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Featured The history of the origins of Christmas and St. Nicholas

Discussion in 'Christian History' started by Lik3, Dec 1, 2017.

  1. Lik3

    Lik3 Newbie

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    I have been reading up on other posts about various subjects and I am wondering about something myself. In the past, I have had questions about Christmas and should we as believers celebrate it. If the case is that we should show our devotion to the Lord and live in holiness by not celebrating a "holy day" with so much paganism in its origins. On the other hand,

    I find it curious that there are other denominations and off-shoots of Christianity such as the Jehovah's Witnesses who don't celebrate Christmas because they see it as a worldly holiday. Because of its pagan origins, there is no doubt that Christmas has worldly origins. I have also seen a film and read about the Puritans or the Pilgrims not celebrating Christmas because of their own religious beliefs.

    I know that one of the reasons why many in the Church celebrate Christmas is because of Saint Nicholas. Who exactly is Saint Nicholas and was he an Orthodox Saint from Turkey, or a Catholic one from Ireland, I am not so sure? I as also a believer am still in doubt if I should celebrate Christmas, but if there is a Christian origin, what is it? How did a round man wearing red and often times smoking a pipe being ridden by eight reindeer have anything to do with a holy man from the Old World?

    My question is, what is the real history behind Christmas, and how does it really correlate with Jesus and the Word of God? Was Christmas ever a holy day considering all of the pagan origins that also still remain to this day? Out of curiosity, btw, would the life of Saint Nicholas correlate at all with the way Christmas is celebrated in the US?
     
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  2. Winken

    Winken Heimat Supporter

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    The birth of Jesus is the story behind Christmas. All else is invention.
     
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  3. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Nicholas of Myra was a Christian Bishop in Asia Minor that lived in the late third and early fourth century. He was one of the attendees at the Council of Nicaea, so had a hand in shaping the Nicene Creed.

    He reportedly placed money in the stockings of poor girls that had been left to dry overnight, so that they could pay their dowries.

    He was a very popular saint, and due to his gift-giving, came to be associated with such a tradition. This was on 6 December, his feast day.
    Now the Magi brought gifts to Jesus, traditionally celebrated on Epiphany (6 January) which is why gifts are often given on this date in many countries, like Russia. These two usages got confused in the popular imagination.

    Mediaeval Christmas ballooned into a 12 day feast, as in the 12 days of Christmas of the song, from 25 December (Christmas day) to 6 January (Epiphany). Gift-giving thus migrated from the end of Christmas to its start. Thus Nicholas found himself giving gifts on Christmas.

    Now the name Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas, Sinter Klaas, which is itself a corruption and folk etymology from Saint Nicolaus.

    I am sure the venerable old saint is spinning in his reliquary about the commercialisation of Christmas, but I doubt he would be opposed to the gift-giving or family-centredness of the modern holiday.
     
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  4. Ronald

    Ronald Exhortations

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    No one knows for sure when Jesus was born - but it could be 12/25. That was a pagan holiday and by celebrating that day, it covered over the darkness with light. But it doesn't matter when He was born. we celebrate it on that day.

    The Story of the Christmas Tree.
    A monk in the 7rh century was traveling through Germania spreading the gospel and came across a village of Druids, who worshipped trees. He told them trees do not have spirits. They were frightened and warned him of danger. The monk said he would chop down the largest tree the next day to prove to them nothing would happen. He did, it was an evergreen tree btw.The town was crowded around, waiting for his curse to come down on him.
    ,Nothing happened and so he told them the truth about God and dedicated the tree to our Lord. From that time, they would chop down trees and eventually it became a
    tradition that spread throughout the world every Christmas ... decorations were added. I like that story - although some will claim its folklore.
     
  5. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    Christmas does not have Pagan origins.

    Nicholas was pastor of the church in Myra in the 300s. He is famous for giving gifts to poor children (and for punching the heretic Arius in the face). His special day was December 6. Americans seem to have mixed him into Christmas (along with some Swedish reindeer stories).

    The origin of Christmas itself is of course the birth of Jesus. It has been celebrated for centuries, which is why we have so many Christmas carols.

    The American version of Christmas does have some strange elements that don't belong.
     
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  6. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    Which is where he punched out Arius.

    The Dutch still give their presents on that day.

    My understanding is that, when New Amsterdam became New York, Americans copied the Dutch gift-giving, but moved it to Christmas.
     
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  7. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    Actually, that date was not a pagan holiday. It was picked because it was 9 months after the traditional date for Gabriel visiting Mary.

    There was a pagan holiday in December, but it was on a different day.
     
