Most nations around the world hold that the New Year begins on January 1. This wasn’t always the case. In fact, for centuries, other dates marked the start of the calendar, including March 21 (The spring Equinox- which, according to God's Calendar, is the true New Year's Day!) and December 25. So how did January 1 become New Year’s Day? Well you can thank the pagan Romans first, and the equally pagan Catholic Church next!
The first mention of using this date goes back to the Roman king Numa Pompilius. According to tradition, during his reign (c. 715–673 BC) Numa revised the Roman republican calendar so that January replaced March as the first month. Notice, even at this time, the entire world was still following Go's calendar, with March being the New Year! It took the evolution of paganism (Satanism) to replace God's true calendar with that of pagan gods... It was a fitting choice, since January was named after Janus, the Roman god of all beginnings; March celebrated Mars, the god of war. (Some sources claim that Numa also created the month of January.) However, there is evidence that January 1 was not made the official start of the Roman year until 153 BC.
In 46 BC, Julius Caesar introduced more changes, though the Julian calendar, as it became known, retained January 1 as the year’s opening date. With the expansion of the Roman Empire, the use of the Julian calendar also spread. However, following the fall of Rome in the 5th century CE, many Christian countries altered the calendar so that it was more reflective of their religion, and March 25 (the Feast of the Annunciation) and December 25 (Christmas) became common New Year’s Days. They chose March 25th, because that calendar was off by 4 days a year. They had the equinox on March 25th, and the winter solstice (now Dec 21st) on December 25th.
In designing his new calendar, Caesar enlisted the aid of the Alexandrian astronomer, Sosigenes, who advised him to do away with the lunar calendar and follow the solar year, as did the Egyptians. The year was calculated to be 365 and 1/4 days, and Caesar added 67 days to 46 B.C., making 45 B.C. begin on January 1, rather than in March. He also decreed that every four years a day be added to February, thus theoretically keeping his calendar from falling out of step. Shortly after Caesar was assassinated in 44 B.C., Mark Anthony changed the name of the month Quintilis to Julius (July) to honor him. Later, the month of Sextilis was renamed Augustus (August) after his successor.
The true Christian Church, that was founded by Jesus and the Apostles frowned upon these pagan rituals, and that church stayed with the TRUE CALENDAR ordained by God! A great false Christian Church, which started in Rome, was a pagan church, originally worshippers of the God Mythra! This false church created the ecclesiastical calendar that we follow today. Scholars know that Jesus wasn't born in December, even the Biblical account of shepherds watching over their flocks in the fields – which would not have happened in winter – make a winter birth unlikely. But celebrating Jesus birth’ during the time of the existing pagan celebration of the solstice was convenient and the Church usurped the holiday.
It later became clear that the Julian calendar required additional changes due to a 4 day miscalculation concerning leap years. The cumulative effect of this error over the course of several centuries caused various events to take place in the wrong season. It also created problems when determining the date of pagan Easter. Thus, Pope Gregory XIII introduced a revised calendar in 1582. In addition to solving the issue with leap years, the Gregorian calendar restored January 1 as the start of the New Year. While Italy, France, and Spain were among the countries that immediately accepted the new calendar, Protestant and Orthodox nations were slow to adopt it. Great Britain and its American colonies did not begin following the Gregorian calendar until 1752. Before then they celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25.
Over time non-Christian countries also began to use the Gregorian calendar. China (1912) is a notable example, though it continued to celebrate the Chinese New Year according to a lunar calendar. In fact, many countries that follow the Gregorian calendar also have other traditional or religious calendars. Some nations never adopted the Gregorian calendar and thus start the year on dates other than January 1. Ethiopia, for example, celebrates its New Year (known as Enkutatash) in September.
So this is why January 1 is the New Year! Once again, the so-called modern world continues to follow the traditions of the pagan world of antiquity.... Think about that......
Forward By Bob Barney: The Bible makes it clear that God's New Year starts in the springtime and so, the first month of God's calendar begins in the springtime, probably on or near the spring equinox. The January 1st date comes from Caesar and Rome. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, but it isn't "Christ's" circumcision date! We should be aware of "why we do what we do!"
