"Somebody Cooked Your Goose" - Part Four
A Christmas Study by Tricia Tillin
Christmas is a subject that intrigues, interests and sometimes inflames Christians on both sides of the argument. Those outside Christianity would think it strange that we even have an argument for and against, but throughout the centuries the debate has rolled on, without a firm conclusion. Should we as Christians celebrate the festival that has become known as Christmas?
The bible can be interpreted in various ways on this topic, but is not totally conclusive. The danger lies is being reactionary or harsh. At the end of the day, the bible commands respect for others as well as obedience to God:
Index to the Four Parts
Just as the sacrificial offerings were the focus of the Jewish and pagan feasts, and the Last Supper was the culmination and symbolic centre of Jesus’ ministry on earth, we have made our Christmas meal the high spot of the celebration, although the religious aspects of it have diminished to the point of non-existence. Now we simply have an enjoyable meal to look forward to and, like the Apostle Paul, "we are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do". (1 Cor 8:8)
Because of changed eating habits, inflation and commercialisation, the Christmas feast no longer reflects the idolatrous practises of the past. Yet, it is instructive to know these practises for what they are, and what they say about the true origins of Christmas.
The greatest dish of Christmas in the Middle Ages was the boar’s head, and goose was served until late Victorian times. Today we tend to substitute a turkey or similar bird for the goose, and a leg of pork for the boar, but the idea is still the same.
Traditional pastries include mince pies, and the ‘burnt offering’ of the day, if we are not careful, is the flaming Christmas pudding topped with holly. Something can be said about all of these.
The Boar (aka Pig/Pork)
The boar is a major religious cult animal right round the world.
It was the boar’s head, decorated and garlanded with evergreens and with an orange in its mouth, that was the high point of the Christmas feast for many years. It is still served at Queen’s College, Oxford. The ancient carol which is sung as the boar’s head is carried in with great ceremony says that the head is offered "in honour of the King of Bliss".
As if to emphasise that the boar is more than a ritual meal, and to make the connection between it and the false "Seed of the Woman", the hero-god who would save mankind, the Yule Boar in Europe is often made of straw, or baked as a loaf. The last sheaf of corn left standing in the field is used to make this centrepiece which is not eaten, but left standing on the table until the Christmas season is over, and is then mixed with the seed for sowing in the Spring in the same way as are the ashes of the Yule Log.
Quite simply, the feast involves a sacrifice of the "god" in whatever form represented, either as a bird or animal, and is eaten to participate in that deity and to ensure good luck for the coming year.
Here we see Romans sacrificing to the god seen as the oak tree and the boar.
A Swedish custom points plainly to the original ceremony of sacrificing a man as the annual Yule Boar, for there a man is dressed in a bristled skin and an old woman with a knife pretends to kill him. It seems clear that the god was closely identified with the boar and sacrificed as such, even though the story of his death, in many cases, seems to indicate that the boar was his enemy and slayer.
The identification of an animal with a god meant that the particular animal was treated as sacred and untouchable (as the cow and bull in India today), and it was not eaten except in sacrifice.
This is certainly the case with the pig. The Egyptians were forbidden to eat pork and held it in supernatural awe, but nonetheless at Yuletide they would sacrifice a pig to the moon and to Osiris. It was looked upon as an embodiment of Set or Typhon who killed Osiris in the form of a boar, yet the facts bear out that the boar represented the god himself in his war-like, destructive character; the boar was both slayer and slain, just as the Lord Jesus was put to death by satan’s agency, yet in His death He destroyed satan.
The name of the Babylonian boar god was Nin-shach, incorporating the Hebrew word for "The Destroyer" = Shachath, and indeed this god was seen as a destroyer, as the sun in its destructive character and as a war deity. His name, Professor Pinches says, "means 'lord of the wild boar'. Similarly, Ber, an early form of the Roman Saturn, was called "lord of the wild boar" and was a solar divinity of war, the spring and fertility. Saturn, himself, received an offering of a boar at the Saturnalian feast.
Boar Gods of the North
Our ancestors revered the boar, and the animal was sacrificed annually to Freya at Yule. It was also sacred to the warrior god Odin, or Woden who was the leader of the Wild Hunt. Because of the association of the boar with war gods, it was used as an emblem on shields and helmets (see right).
The Celtic version of Odin was called Cernunnos, who was antler-horned and who became ‘christianised’ as St. Ciaran. He is supposed to have made a boar his first convert!
The Boar as Slayer
It was the boar who killed not only Osiris, but Adonis, Attis and the Celtic Diarmid. Also the much lamented Tammuz was supposed to have been slain by a winged boar.
The death of the Celtic god Diarmid, too, was by a boar of the herd belonging to "Grey Eyebrows", the mother goddess in her evil form.
The mother goddess was indeed a ‘destroyer’ in some aspects - she was the Queen of Hades, the ‘annihilating lady’ and goddess of death. There is certainly evidence to support that the wife/mother goddess was identified with the boar. The last sheaf used for the Yule Boar is called the ‘Old Mother’ and in France, ‘Ceres’. which is the Roman name for the Earth Mother. Diana, too, is often shown accompanied by a boar, and in almost every country of the world the sow is the symbol of the Great Mother.
The goose and the boar reflect the sacrificial practises of ancient times. The goose was a favourite offering to Osiris and it was said that "he could only be pacified by a large goose and a thin cake". This, again, is a form of self-sacrifice on the part of the god, for his father Seb (or Geb) from whom he takes his characteristics is shown in the form of a goose.
In Babylon, likewise, geese were offered in sacrifice. An ancient monument shows a priest with a knife in one hand and a goose in the other. Indeed, in many other countries geese were held sacred. It is well known that the sacred geese of Juno saved Rome by cackling at the night intruders, and in Asia Minor, the goose was the symbol of Cupid, the son of the ‘virgin mother’ Venus.
In India, as in Egypt, the goose was the creator god who laid the ‘cosmic egg’ out of which was hatched the sun god and the world. The symbol of Brahma, therefore, was the goose and he is shown riding one in the illustration above. Others gods associated with the goose are Apollo, Hermes and Mars, the Roman god of war; it was also a symbol of the Queen of Heaven, as the swan is of Mary, for the two are interchangeable.
Why the Goose?
Why the goose? Once again, it is a mystery symbol to denote the pagan messiah, for the word in Egypt meant a child or son, as this quote shows:
"The goose," says Wilkinson, "signified in hieroglyphics a child or son;" and Horapollo says (i. 53~ p. 276), "It [the goose] was chosen to denote a son, from its love to its young, being always ready to give itself up to the chaser, in order that they might be preserved; for which reason the Egyptians thought it right to revere this animal." (from Wilkerson's Egyptians, vol. v. p. 227.)
Here then, the true meaning of the goose is A SON, who voluntarily gives himself up as a sacrifice for those whom he loves - that is, the Pagan Messiah. There are those who might argue that, because the goose is a symbol of the Sacrificial Son we are altogether justified in eating it at Christmas to honour Jesus. But since when did we sacrifice to Jesus? Or eat his form in anything other than the mystical communion of bread and wine - the only symbols that he gave us by which to remember his death.
No, these practices - sacrifice to the god, and the consumption of the god in bird or animal form - are pagan and demonic! We do not need symbols of Jesus Christ. We have the reality, and we honour him as the LIVING GOD who can be known as a Person, not as a symbolic animal or totem object. The commandment that we may not create any idol in the form of God - whether a likeness of man, bird, animal or any other form - was to avoid setting up just this kind of idolatrous practice.
'You shall not make for yourself a carved image -- any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. Deut 5:8-10
Lest anyone should think I am denying families the joy of a family Christmas meal or curtailing the choice of fare, please realise that I am merely pointing out for the sake of information the original purpose behind many of the Christmas activities. The level to which you choose to adopt or reject anything involved is your own personal choice under God. I will discuss this a bit more in the conclusion.
The traditional sweetmeats at Christmastime are mince pies, plum pudding and iced cake, and in this respect the feast has changed very little down the years. What's wrong with that, you cry! Though we might find it hard to fathom, the most passionate attacks by Puritans and other Protestants were made against such fare, because they had not yet lost sight of the idolatrous significance of these Christmas delicacies.
One Puritan writer in 1656, Fletcher, wrote of mince pies as:
"Idolatry in crust! Babylon’s whore
Raked from the grave and baked by hanches, then
Sewed up in coffins to unholy men;
Defiled with superstition, like the Gentiles
Of old, that worshipped onions, roots and lentils!"
What was his objection, and why did he picture the contents of the pie as "Babylon’s whore.. .sewed up in coffins"? We shall see.
In 1733, another writer, this time a Quaker, calls Christmas pie, "an invention of the Scarlet Whore of Babylon, an hodge podge of superstition, popery, the devil and all his works." We have difficulty today in understanding his horror and disgust, and unfortunately much of the Puritan literature was destroyed by more ‘enlightened’ people, but is there something indicated here to which we should pay attention?
Plum pudding was, in early years, a sort of broth. It was first recorded in 1573 as plum pottage or porage, a thick soup taken at the beginning of the meal, consisting of beef, raisins, currants and bread. A recipe from Mrs Beeton was included in the section on soups, and is given as beef broth. It used eight gallons of water (!) thickened with bread, dried fruits, wine and spices. Not many foreigners could stomach this delight. Along with this broth, the guests enjoyed brawn made from boar and seasoned with rosemary.
We have come to see mince pies as a traditional once-yearly treat; they are more often eaten on Christmas Eve than on the day itself, and this gives an indication of their origin. It has been said that the earlier version of the mince pie was indeed made of minced meat and was a savoury dish. Before the invention of pastry, the meat would have been dished up on a slab of bread, and - later on - a covering of goose feathers decorated the ‘pie’.
Early records show the pastry case to be boat shaped, and this is significant, because the mince pie is meant to represent the coffin or boat of Osiris. Today this seems hard to grasp, so let's see the significance in religious terms of the story of Osiris:
The Myths of Osiris and Isis
One story of the death of Osiris says that Set, the wicked brother of the god, had a coffin brought into the winter feast and tricked Osiris into it, whereupon he nailed down the lid. The coffin was floated down the river to the coast and was beached, and a tree grew up around it.
Later this tree-bound coffin was discovered by the distraught Isis who cut out the coffin and brought it by boat back to her own land. Eventually, Set in the form of a boar found the coffin, dismembered the body and scattered the pieces.
In the Christmas Mummer’s play which re-tells this story in a symbolic way, the assailant is made to say of his victim:
This, however, was by no means the end of Osiris, for Isis sailed up and down in a papyrus boat collecting (or, some say, burying) the pieces of his body. In some legends, Isis conceives her son Horus by restoring the body, and in others she conceives while fluttering over the corpse in the form of a hawk. Horus as the resurrected god in child form becomes the god of the earth while Osiris ruled as king of the underworld.
So it was, on the feast day of Osiris in mid-winter, the people fixed rows of oil lamps to their houses which burned all night long to guide Isis and Osiris back home, or - figuratively - back from the dead.
Later in the festival, the priests would carry the casket of Osiris down to the sea and fill it with water. They used vegetables, spices and incense to mould an image of Osiris which they robed and ornamented and, after a period of intense lamentation, smiting of breasts and slashing open of their bodies, their cries turned to joy as Osiris was reckoned to have returned again to life.
In some places, the image of Osiris was floated down river in a boat made of papyrus, gloriously illuminated. Little vegetable and grain effigies of Osiris have been found at numerous tomb sites, fitted inside pottery or wooden ‘coffins’.
So we see that those mince-pie "coffins" of which the Protestants complained were originally intended to recall the myth of the slain god who would return from the underworld.
This coffin fragment of wood, which comes from the excavations of the Queen Elisabeth and Sheikh Fadl Egyptological Foundation in 1924, belongs to the category of coffins containing the pseudo-mummies of Osiris. The upper part, which was probably of falcon-headed form, is not preserved. The coffin and the mummy have their place in the context of the "Mysteries of Osiris" during the month Khoiak. After having "fabricated" a mummy of barley grains, the priests of the cult of Osiris sprinkled it with water over nine days. The germination was the symbol of the rebirth of Osiris and at the same time of all nature. The rite coming to an end, the mummy was laid down in a coffin which was then interred in the necropolis. The coffin, which is difficult to date precisely, was painted in black.
Osiris is not the only god involved in this mythology. The rituals for Dionysus, or Bacchus were very similar: the worshippers carried a casket supposed to contain the ‘sacred heart’ of Dionysus. In one version of his myth, he descended to Hades through a lake and he was annually celebrated at that spot where the worshippers would summon him back from the dead by trumpet blasts and the sacrifice of a lamb.
The god Balder, when he had been killed by the dart of mistletoe, was laid on a funeral pyre aboard a ship, together with his wife who had died of grief at his loss. The ship was pushed out to sea and drifted to the land of the dead where the price for his return was that all things were to weep for Balder, even stones and metal. Eventually he had to be released by force of arms. In any case, he too was resurrected from the dead. (See this intriguing link with the myths and the planet Saturn - it mentions the Babylonian Tammuz).
