Did the Catholic Church really BAN gift giving as it was associated with Paganism? Someone I know wrote this little "tidbit" on Facebook and I'm sure it's not true...just can't find any facts - are there? Help!

Sorry - I’m just annoyed right now. As usual people like to bash the Catholic faith - and of course someone I know wrote this on their FB wall and others are chiming in with - “oh yeah, and Christmas was stolen from the pagans too” - is there a site or link where I can find a proper rebuttal to this which I’m sure if not entirely is false, is completely skewed from the truth.

Thank you!

Well, since we base our gift giving on the actions of the Magi, and St. Nicholas…I would say nope.
Also, think of the many parishes that have angel giving trees…where parishioners give gifts to the underprivileged.

I’m always amazed at how people like to spread unfounded claims about what we believe. :rolleyes:

If the Catholic Church had a policy of banning absolutely everything that had any association with the pagans the Church would not have kept the Vatican obelisk that we still see today in the middle of St. Peter’s square. So that claim you saw on Facebook is false. The Church even decided against destroying the ancient pagan temples. And many of the traditions of the Church were retained from the pagan Roman empire such as the official title of the Bishop of Rome as Pontifex Maximus and Latin being the official language of the Church.

I wish it would ban gifts. I’d save myself the aggravation of forking over all that money.

Gifts are given by everyone. Whatever you do don’t let them find out pagans also ate lunch or they’ll try to insist we shouldn’t do that either … :whacky:


The above site goes as far as to try to show from a variety of sources that Christ was in fact born on 12/25, and certainly attempts to show in some of the pdfs and articles a variety of things from patristics, history, etc. I’m not sure I buy the he has to have been born 12/25, because ultimately we commemorate that purely by the authority of the church to set feasts.

Myself, for some reason, I always figured Rome could have walked over to the archives and gotten the date for the census issued by Ceasar Augustus “that all the world should be taxed” and even when the Judaen census was, and used that as the basis for their setting of the date for Christmas.

The variance of date of Christmas between east and west is becasue they still use Julian while we use Gregorian calendars. The leap year drift has pushed the 12/25 on the Julian well past what is the 25th in the Gregorian calendar.

I’ve also always been fascinated with the fact that the 25th day of the month is the date of the start ( using the lunar calendar ) of the festival of lights in Maccabees, the feast Christ observes in the gospels going to the temple, and the lunar month that holiday happens on usually overlaps with the 12th solar calendar month. I draw no conclusion past that other than the hmmm about the 25th as the date of the lunar and the 25th becoming the date in solar.

Ask them to post their source, and specify that you mean actual historical documentation.

You’ll probably never hear anything more about it.

Thanks everyone for your replies - I really appreciate it. I get so frustrated reading these falsities that people seem to enjoy spreading about our faith. I don’t know why so many seem to think it’s funny to spread lies about Catholicism. Of course it’s offensive to read…but I guess it’s in fashion these days… :takethat: Annoying! But thank you all for your replies and the information you’ve provided - it’s very helpful! :slight_smile: :christmastree1:

I have never heard that before.

Remember Satan attacks the Catholic church at every turn.

That kinda bugs me. If they had gone and destroyed the Parthenon and other Pagan temples wiping the remnants of heathen faiths off the earth, a lot of that New Age Neopagan Wicca garbage wouldn’t exist.

Some Protestant sects, such as the Puritans, banned gift-giving in the American colonies, as well as any other recognition of the Christmas celebration. One could be placed in stocks or even flogged if one closed one’s shop in recognition of December 25.