The celebration of the new year on January 1st is a relatively new phenomenon. The earliest recording of a new year celebration is believed to have been in Mesopotamia, c. 2000 B.C. and was celebrated around the time of the vernal equinox, in mid-March. A variety of other dates tied to the seasons were also used by various ancient cultures. The Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Persians began their new year with the fall equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice.
Early Roman Calendar: March 1st Rings in the New Year
The early Roman calendar designated March 1 as the new year. The calendar had just ten months, beginning with March. That the new year once began with the month of March is still reflected in some of the names of the months. September through December, our ninth through twelfth months, were originally positioned as the seventh through tenth months (septem is Latin for "seven," octo is "eight," novem is "nine," and decem is "ten."
Yes you read that right! A Nativity Scene that predates the human form of Christ by 2500 Years! Christmas is NOT a Christian Holiday--- IT IS A PAGAN ONE, complete with the fertility symbols of mistletoe, evergreen trees decorated with symbols of human balls!
Ancient cave art in the Egyptian Sahara desert depicts two parents, a baby and a star in the east.
Here is the story:
Italian researchers have discovered what might be the oldest nativity scene ever found — 5,000-year-old rock art that depicts a star in the east, a newborn between parents and two animals.
The scene, painted in reddish-brown ochre, was found on the ceiling of a small cavity in the Egyptian Sahara desert, during an expedition to sites between the Nile valley and the Gilf Kebir Plateau.
"It's a very evocative scene which indeed resembles the Christmas nativity. But it predates it by some 3,000 years," geologist Marco Morelli, director of the Museum of Planetary Sciences in Prato, near Florence, Italy, told Seeker.
Morelli found the cave drawing in 2005, but only now his team has decided to reveal the amazing find.
"The discovery has several implications as it raises new questions on the iconography of one of the more powerful Christian symbols," Morelli said.
We are all familiar with at least a portion of the mysterious mistletoe's story: namely, that a lot of kissing under the mistletoe has been going on for ages. Few, however, realize that mistletoe's botanical story earns it the classification of "parasite." Fewer still are privy to the convoluted history behind the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. And its literary history is a forgotten footnote for all but the most scholarly.
Here were kept up the old games of hoodman blind, shoe the wild mare, hot cockles, steal the white loaf, bob apple, and snap dragon; the Yule-clog and Christmas candle were regularly burnt, and the mistletoe with its white berries hung up, to the imminent peril of all the pretty housemaids.
So Washington Irving, in "Christmas Eve," relates the typical festivities surrounding the Twelve Days of Christmas, including kissing under the mistletoe (Washington Irving, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent). Irving continues his Christmas passage with a footnote:
"The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases."
We moderns have conveniently forgotten the part about plucking the berries (which, incidentally, are poisonous), and then desisting from kissing under the mistletoe when the berries run out!
Foreword: We knew this was coming. Thanks to the USA not listening to Gen MacArthur! Many today do not know this, but the Japanese Constitution was mainly written by Gen MacArthur and staff...The most important reform carried out by the American occupation was the establishment of a new constitution to replace the 1889 Meiji Constitution. In early 1946, the Japanese government submitted a draft for a new constitution to the General Headquarters, but it was rejected for being too conservative. MacArthur ordered his young staff to draft their own version in one week. The document, submitted to the Japanese government on February 13, 1946, protected the civil liberties MacArthur had introduced and preserved the emperor, though he was stripped of power. Article 9 forbade the Japanese ever to wage war again. This establishment of a Japanese war department was presented to the General by the prime minister, who said, "we can never again suffer Hiroshima and Nagasaki"--- to which MacArthur said that he would do everything possible to fulfill that wish..... Today we are allowing this militarization to happen again and WAR in Asia will be the result.
General Douglas MacArthur warned us: "Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door."
I will make a prediction... China's STUPID aggression in Asia will lead to a re-armed Japan which will get the bomb and threaten China's very existence.... And Putan's STUPIDITY will cause the re-arming of EUROPE UNDER GERMANY, which will lead to the formation of a giant BEASTLY EU, called the Kingdom of the North in the Bible.... It is not just American leaders who are dumber than dirt!
