‘How can you say that?’
Lora’s mouth hung half open and a deep frown furrowed her brow. Those five words were all she could squeeze out of a mouth that usually overflowed like a rushing waterfall. The sweet waters of her words were always a delight to me, and I enjoyed drinking deeply from them whenever they flowed; but right then I enjoyed the stunned silence my statement had produced.
‘I can say it because it’s true,’ I replied.
Her expression changed from shock to indignation like a traffic light changing from orange to red.
‘It’s not true,’ she said. ‘Christmas is not a pagan festival; it’s a celebration of the birth of Christ. It’s as Christian as you get.’
‘If it’s “as Christian as you get,”’ I said, using my fingers to form the inverted commas in the air, ‘then show me where in the Bible we are commanded to celebrate the birth of Christ.’
‘Well ...’ she said. I waited patiently as she thought it over and was surprised to see her face light up in sudden revelation. ‘The three wise men,’ she said, raising her index finger in triumph, ‘and the shepherds and angels. They all celebrated the birth of Jesus.’
Not bad, I thought, as she stood with her hands on her hips and a smug little smile on her face.
‘That is indeed an example of people celebrating the actual birth of Christ,’ I conceded, ‘but there are no biblical examples of people celebrating the anniversary of the birth of Christ. Nowhere in the Gospels, Acts, or the epistles are there examples of the early church celebrating the birth of Christ; in fact, the first recorded celebration of Christmas is in 336 AD, just after the formation of the Catholic church.’
‘So?’ Lora replied, ‘that doesn’t make it wrong.’
‘If it isn’t wrong, then why did most of the church across the world accuse the Roman church of idolatry when they started celebrating Christmas on 25 December?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said, ‘but I guess you’re gonna tell me.’
‘I certainly am,’ I said. ‘The twenty-fifth of December had for centuries been the birthday of Sol, the Roman sun god, since it falls on the winter solstice. During this festival, called the Brumalia, sun worshippers would celebrate the dying of the old sun and light candles to encourage the rebirth of the new sun. It was accompanied by much drunken revelry and merrymaking. The predominantly pagan Roman citizens did not want to part with their beloved festival when Christianity became the state religion, so they put pressure on Caesar Constantine to incorporate it into Christianity, which he did. I guess he thought the jump from celebrating the sun god to celebrating the Son of God wasn’t that big.’
Lora pulled her mouth as though she were chewing something bitter. She was quiet for a moment, then she said, ‘So the Catholics got it from the Roman sun worshippers. Is that why it’s called Christ-mass?’
‘Yes,’ I replied, stroking my beard and wondering how much I should tell her. What the heck, I thought, and continued: ‘The Romans got it from the Babylonians, who celebrated the reincarnation of Nimrod – the father of Babylon – on December twenty five. After Nimrod’s untimely death, Semiramus, his sister and wife, said that she had received a dream in which a evergreen tree grew out of a dead tree stump, that Nimrod had decorated the tree with gold and silver, that he had placed presents under the tree, and that the son she gave birth to on twenty five December was, in fact, Nimrod reborn. He was the first false messiah.’
‘So is that where the Christmas tree comes from?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘During Brumalia, sun worshippers would decorate an evergreen tree with gold and silver, place presents under it, and worship it – a practice the Bible condemns in Jeremiah 10:1-6. Semiramus started the mother-and-child cult, which later spread to all the pagan cultures. Many believe that’s where the worship of Mary and the Christ-child comes from.’
Lora glared at me. ‘So you’re saying that if I celebrate Christmas, I’m a sun worshipper.’
‘No, no,’ I said, ‘I just think it’s better to celebrate the Lord’s death and resurrection as He commanded during the last supper.’
‘I don’t know if I should believe you,’ Lora said. ‘Next you’ll be telling me Easter’s a pagan festival as well.’
I raised my eyebrows. ‘Well, now that you mention it...’
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