“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Messiah Yeshua has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Yeshua is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:1-3).
What is the ‘spirit’ of Christmas? Many will respond with warm fuzzies like family and a sense of emotional well-being. However, it is during the Christmas season that people incur huge debt and the rate of suicide escalates. How does a ‘spirit’ of emotional well-being breed debt and death?
The ‘spirit’ of Christmas began in Mesopotamia with the worship of the god, Marduk. In Persia, the worship of Marduk became the worship of Mithra –– just a cultural name change. The centuries passed and the ‘spirit’ put its roots down in Rome as Saturn and the holiday of Saturnalia. Saturnalia became the Celts’ Yuletide and Scandinavia’s ‘Prodigal Sun.’
“For how many years shall this festival abide! Never shall age destroy so holy a day! While the hills of Latium remain and father Tiber, while thy Rome stands and the Capitol thou has restored to the world, it [Saturnalia] shall continue.”
Saturnalia was originally celebrated for one day on December 17, but it grew into a week-long spectacle of flesh pleasures culminating on December 24. Saturnalia began by dedicating Saturn’s temple through human sacrifices, especially children. Saturn was also known as the Greek god, Kronos, who ate small children. He is also called ‘Father Time’ and looks similar to Santa Claus. Could this be why small children fear Santa? Could this be why so many people take their lives at this time? Could it be they are the human sacrifices that the ‘spirit’ of Saturnalia requires?
After the human sacrifices were completed, the week-long festivities would begin with people shouting, “Io, Saturnalia!” Huge public banquets were prepared. Cookies cutouts were made with simple face shapes. People would eat, drink, and be merry. It was a time for friends and relatives to exchange gifts, especially wax candles and little dolls. Slaves would be set free and wore peaked woolen caps, similar to Santa hats, that symbolized their week-long freedom.
Saturnalia decorations involved greenery, swathes, garlands, and wreaths hung over doorways and windows. Sigillaria or figurines made of clay were hung on the bows of pine trees. A Saturnalia tree was common in Egypt and Rome long before Christianity incorporated it into Christmas observance. In Egypt, a palm tree honored Baal-Tamuz (Ezekiel 8:14). In Rome, the fir tree honored the same god, but was known as Baal-Berith. From a branch of these tree, the yule log came into being. Trees were not cut down and brought inside, but remained outside where they were decorated with sunbursts, stars, and the face of the God Janus.
The Sol Invictus, the god of the sun, was the premier god worshipped in the Roman Empire. The Emperor Aurelian made Sol Invictus the official religion of the empire and combined it with their other gods: Jupiter Apollo, and Sylvanus. The image of the Sol Invictus appeared on coins minted by Constantine in spite of his ‘conversion’ to Christianity. After the week-long celebration of Saturnalia and the end of the solstice, December 25 became known as the ‘Birthday of the Sun.’
In the fourth century, the Roman church united all religions and their multiple gods to create a‘universal, all-encompassing religious system. Pagan gods and their religious observances were re-named. Saturnalia became the Christ Mass.
The word ‘mass’ comes from the Latin word missa meaning ‘death sacrifice.‘ How ironic that the birth date of Jesus Christ, believed and accepted for many centuries by the Christian church as December 25, is actually the death sacrifice part of Saturnalia.
Throughout the centuries, these pagan holidays and their pagan god worship traditions became deeply rooted into Christianity through Roman catholicism. Even the Protestant Reformation did nothing to remove itself from the pagan god practices in which it was steeped. Today, all Christian churches, no matter what denomination, embrace the root celebration of Saturnalia or the Christ Mass. Remember, Paul’s teaching? If the root is unholy, so are the branches.
Christians celebrate Saturnalia or Christmas while claiming to be anything but Roman catholic. Though they acknowledge the Reformation and breaking away from the Roman church, they continue to embrace Christmas traditions rooted in unholy Saturnalia practices.
In Mark chapter 7, Yeshua discusses the traditions of men versus the commands of God. He said that if a tradition nullified a command of God, it should not be followed because the commandments are greater than the traditions. One Christmas tradition, specifically mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah, completely nullifies a command of God.
“Hear what the LORD says to you, people of Israel. This is what the LORD says: ‘Do not learn the ways of the nations … for the practices of the peoples are worthless. They cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter” (Jeremiah 10:1-4).
Some read these verses in Jeremiah and claim that cutting down a tree and adorning it with silver and gold has nothing to do with a Christmas tree. They argue that they don’t shape it into an idol; however, what is the context? ‘Cutting down a tree’ is a way of the nations, something that Israel was not to embrace. When gentiles enter a covenant relationship with the God of Israel, they join the ‘Commonwealth of Israel’ and are to leave their pagan ways behind. Just like Israel, they are not to mix the holy things of God with the idolatries of the nations.
Of course, we don’t craft the ‘tree’ into a literal idol, but that’s because we’re either too busy or too lazy. Then, there are fake or artificial trees, poles with branches fashioned to represent something on earth that God created. This is called idolatry.
Whether cut down from the forest or not, the ‘tree’ is central to a holiday that was never meant to honor God or His Son. The ‘tree’ cannot stand on its own; it needs a stand. Inside and outside homes, ‘trees’ are adorned with gold ornaments and silver icicles. They are lit up with strings of lights. On top of the ‘tree’ is the face of an angel or a star. Beneath it is the visual sacrifice of finances through extensive gift giving.
