Secular Holiday or religious Holy Day?

In China he is called Christmas Old Man. In the United Kingdom, he is known as Father Christmas. People in Russia use the name Grandfather Frost, and in the United States, he is dubbed Santa Claus.

Many view this jolly old man who sports a large belly and snow-white beard as the very personification of Christmas. But it is also common knowledge that Santa Claus is a myth, a legend based on traditions associated with a fourth-century bishop of Myra (in modern-day Turkey).

Customs and traditions have always exerted a powerful influence on celebrations, and Christmas is no different. The Santa myth is just one example of folklore tied to a popular holiday. While some people claim that Christmas customs are based on events recorded in the Bible, in reality most of these customs have pagan sources.

A further example is the Christmas tree. The New Encyclopedia Britannica says: "Tree worship, common among the pagan Europeans, survived after their conversion to Christianity in the Scandinavian customs of decorating the house and barn with evergreens at the New Year to scare away the devil and of setting up a tree for the birds during Christmastime."

Making wreaths of holly or other evergreens is another popular Christmas tradition. This too is deeply rooted in pagan worship. Ancient Romans used holly branches to adorn temples during Saturnalia, a seven-day mid-winter festival devoted to Saturn, the god of agriculture. This pagan festival was especially noted for its unrestrained revelry and licentiousness.

The Christmas custom of kissing under a sprig of mistletoe may seem romantic to some, but it is a throwback to the Middle Ages. The Druids of ancient Britain believed that the mistletoe held magical powers; hence, it was used as protection against demons, spells, and other kinds of evil. In time, the superstition arose that kissing underneath the mistletoe would lead to marriage. This practice is still popular among some people around Christmastime.

These are but a few of the modern Christmas traditions that have been influenced by pagan teachings. You may wonder, though, how this all came about. How did a holiday that professes to honor the birth of Christ become so entangle with non-Christian customs? More important, how does God view the matter?

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