Things that are Annoying Me this “Season”

“Jesus is the reason for the season.” - No He’s not. Jesus was most likely not even born in the wintertime. “Christmas” began as a pagan festival and contains pagan elements still today (though they have likely lost most of their pagan significance). It has a “Christian” veneer to appease the pagans Catholics were trying to convert. The materialism and greed fostered in young children is not biblical. Lying to children about a fat man who will give them gifts if they’re good is still lying. If Christians tallied their time spent on the secular/leftover pagan traditions and time spent specifically on the Lord’s work, I think it’s safe to say the Lord’s work would lose every time. If Christians counted the money they spent on the secular/leftover pagan traditions of this season and held it up against what they spend on the Lord’s work…again, safe to say the Lord would lose. It would be more accurate to say, “For few Christians, Jesus is almost marginally the reason for the season.”

I received a pencil that I really liked. It says, “Christmas is a promise kept.” - That is probably the most true tagline for Christmas out there. Then I started thinking about it. I should know by now not to do that. I revised it in my head, “Christmas is the poorly timed and partially pagan celebration of a Promise Kept.”

“Put Christ back in Christmas” - I’m just going to have to quote someone I don’t necessarily agree with, Garner Ted Armstrong, who said, “…it is impossible to “put Christ back in Christmas,” since He was never in Christmas in the first place!”

Christians avoiding the use of “Xmas,” fearful it will take Christ out of Christmas. First of all they have to realize Christ was never the origin of this festival to begin with. Secondly, they ought to take a look around and see just how much of the actual celebration is about Him today. Thirdly, they need to learn a slight bit of Greek. The “X” in Xmas is the first letter of the Greek “Christos.” Even if someone was trying to cleverly remove the Christian element from this festival, they failed.

I have a feeling I will be adding to this list as the season progresses. I cringe when I see the tree in church. I roll my eyes when Jingle Bells is played on the Christian radio station. I shake my head in disbelief when I hear about Christians trying to reclaim the holiday they hijacked. I’m turning into such a grinch, but after learning a few years ago of the pagan origins of much of our Christmas celebration, it just hasn’t been all that attractive to me. It no longer holds those cozy, warm-fuzzy feelings it used to and I think that is mostly because those feelings were based on the false belief that Christmas was actually a Christian holiday.

32 Responses to “Things that are Annoying Me this “Season””

  1. Ryan Says:

    Very interesting post, although I whole-heartedly agree with you in regards to hearing secular music on a Christian station and lying to your children about Santa Clause (both of which appall me) I take a slightly different view on the origins and celebration of Christmas. I’d encourage you to look at a different point of view at www.reasontobelieve.blogspot.com. I really enjoy your site. Keep up the good work.

  2. BobW Says:

    Hijacked?
    Well, there’s a contrary case to be made. Keep in mind that the stolen festival is that of the Winter Solstice, when the days have reached their shortest and will now lengthen. Those pagans might well agree that “There is a light in the darkness; and the darkness has not overcome it;” and that [We} who walked in darkness have seen a great light!”
    Where the pagan festivals usually focused on the rebirth of a Sun God, (sometimes embodied in a village youth who was aware that he’d ultimately be sacrificed; and that none of his predecessors had gotten ’round to physically resurrecting themselves), we celebrate the physical incarnation of Joshua Bar Joseph, born not in some mythical-poetic realm but in the City of Bethlehem of the Roman Province of Judea, when that province was governed by Publius Sulpicius Quirinius,who had arrived in 7BC; and who served the Emporer Octavius Caeser Augustus, whose historical existence is beyond dispute. The combined evidence of an astronomical conjunction and an empire-wide taxation census suggest that Joshua was born sometime between 6BC and 4BC; and his subsequent death and resurrection are pretty well pinned to 30-33AD under the reign of Tiberius Caeser and the governorship of Pontius Pilate. (Pilate’s historical existence was doubted in my youth; but in the 1970s archeologists dug up some building remains bearing the inscription along the lines of “Pontius Pilate Makes This Gift To The Jews.”
    That the “gift” was entirely inappropriate - a temple to Jupiter or somesuch - only suggests that Pilate was a colonial administrator of the old school.)
    The existence of this Joshua Bar Joseph is acknowledged in the Talmud. Josephus and Tacitus refer to him. So, we have not so much the borrowing of a festival as the claim that what was myth has become fact. That a specific, named person, wholly man and wholly God, was born at a given time and place, into a world not of legendary people but of those whose factual existence is beyond serious question. The Jungian archetype became the living, breathing, eating, sweating man; whose death would really - not symbolically - atone for the guilt of every one of us.
    So, a question: Did the church “hijack” this, or did it rather, like a policeman recovering a hijacked truck, restore it to the Rightful Owner?
    Give it some thought.
    Regards,
    Bob

