Christmas Trees Are Not Pagan!

By Cris Putnam

Christmas is certainly not pagan. Sure, Jesus’ birth was probably in the Fall rather than December but the exact day is uncertain. Even so, Christmas is the celebration of the savior’s birth because that is when most all Christian churches celebrate. While some customs have a distant pagan origin, the idea that Christmas trees are pagan is almost certainly false. Jeremiah 10 describes fashioning Canaanite idols from fresh cut wood and precious metals. It has nothing to do with Christmas trees. There have been a myriad of customs in different cultures using holly and evergreen but there is not a discernable evolution from paganism to today’s Christmas tree from the ancient world. Christianity relegated pagan belief to the cultural dustbin and tree customs were sporadic and divergent until after the reformation. The modern tree began in sixteenth century Germany. The best evidence points to Martin Luther for popularizing the candle lit evergreen tree.[i] As the reformation spread, so did Luther’s legacy. A popular artist, Carl Schwerdgeburth, painted a scene of Luther’s family around a candle-lit tree:

LutherXmas

Painting source[ii]

 This painting, depicting what oral tradition indicated happened in 1536, was engraved in a gift book titled Wheat Sheaf from 1853 that was published in Philadelphia. It also said that Luther was the first to light a tree with candles in order to illustrate the “light of God” to his children.

Because Luther was a great advocate of Christmas, the Christmas tree became a sign of Protestant solidarity and German nationalism. The Catholic majority of the lower Rhine discouraged the lighted tree as a Protestant custom. In the early nineteenth century, lit trees gained widespread acceptance across Germany.[iii] Most likely, the tradition came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution and/or the German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Many have pointed out the New England puritans did not recognize the holiday. However, their reasoning for disdain was not its alleged pagan origins but rather a form of strict biblicism that asserted that if a holiday is not in scripture it should not be celebrated. Not many folks still agree that conclusion is scriptural because it is inconsistent with our freedom of conscience in Christ (Col 2:16). Because we are not under Israelite ceremonial law, we are free to celebrate the birth of the savior any day we please! Finally, it is safe to say, that hardly anyone is thinking about pagan deities while performing Christmas traditions. Most of the conspiracy theories give paganism too much credit. Paganism did not infect Christianity but rather Christianity made paganism irrelevant.



[i] Karal Ann Marling, Merry Christmas! Celebrating America’s Greatest Holiday,( Boston: Harvard University Press, 2009), 176.

[iii]Johannes Marbach, The Holy Christmas season for meaning, history, customs and symbols (Stutgart: 1859), 416. http://books.google.com/books?id=FXhEAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA416#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

About Cris Putnam
Logos Apologia is the ministry of Cris D. Putnam. The mission of Logos Apologia is to show that logic, science, history and faith are complementary, not contradictory and to bring that life-changing truth to everybody who wants to know.

Comments

  1. James Elias says:

    What do you SEE you walk into the homes in America around Christmas time. A CHRISTMAS TREE…and usually a very small ceramic NATIVITY SCENE. Most of the focus is on the lighted decorated tree. Some take more time decorating the TREE than they will WORSHIPPING and PRAYING to GOD thru the whole season, and if thats the case with YOU, then you my friend are either worshiping IDOLS or very close to it.

    Furthermore, theres not any mention in Gods Word to “Do this in remembrance of ME. And that comes to the EASTER BUNNY (the fertility god) Many Denominations are focusing on the Easter Egg Hunt as well. Including it in their day of activity’s…to appease the children, to get them into the doors of the church…

    Gods Word doesnt state EXACTLY that we should not worship or raise a TREE, nor does His Word state we should. Moreso, worshipping idols was forbidding by the Israelites, and they paid the price. The seeds of those sins were passed down to the second, third and fourth generation…and we see this today as well, in all areas of society.

    However, not be be dogmatic, I would suggest to be cautious in this practice. Once you give a foothold to the adversary, satan, the devil, he will run with it.

