The origins of Christmas and Yahshua’s real Birthday
I remember when I was a child during the holiday season of Christmas. My family was not observant of G-d’s laws because they were unaware that we are Jewish. We are indeed part of the lost 10 Tribes that have since been “found.” This is becoming more the case as YHVH/Yahshua is calling his people out of the diaspora into observance and love of His Torah.
Because of the lack of knowledge of our ancestry, Christmas was celebrated with great fervor. My parents, especially my mother had no idea of the history of the holiday. All she knew was that there were lots of pretty lights, yummy food, family gatherings, presents, and a focus on giving thanks to G-d represented by the giving of presents and attending additional religious services focused on the birth of our Savior, who unbeknownst to her, was not his real birth date.
I came to the knowledge of my ancestors and true ethnicity later in life. This knowledge was accompanied by my being called out from my father’s house to a proverbial land that G-d would show me; a land of His Torah; a light unto my path and a lamp unto my feet; a land flowing with milk and honey, so to speak. In this case, the land was not Israel(yet), but the Tree of Life; knowledge of good and evil; knowledge of the Messiah as Messiah ben Yosef and Messiah ben David not yet recognized by the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform sects of Judaism.
I had the blessing and privilege of being taught the ways of G-d’s Torah in a unique situation orchestrated by G-d. I was married to a Messianic Jewish Rabbi who started out as a Chasidic Jew but who came to the knowledge of Messianic Judaism as the religion/faith system taught by Yahshua to His disciples. I was a true apprentice for 12 years, learning everything from the Talmud, Zohar, Chumash, Pirket Avot, and other significant literary works to attending both Jewish yeshiva classes and a Christian seminary in order to learn what was taught in Christianity in addition to rabbinic Judaism. I learned that Messianic Judaism is not Christianity as taught by Christian clergy, but the deeper teachings of the written Torah known to the Jews of Yahshua’s time. Sha’ul (Paul) was not a Jew converted to Christianity; that he was a rabbinic Jew taught Messianic Judaism after “meeting” the Messiah. Jews in Paul’s time kept the laws legalistically, but there was no understanding of the resurrection that was about to happen, or the concepts behind the written laws of G-d that included compassion. For anyone who comes out of the secular world or any other religious belief system, there is a steep learning curve about who G-d is and what He expects of us. There are stark differences between Secular Humanism, Catholicism, mainline Christianity and the faith system of Messianic Judaism. This is also true of other religions compared to Messianic Judaism, but the focus of this article is why anyone who considers themselves true believers should not partake in the pagan festival of Christmas.
The Bible does not mention Christmas as a designated time of G-d mandated to be celebrated by anyone who considers him/herself to be a true believer. The designated times of G-d are listed in their entirety in the Old Testament in Leviticus 23. In fact, G-d forbids His people from participating in pagan rituals. This includes Christmas and Easter. The Old Testament cannot be separated from the “New” Testament, which is really a refreshed, renewed covenant with a refreshed, deeper explanation of the Old Testament provided by G-d in the form of Yahshua (G-d saves). Many Christian clergy teach that the G-d of Israel was a different G-d than Yahshua whom they incorrectly call “Jesus” which means “dawn deity G-d”. Christians are taught that the commands of G-d were “hung on the cross” and that all of our past, present, and future sins are already forgiven, which is also contradictory to the Bible (Rom. 3:25; 2 Pet. 1:9). The race to win the prize spoken of by Sha’ul (Paul) among numerous other scriptures validates that we are on a continuum, a progressive journey toward salvation; we have not arrived yet! We must establish the correct presuppositions, or we will arrive at incorrect conclusions! Easter is not found in the designated time of G-d either, but that subject is for a future article.
The birth of Yahshua can be determined by examining the priestly scheduled and the birth of Yochanan (John), who was Yahshua’s cousin. By Biblesearchers.com
Today we are inundated with advertisements for all sorts of gadgets and other things that I am told should be on my “must have right now” list for the holidays. I watch as people push each other in stores and wait outside for as much as 12 hours for the stores to open in order to buy, buy, buy! I see nothing that even hints to the Christian belief that Christmas is a celebration of “Jesus’ birth. Ornaments and decorations no longer include manger scenes or lowly animals. These have been replaced by cartoon characters, movie props and associated animates “stars.” Black Friday sales now start the month before, days before and even right after Thanksgiving dinners. Secular Humanism advocating that there is no Deity, no sense of right or wrong, and no responsibility to anybody or anything has permeated society to the point where people are keeping traditions just because they can or are expected to keep up with everyone else in their sphere of importance.
