vintage santa painting 19th century
Christian practices mixed with traditional Yule festivities to give us many of our favorite Christmas traditions.

Many people are aware that the contemporary celebration of Christmas is derived from a blending of Christian belief and pagan ritual.

What you might not know is exactly how this came to be.

How do we start with ritual bloodletting and sacrifice and end up with a honey-baked ham? What does snogging under the mistletoe have to do with Jesus’s birth?

We’ll unlock the origins of Christmas as it’s observed today by delving into old Scandinavian lore and customs. This is the history of Yule.

What is Yule?

Let’s face it, winter way up north is freezing cold, dark, and could easily be a dismal time of year if not for societal intervention. This sounds like a great excuse to drink up and party with friends and family. For people of many different religions, the winter solstice is a time to do just that.

Historically, pagans and Wiccans have celebrated this time as Yule, a name deriving from the Norse word jól. 

Typically starting at the end of autumn, Yule peaks on the three days centered around the winter solstice. With the harvest over, a bounty of crops and meat are available for feasts and merrymaking (often referred to as 'wassailing' in Norse culture).

Raging bonfires are fed by burly tree trunks called Yule logs and (in ancient times) men would douse themselves in the blood of animals sacrificed to the gods Thor, Odin, and Frigga. While all this is enough to put some hair on your chest, there’s more to the holiday than just that.

Yule is also a season that focuses on rebirth and renewal as the sun sinks down in the sky and prepares to rise again to usher in a new beginning. It’s a festival of light, both literally and figuratively.

The light and warmth of the fires that are necessary to survive the harsh winter take on a higher meaning as metaphors for the joy and importance of strong relationships. This solidarity is essential to live on and cultivate the landscape.

Christendom and the Heathens

Here is where we connect the dots. Christianity is so ubiquitous that it’s easy to consider it without historical context, but as a religious tradition, it actually shares quite a bit with ancient pagan practices. 

Existing similarities played a key role in this merging of Yule traditions with Christian beliefs, and have helped shape how many folks celebrate Christmas today.

For example, sacrifice is a major recurring theme in the Bible – from the story of Adam and Eve’s sons, to the smearing of blood on doorways for Passover, to the crucifixion of Jesus likened to the cleansing power of the blood of a lamb.

It all sounds rather heathen, doesn’t it? No wonder it was possible to merge the faith with Pagan traditions.

Think about it: the 19th-century Christian hymn Are You Washed in the Blood of the Lamb could easily be the title of an old Norse wassail anthem.

Christmas Takes Over

In fact, it was these parallels between Yule and early Christianity that helped spur the transformation of Yule into a Christian holiday. This metamorphosis is widely attributed to 10th-century Norwegian leader named Haakon the Good, a Christian ruler whose kingdom was majority-pagan.

Although he himself celebrated Christmas, Haakon the Good agreed to participate in many pagan customs, including ritual slaughter, in order to keep the peace in his kingdom. And rather than force his people to celebrate a certain religious holiday, Haakon instead declared that Yule and Christmas would be celebrated at the same time and that people were free to observe either holiday.

To ensure the celebration was extra merry, he also mandated that every man in the kingdom drink a minimum of 4 gallons of ale during the festivities. 

Thus was the Yuletide season merged with the European celebration of Christmas. As this new version of Yuletide became more widely adopted, some practices such as blood sacrifice were phased out, while other traditions remained.

How We Celebrate Yule Today

The evolution of Yule is really a story of toning everything down a bit. Many of the original customs remain to this day – just in different forms. However, we're willing to bet you'll still recognize them. 

1. Holiday Ham

While Pagans eventually abandoned the more extreme elements such as ritual blood drenching, the slaughter and consumption of a hog stuck was too good to give up.

This "feast of the hog" was stripped of its dedication to the goddess Frigga, but the idea remained: the simple enjoyment of a holiday ham; the precursor to the decadent spiral sliced honey hams featured at the center of many a Christmas table.

2. Gift Giving

Even the gift-giving tradition started out with a lot more intensity, as the Norse people believed they would be visited by two goats pulling a chariot through the sky.

Depending on one’s behavior over the past year, the goats would either leave gifts for you, or demand offerings on behalf of Thor.

This of course would pave the way for Santa, his sleigh, and flying reindeer. The one big difference? Santa never tries to shake anyone down. The worst he’s ever done is leave you coal in lieu of presents. 

3. Mistletoe

Hanging mistletoe is a custom that came from way out in left field if you weren’t familiar with it growing up. If it seems like it has no connection whatsoever to the story of Jesus, that’s because it doesn’t. However, it is divinely inspired.

Nordic people were mesmerized by the evergreen nature of the plant, as it would flourish even as the deciduous trees it grew upon dropped their leaves in a sort of annual death. Legend has it that one of Frigga’s sons was killed with an arrow carved from the wood of the mistletoe. 

Crying in mourning, Frigga’s tears fell on the wood and turned to the signature white berries we see today. As her murdered son was the product of her love and fertility, she required a kiss be exchanged between people meeting underneath mistletoe - I must say a very odd way to commemorate your child. Again here with the toning things down; the story of a tragic murder becomes an excuse to snog your crush.