The weeping and mourning associated with this religious ritual was very offensive to God, and it is mentioned in the bible:
So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the LORD's house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz . .... And He said to me, "Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger. Indeed they put the branch to their nose. Therefore I also will act in fury. My eye will not spare nor will I have pity; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, I will not hear them." Ezek 8:14-18 (footnote 1)
We might be inclined to see, with some justification, all these religions, symbols and mythologies completed and superceded for ever in the TRUE child of the Virgin who died and rose again to save us. Still we have to realise that Satan has not forsaken his own story and intends to use it as a deception to rival the gospel truth! He wants to serve up a false messiah with a miraculous birth, a victim-mentality sob-story of persecution and harassment by powerful rivals, a joyous resurrection, and ultimately a benign reign over mankind by which he rights all wrongs.
Whether or not we eat mince pies at Christmas, it's timely to remember the story that led to their creation.
Jesus said, "Unless an ear of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (Jn 12:24) He was speaking of his own death and resurrection, and the re-birth of his converts. Long before Jesus spoke these words, satan had arranged for his own religion to mimic the truth and corrupt it into the sacrificial slaying of the ‘corn-man’ or the Seed.
In England, we have a folk song "John Barleycorn" which is based upon this personification of the grain as the one who dies on behalf of the people. The "Green Man" of Europe is another well known remnant of the immortal corn man or "seed" who dies in the Winter and returns in Spring.
Thus, the grain and fruit effigy of Osiris or Dionysus in his coffin ‘rose’ to life again by fermentation or sprouting, as did the seed in the ground, and the cakes and dough buns offered to the god were meant to represent the god himself. This is why the ‘Yule Boar’ loaf is ploughed into the land at seed time.
Predicting the Sacrificial Victim
But the cakes were not only offered as sacrifices. They were used to determine who should die as a representation of the god at the festival. It has already been noted that at the fire festivals of Hallowe’en a special cake would often be baked, one piece of which would be blackened or marked. The unlucky person who chose this piece would be treated as a victim.
In one TV series that I watched many years ago, fifteen volunteers recreated an Iron Age settlement, where they had to sustain themselves for a full year, equipped only with tools, crops and livestock which would have been available in Britain in the 2nd Century BC. They also decided (foolishly in my opinion) to observe the pagan religious festivals. Therefore, at one fire-feast they recreated the "bone-fire" with its "bourn" or BUN divided into sections, one for each participant. Even though they did not deliberately thumb-mark one section to denote who would be sacrificed, this cake came out of the cooking fire with one section blackened, since satan always observes his own customs if people are willing.
Is this not another heads-up to people who follow the Christmas rituals without any thought? They, or we, may NOT be deliberately trying to offer sacrifices to the gods but how much credence are we giving to the satanic message by doing so? Food for thought!
Especially at the time of the winter solstice, the time of the dying and re-birth of the god, one would be chosen to reign as mock king for a certain time, in some cases as long as a year. Folk customs in which a mock king or god-figure is put to death and greatly mourned are very numerous. (We have already looked at Santa in that role.)
Left we see the "Salisbury Giant" one of the few remaining effigies used every year.
Such effigies have existed for centuries but the Salisbury giant was first recorded in 1496 when -led by the Mayor and Corporation - they went in procession to meet King Henry VII and his Queen, who were staying at nearby Clarendon Palace.
The Salisbury Giant and Hob-Nob are unique survivors, as such figures were condemned as idolatrous at the time of the Reformation, and others were destroyed. Over the centuries the Giant's appearance has been altered numerous times with refurbishment of his garments and hat.
- In the Ardennes, a young man used to be dressed up in straw, tried, condemned to death and shot at with blank cartridges, but the custom was stopped when, one year, the victim was accidentally killed.
- Often, instead of a real person, an effigy is used (like the Salisbury Giant or Guy Fawkes) and this is publicly burnt at the end of the festival.
- In Italy, a huge figure called ‘Carnival’ was used; in one region the procession would include the mourning ‘wife’ of the god-effigy who would address her laments to the crowd.
The ancient practise was more cruel. The representation of the god would be a specially chosen individual who was put to death when his ‘reign’ came to an end (for he was often treated as a ‘king’ during the festival). At the Roman Saturnalia, the chosen man would be King of the Feast and able to issue any command during the season. The Aztec victim reigned a whole year and was treated to every kingly honour during that time.
Sometimes the actual king was put to death at the end of a fixed term, and his ‘divine’ nature was passed on to his successor. (footnote3)
Even in our own history there are traces of the belief that the death and rebirth (coronation) of the king was best done at the time of the winter solstice. William the Conqueror and King Edmund were crowned on Christmas Day, and two of the pagan Plantagenet kings were murdered at the time of the solstice.