But there are some who still maintain a belief that Yahshua whom they mistakenly call “Jesus” was born on Christmas Eve and that buying presents, decorating Christmas trees, kissing under the mistletoe and other traditions are all well and good. Many people have no idea what these traditions mean or how they got started. What is more concerning, is that many people do not exercise the G-d-given sense of inquiry to find out why they follow these traditions or whether Yahshua was even really born on Christmas Eve. Yahshua is depicted as a baby in a manger who grew to be a good-looking man with long blond hair and blue eyes. This could not be further from the truth, but it is a pleasant image to envision for some rather than to believe the Biblical description in Isaiah 53 of a Man who was not attractive in any sense; One who was despised and carried the affliction of the world.
With just this one example of inconsistency between traditional beliefs about Yahshua’s appearance and what the Bible reports, basic human logic should beg the question of whether there are contradictions and inconsistencies with other Christian beliefs and traditions taught by the Christian clergy. I submit we owe it to ourselves for the sake of our souls to explore our traditions and beliefs compared to the Hebrew Bible as closely as possible for the correct translation and interpretation. If you can spend hours standing in front of a store or spend so much time decorating your home, can you not make time to search out the biblical truth behind your beliefs, traditions, and values?
The destination of our souls depends on how we run the race spoken of by Sha’ul in the New Testament (Refreshed, renewed Covenant). We need to dive deep into the Torah (Laws; instructions) of G-d and learn about who He is; that He is a Jew in the truest sense, not just biologically from the line of Judah, that He does not have blue eyes and long blond hair. We need to learn about His family on earth and that He is G-d, not part of a Trinity. We need to learn and internalize His commands, laws, and statutes and obey them out of love and not blind obedience as did some of the Sadducees and Pharisees. You say you love G-d and “Jesus?” See who loves Him according to His own words in John 14, Romans chapters 1-3 and the Seven-fold witness in Revelation.
A good place to start is exploring Yahshua’s real birthday and the problems with celebrating Christmas in any context, especially in light of the fact that much of the world, even some Christians celebrate Christmas as though itis a time when we are supposed to shower our kids and others with gifts, eat a lot of food including forbidden foods according to G-d’s instructions and sing a lot of songs that have nothing to do with the conception of our Messiah which was at this time of year.
In the Name of our L-rd and Messiah, YHVH/Yahshua, my prayer is that if you still celebrate Christmas, you will examine the facts, actually open your Bible if you have one, and pray that G-d will straighten your path to the truth in this and other matters of G-d’s Torah. I encourage you to read the article below for further clarification.
The Festival of Lights and Yahshua’s conception
The story of the birth of Yahshua in the Gospel of Luke begins in the Temple of G-d, on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Here, the Herodian genius and ambition combined to construct the largest and most monumental structure in the entire Roman Empire and bring glory and honor to Jerusalem, G-d’s (HaShem’s) Holy City and the Temple of the L-rd.
Zacharias meets Gabriel in the Temple
Standing before the altar of incense of the L-rd during the week prior to Pentecost (Shavuot), sometime between 7 B.C.E and 5 B.C.E, was Zacharias, a Levite in the priestly lineage of Abijah. This was his spring, weekly tour of duty in the Temple, the seventh course (week), along with all the other members of the family of Abijah. No, it was not the seventh week since the beginning of the Levitical New Year, on Nisan 1 in the spring of the year. All Levites were required to serve in the Temple during the spring and fall Festivals of Passover (Pesach), Shavuot (Pentecost) and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkoth), in order to minister to immense crowds which came to Jerusalem as required by the Torah for all living male Israelites above the age of bar mitzvah. The eight- day festival of Passover (Pesach) occurred in the third week, so now, seventh week course of Abijah, actually was the eighth week after Spring New Years.
