Why do Christians celebrate Christmas if it is not in the Bible?

Hi friends,

Christmas is now a commercial juggernaut. It’s a hugely significant season for retailers. If people can, they take time off from work to be with their families.

So why did Christians originally start to celebrate Christmas - especially because it isn’t in the Bible?


Oh fun, a collaborative history project! :laughing: Things I intuit/recall off the top of my head…

  1. “Christmas” refers to a holy day on the church calendar that is marked with a feast. The ending -mas presumably refers to the service of mass that would have been observed on that day? A couple of other English holy days I recall off the top of my head are Candlemas (marking the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox) and Michaelmas, i.e. the feast of St. Michael and All Angels’ (around the autumnal equinox, marking the end of the harvest and remembering the celestial harvesters). Christmas, then, is a feast that happens near the winter solstice, which traditionally marks of the return of light…and Jesus Christ = Light of the Word, Sun of Righteousness. On those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned…
  2. So Christmas and various other feasts recognizing saints and angels and events are later church institutions…instituted, presumably, in the face of pagan seasonal celebrations.

And to @lakshmi’s post elsewhere about whether Christmas was initially a pagan celebration?

My short answer = no. Christmas has always been a Christian feast day celebrating the Incarnation of God.

Apparently there was a Roman holy day around the winter solstice (Saturnalia then, later Sol Invictus), which, again, marked varying things related to seasons – the end of the autumnal planting and/or the return of the sun/light.

Also found this article interesting…

My thought is, humans have always been interpreting and telling the story of creation and the cosmos using creation and the cosmos. Why would Christians do any different?


Here’s how I’d answer the question:

We do not know the date that Jesus was born.

However, it is a question of Christian liberty as to whether or not it is wise and God-honoring to choose a specific day of the year to remember and celebrate his birth.

For various historical reasons, some of which we cannot be sure of anymore, it became a tradition to celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th.

While the Christmas season is often about many things besides the birth of Jesus, these provide natural opportunities to discuss spiritual matters.

For instance, gift-giving is connected to Christmas because Jesus is the greatest gift of all.

Lights are appropriate, as Jesus is the light of the world.

I view an evergreen Christmas tree as a symbol of eternal life.

Of course, others may view these symbols and traditions as having unacceptable pagan overtones.

I think Romans 14 provides us with wisdom for these situations:

One person judges one day to be more important than another day. Someone else judges every day to be the same. Let each one be fully convinced in his own mind. Whoever observes the day, observes it for the honor of the Lord.


I have Christian friends who don’t celebrate Christmas for reasons including the consumerist nature of the modern celebration, and the pagan heritage of the practices invoked.

Last year I downloaded a free resource from Mama Bear Apologetics about whether Christmas is a pagan celebration or not, which I found useful.

It mentions the date of 25th December and how Christians adopted the Roman festival of Saturnalia which many say was on this date, but they highlight the point that Saturnalia was originally on 17th Dec and was later extended to last to 23rd Dec. They also write,

Regarding the festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, it is indeed also celebrated on Dec 25th. However, the first mention of the celebration is found in a 4th century document. The same document also references Dec 25th as the birth of Christ. Since the first mention of either of these celebrations occurs in the same manuscript, it is difficult to determine which holiday was the copycat and which was the original.

Regarding Christmas trees, they make the point (which I’ve also concluded) that,

Trees themselves are not inherently pagan objects. They were created by God. When we put up the Christmas tree and decorate it, what symbolism or meaning are we assigning to it? That is what makes the difference.

They address lots of other things. It might be a useful resource for anyone who is confused by the message that we’re celebrating a pagan tradition. I think that @Carson has made a fair point that some will still feel convicted that celebrating Christmas isn’t right for them. I’m certainly being challenged in what emphasis I place on it within my own family. For example, this year, I’m trying to do a lot more around the celebration of Advent before we address Christmas, as a way of focusing on Christ’s coming. Each week we use set Bible readings each breakfast time that will lead us towards the arrival of Christ at Christmas.


