Maybe Christmas Was Invented by Pagans in Ancient Rome?

Maybe Christmas Was Invented by Pagans in Ancient Rome?

 Was Jesus born on December 25th, or maybe Roman’s celebration on this date has something to do with it?

The Romans celebrated a holiday called Saturnalia, which had many similarities to our modern-day celebration of Christmas. This has led to some serious speculation about an alternate Christmas origin story.

Saturnalia was celebrated before Christianity and was considered a time for feasts, showing generosity to neighbors and those less fortunate. They also had decorated trees and the ritual exchange of gifts. It sounds like our modern-day Christmas.

Records of Saturnalia date back as early as 217 BC, when Roman people would get together and celebrate the end of the harvest and honor Saturn, the god of sowing. It was a 7-day celebration beginning on the winter solstice and reaching its peak on December 25th. Tree decoration was an essential part of the celebration; however, instead of cutting down a whole tree, the people would cut single branches and turn them into wreaths to decorate homes and temples.

They also decorated living trees where they grew with ornaments representing the sun and stars. It was such an important holiday where people enjoyed relaxed dress codes and exchanged small gifts of toys and candles. The state even postponed executions and war declarations to ensure everyone could enjoy the festivities.

When Constantine, the first Christian emperor, took office, the holiday fell out of favor with the rise of Christianity. Pagan festivals and traditions was Christianized and rebranded.

Whether Saturnalia turned into Christmas is still a matter of debate. Some point out the many similarities between the two holidays, their date on the calendar, the spirit of the season, and the activities that people took part in.

Also, I'd like to point out that the first records of Christmas being celebrated as the birth of Jesus came from Rome. The Roman Philocalian calendar in the year 354 AD references Christmas as a holiday on December 25th, commemorating the birth of Christ.

Skeptics point out that the celebration had many differences. For example, there was a flipping of roles between slave and master. They would exchange clothes, and the masters would serve the slaves at the table. Or how about naked singing? Ice dunks? I have seen none of this going on on Christmas day.

Church leaders argued that even though there was no proof of the date and time of the birth of Jesus, the world was supposedly created around the spring equinox, so God must have decided that Jesus be conceived then too. So, if you fast forward nine months, from late March, the Virgin Mary would have given birth around the winter solstice. What do you think?

Back to blog

Leave a comment