George S. Patton (inset), the legendary general from the Second World War died 75 years ago under mysterious circumstances that have fueled conspiracy theories ever since. He was left paralyzed from the neck down in a car accident that took place on a deserted road in Germany (left). Patton suddenly died in the hospital 12 days later after he was showing signs of rapid improvement. In 1979, a former spy and decorated WWII hero claimed that he was ordered by his military superiors to kill Patton and make it look like an accident. Since then, all reports from the scene of the crash and and of Patton's death have mysteriously vanished at the National Archives. It is said that General Eisenhower (pictured laughing with Patton, top right) had come to think of Patton's war-mongering as a liability.
The vaunted iPhone 11 Pro has a 'night mode' - and where better to test it than in Arctic Murmansk during December, when the sun never rises? That was the thinking behind Radio Free Europe photographer Amos Chapple's odyssey to the Russian city. And the results are mesmerising. Mr Chapple, from New Zealand, braved temperatures of -13 to shoot Tsarist-era boats, some of the city's most impressive structures - and its hardy, and very friendly, people.
A private island on one of America's most scenic lakes has gone on the market for $15million.
The 3.3-acre isle, which lies in Lake George in upstate New York, offers its new owner a private sandy beach, 2,700ft of lakefront and stunning views of the surrounding lake and mountains.
The centerpiece of the island is a luxurious 15-bedroom mansion, which includes a formal dining room, a billiards room and a ball room. A whole wing of the house serves as a master bedroom suite with a private balcony.
There is also a separate, four-bedroom stone cottage, two separate two-bedroom apartments and a boathouse, as well as a diving board and a rope swing for adventurous guests. MORE
Luxurious: The island includes a boathouse, 36 dock spaces, a diving board, rope swing, waterfall, greenhouse, expansive patios, separate balconies and a private sandy beach as well as the main mansion (pictured)
Paul’s understanding of death according to 1 Corinthians 15
Biblijski institut, Zagreb
UDK:2-277;27-246 Professional paper Accepted: November, 2014
Unquestionably, the doctrine of the resurrection is a foundation without whi- ch the Gospel message loses its purpose. However, the Corinthian epistle is an example that the message of the Gospel can be neglected. It happened to the church in Corinth because of the strong influence of the surrounding society. In this rich correspondence Paul’s approach is that of a spiritual father who worries about the condition of the church in Corinth. He writes from his own experiences and knowledge about the resurrection in order to bring them to soberness and to restore their ways of thinking. This article is a reminder of truths that are necessary for the life of believers and which can be found in Scripture. At that time, and because of the challenges of contemporary ways of thinking, the truth about the resurrection can be neglected. That is why this article should be observed as a reminder of primary components of the Christian faith.
Believing in the resurrection is one of the main postulates of Christian faith. Even though there were discussions about the resurrection before the coming of Jesus Christ, resurrection gains a whole new meaning with Him. He becomes the fir- stborn of the resurrected. After Christ, talking about resurrection is additionally deepened through the preaching of the apostles, which is particularly the case with the apostle Paul. In chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians we find a comprehensive deliberation on the subject of resurrection.
In this article we will present Paul’s view on the resurrection according to 1 Corinthians 15, and we will go on to explain how this chapter came to be. We will be researching the resources which were probably used by Paul to form his own view of the resurrection, as well as his personal experience of encountering the Risen One. If he had been taught the doctrine of the resurrection as a Pharisee, then the encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus was an event that transformed his own personal faith the most, as well as his understanding of the resurrection. His view on the resurrection also needs to be seen from the standpoint of Judaistic thought, which is the foundation of Paul’s understanding of the resurrection, as well as the influence of Greek philosophy and its under- standing of the afterlife.
Origins of Paul’s talk about the resurrection Personal encounter with the Risen One and the witness of the apostles
Even though, as a Pharisee, Paul did have a certain understanding of resurrec- tion, it was additionally deepened through encountering the risen Jesus. On his way to Damascus, Saul the Pharisee meets Jesus, and his life is changed, and so is his name. Paul meets Jesus in the form of a blinding light and a voice coming from it (Acts 9:1-18). This encounter leaves Paul blind for the next three days. Af- ter this encounter, Paul turns from a persecutor of Christians into one of their fri- ends and allies in preaching the Gospel, indeed one of the most fervent followers of Jesus ever. In this encounter, Paul recognizes the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, and for him Jesus becomes the firstborn of the resurrected (1 Cor 15:20) and the image, or an example, of the resurrection which will happen to others as well.