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  8. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    That's what's always gotten me. People charge that Christmas was supposedly a Christianization of a pagan celebration, but the solstices are celebrated on 21/22 dates, iirc.


    (The rest written to the thread, not addressed specifically to Radagast, who probably knows all of this and more)

    There are materials out there that explain the supposed pagan origins of many things associated with Christian holy days. However, most of that is outright fake history, and imagined connections where there are none.

    I think the popularization of the American Santa-Clause fables come from the poem "T'was the Night Before Christmas" and largely did not exist in that form prior to that.

    Christmas used to be celebrated in a wholly different way, with Advent (the season before Christmas Day - or the Nativity) being a season of preparation, fasting, and looking forward to celebrating the birth of Christ, which was celebrated with the breaking of the fast and going to Church on the day of the Nativity. But that wasn't the major Holy day - Theophany (revelation of God) which celebrates the baptism of Christ, at which He was present, the Holy Spirit descended visibly, and the Father could be heard audibly from heaven - thus the revelation of God - was the major holy day, until recently.


    So yes, the American season of parties, the shopping for many gifts, the excesses of the season, and lack of focus on Christ are very different from how Christmas/Nativity has always been celebrated. But it's not because of pagan roots, but because of American consumerism and love of pleasure, IMO.
     
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  9. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    C S Lewis has a witty essay on this, saying that there are two festivals -- Crissmass and Exmas -- on the same day. Some quotes here.
     
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2017
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  10. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    The one Christian nod to the solstice is in the Latin church, in the morning prayer for December 21 (which looks forward to Christmas):

    Nolite timere: quinta enim die veniet ad vos Dominus noster.

    Fear not: for on the fifth day, our Lord will come unto you.
     
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  11. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Ah, I did not even know about that.
     
  12. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    It's not in the book, but it gets semi-quoted in the movie version of The Lord of the Rings: "Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East."
     
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  13. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    The JWs are not Christian. They don't believe that God became Incarnate and was born as a human baby. So of course Christmas is not so special to them.

    Although, having said that, the Incarnation itself happened 9 months before Christmas.
     
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  14. ~Anastasia~

    ~Anastasia~ † Servant of God † Supporter CF Senior Ambassador

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    Thanks for that! It had a link to what I'm guessing is the whole chapter. Interesting book. I wonder at what point was Lewis' thinking when he wrote it.
     
  15. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    It was written after he became a Christian.
     
  16. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    @~Anastasia~

    The thing with 25 December is that it is, or at least was, associated with the solstice.
    The Julian calender was instituted by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC, but its count was out by about a day. This led to calendrical drift of one day per century (corrected by the Gregorian calender by ommitting leap days in years ending on 00).

    So Solstice was on 21/22 December in the 1st century BC.
    On 22/23 December in the 1st century AD.
    On 23/24 December in the 2nd century AD
    Thus, by the third century, it fell 24/25 December. This was the reason why the 25th of December was chosen as the day of Sol Invictus, of the Unconquerable Sun, by Aurelian - for it was the Solstice back then.

    Subsequently in the 4th century Christmas became a formal public holiday, on the 25th, while the solstice continued moving on, until the Gregorian reforms set it back to 21/22 December where it belonged.

    Constantine's father, Constantius Chlorus, was a devotee of Sol Invictus and Constantine seems to have initially been as well, depicting the solar quadriga on his coinage. Some fourth century iconography of Christ also borrows some of this imagery.
    What role this played in establishing Christmas on the 25th of December is a bit murky, since the establishment of the Annunciation on 25 March seems to antedate Christmas on the 25th. Perhaps it was just a lucky coincidence, allowing the Christianisation of a Pagan date and allowing a more palatable conversion of Constantine from the worship of Sol to that of God, the true Summus Deus.
     
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  17. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    Love that essay by the way, on the Island of Niatirb. It is written as if an ancient traveller like Herodotus records the odd customs.
     
  18. Quid est Veritas?

    Quid est Veritas? In Memoriam to CS Lewis

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    In South Africa it was always on Christmas Eve, since the Dutch first came here. Afrikaans families still give presents on the 24th, while English South Africans do so on the 25th.

    Some areas gave on the 6th, some on Christmas. The mediaeval practice was not uniform. It is perhaps luck of the draw which tradition came to predominate in colonies where people from various areas came together.
     
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  19. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    That's not what I've heard.
     
  20. Radagast

    Radagast is a Trinitarian Christian

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    3 days in 4 centuries.

    But the cult of Sol Invictus did not celebrate the solstice!
     
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