    Love not the world , neither the things in the world…1 John 2:15-16

  2. Brandon says:

    I am so surprised that so many of you are missing the whole point in the difference between A.)living with/using all of these pagan things… (going so far as to the names of days of the week etc); and B.)what we use and how we worship God. This includes things that are directed to and or for God such as Christmas, we need to have biblical authority for how and what we use for worship, not for what we happen to use thru the day. This is why if we may be using a pagan name for a day or any use of something that may have originated with the pagans outside of worship, this is no matter, this is where we have freedom in Christ, but to use it for worshipping God always was and always will be abhorred by God.
    This is the difference, we can use pretty much anything for practical purposes outside of worship and the history of it has no significance, however we cannot choose what ever we want to worship our Holy God. And think about, it makes practical sense also… just think how the worship of God could be perverted by those who think they could use anything as long as their focus is God or Jesus… anything could be made in a “good light” sexual perversion because God made us so beautiful could be directed and focused on Him… you get the idea, it could be taken to any extreme that our evil hearts could dream up and sincerely done by those who believe that they are right in their own minds.
    This is why we need biblical authority for how we worship, not what is ok in our own minds and fleshly wisdom. We are not to worship in our way… we are to worship in Gods way by which we have been given instruction and if there is no biblical authority for it then we cannot choose it, period.
    Many say that all that matters is where your heart is and the pagan origins have no significance in our time, but the Bible has shown that just because your intentions may be good does not mean that God will accept it.
    Again, all of your ridiculous views of not having biblical authority for practical use of things is not the same, this is not about things outside of worship… it is about what is allowed or not allowed in worship including it’s forms such as Christmas.
    So to answer all of your nonsensical questions of should we do away with all of these other holidays and birthdays and such that are so entangled with worldliness too… yes we should, but christmas is directed toward God and therefore needs biblical authority, but it was created by man and has no biblical authority. These questions are asked as if it wouldn’t make sense for God’s holy people to separate from such things that are so common to the world, why? Have we become so entangled that we have lost sight or become numb to the traditions of men? We are called to use the bible for our authority, not our own wisdom of how we think we can worship our Holy God. We are not to rely on our own wisdom, our heart is deceitful above all things, and we cannot make anything we want into something to honor God with, we see this in the Old Testament, and God changes not.
    In summary, there is a distinction to be made between having authority for how we worship and how we may do everything else.

  3. jmvpho says:

    and so just where is that line between worship and the secular? Really?

    I think you are missing the point. There is no delineation between what we do and how we worship. All acts are an act of worship because our body is the temple, housing the Holy Spirit of YHVH. But here’s the thing, YHVH says we are not to SIN. He says we can make an image (like the bulls in the temple laver) but not bow down and worship an image. He says we can decorate with a tree (like in the sukkah and in the temple doors and carved into lamp stands) but not fashion into an idol that we bow down and worship. He says we can cut our beards but not if we are participating in a pagan mourning ritual for the dead. The whole point is to not involve ourselves in worshipping another god and by this, to not SIN. So the act itself, unless it is specifically SIN (see following sentence) does not determine whether we are sinning. It is the motive behind the act. Why would YHVH command the shaving of the head/beard for a nazarite vow or cleansing if the act itself was declared SIN. That is not so.

    Your example of sexual acts as part of worship does not apply. It would be sin to be involved in that regardless of the motive.

    A tree was used in the garden to symbolize eternal life. It is used again in Revelation for the same thing. Along comes a pagan worshipper and whatever he believes about his fictitious god, he uses a tree. Who cares! Why would this matter to us? If it does, then we would have to do an exhaustive study (impossible) throughout all of history to see what all a pagan has done with a tree so we don’t mimic them. That’s absurd.

    This is why Paul says “do not inquire” about where the meat has been that is bought in the marketplace. If its been part of a pagan worship service, it does not matter. Our own conscience tells us that the “earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” and no one can defile (by his imaginary god worship) what YHVH has declared as good. The other person’s conscience is the weak conscience. The other person thinks otherwise and in front of them, we should be considerate of their lack of understanding. But that does not mean Paul never ate a steak again. We’re expected to grow up and mature and put away our ignorance and misunderstandings. And we are to teach our brethren the truth of these matters. Just like the meat cannot be defiles, neither can the tree.

  4. jmvpho says:

    oops, olive trees carved into cherubim, not lamp stands (which were solid gold)

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