4. Drinking & Singing

To muster up the courage to make your move, you might need a little liquid courage, and drinking has always been a Yule staple. Folks would chug spiced alcohol called wassail (or nog if it contained eggs and/or cream) and in a display of overt drunkenness, go into the orchards and make a bunch of racket to wake up the trees so they would bear fruit again.

This custom was the precursor to the modern holiday tradition of drunk dialing your ex in the dead of night, but it also inspired something far more cheerful: caroling.

Not only did the trees get a late-night serenade, but the revelers would also go house to house and sing in the hopes of being offered treats and more alcohol. Just like carolers today, these wassailers fostered a sense of community that is the hallmark of this time of year.

So whether you have a cool Yule, a merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a Noche Buena, or a cracking Kwanza, remember to take some inspiration from the old Nordic Pagans.

Raise a glass, feast, light up the solstice with friendship, and prepare for the new year ahead.


  1. Gail Dobson's Avatar Gail Dobson

    Great summarization! Some still strive for the 4 gallons of drink over those few days, LOL! The sun "returning" is observable by everyone.

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season.

    1. Derek Clive Williams's Avatar Derek Clive Williams

      Please remember to keep the Saturn in Saturnalia...

    2. Christopher Thomas Cotter's Avatar Christopher Thomas Cotter

      Well said Mr. Lewis(Esq.), but additional sunshine would be hard to see at just 90 seconds. Time pieces of the era would be none existing. How would they know the shortest day?

  1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

    The great god Mithra was born of a virgin in a stable on December 25th, under the sign of a comet (star). As an adult, he was executed though righteous, descended to the Underworld where he contested with the king of the dead. He rose again in triumph and now reigns in heaven. That was the religion followed by Emperor Constantine, as well as the entire military and political elite of the Roman, Greek, and Persian Empires, when he made Christianity the official state religion. He simply re-branded existing practice. Lipstick on a pig? Well, it worked didn't it?

    That practice of "christianizing" existing practices has continued throughout history, resulting in unique religious rites in places such as Mexico, Quebec, the Philippines, India, Syria, Finland, Hawaii, Nigeria, and of course, Britain. Christianity spread by adapting to local conditions. The reason it is dying out in the Western world, is that it is so calcified with outdated beliefs that it's no longer able to adapt in the real world. But Christian and Pagan are not very different.

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      There isn't a goddess in christianity, nor does Christianity believe in the ultimate unknowable deity, or believe in reincarnation, or the law of karma. Furthermore, the word sin, and repenting for sins, does not exist in Paganism. Many aspects of God and goddess does not exist in christianity, and there is no such thing as dogma in Paganism. There is also no such thing as an ultimate evil deity, such as Satan in Paganism, and Lucifer started out being the Greek god of light. Christianity does not even condone the use of astrology, or any of the other occult arts and science. You could not be more wrong in thinking that Paganism and Christianity are similar. Above all, no Pagan religion believes in the existence of Jesus Christ. Christianity and even Judaism didn't come into existence until very many years after Paganism, and the old religion of Wicca or Witchcraft, also known as the craft of the wise. To get a much better understanding of it I suggest you read The Wiccan Mysteries by Raven Grimassi. I have read that book a few times, and intend to do so many more. Blessed be!

      1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

        Excuse me, but there actually IS a Goddess of Christianity. The Blessed Virgin Mary is worshiped by many more Christians than is Jesus or the Father God. Jesus said you cannot enter the kingdom unless you be born again (reincarnation). 'You reap what you sow' is one important aspect of karma. ALL aspects of gods and goddesses are represented in Christianity by "saints", each of whom has a special super power, like minor deities. I think Emperor Nero would disagree with you about the existence of pagan doctrines. Worship him or die. Roman Catholicism is not at all different from paganism. They just use different words. But they still eat their god every Sunday.

        1. Jacquelyn Kendall's Avatar Jacquelyn Kendall

          Well said, David.

        2. David Cox's Avatar David Cox

          Catholic do that not Christians

          1. Pastor George Day's Avatar Pastor George Day

            @David Cox, actually, Catholics are also Christians, as are we evangelicals.

        3. Pastor George Day's Avatar Pastor George Day

          @David Arthur Lewis, first of all, Roman Catholics do not worship Mary but venerate her (even though sometimes they may go over the top with some practices) and the born-again belief has nothing to do with reincarnation: it's about the regeneration in spirit through grace, not coming in another life. Even the resurrection of the body is a continuation of the same person in eternity, not a birth into another existence. I could say more, but I don't want to overwhelm you :-)

      2. RevWood's Avatar RevWood

        Wicca is a new religion supposedly rebirthing the old pagan european beleifs, but there is no evidence what exists as Wicca right now is even close to old Pagan beliefs. I am very tired of the marketing of Wicca giving it an origin that is not truth

        1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


      3. Elizabeth Allyn Smith's Avatar Elizabeth Allyn Smith

        Carl, I always so enjoy reading your posts. Thank you.