The ‘tree’ becomes the holy place in a home, central to the celebration of Christmas, and adored by those who erect it and those who visit. If you disagree, then I challenge you to remove the ‘tree’ from your holiday traditions. If you can’t or make justifications, then check your heart for idolatry.
The most common argument for having a ‘tree’ is that we can transform something pagan into something holy because we can sanctify it and give it to God. With this rationalization, the ‘tree’ begins to sound like a modern-day golden calf.
The Golden Calf
“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, ‘Come, make us a god who will go before us. “Aaron answered them, ‘Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, ‘‘Here is your god, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
“When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD’” (Exodus 32:1-4).
This passage about the infamous golden calf has several important details. First, Aaron who was chosen as a spiritual leader of Israel guides the people into worshiping a false god. They had no excuse for listening to Aaron. They had just been miraculously set free from slavery in Egypt. They had witnessed the destruction of Egypt’s gods by the power of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. Yet, with their new-found freedom, they did not listen to God, they listened to man.
We are to be like the Bereans and make sure that what our leaders have been taught and subsequently teach us to do lines up with God’s Word (Acts 17:11). The Israelites already had their encounter with God at the foot of Mount Sinai. They had experienced His presence and heard His Words, but they didn’t test Aaron’s words with God’s Word.
“I AM the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:1-2).
Second, Aaron cast an image; he created an idol. The image was of a calf, an animal worshiped in Egypt and judged with one of the plagues. After being enslaved, the Israelites forgot the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had absorbed the idolatry of other gods. They knew they had been brought to the mountain to worship Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, yet they had no idea how to do that.
While Moses was on the mountain receiving the details for worshiping God, they became impatient. They returned to what was familiar while they were enslaved. They embraced idol worship. There was so much immoral revelry, dancing and celebration around the golden calf that Moses had to ask Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?” (Exodus 32:21)
Third, and most importantly, Aaron built an altar and dedicated the golden calf to the God of Israel. He took a pagan idol and sanctified it to Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh and even set an ‘appointed time’ to worship it. God did not look at the intention of anyone’s heart; He struck the people with a plague and many died (Exodus 32:35).
What had they done? They took a man-made image, an idol, and then tried to redeem it to honor the Living God. They mixed the holy and the profane, the hot and the cold, and became lukewarm.
Moses took the calf and melted it in the fire. He scattered its powder on the Israelites’ water. He made them drink the contaminated water, non-living water. This is the same water you drink, water contaminated with the remains of pagan gods, when you mix the holy and the pagan.
Today many Christians want the world to put ‘Christ’ back into Christmas. They fight to sanctify something that came from pagan roots. In the ears of God, their voices sound much like that of Aaron and the Israelites declaring a festival to God with the idol of a false god.
The Jewish Messiah was never in the Christ Mass. It is a massive deception created by a false priesthood and has turned many away from the God of Israel into worshiping an abomination from the nations. Generations of Roman catholics accepted this pagan-rooted festival because the Word of God was not available to them. Today, however, there is no excuse for anyone. Everyone, in every language, has access to the Scriptures. “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48).
Several years ago, I came across a poem about Saturnalia. Even though our family had stopped celebrating the Christ Mass, the words in the poem still shocked me. There are those who are alive and well on planet earth who continue to worship Saturn and celebrate Saturnalia –– the ‘spirit’ of Christmas. The poem thanks Christians for keeping their pagan holiday alive for millennia! This pagan holiday became even more real when we received a “Happy Saturnalia” card from non-believing friends.
“Saturnalia,” by Selena Fox
It is the middle of December. The nights are long, the weather is colder, winter comes. Celebration is at hand. Renewing bonds of friendship. Visiting with family and friends. Exchanging gifts with loved ones. Candles, Dolls, Cookies, Sweets, Holly, Wreaths of Green. Surprises. Courts close. Battles stop. Time off from school and work. Holiday break. Singing, Dancing, Games, Merry-Making. Food … Lots of Food and Drink. Great Feasts and Parties.
To celebrate the Sun, the Land, the Ancient Ones, the great Circle of Nature. To welcome in the Winter and the New Year. To bring forth renewal, peace, and joy. Solstice Present … Solstice Past. This is the legacy of Saturnalia. Weeklong Pagan Winter Solstice Festival of Ancient Rome.
Saturnalia, your spirit and these traditions live on in the world today in Christmas feasts and New Year’s parties, in our Winter Solstice celebration tonight. Bless our connection with the ancients. Bless our connection with each other. Bless our connection with future generations. We rejoice.
Io, Saturnalia! Io, Saturnalia! Io, Saturnalia!
Selena first publicly shared this poem on Solstice night 1994 during Circle’s public Winter Solstice Celebration in Madison, Wisconsin. Contents©1998-2010 by Circle Sanctuary. All rights reserved worldwide.
Several years ago, I came across the poem above regarding Saturnalia. Even though our family had stopped celebrating Christmas, the shock of the words in the poem brought a different light to the whole celebration. There are those who are alive and well on planet earth who worship Saturn and celebrate Saturnalia. Notice the poem thanks Christianity for keeping their pagan holiday alive for millennia! The reality of this holiday became even more clear when that particular year we received a “Happy Saturnalia” card from friends.
©2010 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved. No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this article, please purchase Journey with Jeremiah: Nourishment for the Wild Olive.