Lots were cast, and Zacharias’ duty for the week was to sprinkle incense on the golden altar before the Temple of G-d. Below him, the Temple crowds were assembled in adoration and prayer before Adonai, the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Yes, these crowds were getting larger as early arrivals to the upcoming Spring Festival of (Shavuot), the following week on the sixth day of Sivan, were beginning to assemble. During the Shavu’ot celebration, the theme of the festival was focused on the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
Suddenly, Zacharias, now a Levite priest of many years, met face to face with the awesome glory reflected by another-dimensional being recognized as the Archangel Gabriel. Gabriel, the signet Archangel for Israel, was instructed to bring direct messages from the Almighty, sitting on His celestial throne envisioned by the mystic sages as the sixth heaven called Makon.
Whereas the Apostle Paul claimed he visited the third heaven in an out-of-body experience, according to the Torah sages, Gabriel resided in the second heavenly hall of Rakiyah also called the ‘firmament’. Here in the second heaven was where tzaddiks, when in a state of spiritual purity were able to converse and commune with the angels. It was here the ‘signs of heaven’ were revealed to the prophets. It was to this second heaven that divine messages were sent by the Almighty G-d (HaShem). The prophet would be brought up in ‘vision’ to meet G-d’s emissary. Here Elijah, Daniel and John the Revelator were taken in vision as they were revealed the ‘hidden messages’ of the Lord.
Zacharias was informed that his barren wife, Elizabeth (Elisheva), also of the Tribe of Levi, was to be blessed and have a son. He was stunned, incredulous and now speechless. The curse of being barren would be over; not only that, this son would be specially chosen as a messenger of G-d, and given the ‘mantle’ of Elijah (Elias), the great Prophet of Israel. It would only be safe to presume that Zacharias wanted to rush to his home to be with Elizabeth. Did he not have a ‘holy mission’ to accomplish?
Unable to speak, Zacharias not only had to fulfill his priestly duties the remainder of the week, but he still had to remain on Temple for another two days, until the Feast of Shavu’ot (Pentecost) on Sivan 6 and 7, was completed. So, what was the first day that John the Baptist (Yochanan ben Zacharias) could have been conceived? The first potential date would have been the 8th day of Sivan, the date most equivalent to the end of May. There is no doubt those arthritic knees of Zacharias made great haste to his home. According to the Holy Writ, “soon after” (Luke 1:24), the sperm and egg were united into one and the cellular division of the ovum marked the conception of life of that mighty messenger of G-d who was to prepare the ‘way of the Lord’. From his birth (womb), he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Luke 1:15) and his duty was to bring back many Israelites to the L-rd their G-d…., to reconcile father and child, to convert the rebellious to the ways of the righteous, to prepare a people that shall be fit for the L-rd.” (Luke 1:16-18)
During the first and second trimester, Elizabeth (Elisheva) lived in seclusion. For five months, she told no one, not even her family. Yet the sixth month after the conception of John the Baptist, near the end of October, Gabriel once again delivered a message from the celestial Throne of G-d in the sixth heaven. Once again, Gabriel penetrated the inter-dimensional veil of the first heaven called Vilon, this time bringing Mary, a young maiden about fourteen years of age, into the visionary world of pure spirit.
Miriam meets Gabriel in Nazareth
Mary (Miriam), a young maiden living in Galilee in the town of Nazareth, was betrothed to an older man, Joseph, a resident of the town of Bethlehem, from the tribe of Judah. Mary (Miriam) was a relative of Elizabeth (Elisheva); therefore, she was at least of one lineage of the tribe of Levi. The Lucian lineage of Yahshua through his grandfather, Heli, was a Davidian lineage so Miriam’s relation with Elizabeth was through her maternal lineage.
Gabriel, now speaking to Mary (Miriam), in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s conception, would place the date of this visit in the month of December. Let us look at the evidence: the month of Sivan would have been the middle of May to the middle to the end of June. Then we have Tammuz (1st month), Av (2nd month), Elul (3rd month), Tishri (4th month), Cheshvan (5th month), and so Kislev 8 (6th month) of this visit would be in the in the middle of December. Yet it is important to note that Mary (Miriam) was not pregnant at the time of Gabriel’s visit, for it was stated by the Archangel,
Luke 1:30 – “Do not be afraid, Mary, for G-d has been gracious to you; you shall conceive and bear a son, and you shall give him the name Yahshua.”