        1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


      4. David Cox's Avatar David Cox

        Deceived is what you will be

      5. Pastor George Day's Avatar Pastor George Day

        @Carl Bernard Elfstrom, is this book offered by ULC?

    2. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

      David Arthur Lewis, if you knew, as Satan knew, that Christianity was coming and you wanted to make it less credible and acceptable to people in the future, wouldn't it just make sense, from your point of view, to inspire other religions, such as Mithraism with similar stories to those of Christianity, and put out counterfeits of the coming religion and head it off at the pass (as the saying goes), so that people, such as yourself, would say that "Christianity just stole those things from the Pagans", instead of their belonging rightfully to God? When even human beings can figure out to make preemptive strikes against enemies, of course, something that is far more intelligent than we are can figure that out, too!! The Church just restored those Pagan festivities and ceremonies to their original Godly purpose and focus.

      1. Pastor George Day's Avatar Pastor George Day

        @John D. Partin, remember: the devil does not have his own clay. He can mock, but never be original.

        1. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

          Satan doesn't have to have his own clay or be original, which he never is, anyway, but just mock and imitate the things and beliefs of God and true religion, which is what he always does, so as to make these things and beliefs less acceptable to people. Counterfeiters of money aren't original, either, or coming up with actual money in the first place, but merely imitating money to use for their purposes and gain. The same goes for art forgers and all other purveyors of false objects and ideas, etc. What human beings can figure out to mislead people, something much smarter than any human being can certainly also figure out to mislead people and keep them away from the real thing, and being original or having their own clay are irrelevant and evasions to the matter

    3. Pastor George Day's Avatar Pastor George Day

      @David Arthur Lewis, the reason we have different denominations in Christianity (including Universalism such as this church) is that we adapt. We may disagree more often than not, but we do adapt.

      1. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

        The reason there are different denominations is because they can't agree on their own dogma.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    If you know you the Christian religion history, Christmas wasn't celebrated until the 12th century. Every since then Christians have really marketed the heck out of it.

  1. Bob Beecher's Avatar Bob Beecher

    No mention of Saturnalia, the most popular festival around the winter solstice in Rome? It’s a major factor in why Christmas was set at this time of year.

    1. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

      I was wondering when someone would bring that up. It's usually one of the fist things mentioned.

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


  1. Donald Richard Starns's Avatar Donald Richard Starns

    I always look forward to the arrival of the Hogfather on Hogswatch Night. Where he goes, however, the god Bilious is soon to follow. Urk.

  1. Woodrow's Avatar Woodrow

    You have this Pagans of Christmas every year. Try something new and interesting

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      It's still just as interesting to us Pagans, Woodrow.

      1. Woodrow's Avatar Woodrow

        I know. Just got to get it going and one bite at least. Have fun.

        Definition of heathen

        (Entry 1 of 2) 1 old-fashioned + often disparaging : of or relating to people or nations that do not practice Christianity, Judaism, or Islam : of or relating to heathens (see heathen entry 2 sense 1), their religions, or their customs : Pagan

        1. Pastor George Day's Avatar Pastor George Day

          @Woodrow, the actual original meaning of the word 'pagan' is 'inhabitant of the country-side.' That's because, when Christianity spread, it first did so in big cities and towns. Those in the country would continue to practice their pagan customs, even while embracing Christianity. This explains a bit further, doesn't it?

  1. Paul Andrew Barker's Avatar Paul Andrew Barker

    I have never really been thrilled with christmas . I find it materialistic and has taken over the pagan. Celebrations maybe we could celebrate Christ as he should be celebrated not as an excuse to use pagan ritual keep the pagan festivals and the birth of Christ as it is meant to be a time of miricles

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Miracles: just another word for Magick. And I ain't talking about the magick tricks of magicians.

      1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


  1. Paul Andrew Barker's Avatar Paul Andrew Barker

    I have never really been thrilled with christmas . I find it materialistic and has taken over the pagan. Celebrations maybe we could celebrate Christ as he should be celebrated not as an excuse to use pagan ritual keep the pagan festivals and the birth of Christ as it is meant to be a time of miricles

    1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      I've never been thrilled by Christmas iether, Paul, or any of the other Christian holidays whose dates and festivities they thought they could steal from Paganism and Wicca. But we're still celebrating them the same as ever. We didn't confirm to Christian holidays and practices, but the other way around. Those deceitful christians knew they weren't good enough to do it on their own, and thought they could steal Pagans and turn them into christians by making Christianity seem similar. When they saw that wouldn't work, and they still couldn't get their way those sadistic, immature crybabies started burning people to death.