  3. Freelancer Says:

    Thomas Merton, and I forget the exact words, once stated: I don’t always know what the right thing to do is, oh Lord, but I think the fact that I want to please You pleases You.

    Elle, you’re right to be annoyed. Christmas is certainly another gloss-over attempt at twisting evil origins to look pretty. But I don’t really believe that, and I am not totally certain you do either.

    It is always important to recognize the historical tradition of seasons, events, movements, and people. And you’re correct, Jesus was probably not born in the winter (scholars tend to lean toward the Spring). The fact is that no one can summarily agree on the date of His birth—is it really 2004, or 2008, or 2010 AD?

    It is true that “Christmas” was a meshing of several other pagan traditions (gifts to celebrate certain pagan gods and what have you). However, this is a common thread throughout Christian tradition. For instance, John and Charles Wesley wrote the words to some of their greatest hymns to the tunes of Italian love songs made popular in the English pubs.

    The “season,” while technically speaking carries more of a calendar emphasis than a theological one, the holiday itself, as we celebrate it today, is deeply rooted in Christian faith. The problem with Christmas is not, however, Wal-Mart, or Wall Street. The problem is the lack of remembrance of Christ.

    And don’t forget Easter (originally the Saxon celebration in honor of the pagan goddess Eastre)

  4. Rodney Olsen Says:

    I don’t really care where it comes from. It’s one of only a couple of times a year that people are more open to talk about Jesus.

    If I can help to take that discussion beyond the shiny tinsel and the fat man in the red suit to talking about the living saviour of the world then it’s worth it.

    I think that The Da Vinci Code is a load of rubbish factually but if people start talking about Jesus after reading it, it’s then up to us to tell them the real story. We can hardly just tell them that the book is wrong and we don’t weant to discuss it.

    In the same way, wehther you agree with Christmas in any form or not, use it to let people understand who Jesus really is.

  5. mrs bdk Says:

    I am not bringing a Christmas tree into my home to worship it as the pagans did. For me it is a traditional decoration that reminds me of the holiday coming just like there’s nothing wrong with hanging artwork on your wall. There is nothing wrong with that, so stop trying to cut down my tree!

    Celebrating Christmas in a traditional way does not mean I have conformed to the materialism of the holiday. Quite the opposite–I am appalled by it! I am not, however, refusing to show love to my friends and family in what happens to be my primary love language: gifts. Since traditionally it’s done at Christmastime, what’s wrong with that? If you no longer want Christmas gifts, I’ll gladly keep them or take them back.

    Although Christ may not have originally been in Christmas, he is now. Why deny those who choose to worship his birth on this day? Thanks to all those Christmas Eve services as a child, I have Luke 2 memorized. I could recite it any day of the year, but with advent it’s exciting to anticipate His birth just as it must have been for the Jews waiting for their Messiah. And don’t forget, it is also a time where we focus on his coming again. And those Christmas Carols! How can you deny the joyous message of the birth of our Savior? “Joy to the World,” “Silent Night,” “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” to name a few bring me such exhuberant joy every year that God’s love for me was so great His Son was willing to humble himself and become a puny human like the me to fulfill the promise of salvation.

    So maybe the date is wrong, the origin a little questionable, but is that a reason to reject it completely? God’s people, the Jews, were a very traditional people. We were created with this enjoyment of following traditions. Although not every tradition is the same and not everyone follows everyone else’s tradition, that does not make them wrong. Lying about a fat man is lying, tradition or not. Worshipping a tree is idolotry. So is worshipping money. Or gold. Or your computer or TV or even football. Should Christians not have any of those things in their homes then? Decorating is not a sin. Tradition is not a sin. Celebrating the birth of our Savior certainly is not a sin. Do you think God’s up there looking at his calendar every year and saying “Hey, Jesus, those silly people down there got your birthday wrong again this year. Their worship doesn’t count if the date’s wrong.” Hardly.

