Christmas Day is an annual Mass celebrated by Christians to commemorate the birth of Jesus. Just as other events, borrowed from pagan cults, scientists believe that Christmas also owes its origin not to the birth of Jesus, but mostly is a continuation of pagan rituals.
The adoption of Christianity in Europe was accompanied not only with the displacement of pagan cults, but also borrowing some of their elements. So to ease the population shift from one religion to another, the Christian church often retained pagan holidays, but gave new meaning to them (Pappas, “Pagan Roots? 5 Surprising Facts About Christmas”). It is therefore not surprising that such a modern holiday as Christmas that we are accustomed to believe to be fully Christian, has, in fact, deep pagan roots.
Thus, the tradition of decorating the Christmas tree came from pre-Christian times. Ancient Egyptians were decorating palm trees on the occasion of their celebration. And the ancient Germans celebrated the winter solstice (December 22) by posting on the spruce, which is a symbol of resistance and of eternal life, sacrifices to the gods: refreshments and decorations. In addition, on this day it was common about pagans to give each other gifts (Pappas, “Pagan Roots? 5 Surprising Facts About Christmas”).
Even the date of Christmas was originally selected in accordance with pagan traditions. In early Christian scriptures, there is no clear indication of the date of Christ's birth, and December 25 was first mentioned in the year 221 in the annals of one of the first Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus (Pappas, “Pagan Roots? 5 Surprising Facts About Christmas”). In 354, it was decided by the Church to coincide the celebration of Christmas to the winter solstice. On this day in many pagan cultures, there was a celebration of the birth of the gods: in Greece it was the god of wine, Dionysus; in Egypt – the lord of the underworld, Osiris; in Rome in the beginning of new era – the sun god Mithras, etc. Mithraism, for example, was a popular celebration among common people in the Roman Empire at the time; so to weaken its position and to obtain public support, it was decided to appoint Christmas on the same day as the birth of the Invincible Sun (Pappas, “Pagan Roots? 5 Surprising Facts About Christmas”).
The final decision on the appointment of the date of Christmas on December 25 was adopted only in 431 at the Third Ecumenical Council. Thus, Christmas coincided with the Roman Saturnalia and expelled them (Pappas, “Pagan Roots? 5 Surprising Facts About Christmas.
Christmas tree has also the story of its origin from pagan beliefs. Holly, ivy and mistletoe were recognized symbols of immortality and fertility among the pagan nations of antiquity, since these evergreens do not shed their leaves in winter and do not change their green color to brown (the symbol of the dying) as the other trees. Because of this, the superstitious pagans had for them a certain awe. Our pagan ancestors were bringing to their houses green branches during the winter solstice and used them for magic rituals aimed at to ensure the return of vegetation (Pappas, “Pagan Roots? 5 Surprising Facts About Christmas”).
It is true that the Church in the early period was forbidding decorating Christians` buildings with green leaves as a custom of pagan impurity. But the custom was too deeply rooted, and the ban could not act for a long time.
Finally, such a thing as exchanging gifts at Christmas, to the disappointment of some, does not represent the wise men offering gifts to Jesus. There are evidences that the exchange of gifts at this time of the year was an important part of the celebration of the Roman Saturnalia (Pappas, “Pagan Roots? 5 Surprising Facts About Christmas”).
Pappas, S. “Pagan Roots? 5 Surprising Facts About Christmas”. Live Science. 22 Dec. 2012. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.