The Truth About Christmas

            From the book The Second Coming of Saturn by Derek P. Gilbert
Saturnalia: Not related in any way to Christmas

We need to debunk a bit of fake news before we get any deeper into the holiday season. The selection of December 25 as the date to celebrate the birth of Christ had nothing to do with Saturnalia or the winter solstice. Besides, Saturnalia wasn’t always celebrated in December, and it wasn’t even originally named for Saturn. It was adapted from an older version known to the Greeks, celebrated for their version of Saturn, Kronos.

The Kronia is first recorded in Ionia, the central part of western Anatolia (modern Turkey) in the eighth century BC, a little before the time of the prophet Isaiah.[1] From there, the celebration spread to Athens and the island of Rhodes,[2] ultimately making its way westward to Rome, shifting over time from midsummer to the winter solstice. Both festivals were a time of merriment and abandoning social norms, with gambling, gift-giving, suspension of normal business, and the reversal of roles by slaves and their masters.[3]

The festival of Saturnalia, held between December 17 and 23, was undoubtedly the most popular of the year for Romans. It was marked by a reversal of societal norms, which apparently hearkened back to better days:

The first inhabitants of Italy were the Aborigines, whose king, Saturnus, is said to have been a man of such extraordinary justice, that no one was a slave in his reign, or had any private property, but all things were common to all, and undivided, as one estate for the use of every one; in memory of which way of life, it has been ordered that at the Saturnalia slaves should everywhere sit down with their masters at the entertainments, the rank of all being made equal. Italy was accordingly called, from the name of that king, Saturnia; and the hill on which he dwelt Saturnius, on which now stands the Capitol, as if Saturnus had been dislodged from his seat by Jupiter.[4]

It’s widely believed by skeptics, and some well-meaning but misinformed Christians, that the date for celebrating Christmas was chosen by the early church to “Christianize” Saturnalia. The story goes that the festival was so popular that even Christians in the Roman Empire wouldn’t give it up, so church leaders declared December 25 the birth day of Jesus, established a feast, and stole Saturnalia from the pagans.

That happens not to be the case.

The earliest record of the observance of Christmas is from Clement of Alexandria around AD 200.[5] But the first suggestion that Christmas might be linked to pagan worship didn’t come until the twelfth century, about nine hundred years later.[6] In other words, as far as historians can tell, no Christians between the third through twelfth centuries thought they were accidentally worshiping a pagan god at Christmas. While some noted the proximity of December 25 to the winter solstice, which falls on December 21 or 22, early Christian writers did not believe the church chose the date. Rather, they saw it as a sign that God was the true sun, superior to the false gods of the pagans.[7]

The Donatist sect in North Africa celebrated Jesus’ birth on December 25 in the early fourth century,[8] before Constantine became emperor of Rome (so we can’t blame him for setting the date). And while it’s true that the emperor Aurelian made veneration of Sol Invictus the law throughout the Roman Empire in AD 274, a collection of ancient writings called Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae puts the feast day during the reign of Licinius (AD 308–324) on November 18.[9] There is little evidence that a feast for Sol Invictus was held on December 25 before the middle of the fourth century AD, and Christians were celebrating the birth of Christ on that date about half a century earlier.

So, given that nobody in the first century recorded the actual date of Jesus’ birth, how did the early church arrive at December 25? It’s a little complex, but it illustrates the motives of the Church Fathers, which did not include sneaking pagan worship into the faith.

Second-century Latin Christians in Rome and North Africa made an effort to calculate the exact date of Jesus’ death. For reasons that escape us, they settled on March 25, AD 29.[10] (The reasons escape us because March 25 was not a Friday that year, nor was it Passover Eve, nor did Passover Eve fall on a Friday in AD 29, or even in the month of March.)[11] The March 25 date was also noted by early church theologians Tertullian and Augustine.[12]

There was a widespread belief among Jews of the day in the “integral age” of great prophets, which means it was thought that the prophets of Israel died on the same day they were conceived. It’s not biblical, but that’s not the point. What matters is the early church believed it, and that’s how it was decided that Jesus was born in late December: Adding nine months to March 25 brings you to—you guessed it—December 25.

It’s that simple. Underline this: Saturn and Saturnalia had nothing to do with Christmas.

The effort to claim the credit, however, is the work of the dark god and his minions. The recent pushback against celebrating Christmas has been so intense that some Christians are careful to avoid mentioning the holiday, except with trusted friends, lest they be accused of accidentally worshiping Saturn, Baal, Sol Invictus, or Nimrod—by other Christians. The Christmas season used to be the one time of year when Christ was openly proclaimed in our society. Sadly, zealous but misinformed believers have unwittingly helped the Fallen reclaim the holiday.

It’s almost certain that Jesus was not born on December 25.[13] It’s also true that the Christmas holiday has attracted a lot of baggage—pagan traditions, hyper-commercialization, and awful renditions of Christmas carols by pop divas. (Mariah Carey recently tried to trademark the title “Queen of Christmas.” Seriously. Thankfully, the U.S. Patent Office said no.)