@Carson, thanks so much for posting this question for further discussion. Despite celebrating Christmas always for the right reasons, when I was confronted with questions about the legitimacy of biblical support for Christmas celebration, I found myself a little stumped and searched through the bible to know what it had to say about this topic.

Some Christians I encountered stopped celebrating Christmas because they viewed it as a continuation of pagan traditions with a bit of Christianity mixed in. The article from History Today that @kathleen shared is helpful to me. Few points that are noteworthy to me are -

Saturnalia grew in duration and moved to progressively later dates under the Roman period. During the reign of the emperor Augustus (63 BC-AD 14), it was a two-day affair starting on December 17th. By the time Lucian described the festivities, it was a seven-day event. Changes to the Roman calendar moved Saturnalia to December 25th, around the time of the date of the winter solstice.

Based on this statement, it is then very likely that Saturnalia was moved to December 25th because of Christmas rather than the other way around!! So yes, Christmas is not the pagan celebration of Saturnalia.

Constantine, the first Christian emperor, was brought up in the Sol Invicta cult, in what was by then already a predominantly monotheist empire: ‘It is therefore possible,’ says Dr Gwynn, ‘that Christmas was intended to replace this festival rather than Saturnalia.’

The Christians I met who oppose Christmas believed Christmas was set to December 25th because of Sol Invictus and they believed participation in Christmas honors the Sun God. I personally think our intention matters more than anything when it comes to celebration rather than the day that is chosen to celebrate.

Devout Christians will be reassured to learn that the date of Christmas may derive from concepts in Judaism that link the time of the deaths of prophets being linked to their conception or birth. From this, early ecclesiastical number-crunchers extrapolated that the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy following the Annunciation on March 25th would produce a December 25th date for the birth of Christ.

This statement is indeed reassuring!! Good to know there are other reasons other than Sol Invictus for why Christmas is celebrated on December 25th. Constantine reigned from AD 324 - 337 but the earliest known reference for commemorating the birth of Christ on December 25th is in the Roman Philocalian calendar of AD 354, which is much later! This to me suggests that the dating of Christmas had more to do with the liturgical calendar than the prevailing culture. I recently came across interesting evidence supporting this this point of view.

Based on an interview of William Federer, a Christian Historian with Melissa Dougherty and Doreen Virtue, I learned that the church fathers calculated the date of Christ’s birth as December 25th based on the dating of the priestly service of Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, as recorded in Luke 1 (something also confirmed by the Dead Sea Scrolls). Zechariah was required to officiate twice a year, in the third and eighth month. This latter period was at the end of September and it is the reason why the Byzantine calendar celebrated ‘John’s conception’ on September 23. Six months after the date of John’s conception, March 25th was selected as the date of Annunciation. This is because Jesus was most likely conceived about six months after John’s conception as the angel Gabriel visited Mary in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s (John’s mother) pregnancy. So, nine months from March 25th would place us on December 25th for the birth of Christ. While we cannot confidently assert December 25th as Jesus’s birth date, it’s good to know there is a Christian basis for the celebration.

Below are some more objections and scriptures that I encountered for the objection of Christmas -

  • Religious activities associated with Christmas are man’s own idea and so constitute vain worship - Matt 15:9.
  • Continuing to celebrate Christmas despite knowing some of its pagan origins is an act of rebellion against the true God while exalting false gods - 1 Cor 10:21
  • The Bible forbids the observance of special days, months or years - Gal 4:10
  • Those who practice such traditions are weak Christians though they are accepted by God - Rom 14:1-5

What I noticed was that in all of the instances, the Bible was quoted out of context.

Matt 15:9 - The Pharisees here were nullifying the Word of God with their traditions and their hearts were far from God. But a true Christian would not place Christmas traditions at the same level as the Word of God nor would their hearts be far from the Lord. The Bible clearly neither supports nor forbids the observance of Christmas. If Christmas was celebrated as an obligation or as a means of grace, then I can see how it would be unbiblical.

