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The Catholic Church hoped to draw pagans into its religion by allowing them to continue their revelry while simultaneously honoring the birthday of Jesus. Over the next 1000 years, the observance of Christmas followed the expansion of Christianity into the rest of Europe and into Egypt.
Along the way, Christian beliefs combined with existing pagan feasts and winter rituals to create many long-standing traditions of Christmas celebrations.
"On the Roman New Year (January 1), houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season.
To these observances were added the German and Celtic Yule rites . Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian" (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Micropaedia, Vol. 903, "Christmas")."December 25, the birthday of Mithra, the Iranian god of light and..day devoted to the invincible sun, as well as the day after Saturnalia, was adopted by the [Roman Catholic] church as Christmas, the nativity of Christ, to counteract the effects of these festivals." [The New Encyclopædia Britannica.]"Christmas...
p528.] According to The World Book Encyclopedia, Pope Liberius of Rome, in 354 A.
D., ordered December 25th observed from that time forward as the birthday of Christ, and chose the date "because the people of Rome already observed it as the Feast of Saturn, celebrating the birthday of the Sun" "Ancient Celtic priests considered the plant [mistletoe] sacred and gave people sprigs of it to use as charms.
It was, according to many authorities, not celebrated in the first centuries of the Christian church, as the Christian usage in general was to celebrate the death of remarkable persons [eg Passover - death of Christ] rather than their birth..." "...
was celebrated by the Basilidian Gnostics in the second century … Copyright 1909 by Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York ----------------------------- "Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church..first evidence of the feast is from Egypt." "Pagan customs centering around the January calendars gravitated to Christmas." "...The word "Yule" has since become a synonym for Christmas." [Merit Students Encyclopedia. p470.] "The custom of exchanging gifts at Christmastime stems from an ancient Roman practice.During the Saturnalia the Romans presented their emperor and each other with tokens of good luck, called strenae." [Merit Students Encyclopedia. p470.] "The sending of gifts had its origin in the Yule gifts of northern countries of Europe and ancient Rome." [Webster's Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia. p361.] ------------------------------------- "Scholars believe that the festival is derived in part from rites held by pre-Christian Germanic and Celtic peoples to celebrate the winter solstice.The pagan festival with its riot and merrymaking was so popular that Christians were glad of an excuse to continue its celebration with little change in spirit and in manner. exist, for the determination of the month or the day of the event…Christian preachers of the West and the Near East protested against the unseemly frivolity with which Christ's birthday was celebrated, while Christians of Mespoptamia accused their Western brethren of idolatry and sun worship for adopting as Christian this pagan festival." (New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, article "Christmas") ------------------------------- "Christmas: The supposed anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ, occurring on Dec. There is no historical evidence that our Lord’s birthday was celebrated during the apostolic or early postapostolic times.