A Christmas Celebration to Remember

When I was a child, I celebrated Christmas and believed in Santa Claus. I have long since stopped keeping Christmas. Here’s why.

It was the first Christmas celebration I can remember. I was 5 years old and filled with anticipation and excitement—Santa Claus was coming to our home and bringing presents for our family, including my brother and me.

Waiting for Santa

Our family was living in a remote region on the east coast of South Africa. Dec. 25 finally arrived, and we were informed that Santa was making a special trip to personally deliver our presents. You can imagine our excitement. As darkness descended, our family gathered together in the lounge for this special event. We were told that Santa would emerge through the lounge door, not the chimney.

My father finally announced that Santa was about to arrive and that he was going outside to meet him. We distinctly heard the roar of an engine. It was Santa arriving! I waited with bated breath, my eyes firmly fixed on the lounge door. Then I heard the plodding of steps. Slowly the door opened, and there he stood—Santa Claus.

Santa opened the large sack he had slung over his shoulder and proceeded to hand out gifts to everyone. He handed me the exact fluffy dog I had asked for—this remarkable individual actually knew what I wanted for Christmas!

After handing out the gifts, he announced that he still had other families to visit, and with a final “ho, ho,” he disappeared through the door. A minute later there was the sound of an engine starting up, and Santa was on his merry way. How he was able to visit everyone in one night was beyond my reasoning ability. I was so enamored by my fluffy dog that I barely noticed my father returning afterward to join the family.

A surprising discovery

A few years later my mother asked me to fetch some items from our attic. While there, I noticed a cardboard box tucked away in the corner. My curiosity was aroused, and I slowly opened the lid and peered inside. To my utter amazement, it contained the garments, and even the beard, Santa wore that evening!

Astounded, I approached my visiting grandmother with my discovery. She then spilled the beans!

The individual I had met was not Santa, but my father disguised in Santa attire. My grandma informed me that there was no such person called Santa—but she assured me that the intentions of my parents were honorable and that, more important, it was a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ and a time for families to spend together.

Does the Bible have anything to say about the celebration of Christmas and the involvement of the fictitious figure of Santa Claus?  

The problem with Christmas

Before we proceed, carefully consider these important questions.

Are the opinions of people more important than what God says? Should we follow our own opinions and feelings, or should we follow the teachings of God’s Word? A good starting point is Proverbs 16:25: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Keep that scripture in mind as you read the rest of this blog post.

Where did Christmas come from? A good encyclopedia or a simple Google search will show that Christmas has its roots in ancient pagan sun worship, not the Bible. There’s not one example of anyone in the Bible celebrating Christmas. We publish many resources that provide historical documentation of the pre-Christian roots of Christmas. You will find links to some of those articles at the end of this blog post.

Should we follow our own opinions and feelings, or should we follow the teachings of God’s Word?The Bible shows that instead of Christmas, true believers observed Jesus’ death through the festival of Passover (Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11:23-30) and celebrated other biblical festivals.

So why do so many people who profess Christ and the Bible keep Christmas? Well, just like my grandmother, many feel that the intention and traditions of Christmas are good—even if they understand that it’s not biblical. But we should always be leery of basing our beliefs on our feelings. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our heart, the seat of our feelings and emotions, can deceive us. Just because something seems good and feels good—doesn’t mean it is good.

Instead of following our feelings or human-devised traditions, we should consider the message of Jeremiah 10:23: “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” We need God’s help in order to determine what is right and what is wrong.

God specifically warns us against worshipping Him according to the ways pagans worshipped false gods (see Deuteronomy 12:31). Jesus said that we can worship in vain (uselessly) when we teach made-up doctrines: “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

Israel: a case study in false worship

God, through Moses, specifically warned Israel against worshipping Him with pagan customs (Deuteronomy 12:29-32). The Israelites had spent hundreds of years watching the Egyptians worship their gods through images of animals, so when they didn’t have Moses to guide them, they resorted back to a worship method they were familiar with.

When Moses went atop Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments, the Israelites molded a golden calf as a symbol to worship God. They believed and felt like this honored God (Exodus 32:4). They proclaimed: “Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD” (verse 5, emphasis added). They said they were honoring the true God through this golden statue. They felt God would find this acceptable.

When Moses discovered what they were doing, he immediately recognized the people were sinning—breaking God’s law: “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold!” (verse 31). God sent a plague to help them learn an important lesson: Don’t bring pagan customs into your worship of Me!

Like the golden calf, Christmas is a pagan custom. It was merged into Christianity hundreds of years after Christ’s birth as a way to appease pagan converts. To make matters worse, even though it claims to honor Jesus’ birth, its traditions contain several myths that actually confuse people about the real birth of the Messiah. 

It was years later that I came to understand the origins of Christmas and why it actually dishonors Jesus Christ. When I learned the truth about Christmas, I stopped keeping it and began celebrating the festivals found in the Bible.  

That was over 50 years ago, and I have never for a moment regretted that decision.

About the Author

André van Belkum

Andre van Belkum

Andre van Belkum currently serves as the pastor of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in New Zealand and the Pacific region. Previously he pastored congregations in southern Africa, including South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

Read More