I come from a large family and have a sister who became a Jehovah’s Witness after marrying one. She claims that Christians who celebrate Christmas on Dec 25 are inaccurate and that Christmas was founded near a pagan holiday (Winter Solstice) and Christmas trees have pagan roots, no pun intended.
She claims that Jesus was most likely born in the spring. Her faith doesn’t even celebrate Christmas and just calls it “December 25th”. I especially feel sorry for her kids. For them it’s just another day.
I didn’t know how to respond to her except to say that even if what she says is true, it is an historical fact that Jesus was born, lived, and was crucified and died to redeem mankind from sin. When we celebrate his birth is not important, but that the Church must have a good reason for doing celebrating it when it does.
Just curious how Catholicism answers questions as why Christmas is celebrated on Dec 25 instead of some day in the spring.
Also, if you have any other material on this subject I would appreciate it as it relates to Christmas and dealing with Jehovah’s Witness objections to it.
It is probably inaccurate. We really don’t have a good idea when Christ was born, especially the exact day.
If I recall correctly, the theory about His birth in the spring is based on the times shepherds come out.
I think one of the reasons we celebrate it in the winter is due to the lack of a major holiday in the winter. Furthermore, Easter definitely happened and is celebrated in the spring, and so we wanted to keep the two biggest holidays a reasonable distance from each other.
Why do we celebrate All Saints Day in November? It’s not like the date is particular special: it just the date our ancestors decided to celebrate the saints on.
that Christmas was founded near a pagan holiday (Winter Solstice)
Maybe, but it seems odd that they chose a couple days after the winter solstice.
and Christmas trees have pagan roots, no pun intended.
So does Koine Greek, you know, the language the New Testement is written in?
This the fundamental problem with this sort of thinking: things that pagans have are not necessarily opposed to Christ, because many of these things are simply human things. That is, they can be sanctified, converted, purified.
Why December 25th? It is simply a date and no one knows for sure when Christ was born. I will say that I know a biblical scholar that says He likely wasn’t born in the spring either, but in the Fall around the Feast of Tabernacles (September or October).
In the end it doesn’t really matter what day it is so much as the celebration of the mystery of the incarnation of God. Given that JW reject the celebration of the incarnation regardless of the date, I’m not really not sure what you could do to change their perceptions. The driver seems to be around a belief that the incarnation is not that important since Christ never talks about it in Scripture and the reasons around the “wrong” date, “pagan heritage”, et cetera are simply superfluous objections to bolster the main belief.
…I fear that you will have your apologetics skills tested… if you resolve to defend the Faith you will not only find answers for them but you will grow considerably…
First you must understand that the JWs have been reinventing themselves for decades… but their methods is the same: identify the weak and proselytize them.
Christmas is a great target… it is no mystery that there’s no written record for Jesus’s birth date–back then (sadly, as now) only the wealthy counted… a carpenter, in the middle of nowhere would have close to no impact on his world…
…what is interesting about the JWs front is that they will quote information from outside source only when it suits their agenda… everything else they will claim to be suspect since “things/info” have been altered by (usually the Church) “x.”
Here’s some info on Christmas:
The date of Christmas may have initially been chosen to correspond with the day exactly nine months after the day on which early Christians believed that Jesus was conceived, or with one or more ancient polytheistic festivals that occurred near the Roman winter solstice; a further solar connection has been suggested because of a biblical verse[a] identifying Jesus as the “Sun of righteousness”. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas)
Ask your sister, why is it so important for JWs not to celebrate the Incarnation of the Word–is rejecting Christ a Christian virtue?
Christmas is just one example of the victory won by Christ.
Consider the fate of the pagan religions.
Catholics overran pagan cities, towns and lands, bought and occupied pagan buildings and temples, altered pagan art, music and literature, absorbed and replaced pagan harvest festivals and religious feasts, and, above all, won over and converted the pagan people themselves. In doing so, Catholics brought all things under the dominion of the one true God, Jesus Christ.
Isn’t that what He wanted us to do (cf. Mt 28:19)?
Tertullian (A.D. 160-220) wrote:
We began just yesterday, and already we fill the world and all your places: the cities, the islands, the towns, the municipalities, the councils, even the army camps, the tribunals, the assemblies, the palace, the senate, and the forum. We have left you only your temples! (Tertullian, Apology, 37.4)
Scripture sanctions this practice. The Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was on the same day as a Canaanite vintage festival that it supplanted, much as Christmas coincided with the festival of Sol Invictus that non-Christians were celebrating.
This is the same principle that Protestant churches use today when they replace the celebration of Halloween with “Reformation Day” or “harvest festival” celebrations. It is an attempt to provide a wholesome alternative celebration to a popular but unwholesome one. Anti-Catholics who accuse Christmas of having “pagan origins” fail to recognize that it is precisely anti-pagan in origin.
F.Y.I. It may be that J.W’s used to celebrate Christmas. If you google the phrase “Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrating Christmas” you will find photos of J.W’s at large Christmas banquets in 1919 and beyond. They seemed to have changed their minds about celebrating it. They even justified it at the time saying the actual unknown date of Christmas was not important but celebrating it was a Christian thing to do. I wonder if the J.W. early leaders who planned and attended the banquets unknowingly disqualified themselves from the 144,000 going to heaven?
While the date of Jesus’ birth is not dogma, Dr Taylor Marshall makes interesting arguments why Dec 25th is the day of His birth (or at least the best date to pick from). Here is is a link to his eBook “God’s Birthday” which he was giving away for free (and I believe he still is because the link to the book from his blog post, below, still works)
The cosmic significance shouldn’t be a point of contention. The winter solstice is the longest night of the year. How appropriate that when the days are darkest the new light of man’s salvation enters into the world. It’s a fitting time to celebrate the Incarnation.
The Feast of the Annunciation is traditionally celebrated on March 25, nine months prior to Christmas. Interesting. Now, John Chrysostom argued that John the Baptist was conceived around September 25, around the Feast of Tabernacles (the fall season festivals, anyway). The annunciation was the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy… that brings us to March 25. Nine months from there brings us to December 25.
I don’t know if John Chrysostom is correct in dating John’s conception on September 25. But the logic in this dating is hardly trying to co-opt a pagan festival. Even if it was, so what? We’re redirecting people’s celebration to the worship of Christ.
I don’t know how much this would convince her or not, but as others have said, there’s not really anything inherently negative about the holiday having pagan roots prior to being Christianized. Pagan culture, whether in ancient Europe, from indigenous Americans, etc, have subtle effects on many aspects of our lives. Pagan people aren’t monsters. They’re human beings made in the image of God who love & dream & fear & hope, who have developed beliefs outside of Revealed truth from the prophets, Christ, and his apostles. I think we are at risk of spiritual pride if we aren’t going to associate with a festivity because it’s loosely connected to pagan culture once upon a time. Every single person here has a distant grandfather & grandmother who was a pagan.
I believe it was with Pope St Gregory the Great, in the 500s, who was famous for evangelizing England by reforming druidic temples & places of worship into sanctuaries for the Real Presence of Christ. The policy was reformation, not destruction, and I believe that policy played a large role in his historical prominence. Beyond the 1st century, when many Christians were Jews, the vast majority of our saints in the early Church were men & women of pagan origins: Greece, Italy, Spain, North Africa, etc.
There’s quite a few of us in the world for whom December 25th is just another day (except that if we live in Christianworld the shops are closed and the television’s even worse than usual), the thing is that,like Christians, we have other days for celebrating things throughout the year so our children don’t exactly miss out on opportunities for enjoyment. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses not do celebrating of things?
I probably wouldn’t have entertained this sort of stuff to begin with.
But just looking at it on the surface, it was by a tree that Jesus died and redeemed us…and those lights we put on it signify He as the light of this dark world. And we can thank Luther for that, BTW.
And I have heard mainly atheists make the claim that Jesus never existed and that all our practices are copied from pagan sources. The big problem with that is Jesus was foretold long before we had a NT as he is spelled out for us in the*** old***, which predate these pagan faiths. So if anything they copied from us, not vice versa.
I’ve heard so many different theories on the date He was born that it makes my head hurt thinking about it. Seems to lack significance because we know it actually happened and that is what matters.
…JWs at one time believed in the Divinity of Christ…
Their problem, as with many other groups, is that they define themselves by what the leadership pronounces as their faith-base–something that changes according to the conceptions of those who are leading them.