The death of Thomas a Becket is particularly worthy of note. He was killed on 28th December, and many believe that he deliberately chose to die as a substitute for Henry II, and arranged for his death on the cathedral steps to coincide with the setting of the solstice sun.
King Bean and Queen Pea (footnote4)
To return to the subject of Christmas cakes, however, it is certain that the original use of the cake and pudding (which is only a hot version of the cake) was in choosing the ‘king’ of the feast. It is still a tradition to hide a small coin in the pudding for one lucky person to find, and our iced cake used to be that used on Twelfth Night to choose ‘King Bean’ and his consort, ‘Queen Pea’ . A bean and a pea were hidden in the cake for that very purpose.
Until recently, the Twelfth Night cake was a very grand affair. In Jonson’s "Christmas Masque" it was called ‘Baby Cake’ for its links with the baby messiah had not been forgotten. Later, the bean and pea were replaced by coins, and later still the lots were drawn from a hat so as not to spoil the cake, which had become a triumph of the baker’s art, richly iced and decorated.
Still, however, King Bean was elected to preside over the feast and he was often crowned and royally robed just like the ‘Man of Wantonness’ in Babylon.
In Italy, the baker would give away a tinsel crown for the lucky finder of the bean to wear, but today we all wear a paper crown, and no one person is specially honoured. It may be supposed that our term ‘bean feast’ comes from these customs. See just one of the remaining King Bean and Queen Pea crownings, this one from London.
The words "bean", "bon", "bun" - as in hot cross bun - and "ben" have the same root and meaning. They are used with this meaning in "bonfire", "bean-feast" and "bun-fight", the latter being an English expression to mean a specially social meal.
The Egyptians had a conical bread loaf called ben-ben, which was also the word for the capstone of a pyramid or the tip of an obelisk - ben-benet, named after the ben-ben stone, the sacred icon in the temple of Heliopolis, the oldest center of the sun cult. In Hebrew and other languages, "BEN" means "SON" or "begotten of". The Egyptian word ben denotes both the nominative “seed” or “semen” and the infinitive “to copulate” or “to impregnate”. (Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert, The Orion Mystery: Unlocking the Secrets of the Pyramids, pp. 16-19, pp. 197-204. ) (footnote 5)
'Twelfth Cake' or 'King's Cake' was once very popular in London. This accompanying rhyme from Robert Herrick's 'Twelfe Night' demonstrates how long the tradition of selecting the Yule sacrifice has lingered in folklore.
Now, now the mirth comes
With a cake full of plums,
Where Bean's the King of the sport here:
Besides we must know,
The Pea also
Must revel, as Queen, in the court here.
So, once again we are dealing with the death and resurrection of the SEED, the SON and the KING at these religious festivals. Since however the true biblical meaning of Jesus the Son of God and Saviour was never intended by ancient religions, these supposedly innocent practises are counterfeits. They could eventually be used in the propaganda effort leading up to the appearance of the false Messiah.
Having looked into the facts of the festival and its history, it seems only too clear that what we know as ‘Christmas’ is a thinly disguised version of the pagan celebrations known as Yule or Saturnalia, which themselves are leftovers from even more ancient and sinister satanic rites rejoicing in the death and resurrection of the substitute messiah.
Even as late as Victorian times, the base elements of the festival - the Yule Log, the goose, the kissing bough and the superstitious customs pervading every area of Christmas and its associated feast days - were an eloquent testimony to the true meaning of Christmas. It is only on our own day, the day of plastic snowmen and fairy lights, that this meaning has been obscured.
The Spirit versus the World
In earlier ages, when there was more of a religious, church-going and God-fearing atmosphere, it may be that Christmas was treated with more reverence. Like everything else, human greed and selfishness has taken over. And this makes us sit back and ask: should we go on taking part in something so commercialised and worldly?
Each year in the UK, we find more Christian symbols being removed. Schools avoid nativity plays. Local councils will not use angels, carols, cribs or anything that "might offend". Last year we had "for health and safety reasons" new-age style conical wooden structures erected rather than genuine trees in public places. They looked ugly and caused a lot of bad feeling, but such things are here to stay.
For Spirit-led Christians today, attitudes have begun to polarise. We find ourselves taking sides in all sorts of strange disputes. There is coming a sharp division between the people of the world and the people of the Spirit, who worship God in Spirit and in truth (Jn 4,24). We no longer compromise so much in matters of doctrine and worship because we sense that a sprinkling of the world’s error is enough to taint quite an amount of spiritual truth. A little leaven leavens the lump.