The early Church did celebrate the birth of Christ - we have textual evidence as early as 200 A.D., which means the practice went back even earlier (the earliest textual evidence does not mean a practice sprung up spontaneously on that date, but must be presumed to have existed even earlier), although there were regional differences over which date should be celebrated. Giving gifts may or may not have been part of early celebration, but there is no evidence the Catholic Church “banned” such celebrations. Tertullian didn’t like Christians joining in with pagan New Year celebrations, which did include gift-giving, but that’s about it for the ECFs. He also pointed out that because Christian and pagan celebrate things in the same way or on the same date, that doesn’t mean the practices share a common origin:

[9] Others, again, certainly with more information and greater verisimilitude, believe that the sun is our god. We shall be counted Persians perhaps, though we do not worship the orb of day painted on a piece of linen cloth, having himself everywhere in his own disk. [10] The idea no doubt has originated from our being known to turn to the east in prayer. But you, many of you, also under pretence sometimes of worshipping the heavenly bodies, move your lips in the direction of the sunrise. [11] In the same way, if we devote Sun-day to rejoicing, from a far different reason than Sun-worship, we have some resemblance to those of you who devote the day of Saturn to ease and luxury, though they too go far away from Jewish ways, of which indeed they are ignorant.

We should also note that Christ ordered that whatever we do to the least of our brothers, that we do unto him. So alms-giving was long a part of the Advent celebration in the Catholic Church. The gift of money, food, clothing for the poor, and I assume, toys for poor people’s children - are ordered by Jesus and should be an important and appropriate part of Christmas, as Catholic saints such as Nicholas and Wenceslas often did. As gifts given to friends and family and neighbors in the sincere hope of making their lives easier, or simply making them happy are also an act of charity, done in the name of Jesus, I suspect that Jesus Himself does not disapprove. The gifts of the Magi to honor the birth of the Redeemer are not presented in the Bible as a bad thing, but as a recognition and glorification of His birth.

So, your friends on Facebook should ask the Puritans’ modern descendants, such as the Congregationalists, and the neo-Puritan sects who object to the celebration of Christmas, why they banned the practice, not the Catholics.

Hope this is helpful to you. Merry Christmas!

Thank you Arizona Mike! That’s very helpful and informative! :slight_smile: This is great - thanks so much!!!

Funnily enough, just yesterday I was reading this in the book “The Blessing of Christmas” by none other than Cardinal Ratzinger (AKA Pope Benedict XVI):

Even a custom like Christmas baking, apparently such an external activity, has its roots in the Church’s Advent liturgy, which makes its own the glorious words of the Old Testament in these days of the declining year: “In that day, the mountains will drip sweetness, and the rivers will flow with milk and honey.” People of old found in such words the embodiment of their hopes for a world redeemed. And once again, our ancestors celebrated Christmas as the day on which God truly came. When he comes at Christmas, he distributes his honey (so to speak). Truly, the earth must flow with this honey on that day: where he is present, all bitterness disappears, and there is harmony between heaven and earth, between God and man. The honey and the sweets are a sign of this peace, of concord and of joy.

This is why Christmas has become the feast when we give presents, when we imitate the God who has given his own self and has thereby given us once again that life which truly becomes a gift only when the “milk” of our existence is sweetened by the “honey” of being loved. And this love is not threatened by any death, any infidelity, or any meaninglessness.

Ultimately, all this finds its unity in the joy that God has become a child who encourages us to trust as children trust and to give and receive gifts.

  • Benedict XVI, The Blessing of Christmas, trans. Brian McNeil (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007), 30–32.

As others have said, the burden of proof lies on the person making the outrageous claim. If the Church actually banned gift-giving, it should be easy enough for them to provide documentation. Otherwise, they are just spreading falsehood because it lines up with their preconceived notions regarding the Catholic Church.

I’ve read a few times that around the year 1000 Catholics were forbidden to exchange gifts because there were pagan practices that were similar at that time of year, and to make clear that the holy day was not associated.

I’m not sure why that would be considered an anti Catholic claim. I don’t see it as reflecting badly on the church to have called the people to remember that the birth of Christ is not about giving one another presents, and to remind people that Christmas is very different from pagan holidays.

It seems like it might have been a good thing if there was some confusion on the issue at that point in history.

I know that when I was growing up I was taught that in earlier days Christmas was more of a solemn feast and less about some of the more modern festivities.

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