    In your zealous desire to get this whole Christmas thing right you’ve become somewhat of a legalist.

  6. A Word from the Mrs. » Turning Christmas into Legalmas Says:

    […] e, infamous for being intolerant of many things, wrote of her Christmas annoyances in this post. Here’s my opinion on the subject which is more post than comment, so I decided to add […]

  7. Ron Olson, the Terrible Swede Says:

    Wow! Do you not have a Christmas tree in your church? At home? You sound like me when I was a non-denominational charismatic Christian on a crusade to correct the world. What church do you go to anyway? I and my best friend Dan the Geologist have you listed with WELS/ELS. Is that accurate?

  8. Ron Olson, the Terrible Swede Says:

    Also, Intollerant Elle, what do you think of the holiday of Easter?

  9. Bob Says:

    Hi, Elle…

    Your honesty is refreshing. I think I share some of your “grinchiness” this time of year, but for slightly different reasons. I’m an Advent fanatic, and it drives me nuts that we buy into the “holiday season” dreamed up by corporations who noted that it’s easier to sell product if Christmas is celebrated for a month (or a quarter!) before Dec. 25 rather than for 12 days beginning with Christmas, as the church has historically done.

    You’re right to be frustrated with the secularization of Christmas, but I hope you might be willing to reconsider whether the holiday isn’t a truly “holy day” after all. It’s true that Christmas has some sort of roots in solstice festivals; however, despite the many glaring shortcomings in the way Christmas is celebrated among us today, it’s safe to say that no one is commemorating those ancient pagan festivals. Some of the trappings may look similar, and the time of year might be the same, but that’s not the point. The point is countless millions of people stopping for a moment and marvelling at God entering our world… and in the form of a peasant child, nonetheless! Any holiday that truly points people toward Christ is a blessing, whatever its ancient origins are.

    You and I have talked about our fascination with roots and origins, and I really AM sympathetic on this issue. But I think we need to take to heart Paul’s teachings in 1 Cor. 8. Here the issue was food that had been offered to idols - could Christians buy it at the market and eat it at their tables, or was it tainted? Paul’s answer is twofold - (1) Of course it’s not tainted! Food is food, and idols are nothing at all. Whether the food sat on an imaginary god’s altar or the vender’s cart makes no difference at all. Christ set us free from the legalism of levitical pure-impure/clean-unclean. (2) HOWEVER, if our freedom causes our brothers and sisters to stumble in their faith, woe to us! For the sake of them, we should rein in our freedom in Christian love.

    As applied to Christmas: (1) If food offered to idols wasn’t too befouled for Christians to use, is an arboreal symbol used to celebrate pagan holidays centuries ago too dirty to be put to use by followers of Jesus? It hardly seems likely, if we take Paul seriously. (2) In this case, the question of freedom might be put this way: “Are you, Elle, free to celebrate Christ’s birth in whatever way, on whatever day you find best?” Absolutely! (Do it every day, by the way!) Christ gave you that freedom and more when you died and rose with him in baptism. But out of your Christian love for your brothers and sisters who, in their freedom, choose to put up trees and give gifts, it might be best for you to go gently on them and see the good in their hearts. What’s the good in having this freedom if it drives people away from the good news you want to share with them, and drives you into feelings of anger and frustration?

    I am, of course, writing as much for myself as anything. Maybe we can both learn the ways out of grinchiness, and graduate to being mere scrooges this Christmas. ;)

    Blessings,
    -B.

  10. Elle Says:

    Just for the record…nowhere in my post did I say that celebrating Christmas is a sin. I didn’t tell Christians they couldn’t. I stated facts about this holiday - Facts that I don’t necessarily like.