      1. RevWood's Avatar RevWood

        Wicca did not exist to steal from at that time wicca is a 20th century creation

      2. RevWood's Avatar RevWood

        Wicca did not exist to steal from at that time wicca is a 20th century creation

      3. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

        Carl, the Holy Land belonged to God and the Jewish people while it was falsely squatted on (for their dump!) by the Canaanites, Hittites, Midianites, and any other "ites" that happened to be roaming around and trespassing on that land, and the Jews just came and took back what was theirs, and much later came back again and took it back after being exiled for thousands of years for the State of Israel. Likewise, the Christians took back the days that belonged to God in the first place and rededicated them to Christ, after those days had been squatted (and dumped on!) by the Pagans. No actual Christians ever burned or tortured anyone, but only false "Christians" did that. Is that short enough for you, so as to not tax your comprehension?!!

      4. Wayne Chattillon's Avatar Wayne Chattillon

        Wicca was founded in England between 1921 and 1950

        Acceptance of Wiccans

        The use of the inverted pentagram by the Church of Satan has contributed to the misidentification of Wiccans as Satanists. Main article: Religious discrimination against Neopagans Wicca emerged in predominantly Christian England, and from its inception the religion encountered opposition from certain Christian groups as well as from the popular tabloids like the News of the World. Some Christians still believe that Wicca is a form of Satanism, despite important differences between these two religions.[210] Detractors typically depict Wicca as a form of malevolent Satanism,[16] a characterisation that Wiccans reject.[211] Due to negative connotations associated with witchcraft, many Wiccans continue the traditional practice of secrecy, concealing their faith for fear of persecution. Revealing oneself as a Wiccan to family, friends or colleagues is often termed "coming out of the broom-closet".[212] Attitudes to Christianity vary within the Wiccan movement, stretching from outright rejection to a willingness to work alongside Christians in interfaith endeavours.[213]

        The religious studies scholar Graham Harvey wrote that "the popular and prevalent media image [of Wicca] is mostly inaccurate".[214] Pearson similarly noted that "popular and media perceptions of Wicca have often been misleading".[137]

        In the United States, a number of legal decisions have improved and validated the status of Wiccans, especially Dettmer v. Landon in 1986. However, Wiccans have encountered opposition from some politicians and Christian organisations,[215][216] including former president of the United States George W. Bush, who stated that he did not believe Wicca to be a religion.[217][218]

        In 2007 the United States Department of Veterans Affairs after years of dispute added the Pentacle to the list of emblems of belief that can be included on government-issued markers, headstones, and plaques honoring deceased veterans.[219] In Canada, Dr. Heather Botting ("Lady Aurora") and Dr. Gary Botting ("Pan"), the original high priestess and high priest of Coven Celeste and founding elders of the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, successfully campaigned the British Columbian government and the federal government in 1995 to allow them to perform recognised Wiccan weddings, to become prison and hospital chaplains, and (in the case of Heather Botting) to become the first officially recognized Wiccan chaplain in a public university.[220][221]

        The oath-based system of many Wiccan traditions makes it difficult for "outsider" scholars to study them.[222] For instance, after the anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann revealed information about what she learned as an initiate of a Wiccan coven in her academic study, various Wiccans were upset, believing that she had broken the oaths of secrecy taken at initiation.[223]

        witchcraft, traditionally, the exercise or invocation of alleged supernatural powers to control people or events, practices typically involving sorcery or magic. Although defined differently in disparate historical and cultural contexts, witchcraft has often been seen, especially in the West, as the work of crones who meet secretly at night, indulge in cannibalism and orgiastic rites with the Devil, or Satan, and perform black magic. Witchcraft thus defined exists more in the imagination of contemporaries than in any objective reality. Yet this stereotype has a long history and has constituted for many cultures a viable explanation of evil in the world. The intensity of these beliefs is best represented by the European witch hunts of the 14th to 18th century, but witchcraft and its associated ideas are never far from the surface of popular consciousness and—sustained by folk tales—find explicit focus from time to time in popular television and films and in fiction.

        Meanings The modern English word witchcraft has three principal connotations: the practice of magic or sorcery worldwide; the beliefs associated with the Western witch hunts of the 14th to the 18th century; and varieties of the modern movement called Wicca, frequently mispronounced “wikka.”

  1. Paul Andrew Barker's Avatar Paul Andrew Barker

    I have never really been thrilled with christmas . I find it materialistic and has taken over the pagan. Celebrations maybe we could celebrate Christ as he should be celebrated not as an excuse to use pagan ritual keep the pagan festivals and the birth of Christ as it is meant to be a time of miricles

  1. Bishop William Dusenberry, DD's Avatar Bishop William Dusenberry, DD

    My related readings to date, have enabled me to conclude, that the best one line statement concerning all known religions, is a quote from physicist Ernest Haeckel in his masterpiece book “The Riddle of the Universe.”

    The quote: “There is absolutely nothing supernatural in the Universe, which any human mind can comprehend.”

    And Karen Armstrong (a former Catholic nun) in her masterpiece “A History of God” pointed out, to her readers, that the idea of there being only one God (monotheism) was initiated by Hebrew rabbis, some 2500 years ago, because none of the rabbis, back then, could explain who or what the multiple Gods were, where they came from, or what they’re doing now.