This prophecy given to Miriam by the angel Gabriel was before Yahshua was conceived was later confirmed at the eighth day of Yahshua’s birth when He was circumcised in the Temple, and His father Joseph’s gave Him His name.
Luke 2:21 – “He was given the name Yahshua, the name given by the angel before he was conceived.
It is this name, Yahshua, given in Aramaic, which is linguistically similar to Hebrew that Yahshua was given by the archangel Gabriel. It will be name, Yahshua, that we will call Yahshua the rest of this manuscript. Then the Archangel said to Miriam,
Luke 1:28-35 – “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with G-d. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name Yahshua. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and G-d (HaShem) will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of G-d.”
To confirm this message, Gabriel said,
Luke 1:36-37 – “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. “For with G-d nothing will be impossible.”
When the Fullness of Time has Come
If the time for the first conceivable date for the conception of John was truly the 8th of Sivan, and the archangel Gabriel came to Miriam on the 6th month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the 8th of Kislev, then given a latitude of about two weeks from this date for the moment in time when the “Power of the Highest” would “overshadow” Miriam, then the most appropriate time and the most appropriate Jewish celebration festival for this miraculous conception of Miriam would have been the second day of Hanukkah, the 25th of Kislev (the month of December), which is celebrated as the “miracle of Light”.
On the 24th of Kislev, 167 B.C., the menorah was lit in the newly cleansed Temple of G-d. The was one of the great moments in Jewish history for the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes IV of Syria had been driven from the land of Judea. It all began when the Hellenistic ruler used his imperial rule to force the inhabitants of his kingdom to convert to Hellenism, known as the Greek Metrology. Many Jews found this to be a very civilized way of life. Yet the Torah observers and especially the Torah observing priests in the temple of Zerubabbel in Jerusalem refused to observe the Greek customs and to incorporate Hellenistic ways of worship. When the Torah observing Jews refused to quit worshipping on the Sabbath (Saturday), practicing circumcision and observing the kosher laws of clean meats, they were threatened with death, the temple was desecrated, and the vessels, the altar, the menorah were defiled by sacrificing a pig on the altar of the Lord. Then the worship to the Greek G-d Zeus was instituted. This was the Abomination of Desolation.
The rumor in the land was that a revolt was in the making and immediately Antiochus ordered his troops to the town of Modi’in, the home of the priest Mattathias and his five sons. There the family of Mattathias revolted, Mattathias was killed and under the leadership of Judah, nicknamed “Maccabee” or ‘The Hammer’, they killed the Syrian soldiers and a full- scale guerrilla revolt began that eventually led to the expulsion of all the forces of Antiochus Epiphanes IV from the land of Judea.
The temple was cleaned up, repaired and re-cleansed according to the commands of G-d given to Moses (Moshe). The golden menorah was ransacked from the temple and a new menorah had to be built from inferior metals, yet with great love and care, the temple was ready for its dedication. Yet there was a crisis according to Jewish tradition not borne out in the historical books that when the menorah in the temple was lit on that day of Dedication, only one day of the sacred lighting oil was available in the City of David, Jerusalem and it would take another eight days to prepare new oil. Even so, to celebrate the victory of their independence, they chose instead to light the menorah and let G-d provide the rest. By a miracle of the Divine, the menorah remained lit for eight days, burning only on one days- worth of oil. Therefore, the miracle of light occurred on the ‘second’ day or the 25th day of Kislev, as there was one days- worth of oil, but none for the second day and beyond. The Feast of Dedication was celebrated throughout the land and Hanukkah entered the festival cycle of the Jews. The real miracle of this celebration is that fact that G-d provided victory for such as small group of guerrilla fighters against a giant of an enemy, the Hellenistic Greek-Syrians.
