This is the origin and reason why Christmas is a secular festival, and not religious.

Christmas is just around the corner, and most people (mostly Christians) all around the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. This celebration falls exactly on December 25; so its the birthday of the son of God, right? Spoiler alert: no where in the Holy Bible — the religious document of Christianity — does it mention that Jesus was born on that date. The catch? How on Earth in the faithful name of the religion of Christ would such a thing happen? Dear friends, if you’re planning your festive season amid religious celebrations, you better know the true origin story behind how and why Christmas is celebrated. More spoilers on the way.



Whence Cometh Christmas?

Christmas is seen as the festival that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ — the arrival of a Jewish celestial figure who is hailed as the Messiah, the Anointed One. The term Christmas actually means “mass on Christ’s day,” and this is quite recent in the history of Christian festivities. The origins of the celebration are quite murky, although the four Gospels of the New Testament, together with several prophecies in the Old Testament, testify to his birth. However, there isn’t an exact date of his birth mention in anywhere in context.

Image: Shutterstock / iStock / Getty Images Plus

December 25 is marked as Christmas Day all around the world, and it was first identified by the Roman emperor Sextus Julius Africanus in 221 in the Common Era (C.E). This later became universally accepted as the birth date of Jesus. One popular explanation to this origin was probably the Christianizing of the Roman holiday dies solis invicti nati, which translates as “day of the birth of the ‘unconquered’ sun.” This was the celebration of the winter solstice as a symbol of the resurgence of the sun, casting away winter, and welcoming the rebirth of spring and summer. Sounds familiar?

Saturnalia was yet again another Roman holiday that probably inspired Christmas. This was a festival that was celebrated in honor of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture. During the early weeks leading up to the winter solstice, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time when food and drinks were abundant for the Romans. And for a whole month, the Roman culture was turn upside down, slaves were temporarily freed. Schools and business activities were closed for all to make merry for one last time in the year. Sounds familiar again?

Image: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc

This date even became popular when earlier Christian writers frequently made connections between the rebirth of the sun and the birth of the Son. Another view for this date was by a priori reasoning that identified the vernal equinox — that’s right around Easter — as the date of the creation of the universe, and the fourth day of creation. This is believed to be when “the light was created” — the conception of Jesus (somewhere around March 25) nine months to Christmas. The Gospel of John also bears testament to the creation of the light.



Merry Season Of Glad Tidings

Image: DNY59 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Early European settlers celebrated the winter solstice as the time of year when they could put the worst behind and look forward to better days and longer hours of sunlight. So this was no coincidence that Christians began making connections to the symbolism of the season with the birth of Jesus. Counterintuitively, the celebrations have seen a lot criticisms amid its pagan origins, and the nonchalant willingness on the part of Christian churches distinguishing itself from pagan beliefs and customs.

However, by the end of the 18th century, the festive season was seen as a time of merry making and glad tidings. The latter practice was symbolic with the birth of Jesus as God’s gift to mankind, and even with the gifts of the three Magi (the three wise men), suggests that the season should be all about giving. But the former practice on Christmas Day from the Roman customs of Saturnalia was what made the season evolve into a secular holiday that focused on family and friends — with several customs we practiced today.

This was one reason why the Puritans in Old and New England opposed the celebrations, both in England and the New World. And it seems none of our contemporary Christmas customs have their origins in the scriptures. It is now more about Santa Claus than it is about the birth of Jesus Christ. And least we forget, the Christmas tree, which later appeared in the scene around the 17th century. Nowadays, it is adorned with candle lights and turtle doves, and that occasional “Santa-is-coming-down” the chimney myth.

As Lilit Marcus writes for the …, Christmas isn’t celebrated about Christianity:

“It’s about capitalism attempting to … sell everyone as much stuff as possible with religious diversity. It’s hardly about Jesus as much as it is Santa and reindeer and elves that can be “for everyone.” It’s about the dozens of shlocky made-for-TV romcoms with Christmas themes …, and the radio stations that turn over their playlists to Christmas music …, and the well-intentioned “generic holiday” cards that just happen to come in “secular” shades of red and green instead of blue and silver.”



Is Christmas Religious Or Secular?

Here’s the catch: how on Earth in the United States of America should there be a religious holiday marked as a federal holiday? Truth is, Christmas Day is a federal holiday in the United States, and most countries all around the world. But that seems to be not against the law. Spoiler alert: this is unacceptable on legal terms. And If the Constitution provides a premise for the separation of church and state, how should the government officially endorse the Holy Day of one particular religion? So is it secular, or do you think it’s religious?

Image: Donna Spiewak / NPS | lighting of the US National Christmas tree, Washington, D.C., December 2008

Christianity has been given more prevalence in much of the West. This is the reality of why Christian holidays are seen as public holidays in the United States. In fact, of all the ten official federal holidays, Christmas is the only one affiliated with a religion’s Holy Day. So declare Christmas a secular holiday, and most devoted Christians might feel offended. What’s so-Christian about Christmas? Santa? What if all religious days were made federal holidays, then following the customs of other religions might offer them some understanding.

The West is bias, and has privileged Christianity over other religions. Period! And this privilege has persisted for so long that most Christians accept this as their right, and it isn’t fair, at all. What if Christians were not allowed to use their “Holy Days” for vacation, they would perhaps agree that all days are equally important for all religions. The celebration of Christmas isn’t different from the celebration of Hanukkah, or Eid Mubarak, but these days aren’t federal holidays because they are religious. So what’s that of Christmas? A secular holiday, then.


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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Mon, Dec 13, 2021.

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