    Ergo, the rabbis fabricated monotheism, while still acknowledging that this “one and only God” was also ineffable (incomprehensible) so incomprehensible that it took every rabbi, several decades, or so, of study, so that they might understand what the monotheistic God is supposed to be; then the rabbis would be able explain what God is to the non-rabbis wanting to know.

    In other words, one had to study, for 20+ years, to know what a rabbi knows about God; and if one couldn’t do so, they’d just have to ask any questions about God, to their rabbi — who’d answer “you wouldn’t be able to comprehend my answer, unless you too studied the holy books for as long as I did, which was for 20+ years.”

    Which is why Pantheism is the only known way, to have a provable God, and all the other religions (including the monotheistic one’s) are in-fact atheistic, because every God in which anyone ever believed, was “a-God-of-the-gaps” which came in handy, whenever one was asked “where did your God come from, where is he located, and what does one do all day, in the Christian Heaven, for the entirety of eternity?

    In other words, X-Mass means to anyone, whatever anyone wants it to mean.

    And to the USA’s main potential enemy, China, X-Mass means profits; profits used to build up the Chinese military, In order that China can beat the USA in any future war.

    In other words, Christian USA’ns, are playing the major role, in funding our potential worst enemy, China, every time they purchase an X-Mass present, made in Communist China.

    How ironic— and pathetic— and especially, unpatriotic

    1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

      American capitalism, social insecurity, and their version of christmas is now China's fault?? Maybe you could have someone edit for you before posting.

      1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


    2. Alan Meunier's Avatar Alan Meunier

      Sounds more like American Capitalism more than anything. Maybe you should re-evaluate your thinking.

    3. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      My favorite one line religious quote is: "God can, if you let him". [The same thing applies to the goddess.]

      1. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

        Mine is "What God Wants, God gets (God help us all)"

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    Minister Nicholas Page How come this has now surfaced? I'm 63 years old bought up as a Christian never heard of paganism or druidism. Only believed in Santa Clause why is Santa everywhere ?Next you will tell me the Easter Bunny doesn't exist or the man in the moon is not real .Answer me this why do we not see pagans etc celebrating Christmas out in public. Answers please on a postage stamp to the following address North Pole

    1. arawngraalrd's Avatar arawngraalrd

      The Easter Bunny, Ishtar's Bonny, is an actual historic figure, as is Santa, Second Archbishop of Myra. Easter Bunny's last reported location was in Carabobo, Venezuela, and Santa, avatar of Odin, lives in Florida. I wonder, that neither you, nor this author, seem to ever haver heard of Krampus.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      It sounds like you wouldn't know a Pagan if you saw him, Nicholas. You're not likely to hear us shouting it from rooftops. However, Paganism of most forms started right there in the part of the world where you live, thousands of years ago, and flourishes there, and throughout the world. So, maybe you've lived a sheltered life, trapped in your own little world, and can't see beyond your nose. Nevertheless, I wish you and yours a very happy Yule! Blessed be! And you're also welcome to partake of the traditional four gallons of ale or nog, if you so choose, but don't take it with your medicine. I've got 1.75 liters of spiked eggnog and 1.75 liters of Irish Cream liqqueur, and with the mugs of coffee I pour it in it comes to more than four gallons.

    3. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

      I'm 51 and have known about those things over thirty years now. I've seen it coming up every year on various sites for as long as I've been online. It's a matter of actually reading outside your niche. You can look into the history of pretty much anything and have been able to for some time now. As for Pagans celebrating in public, how do you know if you never seen it if you are not entirely clear on what is Pagan and where it was adopted into Christianity? Much of what Christians incorporate into their celebrations today includes a lot from pagans.

  1. Ralph A. Lawrence's Avatar Ralph A. Lawrence

    I've always been amused by these interpretations trying to imply that because a present-day festival had pagan origins, it is therefore corrupt and invalid. So the pagans had their gods and the sensuous festivities. So do we. And the more the merrier. The Christians took over the pagan festivals with a new name because they enjoy a good time as much as anyone else.

    I remember working for a retailer who would advertise a big "anniversary" sale. I asked the owner what anniversary it was, and he said, none in particular. You can have a sale anytime and call it anything you want."

    Same thing about all of our pagan "anniversaries". If Christians, Jews, Muslims, Norwegians, or Chinese want to celebrate an event that means something to them, why should we question it? Do you have a birthday, or the anniversary of your divorce and want to have a party, go ahead. Make my day! And send me an invitation!

    1. Tom's Avatar Tom

      I had to re-read the blog after seeing this comment because I didn't get the impression it was saying anything about invalidation. After a second look, I am even more firm in the notion that it doesn't purport to say anything is invalid. Which brings me back down here to this comment. Can you please cite anything from the blog that takes the tone of trying to say contemporary celebrations of Christmas are invalid because many have roots in paganism? I'm sure despite my many re-reads I'm simply missing it and it is plain as day somewhere in there given the confidence of your comment.