    Mrs. BDK, it’s hard to become legalistic if I am not making it into a sin. I never said you or anyone else can’t celebrate it. I am saying that it no longer holds the warm-fuzzy feelings it used to for me. If I were truly legalistic about celebrating Christmas, I don’t think I’d be visiting your house later this month to do just that. I don’t know, though, that I would compare an historically pagan symbol with a piece of artwork. There is no biblical basis by which to be disgusted with art. There is, however, biblical basis for me to at the very least not appreciate a Christmas tree (though the pagan meaning has long ago been lost). If you are not conforming to the materialism of the holiday (and I know you aren’t!) then I’m not talking about you! Lastly, the accuracy of the calendar date is of the least concern to me in my being annoyed. Oh, and one more thing: :P . Ahh, that’s better. Much love, dear!

    Ron, we usually do have a Christmas tree up in our church, but I am not too fond of it. I don’t have one up at home because it just doesn’t do for me what it used to. I’m not trying to correct the world, though I probably harbor some secret desire to do so.

    I have different feelings about Easter, although I am also annoyed by the pagan/secular aspect of it. It’s easier, though to get the accurate date. I don’t like the name, although it could (but I think the evidence is sketchy) be attributed to something other than the Saxon goddess Eastre. I love the celebration of Christ’s resurrection, and that’s what I think it ought to be called, but sadly I don’t control the database for the calendars of the world.

  11. Elle Says:

    Bob, I appreciate your sentiment, and don’t entirely disagree this time. Believe it or not, this post was gentle. If you read the severity of Mrs.BDK’s response, that’s because she and I have hashed this out on a regular basis. I don’t think that facts, that the truth is a bad thing and ought to be hidden. Even if it deprives us of lovely feelings, the truth is important to have.

    I will be giving gifts this Christmas. I have already done so, even. I will take advantage of the ministry opportunities that come up because of this season. I will praise God for coming to earth as a man to suffer hell so I won’t have to. I can do all those things without having to buy into the idea that this holiday as we celebrate it today is really about Jesus for most people. We can run around with wrapping paper, bags and cards that proclaim that Jesus is the reason for the season, but if it isn’t in our actions, and judging by the traditional celebrations, it’s hard to say it is, we’re just fooling ourselves.

    I’m still not going to go so far as to say that it is a sin. I would be out of line to do that, I believe, but I don’t think I’m out of line to take a good hard look at the truth. I don’t think I am out of line to be disillusioned with most of the holiday traditions. I don’t think I am out of line to share the truth about it.

    There were so many good, and honestly unexpected, responses to this post. I’ll have to take more time to digest them.

  12. Ron Olson, the Terrible Swede Says:

    Again: What church do you go to anyway? I and my best friend Dan the Geologist have you listed with WELS/ELS. Is that accurate? Thank you.

  13. Bob Says:

    It has been a little lively around here, hasn’t it?

    Thanks for jumping in and responding to all your loyal readers. :) Your comment gave me a better idea where you’re coming from. Especially where you wrote, “I can do all those things without having to buy into the idea that this holiday as we celebrate it today is really about Jesus for most people. We can run around with wrapping paper, bags and cards that proclaim that Jesus is the reason for the season, but if it isn’t in our actions, and judging by the traditional celebrations, it’s hard to say it is, we’re just fooling ourselves.”

    That, to me, is the sad theme of church holidays. Either they are ignored, misunderstood, or just not fun (Advent, All Saints, and Epiphany come to mind) and vanish from the public eye, or they are adopted wholesale by… well, the wholesalers and turned into a major “American” holiday, with all the ugly, un-Christlike things that all too often go with that category.

    People don’t celebrate church holidays and festivals - they celebrate cultural holidays and festivals. This has always been the case… it’s just that once upon a time the church culture was stronger than it is now. The church year - even its highest, most holy days - is largely irrelevant to most people’s lives. The holidays of our culture, on the other hand, are paid days off from work and are marked by sales, parades and bowl games. Is it any wonder people gravitate toward them?

    The church needs to find a way to work against the culture and to restore the power and meaning of its holy days to believers. This is far more than just casually spouting platitudes like “Jesus is the reason for the season,” as you’ve pointed out. It’s a matter of helping people to live every season in the knowledge that Jesus is our only reason. It’s a matter of restoring meaning to worship through preaching, powerful symbols, and sacramental cleansing and feeding.

    I’m sure that Jesus is far more pained by the Christians who “celebrate” his birth by buying into everything the American capitalist culture tells them about Dec. 25 than by a the family singing and praying to him in the light of their Christmas tree.

    We’ve got a lot of work to do!

    -B.

  14. mrs bdk Says:

    Knowing the origins of where presents and the Christmas tree came from doesn’t really bother me because they certainly don’t have that meaning in our culture. And I, too, agree that it is a cultural holiday as well as a church holiday. I’m not sure where the Biblical basis is for not appreciating a Christmas tree. And for me, it is a work of art. Growing up I was the one who decided what theme our tree would be. There was the year of the pink tree where I made most of the ornaments, the blue and white snow and snowman tree, the Disney tree, the teacher tree, the angel and nativity tree. I was allowed full artistic expression with our tree, so for me it is art I put up as decorations every year.
    It’s great to see so many comments so quickly to your post!:)

  15. Ron Olson, the Terrible Swede Says:

    If you let me guess, I’ll guess wrong. From what I read so far, you are WELS, yes? But what church?

  16. Elle Says:

    Why is it so important that you know which church I go to? My pastor already knows what I think about this, so telling on me is useless. :)

  17. Chris Jones Says:

    Elle

    I think you’re profoundly mistaken about this whole thing. The whole premise of what you’re saying is that “Christmas” began as a pagan festival; but that is simply not true.

    When the Church established the celebration of Christmas, no one knew then (as no one knows now) the actual date on which the Saviour was born. Although many think that the date was arbitrarily chosen to compete with the pagan Winter Solstice festival, it is more likely that it was chosen because it was nine months after the feast of the Annunciation on March 25 (which was established as a Christian feast long before Christmas was).

    It is true that the Church allowed the celebration of Christmas to compete with the pagan festival, as an evangelistic tactic - and an effective one. But that’s not the same thing as saying that Christmas itself originated in the pagan festival. Christmas was, and is, (to give it its full title) the feast of the nativity according to the flesh of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ. These pagan associations (ancient or modern) don’t touch the essence of the feast; don’t let them prevent you from keeping the feast by venerating the mystery of His Incarnation.

  18. Elle Says:

    Interesting, Chris. So then which festival was set on the calendar first, the Feast of the Annunciation or Christmas?

  19. Ron Olson, the Terrible Swede Says:

    So shall we compare? If you’ve seen my past blog archives it was not so pretty. Have you critized someones theology so much that you were threatened with a lawsuit? I don’t think so.

    I’m not going to “tell on you”. It just helps in the grand classification of things. It’s a question of curiousity, that’s all.

    You and Dan the Geologist (my best friend) should hook up! Of course he may corrupt you with Christmas trees! :)

  20. Elle Says:

    Oh right, you’re the lego porn guy. Heh. Yeh. You win.

  21. Chris Jones Says:

    It’s my understanding that Annunciation is an older feast than Christmas, but to be honest I can’t recall where I read it (or who taught it to me).

    One story that I’ve read is that there is an ancient Jewish tradition that all prophets died on the date that they were conceived (where they come up with this stuff, I don’t know; but evidently it was widely believed in the early Church). This was thought to apply to Christ because He is the greatest of the prophets. So based on when Passover was in the year that He was crucified, they calculated that He had died on March 25. Thus the Annunciation (the conception of our Lord) was celebrated on March 25, and therefore His birth was celebrated on December 25.

    That doesn’t prove that Christ was actually born on December 25, but it does show that the Church made some effort to calculate a reasonable date on which to celebrate His birth, rather than simply adopting a pagan festival.

  22. Elle Says:

    That’s an interesting view. If I had a choice, which I don’t really, I think I’d choose that to be the truth. It still doesn’t account for all the pagan traditions that seeped into the celebration, though, and the date’s accuracy itself isn’t what gives me pause.

    I’ll have to look into this more. Thanks!

  23. mrs bdk Says:

    I did some research today on what other paganistic traditions Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Gramps and Grams brought over from Germany to ruin their Granddaughter’s life besides Christmas and Easter (the idea of bunnies as a fertility symbol has definitely altered my view of Bunny Peeps and other Eastre fun). The yule log mom lit? Pagan. Mistletoe? Pagan. “Santa” is actually the feminine of saint (”san” being masculine) so Santa Claus is really a bald cross-dressing fat woman with female reindeer (males lose their antlers by November). I discovered that I now should pawn my wedding rings as they originated with the pagans. Even funerals, caskets, flowers at funerals are of pagan origin. Oy. Now, these traditions I can choose to observe or not (the tree is still staying), BUT there are some pagan originating things I did NOT choose to observe, rather they were thrust upon me. Namely the names of months and the days of the week. For this reason I am creating a non-pagan 2005 calendar. I am soliciting ideas for the names of the days of the week and the months. Sa***day is the Sabbath, as it is the day of rest God instituted.

    On a side note, you will be happy to know–as I was–that Egg Nog is not pagan, but originates from 17th century England. I just made some with a light and happy heart! And since it contains rum and bourban, everything else about me is light and happy too!

  24. Elle Says:

    Ok, YaY for egg nog (the soy kind of course)! Can we have an Elleday? How about a Payday? Wouldn’t it be nice to have payday be once a week?

  25. Gao Aisa Says:

    I understand your annoyances.

    If I had the money I would pay every person who sees this to go and take in the most amazing presentation I have ever seen.

    I knew Rick Larson first as my L.E.B. prof. at Texas A&M, and also talked to him briefly at a local church. I do not have the historical knowledge to verify all his findings, but from the evidence he gives and the godly character I saw in him, I believe him. You can read more of his bio on the site.

    Based on the scriptures, history, and good science, Rick Larson shows in his presentation what the star of bethlehem that the magi followed really was. It is absolutely inspiring–but the only way to see it is to read through the evidence on his website or fly to Kansas to see the next presentation.

    One interesting finding was that according to his calculations, the conception of Christ actually occurred on December 25, while the birth would then be the next Sept. 25. You’ll have to read it to believe it.

    Completely serious. I can not imagine how the most devout athiest could attend this presentation and not come out falling on their face before God.

    If you go to http://bethlehemstar.net/ and go to “resources” you can was a promo video.

  26. Jeremy Pierce Says:

    I think you’ve got it backwards. You’re treating Christmas as if it’s a pagan festival dressed up to look Christian. It’s rather a festival that Christians gutted of its pagan content, replacing it with thoroughly Christian virtues and retaining some of the elements without a pagan signficance attached to them. It’s since then become a secular holiday for most Americans, so it is fair to say that many have robbed it of its Christian elements.

  27. John H Says:

    Elle,

    You may find the post I’ve just put up on my site of interest. It looks at an article by William Tighe in which he argues that 2nd century Christians had settled on 25 December for their own reasons, and the pagan emperor then instituted a festival on the same day - so that the pagan festival was invented to hijack the Christian festival, rather than vice versa.

    That said, I share your dislike for trite Christian sloganeering about Christmas (”reason for the season”, “put Christ back into Christmas”), as I mention at the end of my post.

  28. Gao Aisa Says:

    Oops, I made a mistake about the Dec. 25 date. That’s what happens when I rely on my memory.

    In Rick Larson’s presentation, he submits that December 25 would have been the time that the magi actually reach the already-born Messiah. It would have been the day they celebrated His birth. :)

  29. Anastasia Says:

    do you really think it matters what day Jesus was actually born?

    This isn’t a birthday party.

  30. Elle Says:

    No, the fact that it is celebrated on a day that may or may not be his birthday isn’t the point of my post.

  31. Parableman Says:

    Christian Carnival XLVIII
    Welcome to the 48th Christian Carnival. I’m going to do something a little different this time around and tie each post to something from the world of science fiction. I hope some of the connections aren’t too much of a…

  32. Sherry Says:

    Hello!

    First time poster so don’t throw stones! Just a quick note to add. I was in a “Christmas Store” the other day (December 12) and the manager was all ablaze with her new idea to promote the 12 days of Christmas when I simply had to put her fire out by telling her that the 12 days of Christmas were in fact the 12 days AFTER Christmas. Her point back was that these were the 12 days of retail Christmas. My point? well most of the people who have posted here see the real meaning of Christmas, how do we show the rest of the world?

    Sherry