1 Cor 10:21 - The context of this verse was about Christians eating food sacrificed to idols with Gentiles. Unless Christmas traditions practised are a means of connecting to a pagan God, it would be a stretch to apply this verse to Christmas. As far as I know, though pagans may have decorated trees for pagan festivals, it seems like a cultural practice rather than a religious ritual. As such, Christians have a lot of cultural practices in common with pagans such as food, clothing, language etc.

Gal 4:10 - The context of this verse was Paul’s concern for Galatians who were depending on works of righteousness rather than the freedom gained in Christ. Applying this verse to Christmas would be a misapplication as Christmas celebration is not seen as a work of righteousness by those who observe it.

Rom 14: 1-5 - In the context of this verse, Paul’s exhortation is to respect fellow believers who may consider certain foods or days more sacred though a strong Christian sees all days and food as alike. Most Christians who celebrate Christmas know that December 25th is not the exact date of Jesus’s birth and so wouldn’t view it as a day more sacred than other days. If we are called to rejoice in the Lord daily, why not collectively rejoice at least once on a set day in the year. There is nothing sinful or vain about collectively rejoicing in the true event of the birth of Jesus and the good news He brings on a specific day of the year.

Since coming to the knowledge of saving faith in Christ, I have always observed Christmas for the primary purpose of honoring Christ. It has given the opportunity to contemplate on the fulfilled prophecies about the birth of Christ, a time to serve those in need, a time to make new friendships, a time to invite the lonely to a gathering and most of all a time to share the message of Christ. So, I think at least for our family, we would lose the opportunity for many meaningful experiences if we gave up on Christmas just because it’s not in the Bible.

My post turned out to be a little too long as I shared from the objections I encountered in my own experience. Thank you to anyone who gets to the end of it! :slight_smile: I hope it’s helpful to others who have had to struggle through the decision of celebrating Christmas as I have had to a few years ago. I too believe celebrating Christmas is a matter of liberty and not one that Christians should divide over.


Hey @alison, I didn’t see your response until I posted mine. I find myself in agreement with the points you raised. I haven’t yet had a chance to go through the free resource by Mama Bear Apologetics. I will look into it. Thank you for sharing.


I think it is in the Bible though. The Magi brought gifts, the angels sang songs of praise, and the shepherds worshiped The newborn baby. Though apart from the actual event there doesn’t seem to be any mention of a celebration of Jesus’ birth in the New Testament.

I have been hesitant to celebrate Christmas because I saw a lot of parallels with what I thought were pagan practices. Recently my wife and I watched Mike Wingers video Is Christmas Pagan? In defense of Christmas where he goes through the various argument against celebrating Christmas.

In a lot of ways he comes down on the side of Christian liberty but also addresses the assertions that Christmas is a pagan holiday adapted to Christianity. It’s helpful to me because I can be something of a grinch at this time of year. I’m now a repentant grinch that focuses more on the joy and celebration of the incarnation. Thought I’m still not used to advent.


@chris , thanks for the resource by Mike Winger. It was quite comprehensive covering many different Christian myths and a good resource to anyone who is asking these questions. Mike winger covers objections about the pagan gods quite well.


Thanks for taking the time to share these objections @lakshmi. It’s helpful to hear what others have encountered as an objection.

I used to get so irritated when I saw Christmas trees in church because I saw how pagans in Sarasota would make a big deal about pine trees being part of their worship and they were so happy to see Christians using them in their houses. Fortunately I got more information and realized that they were just trying to detract from what Christmas is really about.


So are you saying pagans still use pine trees for worship? How do they worship the tree? It seems in this partcular situation, Christians having Christmas tree in their homes strengthened the faith of pagans in their worship of trees. So I am wondering if the Christmas tree was a stumbling block to the pagans you met in Sarosta to come to Christ. What do you think?

In hinduism too, trees/plants are worshipped and bowed down too but simply having a tree/plant at home is not considered worship even if it has decorations. This is because the decorations are meaningless if they are not based on the hindu rituals followed for worship of plants/trees. Hindus put emphasis on the heart and and the rituals involved in worship.