      1. Ralph A. Lawrence's Avatar Ralph A. Lawrence

        You caught my point exactly. The history of condemning present day celebrations for having pagan origins is obvious to anyone who reads them. That's my point. The implied criticism is to say, "Look at those simple-minded Christians. Don't they know their party is just based on paganism?" Yes, in your words, they are, " . . . trying to say contemporary celebrations of Christmas are invalid because many have roots in paganism". And I was just saying, if you want to have a party on the day someone picked from an old pagan holiday to celebrate Jesus' birthday, go ahead. Enjoy yourself.

    2. RevWood's Avatar RevWood

      Christians did not take over pagan festivities because they "enjoy a good time” they took them over as part of the forced conversion of Europe to eliminate Paganism. Making Christian celebration resemble old Pagan ones made the forced conversion more palatable and the first generations could tell themselves they were secretary still practicing their pagan beliefs under another name, the Church knew in a few generations that part would be forgotten, and it worked.

  1. Reverend Kurt's Avatar Reverend Kurt

    Christmas is the period to be jolly. Santa Clause ( invention of the coca Cola Company) promotes spending and gift giving. Retailers love Christmas for the massive boost to sales and profits.The general population gets a few days holidays. Everyone is expected to be jolly and respect their community. (and spend money) The churches love it for similar reasons.
    So what is Christmas all about in today's culture really??

    1. Amber Fry's Avatar Amber Fry

      Santa was reinvented by that company but predates it by a couple centuries. As for the rest, well... that's a more capitalistic ideals out of control kind of thing. Christmas is what you decide to make of it. Follow the secular, family and friends togetherness version, the capitalistic version or one of the more religious versions. That's up to each of us to figure out for ourselves.

    2. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

      It would be more accurate to say that the current vision of Santa that we think of when we hear the name is an invention of Coca-Cola.

  1. Carolyn Ann Vaughan's Avatar Carolyn Ann Vaughan

    I celebrate Christmas and have no difficulty doing so. I consider it a holy day, along with Easter. It would seem to me that the condition of the heart would have as much validity as whether or not some other group considers it otherwise.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    I'm not having ham for Yule this year, but have been pigging out on pizza, burritos, egg rolls doused with teriyaki, breaded fish fillets with malt vinegar, and potato chips. The main thing is, pig out, and party hardy!!! It's even okay to substitute another drink, instead of ale or nog. And if you're on the wagon, you might smoke some almost legal herbs. As the yuletime saying goes "Eat, drink, and be merry"! And party 'til you puke!

    1. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

      Carl, have you ever heard of heart attacks and heart disease from overeating and clogging of arteries and the saying "Eat to live, not live to eat"? There are sensible reasons for the moral rules against the sins of gluttony, greed, lust, sloth, pride, envy, and anger, such as to keep people living longer in this world and not dying from heart attacks or being shot by angry people or raped or sexually assaulted by lustful people or otherwise adversely affected or dying early because of these sins. It's not about depriving people of fun in this world, but living sensibly so as to have more reasonable fun. It is undignified and makes people ridiculous and reduces them to grunting pigs and other animals for them to just follow their uncontrolled lust, gluttony, etc. and pig out and stuff their faces until they throw up, like the ancient Romans in the vomitorii, besides endangering their health or lives through heart disease, STDs, and many other problems!! "Eat, drink, and be merry" is a very immature and short sighted way of living and "thinking" because it doesn't take into account the consequences of our doing that and that tomorrow is coming!!

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Ehrman, I'm glad you're dead and buried if you think it's a dark imaginings to party hardy for Yule! Like I've said before, the Desiderata does not contain the answers to everything.

  1. Timothy Edwards's Avatar Timothy Edwards

    Hmm. Learned ministers, and teachers, Christmas has nothing to do with Christ Jesus. Nothing. My parents made sure that time of year that we had new toys, clothes , decorations and a tree.
    My father pastored, and we were s as sways at church. I was spoon feed The Word at an early age, and hearing it spoken was something I loved and was called to do. Ok. Christmas is pagan...full of idolatry. Similar to the high places? Some are without a clue, and wait for Valentine’s Day. Ok. ‘Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived’-2 Timothy 3:13. We, who speak Gods Word must have read first chapter of Romans. We have eyes, and can see wanton wickedness. Godlessness from government to grade schools and .... churches? Christmas is ungodly, certainly. Ministers, brothers, we who love God, and daily seek His face, are not surprised when we see sinners sin. Here’s the point: As true men of God, we have so much to do. We all reside in some state soiled by godlessness, from the largest house to the dog house. We have to speak the Word of God and welcome his spirit and guidance. His word is power. Speak. Only His anointing breaks the yoke of sin. Much to do brothers. So much.

    1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


      1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis


        1. David Hinckley's Avatar David Hinckley

          I've never heard of god butt talking. Must be a new thing

          1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


        2. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


      2. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

        Seriously though, John. It would be nice if you could turn the caps lock off. Personally, I tend to skip most of your replies because of it. Not berating, just a simple request.

    2. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


      1. David Arthur Lewis's Avatar David Arthur Lewis

        Please stop shouting. It makes you look like a crazy ranter. But maybe that's who you are?