Paul’s faith in Jesus’ resurrection is additionally strengthened through his acqu- aintances with the other apostles. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-11 he speaks of the “traditions” which he received, and he then lists the witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. It is obvious that this tradition was begun in the fellowship between the first Christians, who have summarized the main factors pertaining to Jesus and the Christian faith. At the end of the list of witnesses Paul puts his own name, affirming that he also stands in the line of veritable authorities in preaching the Gospel.
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Our purpose and desire is to foster Biblical, historical and related studies that strengthen the Church of God’s message & mission and provides further support to its traditional doctrinal positions.
Appendix. A History and Comparison of the Various Editions of The United States and Britain in Prophecy ............................................................................................................................................... 15
You do understand – do you not – that the Democrats' war against America and Satan's war against God are one and the same conflict?
Modern people in a modern world – isn't that always the case, though? – long ago convinced themselves that an all-powerful creator God was a fantasy disposed of long ago by earlier generations, a convenient myth concocted by primitive peoples to help them explain the world around them.
Today, however, we are so much more sophisticated than the "modern" generations that came before us! Rather than believing in a pre-existent creator God who made everything out of nothing (creation ex nihilo), our modern world believes that everything created itself out of nothing. My, what intellectual progress! What academic brilliance!
In our second story in the new topic, The Hidden Meaning in many song, movies and books, we come to Amazing Grace. That so-called "Sunday" gospel classic. The story behind this song is truly amazing indeed.
Many are probably not familar with the song's history. But the Rest of the story behind this tune that was written almost two and a half centuries ago in 1772, by an Englishman named John Newton. Knowing the story of John Newton and the journey he went through before writing the hymn will help to understand the depth of his words and his gratefulness for God's truly amazing grace.
Having lived through a rather unfortunate and troubled childhood (his mother passed away when he was just six years old), Newton spent years fighting against authority, going so far as trying to desert the Royal Navy in his twenties. Later, abandoned by his crew in West Africa, he was forced to be a slave to a slave trader but was eventually rescued. On the return voyage to England, a severe storm hit and almost sank the ship, prompting Newton to begin his spiritual conversion as he cried out to God to save them from the storm.
Ironically, upon his return to England, Newton became a slave ship master, a profession in which he served for several years. Bringing slaves from Africa to England over multiple trips, he admitted to sometimes treating the slaves abhorrently. In 1754, after becoming violently ill on a sea voyage, Newton abandoned the slave trade, and seafaring, altogether, wholeheartedly devoting his life to God's service.
He was ordained as an Anglican priest in 1764 and became quite popular as a preacher and hymn writer, penning some 280 hymns, among them the great "Amazing Grace," which first appeared in the Olney Hymns, printed by Newton and poet/fellow writer William Cowper. It was later set to the popular tune NEW BRITAIN in 1835 by William Walker.
In later years, Newton fought alongside William Wilberforce, leader of the parliamentary campaign to abolish the African slave trade. He described the horrors of the slave trade in a tract he wrote supporting the campaign and lived to see the British passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807.
And now, we see how lyrics like:
I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind but now I see.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come. 'Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.
carry a much deeper meaning than a sinner's mere gratitude. Close to death at various times and blind to reality at others, Newton would most assuredly not have written "Amazing Grace" if not for his tumultuous past. And many of us would then be without these lovely words that so aptly describe our own relationship with Christ and our reliance on God's grace in our lives:
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed.
Those who have read Harriet Beecher Stowe's classic African American novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, may remember that Tom sings three verses of "Amazing Grace," including one verse not written by Newton, which is now traditionally sung as the final verse:
When we've been there ten thousand years, Bright shining as the sun, We've no less days to sing God's praise, Than when we first begun.
A movie, "Newton's Grace" tells the story of the man behind the poem, and below a representation of that beautiful poem as a song.....
Chinese President Xi Jinping waves during an inauguration ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the former Portuguese colony's handover to Chinese rule, Macao, Dec. 20, 2019. (AP Photo)
China plans to rewrite all translated "classic religious books" to reflect the socialist values of the Communist Party of China. The order was given during a meeting in November that was organized by the Committee for Ethnic Affairs, which is responsible for all religious matters of the country.