25th of Kislev – The Conception of Yahshua (Jesus)
On the 25th day of Kislev, Elizabeth (Elisheva) would have entered her sixth month, third trimester, of pregnancy, from day 164th to the 172nd day after conception. If the sacred texts could be redacted on the meaning of the “Miracle of Light”, then on the 2nd day of Hanukkah, Miriam was overshadowed by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) and Yahshua (Jesus), the ‘Light of the World’ was conceived. So, on this celebration, that miraculous event, was not the birth of Yahshua, but the “Mystery of G-d” and the Incarnation was the infusion of the world of the Divine by the Holy Spirit upon the ovum of Mary. This was a Mystery which is not comprehensible even today by modern genetic or gynecological scientists.
So, when was Yahshua born if it was not on Christmas morning? First, let us return to the developing fetus of Yochanan ben Zacharias (John the Baptist) who, in utero, was awaiting his birth. Fifteen- and one-half weeks after Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, Yochanan ben Zacharias, the Baptist, was born on the first day of Passover, on the 273rd to the 280th day of pregnancy, a ‘full-term’ for a woman of advanced years.
As such, Yochanan (John) would have been circumcised on the 8th day of Passover. As John the Baptist carried the mantle of Elijah in the 1st century, even to this day, the Orthodox Jews will set a place for Eliyahu (Elijah) during the Passover Seder meal.
Exactly six months after Passover (Nisan 15), the first day of Sukkoth, the Feast of the Tabernacles, began. For a young female with a first gestational pregnancy (primipara), Miriam, if she conceived on the 24th day of Kislev, the first day of Hanukkah, then on the 25th day of Kislev, the second day of Hanukkah, cellular division of the ovum began and the “Miracle of Light” occurred. Two hundred eighty- five days later, (285 days), on Tishri 15, the first day of Sukkoth, the Feast of the Tabernacles, the infant, Yahshua (Jesus), was born on this earth. This is consistent with the focus of the Holy designated time of G-d. Sukkoth recalls G-d’s provision in the desert for those He called out of Egypt, representing the sinful, secular world to a new beginning across the desert. This designated time of Sukkoth (G-d’s provision) also signifies His provision of a Messiah for those who would turn to and follow G-d’s instructions out of love. It is also thought by some that this holy day was the first true Thanksgiving celebrated by the pilgrims. It certainly fits the theme.
So here is the revelation given for over 3500 years in the Hebrew traditions of the Festivals. Culmination in the ‘progressive revelation’ of G-d (HaShem), we can now understand the addition of Hanukkah to the Festivals of the Lord. Even to the Jews, the remnant of the chosen ones of G-d, divine revelation continued to be witnessed. This idea was not canonized in the TaNaKh, but the Jews did believe and relived it yearly in their festivals of the Lord.
We must keep in mind that true believers in YHVH/Yahshua are defined by Him in Romans 2-3 where He defines a true Jew, John chapter 14, and Revelation where seven times He defines a true believer as one who “carries the testimony of Yahshua and guards the commands of HaShem.” This means one who is reconciled to G-d by recognizing and repenting before Yahshua who was the Passover Lamb, and following His commands, laws, and statutes. This Grace and law concept being required of all who consider themselves true believers is the observance of G-d’s laws/instructions/Torah out of love. Obeying His commands with kindness and compassion.
The Conception, Birth and Circumcision Dates for John and birth of Yahshua
Gabriel meets Zacharias in Vision Week Prior to Pentecost, 27 Iyar – 5 Sivan
Conception of Yochanan (John the Baptist) Week after Pentecost, 8-15 Sivan
Conception of Yahshua (Jesus) Hanukkah, second day – 25 Kislev (December)
Birth of Yochanan (John the Baptist) Passover, first day, 15 Nisan.
Circumcision of Yochanan (John the Baptist) Passover, eighth day, 22 Nisan
The Birth of Yahshua (Jesus) Feast of Tabernacles, first day, 15 Tishri
Circumcision of Yahshua (Jesus) Simchat Torah, eighth day – 22 Tishri
With this historical picture in mind, we no longer have to think of shepherds herding sheep on the hillsides of Judea during the winter sleet and ice storms, and throngs of people traveling across the land to the place of their birth to be counted on a national census (and taxation) during the mid- winter snowfall. We now can imagine throngs of people; in fact, the province of Judea was on foot, for all the men of the land were required to go to the House of the Lord, the temple of G-d in Jerusalem to celebrate Sukkoth.
