Origins of Christmas


Atheists should celebrate Christmas in the same way that Christians should celebrate it: as a pagan holiday with dark and disturbing roots. Christmas is a perfect example of the flexibility, deceit and weak stance of a major religion, and can be celebrated that way. What better for an Athiest than to celebrate a holiday that undermines the credibility of a religion?

The origin of the holiday stems from the brutal Roman holiday, Saturnalia. It was a week-long period between December 17th and 25th, where human sacrifice, rape, intoxication, naked singing, and eating human-shaped cookies were the norm. In an attempt to appropriate the holiday and convert the pagan masses, the 4th century [1] Christianity attempted to convince pagans that they could still celebrate this horrific holiday as Christians and labeled the 25th of December as Jesus’s birth. In the 1600s, Puritans banned the celebration of the holiday, making practicing Christmas in Massachusetts illegal between 1659 and 1681 [2]. They did this because of its pagan origin.

The cruelty of Saturnalia was not erased or destroyed by Christianity

In 1466 Pope Paul II decided to revive some of the darker customs of Saturnalia and reintegrate them into Christmas. He overfed a number of Jewish people and then forced them to run naked through the streets for the enjoyment and entertainment of Roman citizens.

It wasn’t just the puritans who fully understood the truth of the origins of Christmas as the years progressed. In 1687 the Reverend Increase Mather of Boston pointed out that “the early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25th did not do so thinking that Christ was born in that month, but because the Heathens’ Saturnalia was at the time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” [3] Religious leaders knew and understood where Christmas came from, and that its purpose was to take the story of Christianity and warp it into a lie to convert the pagans.

Origin of the Holiday

The holiday has its roots not only in the Roman brutality fest, Saturnalia but also in pagan traditions. The Christmas tree was adopted from the Asheira cult which worshipped trees and sometimes brought them into their homes to decorate. Mistletoe came from Druitt rituals which used it to poison human sacrifices [4] and Santa Claus came from a cult that started with a group of sailors, spread into German and Celtic pagans, and eventually incorporated into Christmas to attempt to attract yet another set of pagans.

Since Christmas is a mixture of different religious traditions all starting from Paganism, Christians should be celebrating it not as their savior’s birthday, but as a successful attempt to adopt other cultures and convert pagans. Atheists should celebrate Christmas not as a materialistic holiday as many do but as a shining example of the weakness in a religion’s origins.

[0] Historical information from

[1] The Philocalian calendar first started listing December 25th as Jesus’s birth in 354 CE.

[2] Nissenbaum, p. 3[3] Increase Mather, A Testimony against Several Propane and Superstitious Customs, Now Practiced by Some in New England London, 1687), p. 35
[4] Miles, p. 273

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