While not directly referring to the Quran and the Bible, the committee plans a comprehensive review of the religious texts, which allegedly "do not conform to the progress of the times" and need to be fitted to the "era of President Xi Jinping."
The reviewed editions of the text – sutras from Buddhism included – should not be against the principles of the Communist Party and will either be changed or re-translated by state-appointed censors. MORE
On the evening of Oct. 5, 1843, things were looking bleak for 31-year-old Charles Dickens. Even though he was the superstar author of the wildly popular “The Pickwick Papers” and “The Adventures of Oliver Twist” – and that evening’s keynote speaker at an important charitable event – inside the man was in turmoil.
As young celebrities often do, Dickens (the father of five) had overspent. After a string of successful books, the great writer suddenly seemed to lose his way. He produced a couple of duds – and then slipped into debt.
Debt was a particularly horrifying prospect for Dickens. As a boy he watched his father go to jail for unpaid bills, a searing experience of which he would write, “I never afterwards forgot, I shall never forget, I never can forget.”
By 1843, Dickens was mired in woes. “[H]is marriage was troubled, his career tottering, his finances ready to collapse,” writes Les Standiford. The fabled author was even asking himself if he should give up fiction writing.
What happened next seems a kind of Victorian-era Christmas miracle.
After making his speech, Dickens wandered disconsolately through the dark streets of Manchester. But as he walked, an idea for a story suddenly came to him. If he could quickly turn that story into a book – a Christmas story in time for the season – perhaps he could earn £1,000. Such a sum, he reckoned, might extricate him from debt.
So, as Standiford recounts in The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, in just six weeks Dickens sat down and wrote a classic of Western literature.
In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas. By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.
The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell. As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston. Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.
After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Congress was in session on December 25, 1789, the first Christmas under America’s new constitution. Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.
Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Religion Today is contributed biweekly by the University of Wyoming's Religious Studies Program to examine and to promote discussion of religious issues.
Who Was Against Christmas?
By Paul V.M. Flesher
Picture the following scenario. Crowds of Americans rioting in the streets. Two opposing groups shout loudly, vying to have their messages heard and heeded. The groups meet. Confrontation ensues. Fistfights break out. Church windows are smashed. What are these rioters fighting about? Christmas. One group favors celebrating Christmas, the other opposes all Christmas observances. This isn't an imaginary event, it is history. It happened in Boston on Christmas day in 1706.
In America's increasing love-affair with Christmas (both the Christian and commercial versions), we have forgotten that there was a time when much of European and American Christianity thought that Christmas should not be celebrated. In the riot described previously, the anti-Christmas group consisted largely of Congregationalists (Puritan descendants), Baptists, and Presbyterians, while the pro-Christmas group comprised mostly Anglicans (Episcopalians). The notion that Christians of any stripe should not want to celebrate Christmas is so foreign to our present concept of the holiday, that we need to review some history to understand it.
Prior to the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, Roman Catholicism celebrated the "Christ Mass." It was one of many special masses and feasts of the Catholic Church celebrating key events in Jesus' life or the birthdays of saints. The three main Protestant movements that ultimately came to America had three different reactions to this situation.
First, although the Anglican Church developed a Protestant theology, it kept much of Catholic liturgy, including festivals celebrating aspects of Christ's life and the feast days of many saints. It gave special emphasis to the celebration of Christmas.
Second, after Martin Luther nailed his "95 Theses" to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral in 1517, special liturgical observances began to be frowned upon. The Lutherans thought that the celebrations of saints' days were too much and so cancelled them. But they still emphasized observing events in Jesus' life, and so continued with joyous Christmas festivities.
Third, the Calvinists in Switzerland banned all Christian holy days not mentioned in Scripture. That approach meant that the Sabbath was acceptable, but nothing else. Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and other celebrations were to be treated as normal days with nothing special about them.
The Calvinist position came to be quite influential in Great Britain, even though it never altered the position of the Anglican Church. John Knox brought Calvinism to Scotland as Presbyterianism where Christmas was banned in 1583, while the Puritans brought Calvinism into England, where it became influential in circles both within and outside of the Anglican Church. During the Civil War in 1647, Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan followers outlawed Christmas observance. It was brought back in 1660 at the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II.
