IS CHRISTMAS THE CELEBRATION OF Saturnalia, or of JESUS???
By the beginning of December, the farmer should have finished his fall planting. Now, at the time of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing, was honored with a festival. The celebration was not on the 25th, but for about a week preceding.
The Saturnalia officially was celebrated on December 17 (a.d. XVI Kal. Ian.),
midway between two other agricultural festivals: In the Roman calendar, the Saturnalia was designated a holy day, or holiday, (feriae publicae) on which religious rites were performed.
It also was a festival day (dies festus). After sacrifice at the temple, there was a public banquet (convivium publicum), which Livy says was introduced in 217 BC (there also may have been a lectisternium, a banquet for the god in which its image is placed in attendance, as if a guest). Afterwards, according to Macrobius, the celebrants shouted "Io, Saturnalia!"
In Cicero's time, the Saturnalia lasted seven days, from December 17-23.
Augustus attempted to limit the holiday to three days, so the civil courts would not have to be closed any longer than necessary, and Caligula extended it to five. Still, everyone seems to have continued to celebrate for a full week. So it was celebrated from the 17th to the 23th, not even on the 25th.
The Saturnalia was the most popular holiday of the Roman year. Catullus describes it as "the best of days" (optimus dierum), and Seneca complains that the "whole mob has let itself go in pleasures." Pliny the Younger writes that he retired to his room while the rest of the household celebrated. Cicero fled to the countryside.
It was an occasion for celebration, visits to friends, and the presentation of wax candles (cerei), perhaps to signify the returning light after the solstice, and small earthenware figurines (sigillaria).
During the holiday, restrictions were relaxed and the social order inverted.
Gambling was allowed in public. Slaves were permitted to use dice and did not have to work. Instead of the toga, less formal dinner clothes were permitted, as was the pilleus, a felt cap normally worn by the manumitted slave that symbolized the freedom of the season. Slaves were treated as equals, allowed to wear their masters' clothing, and be waited on at meal time in remembrance of an earlier golden age thought to have been ushered in by the god. This equality was temporary, of course; and Petronius speaks of an impudent slave being asked at some other time of the year whether it was December yet.
The early Christians had to cease work for the one, three, five, or seven day celebration and they did not want to celebrate Saturn, or partake in the pagan ritual. So, they chose to use the time to prepare for a special day,
the twenty-fifth of December, the winter solstice, when the day was the shortest, but now beginning to be longer each day. More and more sunlight hours would be started on that day.
To the Christians, they thought of the coming of Jesus to earth, and this was the coming of The Light of the world and He began to shine at that day of incarnation and birth.
Since the pagan holiday had ended, and the debauchery of its celebration was over, the coming back to the celebration of light was a symbolic joy to the Christians.
During Saturnalia, the pagans had given candles in celebration of their god. So the Christians waited till their celebration was over, and chose to give gifts to each other, in celebration of the gift of God to this world, Jesus Christ. They reasoned that God gave, so we give, to remember the Gift of God. He gave much, very much and at this time of the year, Christians give much, very much in celebration of that.
So it was not the Christians who celebrated Saturnalia, it was later, that those who were still into paganism, saw the joyous time of celebration of Christians, and decided to take the 25th to continue their celebration. They have tried to steal the day from Christians. We do not need to give it up, because they want to steal our day.
After Constantine made their celebration illegal, they took the day of Christmas, so they could continue their celebration then. Christians did not take their days of celebration, they tried to steal the celebration day of the Christians.
In fact, I know of no one who celebrates Saturnalia now.
Christmas has been compromised by commercialism, greed, and many other things. Yet, Christians do not need to cease celebrating it properly due to many who celebrate it improperly. Many celebrate Sunday improperly, with everything but church... and worship. Still, I do not throw the day to the devil because of that. The same can be said for every Christian day of celebration. We need to celebrate the incarnation of the Lord Jesus, and quit being 'taken in' by the ones who want to attack everything in the faith.
We are not commanded to celebrate any day in Christianity. We should not celebrate a day. (See Romans 14) We should celebrate Jesus. We celebrate three days and three nights before Resurrection day, His death. Then three days later, we celebrate His resurrection. Is that evil? No! On Pentecost we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit. Every Sunday we celebrate the resurrection. On the 25th of December, the day after the pagans had celebrated Saturn, we can celebrate something wonderful, Jesus' birth, where one of the Trinity became man, so that He could die for our sins, and be our Atonement back to God’s family.
No, it likely was not the day of His birth, but 51 of 52 Sundays a year, we celebrate the Resurrection day on the wrong day too. So, half truths, wrong assumptions, and invalidated attack against Christians who love Jesus, are sometimes noted during this celebration time. Do not be discouraged, but celebrate Jesus!!!!
I have a clock that plays a bit of some Christmas carols, and it runs year round in my house. I am always celebrating Jesus’ incarnation so that He could die for me. I celebrate the cross and His death year round too. I celebrate His resurrection daily, but especially on Sunday, the day they found the risen Lord. Celebration of Jesus is not to be limited to a day, but having a day when we all celebrate in unison together, reminding the world of the great plan of God, is wonderful, not to be ashamed of, but proudly proclaiming the gospel message to the world.