This was called the season of our rejoicing (zeman simhateinu). The harvest was now completed, the days of repentance during the Days of Awe, leading up to the Great Day of the Lord, Yom Kippur the Day of Atonement, was over. The people in the land could now have a sense of security and fulfillment. They were at peace with themselves, their neighbors, and their G-d. Here within the throngs, Joseph and the very pregnant, Mary (Miriam), were traveling. No doubt they were singing, praising and enjoying the fellowship with all their friends and fellow pilgrims. That is, as well as you could enjoy it when the first signs of contractions began, suggesting that the birth of a child was near.
The fellow travelers were probably also excited, and the mothers and grandmothers were giving the best of their maternal advice to the new arrival to the world of motherhood. Mariam was but a young teenager about 12-14 years of age. All the soothing words of comfort could not overcome the fears of impending motherhood. Will I be a good mother? Can I tolerate the pains of childbirth? How am I going to handle raising a child, destined to be a messiah, a tzaddik (righteous man), the Son of G-d? She no doubt wanted to shout to all who would hear; Don’t you know, I am giving birth to One who is to be destined the King of kings and L-rd of lords? Yet she pondered these things and kept them in her heart.
The Festival of Sukkoth
Sukkoth was simply called, ha-had, or ‘the Festival’ (1 Kings 12:32). The land was in a festive mood and pilgrims traveled in caravans, singing and dancing to the rhythmic lyrics of praise to Adonai, their L-rd and Savior. What is of interest is that the Feast of Tabernacles, and specifically Simchat Torah, the last or eighth day of the festival, was the one feast and the one week which commemorated the Shekinah (Sh’chinah), the Glory of G-d, as ‘tabernacling among men’ and the last day of the feast was when the Torah itself would ‘come to life’. The Torah was to come in the flesh. The Torah was to dwell among men. Truly, Yahshua was the “Torah in the Flesh.”
The colorful Temple ceremonies and rites at the festival were designed for an uplifting festive spirit with the large number of sacrifices, the great clouds of incense giving fragrance to the air and the choruses of priests singing and chanting. All the human senses were stimulated with the ceremonies and pageantry. The changes of season with cool daytime breezes and crisp evenings invigorated the body. Living a life of Torah to the observant Hebrew was a celebration. Within all festive celebrations, loneliness was be more penetrating, especially to Miriam who could not afford to be transparent about what is really happening to her. Security in the lands was in highest alert and Roman soldiers lined the Roman roads, to some a symbol of safety and security and to others a symbol of oppression and the yoke of servitude.
To be a child born in the lineage of David was a dangerous thing to be. Those in the lineage of David were recognized as a threat to the Roman government and to Herod, the king in the land, who was known for his ruthless and merciless suppression of any potential aspirant to the throne of Judea. Shouting King of the Jews would be like shouting out ‘bomb’ in a modern American airport. It would give you attention you could do without. This Festival, called the Festival of Booths or Festival of Tabernacles. It was the third of three fall festivals in the month of Tishri in the months of September or October. Many refer to these three festivals, Rosh HaShanah (Festival of Seventh Trumpet), Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) and Sukkoth (Festival of Tabernacles) as the Second Advent.
On the other hand, the three spring festivals were called the First Advent; the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Passover sacrifice and Seder and the Festival of First Fruits, in the month of Abib or Nissan. When Yahshua (Jesus) was condemned in spite of his innocence, died as an outcast man and was buried and then arose from the dead as the “first fruits of the resurrection”, he fulfilled every literal typology of Passover. For seven days and seven nights of the Feast of Unleavened Bread reminded the Hebrews of their ancestors, who for 40 years lived in the wilderness, in shelters no better than those constructed for their animals. In fact, the Hebrew word, ‘Sukkoth’ was used to describe ‘stables’ or lodging places for animals. But they were provided for by G-d just as he provided the manna on a daily basis, without fail.
Genesis 33:17 – “And Jacob journeyed to Sukkoth, built himself a house, and made sukkoths (booths) for his livestock.