From England, both sides brought their Christmas beliefs to America. The Puritans (later becoming the Congregationalists) were joined by Presbyterians, Quakers, Methodists (despite their founders' pro-Christmas predilections), and Baptists on the anti-Christmas side, while the Anglicans dominated the pro-Christmas side, and were later joined by the Lutherans and the Dutch Reformed.
In Boston, the Puritans outlawed Christmas in 1659. Although the ban was lifted in 1681 when the British government took control of the colony, an armed guard had to protect the governor on his way to church on Christmas of 1686. When the colony reverted to local control in 1689, Christmas again fell out of favor.
The objection to Christmas by Americans was two-fold. First, for Calvinist theology, it reflected the pagan character of Catholic worship. Christmas was not a biblical holiday and had not even become a Christian festival before the late 300s; it was a creation of the church, not of Christ. Second, the holiday was accompanied by extensive reveling. Celebrations were not primarily worshipful, but involved feasting, game playing, heavy drinking, shooting, and gambling. For the over-indulgers, it brought out the worst of their excesses. Since the holiday celebrated the Savior's birth, such immoral behavior was seen as sacrilegious.
During the 18th century, Christmas observance began to be more accepted. Church-goers turned their attention to purifying the holiday of its excesses, rather than rejecting it altogether. By the 1750s, even New England hymn books contained Christmas carols. By the early 1800s, Christmas was observed with an emphasis on family and children.
In 1836, Alabama became the first state to make Christmas a legal holiday. Other states followed suit; even Massachusetts legalized Christmas in 1856, almost 200 years after its ban. But the last state, Oklahoma, did not join in until 1907. So next Christmas, 2007, will be the centenary of Christmas being the first religious holiday whose celebration across the United States is sanctioned by law.
Excerpts from Fox News John Gibson's Book "The War on Christmas...."
As a matter of American history, however, some of the strongest complaints about the public celebration of Christmas have been lodged from within the Christian tradition—by devout Christians who had little use for the holiday. For a surprising number of American believers, the chief concern wasn't putting Christ back into Christmas. It was taking Christmas out of Christianity.
Liberal plots notwithstanding, the Americans who succeeded in banning the holiday were the Puritans of 17th-century Massachusetts. Between 1659 and 1681, Christmas celebrations were outlawed in the colony, and the law declared that anyone caught "observing, by abstinence from labor, feasting or any other way any such days as Christmas day, shall pay for every such offense five shillings." Finding no biblical authority for celebrating Jesus' birth on Dec. 25, the theocrats who ran Massachusetts regarded the holiday as a mere human invention, a remnant of a heathen past. They also disapproved of the rowdy celebrations that went along with it. "How few there are comparatively that spend those holidays … after an holy manner," the Rev. Increase Mather lamented in 1687. "But they are consumed in Compotations, in Interludes, in playing at Cards, in Revellings, in excess of Wine, in Mad Mirth."
After the English Restoration government reclaimed control of Massachusetts from the Puritans in the 1680s, one of the first acts of the newly appointed royal governor of the colony was to sponsor and attend Christmas religious services. Perhaps fearing a militant Puritan backlash, for the 1686 services he was flanked by redcoats. The Puritan disdain for the holiday endured: As late as 1869, public-school kids in Boston could be expelled for skipping class on Christmas Day.
The Puritans are the most cited example of anti-Christmas spirit, but not the only one. Quakers, too, took a pass, reasoning that, in the words of 17th-century Quaker apologist Robert Barclay, "All days are alike holy in the sight of God." The Quakers never translated their dismissal of Christmas into legislation in their stronghold in Colonial Pennsylvania. But local meetings, as the Quakers call their assemblies, urged their members to disdain Christmas and to be "zealous in their testimony against the holding up of such days." As late as 1810, the Philadelphia Democratic Press reported that few Pennsylvanians celebrated the holiday.
Observance of Christmas, or the lack thereof, was one way to differentiate among the Christian sects of Colonial and 19th-century America. Anglicans, Moravians, Dutch Reformed, and Lutherans, to name just a few, did; Quakers, Puritans, Separatists, Baptists, and some Presbyterians did not. An 1855 New York Times report on Christmas services in the city noted that Baptist and Methodist churches were closed because they "do not accept the day as a holy one," while Episcopal and Catholic churches were open and "decked with evergreens." New England Congregationalist preacher Henry Ward Beecher remembered decorative greenery as an exotic touch that one could see only in Episcopal churches, "a Romish institution kept up by the Romish church."