We are beginning to separate ourselves from all that pertains to organised Religion and the anti-Christian secular world and to seek out more avidly the core truths of the Word of God. We are now anxious to walk in the truth completely; we are concerned to sift out every hidden work of the enemy. We are acutely aware that deception is growing in these last days, and we want to avoid every snare of satan. One of his hidden works is undoubtedly the religious and pagan propaganda around Christmastime.
It is important to educate our minds on the subject of Christmas and become sufficiently well informed to make a judgement based upon truth. Let us turn then to what the bible teaches.Looking for Christmas in the Word
The Bible states the facts about the nativity of Jesus Christ, but never indicates a celebration of the event - indeed, no date - not even a season - is indicated in the scriptures. The Bible is silent about Christmas. There is no indication whatever of an annual festival to celebrate Jesus’ birth. The Christians of the book of Acts, Jews and Gentiles alike, were set free from their previous religious obligations and they worshipped the Lord daily in their homes.
What the Bible DOES say about festivals usually refers to pagan or Jewish festivals, which were so attractive to some early Christians that they began to renew their attendance. Paul reprimanded the Galatians for "observing days, months and seasons" suggesting that in doing so they were turning back to bondage to "beggarly elemental spirits" (Gal 4:8-11).
Love brings a balanced attitude
While counselling Christians to avoid the old festivals, Paul also warns believers against legalistic attitudes and judgementalism. He writes that some would condemn their liberty in Christ with regard to festivals (Col 2:16) and says that the old laws and rites were only a shadow of the reality to come. Paul himself felt free with regard to such things.
Whilst directing believers to be loving and accepting towards all who continue to rely on outward observances (1 Cor 8) Paul implies that such people are "weak" (Rom 14:1,2) and not completely set free in the glorious liberty of the Spirit.
However, he makes clear at the same time that this liberty is not license to sin or to act without discernment, for he warns Christians to "shun the worship of idols" (1 Cor 10:14-23) and to beware of becoming partners in the altar of "sacrifice to demons". For - as Paul says -"All things are lawful, but not all things build up" (v.23).
We are commanded to act according to our conscience. There are some who have no problem whatsoever with Christmas. In that case - so long as they do not cause anyone else to "stumble" - they are free to do as they believe right before God. I would suggest they become better educated about the depth of paganism they will be subjecting themselves to, however, and then have a rethink.
There are those on the other hand who are completely closed to ANY Christmas or other religious celebration, and furthermore condemn any who disagree.
I believe the bible commands respect, love and a non-judgemental attitude towards fellow-Christians. Who are you that you judge your brother in a matter that is non-essential?
Rom 14:5-11 one person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. ... But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
In order to become "fully convinced" in your own mind, you owe it to yourself to be aware and well-educated about all that religious festivals mean. That is the purpose of this article.
Personally, I don’t believe God would condemn outright those who celebrate Christmas with all its trappings, but nonetheless the Bible and spiritual discernment, with devotion to the truth, will and HAS led some to abandon Christmas. The closer we draw to God, the more we value heavenly things, and the more we abhor the world's ways. In addition, many have discovered the pagan aspects of Christmas and want to distance themselves from them. In doing so, we must be careful to allow others to find the truths and act upon them for themselves and not to make our rejection of Christmas a test of doctrinal soundness.
Remember that Paul, while considering all the old festivals and rituals a bondage, also participated in them when necessary to avoid offending others. (Acts 21:21-26; Acts 18:21).
Discernment with Liberty
It is good to remember, and to proclaim, that our faith is one of liberty. We are neither bound to observe religious ceremonies nor to avoid them, for we have not received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear (Rom 8:15).
The apostle Paul maintained a unique and God-inspired balance in his faith, for he was not afraid to eat what was set before him, whether previously offered to idols or not, yet he was conscious of the risk of causing others to stumble by his liberty.
We must be careful not to over-react, and fall into the equal but opposite error of judgementalism and condemnation of others. Nor should we become killjoys. We shouldn't refuse to make use of a public holiday simply because its origins are rooted in paganism. It is possible to spend the Christmas week relaxing in the company of family and friends, eating a special meal of some kind (whatever you really like, not just the Christmas traditional meal) and spoiling the children somehow without participating in the pagan festivities.
My own Personal Choices
Personally, I do not refuse absolutely to eat mince pies or Christmas pudding, even though I know their origins. I consider that they are not now made for idolatrous purposes. But I do not eat them in a ritualistic way, that is, at special times or for special purposes. I do not like to eat the "sacrificial" animals such as pork (boar) or turkey (goose) on Christmas Day, but I do eat something special that I would normally not buy (such as salmon or duck.)