        1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


          1. David Hinckley's Avatar David Hinckley

            Comment removed by user.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Ehrman, I've never become vain or bitter by comparing myself with dimwits like you. You must be joking. Give me a break!

  1. Rev Frankie PG's Avatar Rev Frankie PG

    So interesting of a read that I put it on FB. It is widely taught, amongst Christians, Catholics and more that the Christmas celebrations are absolutely of the pagan faith but that as Christians, Catholics and more we shall NEVER forget the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus CHRIST. The giving of gifts is acknowledged through Christ believers because of the three wise men that brought gifts to the Lord. The singing was because of the angels rejoicing (ie- Hark the Harold Angels Sing).

    As for the drinking, I'll partake on three gallons of nog, rather than ale.

  1. Kevin Joseph Kervick's Avatar Kevin Joseph Kervick

    The return to Yule movement is growing rapidly among authentic Europeans.

  1. Derek Clive Williams's Avatar Derek Clive Williams

    The 4th century originated Roman religion was itself cobbled together from mostly pagan components and exclusively pagan feast days and festivals before being brutally imposed upon the world under the imperial edict "convert or die". The coincidence of the prior midwinter Roman festival of feasting and gift giving called "Saturnalia" seamlessly morphing into "Christmas" appears far from coincidental?

    Meanwhile the only two nativity fables within modern versions of bibles contradict each other in nearly every detail and it remains a fact that there's no authentic and original first century originated historical evidence of the existence of the historically invisible and probably fictional character most recently known as Jesus.

  1. Robert Walker's Avatar Robert Walker

    Sin was the father of the sumerian sun god he was the moon God . He Shamash and Ishtar were the astral triad of Gods. So sin does come from Pagan origins the idea of SIn being carried or Original sin just by being born and needed to be baptised that as far as I know has no pagan origins

  1. Elizabeth Allyn Smith's Avatar Elizabeth Allyn Smith

    Carl, I always so enjoy reading your posts. Thank you.

    1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


  1. Robert G.Baird's Avatar Robert G.Baird

    I was disappointed no Mention of Santa. Santa was a real person Saint Nikolaus. lived in the 300-400 ad range. He was a priest. His parents died when he was young and he was raised in a monastery. Filling the stocking is based on him. stocking were hung by the chimney to dry. He filled them with gold coins for girls without a dowry to get married. He was wealthy but could not spend any money on himself being a priest. He was the patron saint of children and sailors. The sailors spread his story around the globe that is why most countries have a form of Santa with similar name. I have written a whole sermon that Santa has done several times about Santa and pointing to Jesus. This year I was able to get a picture of Santa kneeling at the manger with a gift for Jesus

  1. Robert Wilson's Avatar Robert Wilson

    Carl,Carl, Carl,

    Be nice have a merry xmass

    Rev robert wilson

  1. P. Keith Benefiel's Avatar P. Keith Benefiel

    St. Nicholas was not Santa Claus. Santa was the beloved chimney sweep of Northern Europe who saved their cities from burning down. He came down the chimney and was attended by his climbing boys, the elves. Didn't know about the sky-goats with their chariot. Wondered where that one came from. Watching a good sweep on a difficult roof, one does guess at how they got up there. Leave religion out of it. The sun (son) is coming back! Be thankful and get ripped!

  1. Theodore Conrad Desmarais's Avatar Theodore Conrad Desmarais

    Brief summary: Dec 25th : Roman holiday, ( Roman Catholicism cooption ) , Unitarian / pagan (Greek) ceremony from Transylvania ( still Unitarians in Transylvania) , English Unitarian Charles Dickens originates Holiday as Celebration not dark somber church day, as it was previously , mix in Nordic Reindeer and amanita muscaria ( red and white psychedelic mushrooms) reindeer and trees as Santa as a St Nicholas who gave presents to children and you have most of it , then add modern capitalism and consumerism and you pretty much have it . Jesus Birthday? See Zeitgeist on YouTube. First one of three .

    1. Allen Raymond Field's Avatar Allen Raymond Field

      When was Jesus born? Actual Date ? Be Blessed in all you do and always Bless someone else HAPPY Trails

  1. David Hinckley's Avatar David Hinckley

    I think I just chose my church: Paganism! I can have bonfires, drink myself insensible (nowadays that takes a lot less than it used to). Can I substitute a good red wine for blood?

    1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher


  1. Virginia Joiner's Avatar Virginia Joiner

    Once again, not a word of this is true. You're never going to learn the real truth about Pagan religions and practices as long as your sources are Christian History based. I'm sure I would get ignored again or I would explain Yule to you and how I celebrate it.

    1. Dr Rohn's Avatar Dr Rohn

      Don’t say, “no one will listen so why talk.” Open up, state your point and see who listens. I’m interested.

  1. Greg Formoe's Avatar Greg Formoe

    A lot of compromises were made to help expand the church. Jesus was born in August, there were no wise men, still, it's a nice holiday.