Naturally, some celebrants of the holiday complained about the abstainers. In 1867, Reformed Church minister Henry Harbaugh protested that Presbyterians in his Pennsylvania neighborhood "spend the day working as on any other day. Their children grow up knowing nothing of brightly lit Christmas trees, nor Christmas presents. God have mercy on these Presbyterians, these pagans." You can hear the echo of that sentiment today, in the criticism of the megachurches that have announced that they will be closed on Christmas, because their leaders think congregations and church staff would rather remain home with their families. "Our culture does not need any encouragement to be more self-centered or narcissistic, or to stay at home on Sunday," Bible scholar Ben Witherington III wrote on Beliefnet last week. "Shame on you, megachurches."
Gibson briefly refers to the Puritan ban on the holiday but otherwise avoids any mention of division within the Christian tradition over how to celebrate it. His "war on Christmas" is purely a clash between secularists and believers. It's worth remembering, however, that in past American battles over Christmas, the combatants on both sides were Christian soldiers.
Christmas is celebrated on December 25 and is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion. Popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870.
How Did Christmas Start?
The middle of winter has long been a time of celebration around the world. Centuries before the arrival of the man called Jesus, early Europeans celebrated light and birth in the darkest days of winter. Many peoples rejoiced during the winter solstice, when the worst of the winter was behind them and they could look forward to longer days and extended hours of sunlight.
In Scandinavia, the Norse celebrated Yule from December 21, the winter solstice, through January. In recognition of the return of the sun, fathers and sons would bring home large logs, which they would set on fire. The people would feast until the log burned out, which could take as many as 12 days. The Norse believed that each spark from the fire represented a new pig or calf that would be born during the coming year.
In Rome, where winters were not as harsh as those in the far north, Saturnalia—a holiday in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture—was celebrated. Beginning in the week leading up to the winter solstice and continuing for a full month, Saturnalia was a hedonistic time, when food and drink were plentiful and the normal Roman social order was turned upside down. For a month, slaves would become masters. Peasants were in command of the city. Business and schools were closed so that everyone could join in the fun.
Also around the time of the winter solstice, Romans observed Juvenalia, a feast honoring the children of Rome. In addition, members of the upper classes often celebrated the birthday of Mithra, the god of the unconquerable sun, on December 25. It was believed that Mithra, an infant god, was born of a rock. For some Romans, Mithra’s birthday was the most sacred day of the year.
Is Christmas Really the Day Jesus Was Born?
In the early years of Christianity, the birth of Jesus was not celebrated. In the fourth century, church officials decided to institute the birth of Jesus as a holiday. Unfortunately, the Bible does not mention date for his birth (a fact Puritans later pointed out in order to deny the legitimacy of the celebration). Although some evidence suggests that his birth may have occurred in the spring (why would shepherds be herding in the middle of winter?), Pope Julius I chose December 25. It is commonly believed that the church chose this date in an effort to adopt and absorb the traditions of the pagan Saturnalia festival. First called the Feast of the Nativity, the custom spread to Egypt by 432 and to England by the end of the sixth century.
There are so many Christmas traditions in the US! Where did they all come from? America is often called a “melting pot” and its Christmas traditions can be seen the same way! It is a country of immigrants from all over the world who each brought their culture’s unique traditions to the New World. Read on to find out how Americans came to celebrate with Santa Claus, stockings, trees, gifts and more!
Three bodies have been discovered at the Alamo, inset top right, during an archaeological dig at the national monument in Texas. The remains, which were found in monk burial room, pictured, and church nave at the historic mission, were 'indicative of a teenage or young adult, infant, and large adult.' The remains were discovered during an archaeological project to install moisture monitoring equipment at the Alamo, while documenting the 300-year-old structures. The bodies were not moved, and the excavation of the site was halted. Remains also were discovered at that site in 1989 and identified in 1995. Photos of the excavation are pictured, top right. A map has also been produced showing exactly where the work is taking place, bottom right.