“Christmas and Easter both have pagan origins.” Really?

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We hear this evangelical rant every Christmas and Easter. The biggest difference between these two is this: We commemorate Easter (Resurrection Day) every Lord’s Day, while Christmas is celebrated only on December 25. But here are two articles, with short excerpts, debunking these myths.

How December 25 Became Christmas: The Passover Connection

But wasn’t the selection of December 25 as the birthdate of Jesus an adaptation of the pagan celebration of the winter solstice called Saturnalia or the Sol Invictus festival to encourage pagans to convert to Christianity?

Detail from Master Bertram’s “Annunciation” (ca. 1390-1400) depicting the connection between the Incarnation and Redemption: the baby Jesus gliding down from heaven with a small cross.

Detail from Master Bertram’s “Annunciation” (ca. 1390-1400) depicting the connection between the Incarnation and Redemption: the baby Jesus gliding down from heaven with a small cross.

Andrew McGowan’s “How December 25 Became Christmas” in Biblical Archaeology Review offers an insightful debunking of this myth. He traces the history of the celebration of Jesus’ birth from the very first reference to it in ca. 200 A.D. According to Clement of Alexandria (Egypt), there were several different days proposed by various Christian groups as Jesus’ birth date, but none mentioned December 25 as a possible date.

The earliest mention of December 25 as the birth date of Jesus came from a Roman almanac published about 350 A.D., where the date is noted, “Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea.” About 400 A.D., Augustine of Hippo mentions that the schismatic Donatists already kept the December 25 commemoration.

“Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?”

About 730, The Venerable Bede, an English monk and historian, wrote that the month of April used to be called Eosturmonath named after the fertility goddess Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month. So it was him who first asserted that the Easter celebration during the Eosturmonath was borrowed from pagan feasts in celebration of Eostre.

McRoy says this is an impossible theory because the resurrection of Christ was celebrated as early as the second century A. D., long before the Nordic/Germanic and Anglo-Saxon tribes were evangelized in the 7th-8th centuries. Thus, the Easter/Passover celebration can never have originated from any Germanic pagan festival.

McRoy also cites research which concludes that there is no such goddess named Eostre in Germanic and Anglo-Saxon cultures. In fact, research also shows that there is no such festival in March or April, and that English months were never named after deities.

About 730, The Venerable Bede, an English monk and historian, wrote that the month of April used to be called Eosturmonath named after the fertility goddess Eostre, in whose honor feasts were celebrated in that month. So it was him who first asserted that the Easter celebration during the Eosturmonath was borrowed from pagan feasts in celebration of Eostre.

McRoy says this is an impossible theory because the resurrection of Christ was celebrated as early as the second century A. D., long before the Nordic/Germanic and Anglo-Saxon tribes were evangelized in the 7th-8th centuries. Thus, the Easter/Passover celebration can never have originated from any Germanic pagan festival.

McRoy also cites research which concludes that there is no such goddess named Eostre in Germanic and Anglo-Saxon cultures. In fact, research also shows that there is no such festival in March or April, and that English months were never named after deities.

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