    1. Pastor George Day's Avatar Pastor George Day

      Greg Formoe, those known as 'wise men' were actually pagans from the East who heard the prophecy, in connection with a star, from Daniel.

  1. George Perkins Jamison's Avatar George Perkins Jamison

    I believe with all that's going on at the time in our life, when we should be loving one another that worrying about where the Santa Claus is good or bad is utterly ridiculous. I think we should be worried about going to church been good start so the Earth loving one another forgiving where we can and not forgetting where we come from. To grow up and destroy everything that our children and our children's children would be able to relate to what their parents believed in and did it once again utterly ridiculous. I think we should worry about our own souls and those of others that we can help save and worried about a white bearded guy, or a jolly fat Buddha with a bag over his back distributing gifts for children that learned their lessons about that religion and children that learned their lessons and were good that got received gifts. Please find something better to bitch about than that. Reverend George Jameson

  1. George Perkins Jamison's Avatar George Perkins Jamison

    Once again it seems like we find ourself worrying about the wrong thing. I don't believe God whatever abandon us over whether we believed in Christmas and a white bearded man or any Buddha or any other religious believer that giving children gifts and getting together and loving one another that are special to us and caring about other people that have less than us is a bad thing. And like others have said it's a nice holiday the rest of the world just needs to get over it. George Jamison minister and Snyder Texas

  1. John D. Partin's Avatar John D. Partin

    Reverence for the Blessed Virgin Mary and petitioning her in prayer aren't the same thing at all as worshipping her, anymore than reverence for anyone else or for all of us as Reverends (objects of reverence) in the ULC means worshipping them or us. Would you claim to love any man, but then not honor his mother or insult or minimize her? If you did, you wouldn't be friends with that man for very long or be truly loving him or loved by him. It's not any different with Jesus' mother and we honor her because of her Son, but only worship the Son. We are all told to pray for one another and so it isn't worship of Mary to also ask her to pray for us, the same as we ask other people to pray for us. Because she is the mother of God the Son, she can relay our prayers to her Son and God with more effect than if they were sent through another person. "You must be born again" doesn't refer to reincarnation, but to spiritual rebirth, not bodily rebirth. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the spirit is spirit". "You reap what you sow" again refers to consequences for our actions in this life or after death in the next world, not to consequences for actions in a future earthly life. Saints having specific things that they are noted for helping people with in prayers, more than some other saints, though prayers to any of them can help, hardly actually makes them "gods" or all of us who people ask to pray for them would also be "gods", especially if our prayers help people to obtain their requests more than some other people's prayers would. The saints have whatever pull they have with God only through their own subservience to God, whereas the Pagan gods were all worshipped themselves and prayed to for help directly. The saints point us toward God, but the gods only want people to focus on themselves. That is the difference between the saints and gods. The Eucharist isn't the same as the old Pagan or mystery religions' sacrifices, either, since Jesus said "If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you shall have life within you", whereas the old Pagan and mystery rituals were again devoted to selfish and unholy beings, and not to our God Who says that He is love and tells us to love one another as He has loved us and to love our neighbors as ourselves. None of the Pagan gods said anything even close to that!! Anybody can counterfeit anything or even counterfeit it before the genuine article has been revealed to the world, in order to try to "invalidate" that genuine article and keep people from accepting or believing in it, but no more than counterfeit money makes real money worthless do counterfeit Pagan rituals make the Catholic celebration of the Eucharist worthless, even though they were here before it as a preemptive strike against the truth.

  1. Edward Hamilton Calhoun's Avatar Edward Hamilton Calhoun

    Bah Humbug

  1. Kathryn Darcy Smith's Avatar Kathryn Darcy Smith


  1. Michael Barton's Avatar Michael Barton

    This didn't really answer anything. Some of the traditions came from the Vikings as they pillaged England (England is. a placeholder name for the countries that were in existence at the time), and then merged with England over time (a lot of british people come from Viking DNA), and other countries that were around back then.

    But Santa came from a Saint and the stories evolved over time. The Romans made Christmas day in December. There was a rebirth of Christmas that came from commercialization. Rudolph was a character from the last 60 years. Lots of things are more recent than the old traditions that may have existed, but have no real connection to modern times.

    Babies say googo gagga. Doesn't mean they learned it from the Romans or other pagans that existed years past.

  1. Mary's Avatar Mary

    You need to go back further in time you have missed the start completly. Christmas, yule, solstice is derived from Ancient Egyptians. Ancient Egyptians used to decorate conifers and made wreaths as well as garland to celebrate Ra, the Sun God. They believed that winter came every year because Ra was sick. On the 21st or 22nd of December, during the solstice, the population used to celebrate Ra by filling their home with beautiful evergreen trees.

Leave a Comment

When leaving your comment, please:

  • Be respectful and constructive
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Avoid profanity, insults, and derogatory comments

To view the full code of conduct governing these comment sections, please visit this page.

Not ordained yet? Hit the button below to get started. Once ordained, log in to your account to leave a comment!
Don't have an account yet? Create Account