Believers do not know that every Christian holiday is not in the bible but from the pagan culture that was absorbed by the faith. Even the biblical Shabbat was replaced with the day of the Sun, SUNDAY. Just google Pagan origins of Christmas.

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Hello @luke ,

Welcome to the community and thank you for your comment. What you have shared is something many of us in the community have also come across and our purpose in the conversations is to weigh out the evidence for some of these assertions together in the community from reliable sources. It is certainly true that none of the Christian holidays are mentioned in the Bible. But just because they are not mentioned, it doesnt necessarily mean we are not to celebrate the holidays.

Wesley Huff, Director of Apologetics Canada, in a recent article on the gospel coalition, " Christmas Isn’t Pagan" explains how Jesus may have participated in the festival of lights, a holiday not in the Old Testament law, in John 10:22-23.

Jesus himself travelled to Jerusalem, as recorded in John 10, to celebrate the feast of dedication — better known today as Hanukkah.

This celebration came from the 2nd century BC, commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent dedication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean revolt.

Hanukkah is not a celebration that the Bible says for God’s people to participate in. It comes from the inter-testimental period, the time between the last book of the Old Testament and the first book of the New Testament.

When Jesus was at the temple it was a perfect opportunity to object to the celebration of Feast of Dedication when the Jews were questioning him . But Jesus says nothing and instead he seemed to have made use of such opportunities for sharing his message. So there is nothing controversial about celebrating the message of Jesus on holidays not prescribed in the Bible.

Wes huff also points out that the notion that Christmas was pagan is more of a recent understanding than an old one.

If you tried to get to the origin of these accusations you would find that their beginnings prove more modern than ancient. A lot of the blame falls on a Free Church of Scotland minister and certain concerns expressed by the Puritans of the 16th and 17th centuries.

The Puritans were well intentioned and undoubtedly pious. However, in their zeal to pursue truth they did not always get it right. The rowdy and undisciplined celebrations that accompanied Christmas concerned the Puritans greatly (probably for the right reasons), but where the Puritans’ motivation might have been well intentioned their solution to the perceived problem, at least on this topic, turned out to be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Meanwhile, a Scottish minister named Alexander Hislop, in the late nineteenth century, also waged his own case against Christmas. Hislop wrote a pamphlet in 1853 titled The Two Babylons, which was eventually expanded into a book of the same name. In his book Hislop argued that Roman Catholicism found its beginning as a Babylonian mystery cult, established during the Emperor Constantine’s rule in the fourth century.

Wes Huff also has an infographic that discusses the myths surrounding Christianity which I thought was extremely helpful.
Christmas+isn’t+paga-compressed.pdf (347.6 KB)
Christmas+isn’t+pagan.pdf (401.0 KB)

And finally, you also brought up the issue of Sunday worship. Though Sunday is not prescribed as a day of worship, it was common very early on Christianity as recorded in the Bible to assemble on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7, 1 Cor 16:2). So, if we do meet on sundays for worship, there is nothing unbiblical about it. Besides there is no requirement for Sabbath to be followed for new testament believers (Col 2:16-18).

Finally, I also think true spirituality is really more about the heart rather than external regulations. Its actually easy to get the externals right if we have to but being transformed to the image of Christ is a far important goal and unfortunately this takes a back seat even in christian communities that are very strict about doing only things in the Bible.

Thanks again for your comment and hope you find this information helpful. God bless!


Hi @lakshmi,
My apologies on a delayed response.

It was one article in a local newspaper where they were saying that Christians putting pine trees in their homes and in their churches was encouraging to the pagans because the worship of the goddess in everything included the use of pine trees. Beyond that, I don’t remember the full context, but in looking back I think the real intent was to stir up controversy to distract from anything to do with Christ.


Thanks @chris for clarifying further. I was just curious. Your comment about the real intentions cautions me to not get sidetracked defending secondary issues when the debate is really about competing worldviews.