The Christmas Tradition

Jeremiah‬ ‭10:3-4‬ ‭KJV‬‬ “For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.”

Some have asked the question does Jeremiah 10:3 have relevance to the Christmas tradition. The answer would emphatically have to be “No” because Jesus had not yet been born. There was no such thing in the Old Testament of a holiday during this time. We must keep in mind, the Jewish New Year starts with Rosh Hashana, around September/October on the Georgian calendar, so our end of the year in December is like their Jewish first quarter (March).

Jeremiah 10:3, however, does speak to idol worship that was held during those times. In the Old Testament the prophet Jeremiah was calling out the pagan worship of cutting down trees, taking the wood to create idols and covering it with silver or gold. Notice the scripture says “the hands of the workman” meaning individuals would carve figurines in different shapes to honor these gods. We see this again in the very common story of the golden calf the Children of Israel made in the wilderness. Jeremiah was rebuking them for creating idols with the wood from the trees.

During the Roman era when the New Testament was written, is the first time we see a similarity to our current day Christmas tradition. The Romans began creating mythical gods that they would worship. During the winter months they honored Saturn with the evergreen tree branches. The fact that these trees stayed green year-round was a sign of the gods to them. So they created a festival during the time of December called Saturnalia where they would exchange gifts, celebrate, and have fun.

During my brief research, the birth of Christ and the Christmas tradition had not yet been celebrated until about AD 300. When Constantine became emperor he became a Christian according to history. This is when the birth of Christ was first recognized during the month of December.

When the Puritans first came to America they despised the tradition recognizing it as pagan, from the Romans, but not because scripture prohibited it. As German settlers immigrated to America during the 19th century, they brought the Tree decorating tradition. It was later infused with commemorating the birth of Christ and eventually became the Christmas holiday that we now celebrate. Although the two traditions had no connection whatsoever to each other, they became known as one.

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