None of that matters. The important point is this: The early church did not establish December 25 as a feast day to celebrate the birth of Jesus to copy or co-opt a pagan holiday.

That said, Saturn successfully rebranded the seventh day of the week, the Sabbath, as turni diēs, Saturn’s Day, in the second century AD when Rome replaced its eight-day cycle with a seven-day week. And there is biblical evidence that some Jews adopted the worship of Saturn during the Babylonian captivity:

“You shall take up Sikkuth your king, and Kiyyun your star-god—your images that you made for yourselves, and I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,” says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts. (Amos 5:26–27)

Sikkuth appears to be a reference to a minor Babylonian god named Sakkud, or Sakkut.[14] However, the pronunciation was close enough to the Hebrew word sukkat (“hut”) that the Jewish scholars who translated the Septuagint rendered the first line, “And you took along the tent of Molech.” The consonants of Molech and melek (“king”) are identical, but it’s interesting that the translators were comfortable bringing the “king-god” into the scripture, and that’s exactly how Stephen quoted Amos during his speech to the Sanhedrin.[15]

It’s especially interesting since “Kiyyun” refers to the Babylonian name for Saturn, Kajjamānu, “the Steady One.”[16] Kajjamānu was an unimportant god in the Mesopotamian pantheon, but it’s indicative of the hubris of the king-god: Under his influence, most of the Western world now calls God’s divinely ordained day of rest “Saturn’s Day.”

And because that isn’t enough, even Christians have been convinced that Saturn, not Jesus, is the reason we celebrate Christmas.

So, this holiday season, we pray you and your family enjoy a peaceful, blessed, and Merry Christmas.

[1] Jan N. Bremmer, “Remember the Titans!” In C. Auffarth and L. Stuckenbruck (eds.), The Fall of the Angels(Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2004), pp. 43–44.

[2] Ibid., p. 44.

[3] John F. Miller, “Roman Festivals,” in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Greece and Rome (Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 172.

[4] Justinus, Epitome of Pompeius Trogus’ ‘Philippic Histories’ 43.1.3–5., retrieved 4/13/21.

[5] Clement of Alexandria, The Stromata 1.21.145., retrieved 4/13/21.

[6] Andrew McGowan, “How December 25 Became Christmas.” Biblical Archaeology Review, Dec. 18, 2020., retrieved 4/13/21.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Hermann Dessau, Inscriptiones latinae selectee, Vol 3 (Berlin: Weidmann, 1916), p. 24.

[10] William J. Tighe, “Calculating Christmas: The Story Behind December 25.” Touchstone, Dec. 2003,, retrieved 4/13/21.

[11] Ibid.

[12] McGowan, op. cit.

[13] It’s far more likely that His birthdate was September 11, 3 BC. See Ernest L. Martin, The Star That Astonished the World, available to read online at

[14] M. Stol, “Sakkuth.” In Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 722.

[15] Acts 7:43.

[16] M. Stol, “Kaiwan.” In Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst (Eds.), Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), p. 478.


  1. Hi Sharon and Derek,
    Thank you for your comment and all the good work you do.
    However all goodwill intended. I tend to express a different opinion with your interpretation of Christmas. I grew up as a Roman Catholic from an Italian background i.e Sardinia/Calabria
    Christmas (to me) was nothing but pagan. However rather than going into all the Catholic rites and rituals. I prefer to state that after studying what I knew to be pagan in my heart has given me so many other truths when deriving it from biblical and archeological studies.
    Babylonians regarded Saturn as the nocturnal counterpart of the sun. Darkness associated to evil. Kiyun is the wandering star Saturn. However, Christmas was associated with Sol Invictus – known as Helios (sun god). Romans held a festival on December 25 called Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, “the birthday of the unconquered sun.” December 25 274 AD when it was introduced by Emperor Aurelian and he dedicated a temple and instituted games in honor of the sun god which was held every 4 years. Legends state he based it on the Babylonian sun god “shamash” (solar god of Palmyra). Then Mithra (religion) (mitre) identified with Roman god Sol or Sun and the holiday was commemorated in the mountains of Zagros. Mithras was before Romans; however it was adopted by them. (Apollo, Mithras, Helios). Romans on that day gifted each other and made wishes (kissed) the mistletoe. The candles symbolized the quest for knowledge and truth which occurred on the 8th day before Kalends (the first day of the month) – Roman calendar, i.e., the 8th day before the Kalends of January was December 25. “deo mithrae soli invicto” was the sacrifice of the bull – characteristic of his worship. Mithra represented a young man in a flowing robe, surrounded with mystical figures (Persian bonnet or tiara) seated on a bull. i.e., Tauroctony. All these are used as epithets in Roman Catholic Religion and found its way into the west and north of Europe (Germany and Brittan.) Rather than go on, I did not want to disparage all the good work you do. I have all your books and enjoy your analysis and interpretation on many topics. However I am a variance with Christmas being celebrated with trees (Asherah poles or commemorating Attis under the pine tree), mistle toe (wreaths dedication to Mithra), babbles, incense burning etc. I found in life (Satan) distorts many things that God created into a lie. Christmas to me is one of them, just like so many early church (tradition) (al) rituals. Needless to say; Jesus was (first place) originally preached as “a savior is born”, but Christmas is slowing diminishing to a “pagan representation” of the modern world – something different we are seeing before our eyes. “What people did in religious practice is often the most telling ways to determine what a particular divinity or cult meant to its followers”. We live in a world of darkness and Jesus is being worshiped and turned into something he was not meant to be (Apostasy). Jesus called himself many things, the light of the world and the bread of life etc. Everything he did he did for our Father in Heaven. Jesus ultimately claimed he was the light in a land of darkness ruled by a overlord Satan (who) tried to kill him as a child. Jesus came into a world when (Rome) was this power and ruling the world, and all the middle east etc was under the power of Rome. However to this day it is shrouded in mystery in regards to its history and how it came into existence, ancient Rome is important, it still underpins western culture and politics, what we write and how we still see the world after 2000 years etc. The resemblance between Christmas and Mithra-sim is none other than Satan. That, overlord lies, steals and deceives and takes away the light and shines it in another direction, similar, counterfeit (anti) to what the (true) light and (truth) may look like ” along with a string of idolatrous deceptions”. We see this all through ancient times with primeval and pagan doctrines, Satan’s intention is to draw away from the true God of the Bible. Sometimes as Christians we tend to agree to disagree and leave it at that. Ultimately we both worship the true God and Jesus is our savior whom was born into a world that needed to be saved. Through the Holy Spirit we have been able to distinguish the truth from darkness. Bless you both and continue the “good fight” as we really need to have our armor on these last days! Kind regards Franca Panetta (South Australia).

    1. Author

      Hi, Franca,

      You may have noted in the article that the early church celebrated the birth of Jesus on December 25 decades before Emperor Aurelian made the worship of Sol Invictus mandatory in the Roman Empire. And the festival wasn’t originally celebrated on December 25. A collection of ancient writings called Inscriptiones Latinae Selectae records the feast day during the reign of Licinius (308-324 AD) as the 18th of November.

      There is limited evidence that a feast for Sol Invictus was held on December 25 before the middle of the 4th century. Latin Christians in North Africa had arrived at December 25 as the birth date of Jesus about 150 years earlier. There was a widespread Jewish belief back then in the “integral age” of great Jewish prophets. It was thought that the prophets of Israel died on the same day they were conceived. The early church settled on March 25, 29 AD. (That was the wrong date; March 25 was not a Friday in 29 AD, nor was it Passover Eve, nor did Passover Eve fall on a Friday that year, or even in the month of March. Still, there we are.)

      It’s not biblical, but that’s not the point. The early church believed it and that’s what led to their conclusion: When you add nine months to March 25, you arrive at December 25.

      Now, there is no question that many non-Christian traditions have attached themselves to the holiday. But the day itself, and its origin, is not inherently pagan.

  2. Hello Mr. Gilbert

    Regular watcher of your show and also Skywatch.
    Also a customer, but none of that matters.

    In your article… “The Truth About Christmas”

    So sad with all your studying you only got it partially correct. It goes back much further than that.

    However, I will save us both the time and trouble as you are intelligent enough to find it if you want and really look for it.

    I will point you to reading Jeremiah 10 of KJV.

    Apparently you have not read it or you have forgotten it.
    The only other option is you are not being truthful with people. I prefer not to think that because I have read to much of your work.

    GOD bless you.

    1. Author

      Hi, Allan,

      Thank you for your note. I have read it and have not forgotten it. Read in context, Jeremiah 10 is clearly a condemnation of pagan idols. Since we do not use our tree in the worship of a pagan deity, we are comfortable with it as a decoration at this season.

  3. It seems like everything we do at Christmas is based on something occult. It’s really upsettig. I put out a bowl of frosted pinecones and nuts with a battery operated candle in the middle for Winter. I don’t know if I should throw out all my Christmas decorations and tree away now.

    1. Author

      Hi, Jean,

      Thanks for your note! Only throw them away if you’re using them to worship a pagan god. Otherwise, they’re just festive seasonal decorations, no different than setting out a vase of flowers in the spring.

      1. Sorry. I didn’t realize this was an open forum. Not what I intended nor wanted. Therefore I will just leave this as is.
        Thank you for responding.

      2. Thank you. I thought maybe I was bringing occult things into my home. I love the books that you and Josh Peck write. Veneration really had a scary cover.

  4. Hello Derek,
    I appreciate you and your studies of the Ancient texts. Love Bad Moon Rising. Can you point to a scripture in the Bible that points to a certain time in which Jesus tells his followers when and why celebrate each year his Birth and or His Death ? And if he did give a time to celebrate. Which calendar would he have been looking at when he gives the date to celebrate via.. Lunar, Solar, Aztec, Essenes…
    Thank You, Kevin Tubbleville

    1. Author

      Hi, Kevin,

      Thank you for your note and your kind words. Jesus did not tell his followers to celebrate his birth or his death. For that matter, he didn’t tell us not to, either.

      Paul told the church at Corinth that the Lord’s supper was to “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor. 11:23–26), but that’s whenever we do it.

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