I also choose cards that perhaps show a winter landscape, animals or something neutral, and choose the wording with care - using "Season's Greetings" perhaps. I avoid cards showing Santa, the Tree, or any of the pagan aspects.
I am perhaps "blessed" in not having small children to cater for at Christmas. For those struggling with the problems of how to teach children about Christmas, I believe that "honesty is the best policy" and that children appreciate your telling the truth much more than creating a silly myth about a man who is coming down the chimney. Children are better off for not being lied to. Also, if they are accustomed to your own special version of Christmas from toddlers, they will not think to question it when they grow up.
Let joy and truth be your guide, and pray about how to present an alternative to the traditional mythology. Perhaps you could take the opportunity to do something special for the children during the holiday period - a visit to a theme park, theatre, pantomime, circus or concert - something like that.
And if you really want to buy "birthday" presents for Jesus, why not do that at the time of year He was actually born - the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles. You don't HAVE to wait for December 25th in order to buy new toys for your kids!
As for decorations, I do refuse to buy or take into the house anything that has to do with Father Christmas, the Christmas Tree or any of the overtly pagan symbols. Today we are seeing a return to idolatry, and Christmas decorations often portray the sun and moon, and five-pointed stars. We can expect this to become more blatant as time goes by. Candles and angels are a religious turn-off in any case, and it would be better to do without them.
I don't need to look at candles, hang up little reindeer or kiss under the mistletoe in order to enjoy myself! I make the house look clean, bright and pleasant enough with fresh or potted flowers, and there are plenty of non-Christmas-related ornaments to make an attractive new display on the fireplace or table.
As for Christmas carols - well, I have never been a great fan of them, but on grounds of biblical accuracy I prefer not to sing them. If you examine the words of most carols, you will find they do not tell the truth. (Many of the popular Christmas songs are also ill-disguised homage to the ancient gods.)
More and more discerning Christians are backing off from Christmas and all its associations. I believe Christmas observance is important for the religious world, and dissent will become almost a crime in time. God is showing us that we have to draw a line in the sand, and go thus far and no further. As Paul says, let each one be convinced in his own mind. This means, also, that each one will be led by God to react to the Christmas season in his or her own way, working out a series of compromises that do not harm our faith, but also do not harm the feelings of others.
Be Aware; Be Fair!
Paul would not judge those who observed one day as better than another, yet he made it clear that their attitude stemmed from weakness and an incomplete knowledge of God (Rom 14:1-2 and 1 Cor 8:7) What he did advise was that each one be fully convinced in his own mind, each acting upon the faith he has and refraining from prideful and judgmental attitudes.
However, Paul and other early Christian writers were one in their condemnation of any involvement in the practises of idol worship, and we can be sure that those Christians who were saved out of such a pagan inheritance were very quick to abhor and reject what reminded them of their old ways. It was only a Church that had ‘forgotten its first love’ (Rev 2:4) that could return to the superstition and magic of the past and embrace the religious practises of unbelievers as if they were merely harmless shadows of the truth.
It is the task of the Christian to expose the works of darkness and bring them to the light where they can be examined and judged by all. Having done that, this study must come to an end, with the last word coming from the One who is all Truth:
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Therefore,"Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you." "I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." (2 Corinthians, 6:14)
(1) Another dark and much discussed passage must still be referred to: "And, lo, they put the branch to their nose" . The usual explanation (whereof the context gives some valuable hints) is that a rite connected with the worship of Baal (the sun) is here alluded to (see Smend and A.B. Davidson's commentaries on the passage). A similar custom is known from Persian sun-worship, where a bunch (baretsma) of dates, pomegranates or tamarisks was held to the nose by the worshipper, probably as an attempt to keep the Holy One (sun) from being contaminated by sinful breath (Spiegel, Eranische Altertamer, III, 571). Among modern Jews posies of myrtle and other fragrant herbs are held to the nose by the persons attending on the ceremony of circumcision, for the alleged reason of making the sight and smell of blood bearable. Another interpretation of the above passage would understand zemorah, in the sense of "male sexual member" (see Gesenius-Buhl, under the word; Levy, Nhb. Worterbuch, I, 544), and the whole passage as a reference to a sensuous Canaanite rite, such as is perhaps alluded to in Isa 57:8. In that case the 'appam, "their nose "of the Massoretic Text would have to be considered as tiqqun copherim (a correction of the scribes) for 'appi, "my face." Or read "They cause their stench (zemoratham) to come up to my face" (Kraetzschmar, at the place).