Therefore, the name of the place is called Sukkoth.” Five miles from Jerusalem, in the city of Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary (Miriam) would seek shelter. For the Sukkoth season, the most important ritual was to live for eight days in a Sukkoth, a temporary structure, covered with tree branches. Being on the outskirts of Jerusalem, throngs of pilgrims, unable to find accommodations in the Holy City, moved to the suburbia. As such, the homes of the Bethlehem residents were available for hire for the pilgrims coming in for the festival. A room was sold a premium, for there always were more pilgrims than accommodations.
Literally, there was “no room in the inn”. We can use a little ‘divine imagination’ to suggest that with the progressive contractions, the pace of Joseph and Mary (Miriam) slowed down and they soon found themselves lagging behind the groups of traveling pilgrims and no longer were with their friends and associates. To the inhabitants, the pilgrims represented monetary income with their rooms for hire, yet sometimes too much is too much, and pretty soon, they begin to feel, please go away. For most inhabitants of the village of Bethlehem, the festivities were to be celebrated in their own Sukkoth, where they talked, celebrated and fulfilling the final mitzvoth (commandment), to rejoice unto the Lord.
When Miriam and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, she might have been in full labor, but there was a problem. The town was full, not only full, but packed full. Where are you going to put another family, especially a woman in full labor, among throngs and crowds singing, talking and celebrating? The homes were full, the privately built Sukkoths were full, and where else but the real ‘sukkoths’, the dwelling places for the animals could they stay? Even so, in the canon, there is no reference to caves or barns, yet there is a reference to a manger, a feeding trough for the animals could have easily been brought to a Sukkoth and later transferred into a make-shift crib in a village home. And so it was stated by John;
John 1:14 – “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Here we see the birth of the Messiah, and the time when ‘we beheld His glory’, who literally was tabernacling or dwelling among men within the booths of Sukkoth yet rested in a feeding trough; ironically a place where food provided sustenance for the animals; again, G-d’s provision.
Now for the history of Christmas: How it came to be celebrated on December 25 and the history of its traditions
Roman pagans first introduced the holiday of Saturnalia. This was a week-long period of lawlessness celebrated between December 17-25. Roman courts were closed during this time and a Roman law dictated that no one could be punished for damaging property or injuring people during this time. The festival began with Roman authorities choosing an “enemy of the Roman people” to represent the “lord of misrule.” Each Roman community chose a victim whom they forced to indulge in food and other physical pleasures throughout the week. At the conclusion of the festival, December 25, Roman authorities believed they were destroying the forces of darkness by brutally murdering the innocent victim.
The ancient Greek writer poet and historian Lucian describes the festival’s observance in his time. In addition to human sacrifice, he mentions the customs of widespread intoxication, going from house to house singing naked; rape and other sexual license; consuming human shaped biscuits. There are some English and many German bakeries that still sell these during the Christmas season).
In the 4th century C.E, Christianity imported the Saturnalia festival hoping to bring in the pagan masses. Christian leaders succeeded in converting large numbers of pagans by promising them that they could continue to celebrate Saturnalia as Christians.
There was nothing Christian about Saturnalia, so Christian leaders named Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25 to be Jesus’ birthday. Christians had a difficult time trying to refine this pagan holiday. The earliest Christmas holidays were celebrated by drinking, sexual indulgence, singing naked in the streets, which was a precursor to modern caroling.
The Reverend Increase Mather of Boston observed in 1687 that “early Christians who first observed the Nativity on December 25 did not do so thinking Christ was born in that month, but because the heathens’ Saturnalia was at that time kept in Rome, and they were willing to have those Pagan Holidays metamorphosed into Christian ones.” Because of its known pagan origin, Christmas was banned by the Puritans and its observance was illegal in Massachusetts between 1659 and 1681. However, most Christians still celebrated and do to this day.
Some of the most depraved customs of the Saturnalia carnival were intentionally revived by the Catholic Church in 1466 when Pope Paul II, for amusement of his Roman citizens, forced Jews to race naked through the streets of the city.
