Why Are People So Convinced Easter & Christmas Have Pagan Origins?

Here is a very good short video from Dan McClellan. (He’s a scholar but not a believer.) Even some people on this site think we get the date of Christmas from paganism!

Why Are People So Convinced Easter & Christmas Have Pagan Origins?

But how did the Church in the West actually get December 25 as the date of Christmas? The date of the annunciation was assumed to be March 25, and they counted forward 9 months.

@GJDS When does the EO church celebrate the annunciation and how is the date of Christmas calculated?


It seems to be a combination of both.

who is the creator of this and what does he say?

I agree with McClellan. In another way, though, I don’t understand why anyone would care what the time was–the actual message of Christmas doesn’t have anything to do with the date.
I found this The astonishing pagan origin of Christmas - BBC Reel on BBC, but they didn’t really develop the story adequately–it would seem odd to say that the Germanic tribes (including the Angles and Saxons) were the cause of the date.
At any rate, I admire the Jesuits and other Christians (though Christmas’ date came before the Jesuits, I imagine), as they seem really good at adapting the Christian message to local cultures.

Jesuit missions in North America - Wikipedia

The Jesuits in America used methods which were comparatively respectful of the traditional way of life of the Indians, especially compared to the approach of the Puritans in New England, who required a conformity to their code of dress and behaviour. In a simplification, the 19th-century Protestant historian Francis Parkman wrote: “Spanish civilization crushed the Indian; English civilization scorned and neglected him; French civilization embraced and cherished him.”[13]: 42

Though they did some horrible things in the past, as all colonialists did–at least, in some cases they were better than others.

Has anyone here read “The Dream of the Rood”? In my undergrad class discussing that, Caedmon adapts the concept of Jesus’ sacrifice to a Germanic idea. To make the death seem more acceptable to a warrior culture, he had Jesus “grasp” the Rood (cross) with determination. It’s an interesting idea. Even if it wasn’t accurate (Jesus dreaded the suffering), it does make on think and meditate.

Dream of the Rood - Wikipedia

J. A. Burrow notes an interesting paradox within the poem in how the Cross is set up to be the way to Salvation: the Cross states that it cannot fall and it must stay strong to fulfill the will of God. However, to fulfill this grace of God, the Cross has to be a critical component in Jesus’ death.[34] This puts a whole new light on the actions of Jesus during the Crucifixion. Neither Jesus nor the Cross is given the role of the helpless victim in the poem, but instead both stand firm. The Cross says, Jesus is depicted as the strong conqueror and is made to appear a “heroic German lord, one who dies to save his troops”.[35] Instead of accepting crucifixion, he ‘embraces’ the Cross and takes on all the sins of mankind.

Hi @beaglelady, I have not looked at details for dates of EO celebrations, and most of us have attended church routinely at appointed days. The annunciation is March 25, and Christmas has been based on the old calendar (I think we discussed it some time ago). I will search this on the internet and come back to you if there is something of interest.


The problem is that many people try to make it seem like Jesus is a myth, and is simply an adaptation of earlier pagan deities/stories. It seems that the 2007 movie zeitgeist was full of this kind of nonsense

See this short video:

Dan McClellan responds to claims from the movie zeitgeist

I haven’t seen the movie, but IMDB lists it as a documentary!

There is no documentary evidence that the date for Christmas was derived from paganism.

I, too, admire the Jesuits (Society of Jesus). We had some lessons on them in theology class. They are the only order I know of that has no monasteries, preferring to work out in the world. They are renowned as astronomers and teachers. An observatory in Arizona is run by Jesuits. Fordham University in NYC is a Jesuit school. They’ve had their problems, but hey, haven’t we all?


Thanks. This is a very helpful critique!

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Here’s another YT in the same vein, from Christian Orthodox perspective(8 min) it explains one by one various theories and why they’re not true

Also from the same channel(which I can recommend) 6 min

I remember that almost everyone (everyone being devout Roman Catholic!) believed it was stolen from paganism celebrating solstice. It never quite made sense to me, because it’s 4 days off, and we used to celebrate Christmas Eve more, so makes even less sense. Explanation was that ‘ancient people’ were stupid and got dates wrong :rofl:

But that’s not all! Here’s yet another ‘explanation’ for Christmas I stumbled upon on social media, claiming that the Sun stands still for 3 days, hence explaining why it’s not on 21 December (and people do believe what they see there, despite everything)


That’s kind of lame. We have MLK day, but no one thinks MLK was a myth. President’s Day is another example.

Christians just wanted to have a winter celebration like the other groups around them. There’s nothing wrong with that. Easter is slightly different, but it is also understandable that Christians would want a spring celebration like others around them.

For us atheists, Festivus (for the rest of us) is probably a good example. We have invented holidays so that we have something to celebrate in the winter like everyone else.

If some pagan symbolism sneaks in through the shared culture door, who cares. It’s a normal human thing to do. We still use Thor’s Day and Woden’s Day, and no one seems to bat an eye.


All based on the same nearest astronomical objects. All our major festivals are seasonal, orbital; solar or lunisolar, or lunar if you’re Muslim. Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim all follow nature.


That would make sense for cultures that depend on agriculture. Knowing when to plant and harvest is pretty important. Also, if you are looking for non-arbitrary dates those are certainly it.

It is interesting that as we became industrialized countries we kind of lost touch with nature a bit. When I was a young man I worked for a bee keeper, and I had to mark the new moons on my calendar because those were the nights we could move bees. The bees can actually use the moon as a navigation tool which they use to attack whomever is moving their hive. Accidently flipping on the headlights on the machinery was also a big mistake. The Harvest Moon also used to be a thing before artificial lighting came about. I don’t think it is accidental that indigenous people across the Americas also devised ways of marking the seasons.


Not really. Why not watch the zeitgeist video. What I’ve been trying to say (for 3 years now!) is that Christians didn’t get the date of Christmas from paganism/Saturnalia/winter solstice. There is no documentary evidence for this. The winter solstice isn’t even December 25. What the church did was assume a date for the annunciation and count forward 9 months. Please see the History for Atheists channel for information.

Actually Easter is about the resurrection, not about a Christian desire for a spring celebration in imitation of paganism. The crucifixion/resurrection took place in the Spring, about the time the Passover was celebrated.


It’s kind of immaterial where they got the date from. The point is that they made the birth of Jesus into a winter celebration in a region where winter celebrations were popular.

That’s why I said Easter was slightly different because there is a much more solid date in the biblical text. There is also nothing in the Bible that says the date should be turned into something special, complete with extra-biblical traditions. Christian sects through the centuries have even spoken against these types of celebrations, such as the Puritans.

So I would say inspired by is a fair judgment, if used loosely.

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For many Christmas is simply a winter celebration, and that’s fine by me.

“They for whom all days are holy can have no holiday.”–Puritan maxim

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For every holiday is secular. I celebrate every holiday basically the same way. Vegan versions of the traditional meal and holiday themed horror movies.

I think another big part of the issue though is that Christianity is not actually a culture. It’s a religion. By that I mean a Viking that becomes a Christian will still have his Icelandic / Norwegian culture just like a Hindu that becomes a Christian sill have his Indian culture and so on. Or even something like a goth kid and a redneck kid that becomes Christian will still have their subculture blended with it. So a wiener Romans who worshipped Saturn that then became Christian would still have their Roman culture , just presumably influenced by Christian thought. Their festivals, holidays and so on will still all be a part of their life because it’s a sort of their culture, their friends and their families lives.


Thanks Beaglelady…The belief was (for some reason) that Jesus was crucified on the same date that He was conceived on. That is, He was conceived on a Passover (so they thought) and crucified on a Passover. The question was the exact date for Passover. Those who believed that Passover had been March 25 at the time of conception, then noted that since He was conceived on that date, then He was born exactly nine months later —babies always come on time of course!..And that was December 25. .Others believed in a different date for Passover and thus He was crucified on that date and born nine months later on January 6…Whatever floats your boat…

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Yes, the date of the annunciation/crucifixion was assumed. A good a guess as any, I suppose.

*** The following is something I posted back in December 2017, when we were first discussing the date of Christmas ***

So with the date of Christmas established, Christians wanted to know the exact hour of Christ’s birth! And St. John Chrysostom thought he had found the answer in the apocryphal book “Wisdom of Solomon.”

According to the Rev. Joel Daniels, PhD,

John Chrysostom noticed that in the Wisdom of Solomon, Solomon says, “For while all things were in quiet silence, and that night was in the midst of her swift course, Thine Almighty word leaped down from heaven out of thy royal throne.” (here) He took “midst of her swift course” to mean midnight and “thine Almighty word” to mean, well, the Word of God.

Once the BC/AD demarcation came about, popular piety liked the idea that Christ was born at exactly the moment the BC era became the AD era.

And that is why we sing, “It came upon a midnight clear”

What about Christmas Eve Midnight Mass?

It was in the mid-fifth century that the Church in Rome began to celebrate a Mass at midnight, informed by pilgrims who had visited Jerusalem.

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That’s wild!! Interesting…thanks for the info


What is a wiener Roman? Is that like a schmuck?