas was originally the Roman “Mardi-Gras” of the winter solstice in honour of the Roman sun god. In modern times, it has fully returned to its ancient pagan roots, including drunkenness and depraved partying.

Attaching the birth of Christ to a well-established public holiday was intended to attract pagans to the Roman Catholic Church, but at the same time allow Christians to participate in the official public festivities. This mixture of the holy and the profane has continued down to our time and compounded, as Christmas has incorporated other rituals from Nordic, Celtic, and other pagan mythologies.

Today, Christmas is the chief holiday for nominal Christians and non-Christians. Jesus Christ is still (barely) an appendage to Christmas, just as He was from the time that Roman Catholicism first declared Jesus’ birthday to be the same as Sol Invictus by their alleged power to decree based on Apostolic Succession. In popular culture, the Nativity of Jesus is the proverbial “fly in the ointment” of an otherwise secular holiday. Instead of trying so hard to keep Christ in Christmas, perhaps we would be better served by extricating Christ from Christmas altogether.

Jesus’ Birthday in the Bible

Jesus was not born in December, or even in winter. He was born in September. We do not need to guess on the exact month and day. The Bible tells us the exact date using the

Hebrew calendar. Jesus was born on the Festival of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah), the anniversary of day one of Creation. The date is given in Revelation 12:1-3, using the astronomical signs that were part of the calendar used throughout the Bible.[1]

Revelation 12:1-5 NKJV

1 Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars.

2 Then being with child, she cried out in labour and in pain to give birth.

3 And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads.

4 His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

5 She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.

John saw a great sign in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon beneath her feet, with a dragon (the Serpent)[2] beside her. This occurred while she was in labour, giving birth to the Man Child who will rule the nations with a rod of iron[3] – Jesus.

John saw the positions of the sun and moon against the constellation Virgo, the only ‘woman’ in the sky. The serpent beside her is Hydra, which runs just below the ecliptic the full length of Virgo and Leo. This sign occurred every Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew for “Head of the Year” – New Years Day). The sun slowly moves through Virgo throughout every September. But the moon moves much faster against the constellations, completing a circuit through all twelve constellations each month (moving twelve times faster than the sun through the twelve constellations).

Rosh Hashanah occurs when the sun is clothing Virgo (September), and the new moon is sighted over Jerusalem just after sunset. The new moon first becomes visible on the evening after it has passed by the sun by at least 12 degrees. This distance between the moon and sun against Virgo on Rosh Hashanah is portrayed in the sky every year by the sun being mid-body on Virgo, and the new moon under her feet. This celestial sign happens only on one day each year – only on Rosh Hashanah.

Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of Day One of creation on the original biblical calendar, the same calendar used throughout Genesis for the creation week, the dates within the genealogies from Adam to Abraham, and the date of the flood. Rosh Hashanah is also the day that Jesus (the agent through whom God created everything) entered His own creation as a human being, according to John’s vision in Revelation 12. God commanded Israel to celebrate this day with the blowing of trumpets.[4] 4 Winds Fellowships celebrate both the creation week and the birth of Jesus on the festival of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) in September, on the correct day given in the Bible.

As non-Christians celebrate Christmas with sports, drinking, feasting and partying, and as nominal Christians celebrate with Christmas Trees, stockings, gift-giving, and elaborate lawn decorations, where does Jesus fit into the equation? He is on the outside in most ‘Christmas’ celebrations, an unmentionable appendage. Only for a small minority of Christians – those with a nativity scene on their front lawns, or those who say ‘Merry Christmas’ back to the store clerk when she says ‘Happy Holidays,’  – is Jesus not an embarrassment.

Given the pagan history of Christmas and its almost universal secular nature today, are genuine Christians really being faithful to God by trying so hard to “keep Christ in Christmas?” Why don’t we instead honour Him by celebrating His birth on the correct day, a day that is not celebrated by the world, yet a day that God commanded His people Israel to honour with the blowing of trumpets? Why don’t we let go of the pagan holiday with all its rituals and trappings and mark a clear line of distinction between the holy and the profane?[5]

God not only forbid the worship of pagan gods, but He also forbid the use of pagan items and practices in His worship.

Deuteronomy 12:1-4, 29-32 NKJV

1 “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth.

2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree.

3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place.

4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things. …

29 “When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land,

30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’

31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. 32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

By Tim Warner, Copyright ©


[1] God gave the heavenly bodies for “signs and seasons” (Gen. 1:14), and all of the festivals of the Lord were calculated by these celestial signs and seasons.

[2] Rev. 12:9

[3] Cf. Psalm 2

[4] Leviticus 23:23-25

[5] Ezekiel 22:26

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