I've been asked before if I celebrate Hanukkah instead of Christmas. The answer is no. I celebrate Hanukkah because it is such a meaningful holiday. It is all about God's miraculous protection and provision, and it's a reminder to rededicate our lives to God and to stand up for what we believe in. You can read more about why I love Hanukkah here. As for Christmas, well, that's another story...
I have many warm and happy memories of Christmas, both from when I was growing up and from when I grew up and had kids of my own. My parents never told me there was a Santa. We were always a "Jesus is the Reason for the Season" family, and my husband and I took the same approach with our girls. Christmas was a happy, fun time for family togetherness, singing, presents, decorating, making cookies, and celebrating the birth of Jesus.
Then a few years ago I started to wonder about some things about Christmas. Things like why is Christmas on December 25? Is that really the day Jesus was born, and how do we know? And why do we have a tree to put presents under, and boughs of holly and yule logs, and why do we kiss under the mistletoe? Why do we make gingerbread men and go caroling? Why do we hang stockings, especially if we don't believe in Santa? And where did the whole idea of Santa come from anyway? Was he really an actual person? I wondered where all of these traditions came from, and why do we all do them if we don't even really know what they mean?
So I did some research. And I was horrified. I found that most of the traditions that have to do with Christmas came from some ancient pagan ritual or custom! Jesus was not born on Christmas. He was probably born in September or October, but we don't even know that for sure. December 25 was the date that the re-birth of the sun god was celebrated in several different cultures long before Jesus was even born. In an attempt to convert pagans to Christianity and perhaps unite his kingdom, the Roman emperor Constantine decided to incorporate the festival of Saturnalia (Dec. 17-25) and the festival of the birth of Mithras (Dec. 25-Jan. 1) into Christianity. This was the beginning of Christmas. Evidence of the depraved customs of these pagan festivals still remains today in the modern observance of Christmas. This evidence is in the tree, the holly, the mistletoe, the yule logs, the gingerbread men, the caroling, Santa, and almost every other tradition you can think of that has to do with Christmas. None of these things have anything to do with celebrating the birth of our Savior.
When I found out the truth about Christmas, I shared the information with my husband. We then shared it with our daughters, and we made a family decision. The decision turned out to be very controversial among our friends and family, but it is very important to us. We decided not to celebrate Christmas.
Amazingly, even before we made this decision, we had been learning about God's holidays found in the Bible. We were learning about Passover - the holiday that Jesus was referring to when he said "do this in remembrance of me". We learned about Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles. We had begun celebrating some of these, and we were learning how full of meaning they are. They each have significant historical meaning, they each have applications to our lives today, and they each specifically point to Messiah! They are packed full of symbolism that is so detailed that it could only have been designed and placed there by God himself. We also learned about Purim and Hanukkah, which commemorate God's amazing and miraculous deliverance of His people. The traditions associated with all of these holidays are full of significance and purpose. Through celebrating them we have learned so much about God's incredibly intricate plan and His wonderful love and mercy. We have learned more about our Messiah Yeshua than we have ever known before! Throughout the year, each time we celebrate one of these holidays, we are reminded of all we have learned, and each time we learn even more.
So, our decision to not celebrate Christmas was not a difficult one. Throughout the Bible, God repeatedly tells his people to get rid of their idols and anything that has to do with other gods. That's what we're trying to do. We are choosing to honor God by celebrating His holidays that He instructed His people to keep, rather than trying to honor Him with customs and traditions that remind Him of things he hates. Here's a little story to illustrate what I mean:
Once upon a time there was a man who was the father of many children. This man's children wanted to do something very special in his honor. They asked him what he would like them to do, and so he gave them a set of detailed instructions. He told them the things he loved and the things he hated. He told them what would mean the most to him, and also the things that he specifically didn't want them to do. He told them that if they followed these instructions everyone would know that he was their father and they were his children. He even told them that these instructions were also for their good; that they would be especially blessed if they carried them out. But, in planning this special event, the children got sidetracked. They listened to other children of other fathers. They saw the things that the other fathers preferred, and they thought those things might work better to honor their father, too. Eventually the instructions were set aside and forgotten. When it came time for the event, it was huge and spectacular. But it was nothing like the father expected or wanted. It didn't include any of the things he had told them he loved, and it did include some of the things he had said he hated, and even some things he had told them specifically not to do! Although his children loved him very much, it seemed as if they didn't care at all about his instructions. It seemed more important to them to do what they thought was best. And sadly, the children missed out on the good things that their father had built into the instructions especially to bless them.
I think it is so important to do things God's way. I think He is very disappointed when we choose to do things our way. Sometimes it's necessary to change our ways to match up with His. When we do this we are blessed.
I will close this post with a challenge to you, dear readers. If you are a believer in Jesus, and you try to live your life for Him, here is your challenge:
Understand the reasons why you do the things you do.
Dig in and really study God's Word.
Know what He wants you to do.
And then...do it.