The History of Christmas

 by Johnny Carlton

Copyright 2012 Johnny Giesbrecht

Johnny Carlton is a writer of suspense thrillers available as e-books at

CHRISTMAS is celebrated in much of the world today and has been for a long time.  What is it all about and how did it get started?  And why is Christmas Day on December 25?  Is Christmas all about celebrating the birthday of Jesus, or isn’t it?

The word Christmas started out as two words, Christes Masse, which is early English and means, Christ’s Mass, which means a celebrating of Christ.  It came to be used specifically to designate the celebration of Christ’s birth.  All right, so Christmas is the celebrating of the birthday of Jesus.  Sounds simple, but wait–it gets more complicated.

Although the birth of Jesus is well documented in most ways, it seems unfortunate that the actual date of that event was somehow lost to historians.  For over three-hundred years Christians observed this birthday on a variety of dates, apparently chosen rather arbitrarily.

In the year AD 354, Pope Liberius of Rome decided that December 25 should be the official date of Christ’s birthday, for it seemed right that Christians everywhere should celebrate the birth of Jesus on the same day.  But why did the pope choose that particular date?

It appears that his decision involved strategy.  You see, the non-Christian people of Rome already had a celebration going on that date: December 25 was the day on which they celebrated the birthday of the sun.  The pope and his advisers very likely decided that rather than leave this heathen sun-worshipping celebration stand as it was, and choose some other date as the one for remembering the birth of Christ, they would try to convert the non-Christian holiday to a Christian one, and hopefully the non-Christians along with it.  If things went well, the participants would soon forget the sun-worshipping angle.

It seems that the Christians had fairly good success in this, so that after a time, and throughout a number of centuries, it was widely accepted that Christmas was entirely about celebrating the birth of Jesus, the Son of God and Savior of the world.

That is still what followers of Christ, myself included, do about December 25: we remember the birth of our Savior in a special way.

But something interesting has happened within the last hundred years or so.  It could loosely be called, The Sun Worshippers’ Revenge.  (Loosely because the people behind it are not really sun worshippers, but they are non-Christians.)

Back in AD 354, Christians wrested the December 25 heathen holiday from the sun worshippers; now, during approximately the last century or so, the non-Christians of various types (but mainly agnostics, I think) have been working hard at getting back at least some of the December 25 celebrations.

Many people now celebrate “Christmas” not as Christmas, the time for a special remembrance of the Savior’s birth, but as a special time for wishing your neighbor well and having parties.  Those two things are also a part of Christian celebrations, for it’s entirely Christian to be good to one another and others and have good times together.  The non-Christian celebrators, however, have removed their December fun-time entirely from any connection with Jesus.

To the best of their ability they have replaced the spiritual, Christian aspects of the season with things that are not specifically Christian–e.g., songs about snowflakes, jingle bells, going home for the holidays, and so on.  These are good in themselves; after all, God made the snowflakes and likes to see us happy together with our families.

The most serious replacement, and one that has worked wonderfully for the non-Christian celebrators, has been to replace Jesus with Santa Claus.

Now, I know that many Christians like to include the  red-suited man in their celebration of the birth of Christ; for after all, they say, he is based on a real person, Saint Nicholas, who is said to have been a good Christian who liked to give presents to the less fortunate.

If Nicholas was really the saintly man we’re told he was (and I have no reason to believe otherwise), and if God lets him look down at the world during the Christmas season, I wonder what Nicholas thinks of Christian parents pumping up their little tykes with a load of lies about elves and beasts who fly without benefit of wings or a propulsion system, and a bearded clown with Godlike powers who single-handedly wrestles toys from the arctic through millions of heating systems in just a few hours, and doesn’t even get soot on his protruding abdomen.

Although it’s blatant lying, and Christians aren’t supposed to lie, it wouldn’t be nearly so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that these same parents also tell their children that Jesus was born of a virgin and that angels came down from heaven to announce his birth.

What’s the poor kid supposed to believe once he learns that there is some fiction involved?  “If my parents lied to me about Big Red,” he thinks, “maybe they lied to me about Jesus too.”

God will help the child to get it sorted out.  And hopefully the child will respond to this and overcome the ugly trap that his parents have set for him by confusing the greatest true story ever told with one of the most confusing and widespread lies that has ever been foisted on trusting little children.

There’s a judgement day coming.  If you’re a Christian with children, pray and ask God about what you should do in regard to the Santa Claus matter.

If you begin to see that lying to your children is wrong–particularly in connection with the important spiritual issues of Christmas–but you don’t want to give Santa the total boot, let me suggest a compromise.  This was the way my parents handled the matter:

Santa Claus was a part of our Christmas, but my mom and dad presented him as a fascinating fictitious character.  Children appreciate make believe and can have just as much fun with that as with an alleged true story.  And let your children know that their Christmas presents come from you because you love them.  From you and from God.

Let those who don’t believe in Jesus have their holiday fun.  If you’re a follower of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, then have a merry, blessed, and fun-filled Christmas celebrating his birth.

Let a wonderful spiritual shout go up from all over the planet: