I have been considering the issue of pagan holy days being repackaged by the Christian church. For example, while the Christian church celebrates Easter and not Passover, does the very act of celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection not somehow redeem the fact that it may not be on the right day or have questionable beginnings (inclusion of pagan elements)?
Q. I have been considering the issue of pagan holy days being repackaged by the Christian church. My tendency in my faith-walk is to fall into legalism (following an outward practice thinking that I am a “better” Christian because of it). Since I know it’s a pitfall for me, I am cautious to change my outward practice until I am certain that is the best way. For example, while the Christian church celebrates Easter and not Passover, does the very act of celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection not somehow redeem the fact that it may not be on the right day or have questionable beginnings (inclusion of pagan elements)? I’ve attempted to discuss this issue with several friends who are Believers, and they tend to “roll” their eyes at my comments. Do you have any insight on this?
A. It’s no coincidence that the two most important Christian holidays were once two of the most disgusting pagan celebrations, devoted to the blatant exhibition of adultery, gluttony, blasphemy and child sacrifice, behavior specifically forbidden by God. It was an attack on the sanctity of these two events that Christians resisted for over 400 years, but have now accepted to a point where to question them invites ridicule.
As far as His birth is concerned the actual date is unknown, although a late September time frame seems most likely. The way the holiday is celebrated is another matter. The Commercialism, over indulgence, and prominence of pagan symbols like evergreen trees, mistletoe, and Santa Claus (an all knowing, omni-present father figure who rewards kids based on their works) have no place in the celebration of our Lord’s arrival on Earth. Giving each other gifts to celebrate the birth of our Lord is one thing, but pretending they came from the false god Santa as a reward for good behavior is quite another.
There is a relevant date that can be more easily determined, and that’s the date of His conception. It probably happened on one of the 8 days of Hanukkah, and if God believes that life begins at conception (as I’m convinced He does) then it might be a more appropriate time for the Celebration of God becoming man to dwell among us.
Easter is different. The very name comes from the Babylonian fertility goddess Ishtar, and the main attractions are eggs and rabbits, symbols of fertility. There’s a tradition that colored eggs originated in the dyeing of eggs with the blood of newly sacrificed children, whose lives were given in the hope of a plentiful harvest. I can’t think of anything more repulsive to God.
The date of Resurrection Morning is well known. It’s the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits. It falls on the first Sunday morning after Passover. It’s by far the most important event in human history and deserves our full attention in a heart felt expression of praise and thanksgiving. We might be able to convince God that we didn’t know the date of His birth, but we have no such excuse with His resurrection.
Various pagan groups have made headlines lately accusing Christians of hijacking their holidays. Sometimes I think that the only way to re-focus our attention on the reason for their celebration is to give them back and to the best of our ability memorialize the days on which the events we revere actually took place.