(2) The hot cross buns of Good Friday, and the dyed eggs of Pasch or Easter Sunday, figured in the Chaldean [Babylonian] rites just as they do now. The "buns" known too by that identical name, were used in the worship of the queen of heaven, the goddess Easter [Ishtar/Astarte], as early as the days of Cecrops, the founder of Athens - that is, 1500 years before the Christian era. "One species of sacred bread," says Byrant, (a) "which used to be offered to the gods was of great antiquity, and called the Boun." Diogenes Laerius, speaking of this offering being made by Empedocles, describes the chief ingredients of which it was composed, saying, "He offered one of the sacred cakes called Boun, which was made of fine flour and honey." (b) The prophet Jeremiah takes notice of this kind of offering when he says, "The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women kneed their dough, to make cakes to the queen of heaven." The hot cross buns are not now offered, but eaten, on the festival of Astarte; but this leaves no doubt as to whence they have been derived.
(a) Mythology, vol. i, p. 373. (b) LAERTIUS, p. 227, B. Source: The Two Babylons, by the Rev. Alexander Hislop, published 1943 and 1959 in the U.S. by Loizeaux Brothers, Neptune New Jersey, pages 107-108.
(3) Killing the King: The custom of electing (and formerly, sacrificing) a king at the winter solstice celebration has deep significance. The spiritual meaning is, of course, that the incarnate god and king must be sacrificed on behalf of the people and such is the case in one form or another wherever idol worship is practised. However, the killing of the priestly king has a historical background as well. Frazer has reported that the ceremony of killing the king actually took place in many countries, only later to be modified into the killing of a substitute, a prisoner of war or a temporary king who took the throne for a number of days solely to be put to death in the place of the actual king. This was the case in ancient Babylon, and the details of the ‘king’s’ reign are remarkably similar to those of the Roman Saturnalia, for Frazer quotes Berosus as saying, "the once-yearly feast lasted for five days, during which masters and servants changed places…a condemned prisoner was dressed in the king’s robes, seated on his throne, allowed to issue whatever commands he pleased, to eat, drink and enjoy himself, and to lie with the king’s concubines." During this time, he bore the title Zoganes, ‘man of wantonness’ which is the same as our ‘Lord of Misrule’, but also carried a double meaning for the sake of initiates who knew the ‘king’ to represent the ‘Man of Sin’ or false messiah. (2 Thess 2:3).
(4) King Bean and Queen Pea at Twelfth Night: (5/6 January) Twelfth Night is still regarded by many people as the end of the Christmas season, and this has a long-standing official sanction, as the Council of Tours of AD 567 ruled that the twelve days from the Nativity to the Epiphany would constitute one religious festival. For most of us nowadays the only practical aspect of the date is that it is said to be the day (or the last day) for taking down the Christmas decorations, or bad luck will follow, but in the past Twelfth Night had its own traditions, which have largely been forgotten.
The Twelfth Night cake was made the centre of a particular custom, by which a King and Queen were chosen to preside over the festivities. A bean and a pea were baked in the cake, and when slices were handed out to the company, whoever got the piece with the bean in it became King, while whoever got the pea was Queen. The custom was so well known that ‘The King of the Bean’ was proverbial for someone temporarily in charge of celebratory fun. In some cases, coins were used instead of beans and peas, while others adopted the more prosaic method of drawing names from a hat, which gave scope for widening the play-acting, by giving everybody present characters as well. Samuel Pepys recorded using this method for the first time in his Diary for 6 January 1669. Herrick (Hesperides, 1648) also devotes a whole poem to the ‘Twelfe Night King and Queene’. Substantially the same bean-King custom existed on the European continent, and Hutton believes that the custom was reintroduced to Britain from the Continent by the late Tudor period. "Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore".
(5) Jacob Bryant has also the following passage on this subject:--"The offerings which people in ancient times used to present to the Gods were generally purchased at the entrance of the Temple; .... One species of sacred bread which used to be offered to the Gods, was of great antiquity, and called Boun. ... The prophet Jeremiah takes notice of this kind of offering when he is spealing of the Jewish women at Pathros, in Egypt, and of their base idolatry; in all which their husbands had encouraged them. ... Jerem. xliv. 18, 19; vii. 18. "Small loaves of bread," Mr Hutchinson observes, "peculiar in their form, being long and sharp at both ends, are called Buns." These he derives as above, and concludes: "We only retain the name and form of the Boun, the sacred uses are no more." (Jacob Bryant, "Ancient Mythology")© 2013 Tricia Tillin-Booth. All rights reserved. Birthpangs Website: http://www.birthpangs.org/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.