As part of the Saturnalia carnival throughout the 18th and 19th centuries C.E., rabbis of the ghetto in Rome were forced to wear clownish outfits and march through the streets to the jeers of the crowd, while being pelted by any number of missiles. When the Jewish community of Rome sent a petition on 1836 to Pope Gregory XVI, begging him to stop the annual Saturnalia abuse of the Jewish community, he responded, “It is not opportune to make any innovation.” On December 25, 1881, Christian leaders whipped the Polish masses into Antisemitic frenzies that led to country-wide riots. In Warsaw 12 Jews were brutally murdered, huge numbers maimed, and many Jewish women raped.
The Origins of Christmas Customs
Christmas Trees- Worshipers of the Asheira cult and its offshoots were recruited by the Church sanctioning “Christmas Trees.” Pagans had long worshipped trees in the forest or brought them to their homes and decorated them. This observance was adopted and painted with a Christian veneer by the Church.
• G-d specifically condemns this practice in Deut. 16:21 “You are not to plant any sort of tree as a sacred pole beside the altar of Adonai your G-d that you will make for yourselves. Likewise, do not set up a standing stone; Adonai your G-d hates such things.”
• Jeremiah 10:1-6 “Hear the word Adonai speaks to you, house of Israel! Here is what Adonai says; Don’t learn the way of the Goyim (nations) don’t be frightened by astrological signs, even if the Goyim are afraid of them; for the customs of the people are nothing. They cut down a tree in the forest; a craftsman works it with his axe; they deck it with silver and gold. They fix it with hammer and nails, so that it won’t move. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber patch, it cannot speak. It has to be carried because it cannot walk. Do not be afraid of it- it can do nothing bad; likewise, it is unable to do anything good!”
• Presents- In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during Saturnalia in December and Kalends in January. Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting in in supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas.
• The origin of Santa Claus- Nicholas was born in Parara Turkey in 270 C.E. and later became Bishop of Myra. He died in 345 C.E. on December 6. He was named a saint in the 19th century. He was among the most senior bishops who convened the Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. and created the New testament. The text they produced portrayed Jews as “the children of the devil” who sentenced Jesus to death. In 1087, a group of sailors who idolized Nicholas moved his bones from Turkey to Italy. There Nicholas supplanted a female boon-giving deity they called the Grandmother, or Pasqua Epiphania, who used to fill children’s stockings with gifts. The Grandmother was ousted from her shrine at Bari, which became the center of the Nicholas cult. Members of this group gave each other gifts during a pageant they conducted on Nicholas’ death, December 6. The Nicholas cult spread north until it was adopted by German and Celtic pagans. These groups worshipped a pantheon led by Woden-their chief god and father of Thor, Balder, and Tiw. Woden had a ling white beard and rode a horse through the heavens one evening each Autumn. When Nicholas merged with Woden, he shed his Mediterranean appearance, grew a beard, mounted a flying horse, rescheduled his flight for December, and donned heavy winter clothing. In a bid for pagan adherents in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church adopted the Nicholas cult and taught that he had and should distribute gifts on December 25 instead of December 6.
Dr. Clement Moore, a professor at Union Seminary, read Knickerbocker History, and in 1822 he published a poem based on the character Santa Claus: “Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in the hope that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…” Moore innovated by portraying a Santa with eight reindeer who descended through chimneys.
The Bavarian illustrator Thomas Nast almost completed the modern picture of Santa Claus. From 1862-1886, based on Moore’s poem, Nast drew more than 2,200 cartoon images of Santa for Harper’s Weekly. Nast gave Santa a home in the North Pole, a workshop filled with elves, and a list of good and bad children of the world. All Santa was missing was a red outfit.
In 1931, the Coca Cola Corporation contracted the Swedish commercial artist Haddon Sundblom to create a coke-drinking Santa. Sundblom modeled his Santa on his friend Lou Prentice, chosen for his cheerful, chubby face. The corporation insisted that Santa’s fur-trimmed suit be bright, Coca Cola red. Thus, a modern Santa Claus was born- a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and commercial idol.
With all of this information available for consideration, may all who read it be convicted by the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) to forsake the ways of the nations (Goyim) and follow the King’s Highway; G-d’s Torah.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart
My thanks to the following for their contribution in part of material on the origins of Christmas and Yahshua’s birth:
Kelemen, Lawrence: The History of Christmas: https://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory