No matter who you are or what religious ideology you hold to, the Winter holiday season involving Christmas will be a challenge. It is first a challenge to non-Believers as they are continually presented with the message of the birth of Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) into a world that is lost in sin. Secondly, the Christmas holiday is a challenging time for many Christians who seek to remember the birth of our Savior, but at the same time all too often indulge themselves in overly frivolous gift-giving. And thirdly, the Christmas season is a challenge to Messianic Believers, as we choose not to celebrate this holiday.
The Reformation certainly did a great deal of work eliminating many non-Biblical Roman Catholic traditions and theologies from the faith. Today, Protestants believe in salvation by grace through faith and in the priesthood of all Believers, rejecting the claim that the pope is the “vicar of Christ” on Earth. Many evangelical Christians recognize that if something is primarily Catholic it should be tested against the inspired Word of God to see if it is truly Biblical. The Bible does not tell us to pray to saints or confess sin to a priest to be forgiven. Scripture does not teach transubstantiation. Furthermore, Scripture does not tell us that Mary, the mother of our Lord Yeshua, is the so-called “Mother of God,” for our Creator has always been and ever will be (cf. Micah 5:2-3).
Many Protestants pride themselves on being Sola Scriptura—Scripture Only. However, it is an unfortunate reality that many Protestants today still adhere, unknowingly, to some non-Biblical Catholic tradition. There are various practices and traditions among Christians today that can neither be found in Scripture, nor find their origins in Scripture, but rather on customs established long since the death of the Apostles and early Believers.
All too often, it has been our unfortunate observation that many in the Messianic community strongly and vehemently criticize our Christian brothers and sisters during the Winter holidays. Statements along the lines of “Christmas is a pagan holiday!” are all too commonplace. This turns many away from hearing the origins about a holiday that cannot be specifically found in the Bible, but is seemingly good. Many Christians believe that when you denounce Christmas, you are denying the Biblical reality of the virgin birth of our Lord and Savior. Certainly, Luke ch. 2 is a part of our Holy Scriptures, and the miracle of the birth of Yeshua is a sacred Biblical event. In an effort to stress balance, grace, and understanding during the Winter season among both Christians and Messianic Believers, we offer our analysis of “the Christmas challenge.”
A Brief History of Christmas
Why is it asserted among many Christians that if there are those who do not celebrate Christmas, then obviously such people cannot be true Believers? Are we dangerous cultists who do not believe in the virgin birth of the Messiah?
Obviously, Luke ch. 2, which fully details the miraculous birth of Yeshua the Messiah, the Savior of the world, is something that none of us should ever deny or consider unimportant. If Yeshua had not been born, He would not have grown up to become the perfect sacrifice for our sin. We would be unable to have His blood covering us and have no hope for permanent forgiveness of sin.
But what of the holiday we now call “Christmas”? Where did it come from? If its celebration is not specified in Holy Scripture itself, then how did we get it?
Author Susan E. Richardson makes some interesting observations in her book Holidays & Holy Days:
During the Roman Empire, people usually celebrated the birthdays of rulers and other outstanding people, though not necessarily on the exact date of their birth. The early Christians’ desire to honor Christ’s birth may come from the fact that they gave him the title and other honors that pagans gave to the “divine” emperors. These Christians lived in a culture where the birth of a ruler was a major celebration. What could be more natural than celebrating the birth of the King of Kings?
Despite the logic of this, Christmas has long been surrounded by controversy. In A.D. 245, Origen wrote that even to consider observing it was a sin. Early Christians in Armenia and Syrians accused Roman Christians of sun worship for celebrating Christmas on December twenty-fifth.
I would probably not fall into the same category as Origen saying that commemorating the birth of the King of Kings is “sin,” because if that were the case then we should probably strike Luke 2 from our Bibles. Typological connections are undoubtedly intended to be made between the birth of Yeshua, and the birth of Moses seen in parashah Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1). However, we should find serious problems celebrating it at a time which has historically been associated with the honoring of pagan deities, for Richardson later comments that “pagan celebrations held on December 25 included Mesopotamian celebrations for Marduk, Greek ones for Zeus, and Roman Saturnalia in honor of Saturn.” Irvin and Sunquist further note in their History of the World Christian Movement,
Prior to the year 300 there had been no consensus among Christians concerning the date on which to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Some argued for a spring date, but others suggested December 25. That latter date was the day celebrated in honor of the Invincible Sun, who had grown in imperial favor through the third century. Through the course of the fourth century most Christians came to accept December 25 as the celebration of the birth of Jesus, integrating elements of this solar monotheism with Christianity.
The celebration of the Messiah’s birth on December 25 came as a result of generations of Christians, long after the death of the Apostles, as Christians of the Third and Fourth Centuries often used syncretism to evangelize pagans. The original intent was to reinterpret the local religious holidays with Biblical meanings, in an effort to share the gospel. Without any doubt, the motives of many of these Christians were sincere, as they wanted to “adapt their faith” for the pagans around them and use Biblical overtones of their holidays to spread the good news. However, such adaptations came at a time after the destruction of Jerusalem when anti-Semitism was at a serious high in the Roman Empire, and the Believers in Yeshua were ejected from the Synagogue. Anything perceived as “Jewish,” namely the appointed times or moedim of Leviticus 23, would be looked down upon and not be observed. Substitute and replacement holidays had to be created instead and Christmas is a reality to this very day.
How Christmas has been celebrated over the centuries has been determinant on a variety of cultures and Christian denominations. The name Christmas comes from “Christ’s mass,” or a service that is held in Roman Catholic churches. Many Protestants realize many of the non-Biblical elements of the Roman Catholic service certainly derive from ancient paganism, the foremost of which might be transubstantiation, so the name Christmas has already to an extent been tainted. What is perhaps more disturbing is that other such “masses” exist on the Roman Catholic service calendar, such as Michaelmass, a service to be held for the Archangel Michael, which I must admit is very strange (cf. Colossians 2:18).
What about the Christmas tree?
For many Protestants throughout the centuries, Christmas was not like we consider it today. For those living in Great Britain and colonial America, Christmas Day was a very serious occasion when a family would attend church services, sing hymns about the birth of the Lord, and return home and sometimes exchange small gifts in remembrance of the three Magi who later gave gifts to Yeshua. There would have been no Christmas tree. Up until the mid-Nineteenth Century, Christmas trees were unheard of in either Britain or the United States:
The earliest recorded account of a Christmas tree is from 1605 in Strassburg, Germany. By the 1700s, the custom was firmly imbedded in Germany, and Christmas trees were mainly a German custom. When German settlers came to Pennsylvania in the early nineteenth century, they brought the Christmas tree with them.
President Franklin Pierce set up the first Christmas tree inside the White House in 1856. By 1877, the custom was well established. In 1923, President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge began the custom of lighting the National Christmas tree on the White House grounds.
In England, Prince Albert popularized the Christmas tree in the 1840s. The English people had heard of Christmas trees before then, but his decision to set up a tree for his family spread the custom.
The most common modern-day association with Christmas is obviously the Christmas tree. Its usage for “honoring the Lord,” of course, is not detailed anywhere in the Bible. Rather, it was a tradition introduced from Germany into Britain and the United States, and subsequently has become quite popular all around the modern world. Unfortunately for those Christmas tree lovers, Holy Scripture strongly prohibits God’s people from introducing decorated trees into their homes for (spiritual) adoration. The following words from the Prophet Jeremiah detail how the Christmas tree had its forbearers in Ancient Near Eastern religion:
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens although the nations are terrified by them; for the customs of the peoples are delusion; because it is wood cut from the forest, the work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. They decorate it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers so that it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, for they can do no harm, nor can they do any good” (Jeremiah 10:2-5, NASU).
Many Christians have astutely observed that these Bible verses speak of pagan idolatry. Now, are we accusing Christians today, who truly know Yeshua as their Savior, of participating in idol worship? No! But let us also be aware of what God’s Torah tells us:
“You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the LORD your God, which you shall make for yourself” (Deuteronomy 16:21, NASU).
Certainly, we cannot accuse all Believers of participating in idolatrous worship of trees. However, the Word of God does prohibit people from adorning trees in their homes, and these quotations from Jeremiah and Deuteronomy, respectively, are the most explicit examples of what we can compare today to the Christmas tree in Scripture. For even if Believers, who in ignorance, have Christmas trees in their homes and do not worship them—as I have many fond personal Christmas memories, and former Christmas trees of my family are no doubt still growing tall around the home of my youth—what of non-Believers who have Christmas trees? What of the non-Believers who have rejected salvation in Messiah Yeshua (Christ Jesus) who celebrate Christmas by indulging themselves? What is the god that they worship during the Christmas season? Richardson observes,
Using trees as part of religious celebrations goes back well beyond the first recorded Christmas tree. Egyptians decorated green date palms indoors for winter solstice rites. Romans hung trinkets on pine trees during Saturnalia and used evergreens for Natalis Sol Invicti. In Britain, Druids placed candles, cakes, and gilded apples in tree branches as offerings.
Some Christians when confronted with the verses forbidding Christmas trees, have stated things along the lines of, “In many cultures, trees symbolized life,” justifying their usage of something that has its roots in idolatry. In addition to just the Christmas tree, an evergreen is commonly employed in various decorations throughout the Christmas season. Unfortunately for them, this is not what Holy Scripture says: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Leviticus 17:11, NASU). Our eternal life is neither found nor represented in evergreen trees, but rather in the shed blood of Messiah Yeshua, in which “we have confidence to enter the holy place” (Hebrews 10:19, NASU) and be forgiven of our sins.
The argument that to the ancients evergreen trees symbolized life, and thus we should have them in our homes, is patently weak. What did the ancients do when they celebrated? The Romans held wild orgies where they would take hallucinogenic drugs, consume vast amounts of alcohol, and have elicit group sex. Following in their pattern, should we do these things when we celebrate? God forbid! Scripture clearly tells us “do not get drunk with wine” (Ephesians 5:18, NASU) and “the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4, NASU). Certainly we should rejoice in our Messiah Yeshua and remember Him every day of the year, but we should not knowingly participate in things that are directly forbidden in Scripture and are connected to idolatry.
We cannot judge the heart intent of those who have Christmas trees in their homes during the Winter season. Yet, Scripture does forbid this practice. Christmas trees have nothing to do with the birth of our Messiah; they are rather a prohibited custom that has been adapted by Christianity. Certainly, a great number of Christians who have Christmas trees do not at all worship them, but knowing their origin should hopefully be conviction enough to change, and actually consider what God might want us to do during the Winter season. If it is acceptable to have Christmas trees in one’s house, is it likewise acceptable to have a statue of Buddha, Shiva, or some other pagan god?
Santa Claus is a Child’s Myth
I do not feel the need at all to address Santa Claus and the “eight tiny reindeer.” Such things are as factual as the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. They are child’s myths and have no place among Believers, even in seemingly “Biblical” celebrations such as Christmas. The propagation of the existence of Santa Claus during Christmas time to young children, and the revelation of him not being real in later years, has resulted in many people also denying the truth of Yeshua (Jesus) being real as well—as both are entities we cannot see. Even when my family celebrated Christmas many years ago as conservative, evangelical Methodists, we did not play the “Santa game.” Why should others?
Is Christmas mentioned in Scripture?
Is there any specific reference to Christmas in Scripture? There are certainly prophecies that speak of the virgin birth of our Messiah, His entry into the world, and the Biblical record that details the event itself—but this is not Christmas itself, per se.
Is the holiday we have come to know as Christmas mentioned in Scripture at all? Some Christians would actually say yes—and if it is indeed Christmas, then it is in a place that should get us all very concerned:
“And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth” (Revelation 11:8-10, NASU).
When I was taking a correspondence Christian prophecy course back in 1999, I was taught that after the two witnesses of Revelation are killed that then the holiday of Christmas will occur. This is based on the assumption that since the world will “make merry, and shall send gifts one to another” (KJV), that it must be Christmas time. While it is more likely that this is referring to some future ecumenical holiday where people exchange gifts—and not “Christmas” itself—suffice it to say, the fact that some Christians believe that this holiday is Christmas is extremely disturbing.
If the only reference to “Christmas” in the Bible that Christians can present us with is in a passage that speaks about the murder of God’s two witnesses, then we should most certainly reevaluate our participation in it. Already, many secularists are doing their best to “eliminate Christ from Christmas,” which most Christians would view as a sign of apostasy—but Christmas is not a Biblical holiday so technically it is not a sign of apostasy. But this might be what is necessary to encourage Believers to participate in the God-given festivals as specified in the Torah, rather than in substitute holidays which are tainted by some questionable practices and customs.
Should Chanukah be celebrated as an alternative to Christmas?
Many Messianic Believers who decide to give up the Christmas tree and the trappings of this holiday want to know what they should do. A valid alternative that many discover is the celebration of the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, which often occurs in December around the same time as Christmas. But, as has unfortunately been the case, for many, Chanukah presents become substitutes for Christmas presents and the birth of the Messiah is something that is readily looked down upon.
It must be readily emphasized that Chanukah, surprisingly to many Christians and some Messianic Believers, has not been mandated in Holy Scripture. However, unlike Christmas, Chanukah should be considered extra-Biblical as opposed to non-Biblical, the events of which are detailed in the Books of 1-4 Maccabees in the Apocrypha. The story of Chanukah is quite moving and inspiring, as it speaks of the Maccabees’ defeat of the Syrian Greeks and the rededication of the Temple.
We encourage Messianic Believers to celebrate Chanukah, but emphasize that it is imperative to keep it in proper perspective. We must not uplift this celebration over the birth of our Messiah Yeshua (who some Messianics believe was conceived around the time of Chanukah). When you celebrate this holiday with your family, do not forget who the Light of the World is. Also remember that as the Lord is in the process of currently restoring His people, this should be a time that we all rededicate ourselves unto Him, and seek reconciliation with one another.
The only reference in Scripture to Chanukah or the Feast of Dedication actually occurs in the New Testament, in John 10:22-23: “At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Yeshua was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon” (NASU). These verses do not directly state that Yeshua actually celebrated Chanukah, but it may be safely assumed that He did. Chanukah is a national commemoration for Israel, much like Fourth of July celebrations for Americans, albeit with strong religious overtones. We should have no problem rejoicing in the historical triumphs of the Jewish people, but likewise we should not uplift them over the miraculous birth of our Lord and Savior.
Christmas in Perspective
It is an unfortunate predicament that many Messianics who do not celebrate Christmas, mercilessly and vehemently criticize Christians who do. This, in the long run, will not work well for the Messianic movement and will turn many Christians off to the truths that God is restoring to His people. Calling Christmas “utterly pagan” will seriously deter many sincere Believers to reexamine the holiday. It may be true that Christmas is not a Biblical holiday, but by calling it “pagan” many Christians will interpret these statements as meaning that we reject the virgin birth of Messiah Yeshua, which we do not. It is more appropriate to call Christmas a non-Biblical holiday, which is an accurate description that should not get as many people heated or turned off to the truth of its origins as the term “pagan” does.
Fortunately, we serve a Creator who is much bigger than we are and He looks beyond our many shortcomings: “The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression” (Numbers 14:18a, NASU). The Lord will honor those who celebrate Christmas in ignorance, who do not realize its questionable connections. During the Christmas season, many Christians will seek to please the Lord, and He who is in control of all things will use nativity scenes and the proclamation of the birth of Messiah Yeshua to bring many to Himself. During the Christmas season, the Lord will also no doubt look beyond the contentious attitudes of many Messianic Believers who unwarrantedly criticize Christians without the love, grace, or mercy which He desires us to have in our hearts.
We Need to be Careful in our Criticism
As Messianic Believers, we need to be very tactful during the Christmas season. We should not vehemently and cruelly criticize those who celebrate Christmas, lest they think we are denying the Messiah’s birth. We must not exclusively emphasize negative aspects of the holiday.
Many Messianics who observe the Biblical festivals of Leviticus 23 have been found wanting all too often by excluding Messiah Yeshua’s substance in them. At many “Messianic” Passovers, the Last Supper and sacrifice of Yeshua for us are barely spoken of. Many fail to emphasize that Shavuot/Pentecost is all about the Torah and the Holy Spirit being given to us, and the latter is seldom talked about at many commemorations. At Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, the gathering of the saints, the return of Yeshua, and wrathful Day of the Lord are not usually emphasized together. And, we might just find it appropriate to talk about Yeshua’s birth during Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, instead of the Christian practice of remembering it on December 25. Furthermore, how many “Messianic” Chanukah celebrations will be devoid of honoring the Light of the World?
What you do during the Winter holiday season is ultimately up to you and is between you and God, whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, or do nothing at all. I certainly cannot be the Holy Spirit for you, because God Himself is the only One who can fairly judge the intentions of the human heart.
The Christmas challenge for Messianic Believers is not going away any time soon, so we must endeavor to be as loving and grace-filled as much as possible when showing Christians the problems with Christmas. We must not forget the words of our Messiah Yeshua who said, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2, NASU). If we mercilessly attack people for celebrating Christmas, who in their minds are honoring the birth of the King of Kings, we could be mercilessly attacked by the same for honoring the Lord’s appointed times. We will become part of the problem as opposed to the solution, and Satan will have won once again. Contrary to this, demonstrate the great blessings of remembering a holiday such as Chanukah, and radiate Yeshua’s light to all you encounter during the Winter holiday season!
 Susan E. Richardson, Holidays & Holy Days (Ann Arbor, MI: Vine Books, 2001), 119.
 Ibid., 123.
 Dale T. Irvin and Scott W. Sunquist, History of the World Christian Movement, Vol. 1 (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001), 164.
 Consult the benediction against heretics, actually seen in the Jewish siddur until this very day (Joseph H. Hertz, ed., The Authorised Daily Prayer Book, revised [New York: Bloch Publishing Company, 1960], 283; Nosson Scherman and Meir Zlotowitz, eds., Complete ArtScroll Siddur, Nusach Ashkenaz [Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1984], 107), and a summary of early Christian remarks that followed toward the Jewish people seen in “Jew, Jews,” in David W. Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1998), pp 374-378.
 Transubstantiation is the belief that during communion, the bread and wine actually become the literal body and blood of Christ. During the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther advocated a position known as consubstantiation, where the bread and wine did not change, but the presence of Christ was active during communion. Today, most Protestant traditions see the practice of communion as only being a memorial of the Last Supper.
 Richardson, 132.
 Ibid., 130.
Please note that these comments specifically speak of trees involving religious ceremonies; they do not speak of having potted trees or plants for decoration, as you would find in many public buildings throughout the year, not including Christmas trees.
 L. Smith (2001). The History of Christmas. Christian Study Center. Retrieved 02 December, 2001 from <http://www.christianstudycenter.com >.
Afterward to The Christmas Challenge
There are a wide variety of thoughts that circulate across the broad Messianic movement during the month of December. These can and do range from people thinking that Christmas is utterly pagan, to Messianic Jews who think that Christians celebrating Christmas on December 25 is completely acceptable to God. It cannot go unnoticed how there are various academic resources, which not only include entries on “Christmas,” but even go into some detail about where the present holiday of Christmas originated, as observed by contemporary Christianity. While it is absolutely true that “Christmas is pagan” rhetoric can be overstated and hyped, the thoughts expressed in these summaries are hardly supportive of it being condoned by Scripture.
The early Christians did not observe the festival of Christ’s birth, to which they did not attach the importance ascribed to his death and resurrection. In the East, and later in the West, Christ’s birthday was observed on January 6th in connection with his baptism, a day on which the pagan world celebrated the feast of Dionysus, associated with the lengthening of the days. The night of January 5th-6th was devoted to the feast of Christ’s birth and the day of January 6th to his baptism. A fourth century papyrus contains the oldest Christmas liturgy in existence. The nativity festival was separated from the early Christian Epiphany feast and given its own day, December 25th, between the years 325 and 354. In Rome, December 25th is attested as the day of Christ’s birth in 336. It was introduced perhaps by Constantine the Great who evidently chose the day because of the popular pagan feast of the sun. Gregory Nazianzen and Chrysostom popularized the new festival in Constantinople. But opposition to the new feast was stubborn throughout the East, especially in Syria (Antioch). Egypt did not receive it till 431, Armenia never.
J. Theodore Mueller, “Christmas,” in Everett F. Harrison, ed., Baker’s Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960), 117.
From OE Christes Mæsse. Not knowing the date of Christ’s birth, the early Church sought one by combining calendrical speculations with the exegesis of biblical numbers. Several dates were suggested, including Mar. 25, Apr. 2, May 20, Nov. 8, Dec. 25, and Jan. 6. The earliest evidence, the Despositio martyrum, has the Feast of the Nativity being celebrated on Dec. 25 by the year 336 in Rome. Within a century this date was almost universally accepted.
Dec. 25 marked, in the Julian calendar, the winter solstice (the beginning of the victory of light over darkness after the year’s longest night) and, after 274, the feast of the birthday of Sol Invictus (the “invincible sun”), patron deity of the emperor. The association between Jesus and the sun occurred early and naturally; Jesus rose on Sunday (the “Lord’s Day”). As early as Clement of Alexandria (d. 216) Jesus was being identified with the “Sun of Righteousness” (Vulg. Sol Iustitieae) of Mal. 4:2 (MT 3:20) (Exhort. 11). A related early tradition identified Mar. 25, the “Sunday” of creation week, as the date of Christ’s conception (nine months before Dec. 25!). It was only natural that after Constantine had abandoned the patronage of Sol Invictus in 325, Sol Iustitiae, the light of the world, should supersede him.
Ronald V. Huggins, “Christmas,” in David Noel Freedman, ed., Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 240.
Christmas Day (December 25). A major feast celebrating the birth of Christ. In earlier times the EC celebrated Christmas on January 6 (the Armenian Church retains this later date). The commemoration dates to at least 336 (Rome). The date was also significant in antiquity as the birthday of Mithras. Astronomically the date is closely associated with the winter *solstice, the shortest day of the year. Thereafter, for the next six months, the length of daylight increases with every passing day, and thus December 25 is associated with the birth of a new year, or *New YearsDay, and was well known as the date for the birth of the sun in ancient Rome (Natalis Solis Invicti). Metaphorically, such a date could be connected with the birth of a significant person , as for example, a new cycle of time is associated with the birth of an Apollo-like hero in the Fourth Eclogue of Virgil (c. 37 B.C.). While there are disputes about whether Christianity took the date over from Mithras or Mithraism from Christianity, the impulse to celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25 is likely more deeply rooted in the culture of the Hellenistic world. Indeed, a well known iconographic theme of the ancient church is Jesus as Helios (the sun = Sol Invictus; cf. Mal 4:2) on the chariot pulled by horses (the quadriga), a fine example being that in the Tomb of the Julii of the necropolis beneath *St. Peter’s at Rome. With Jesus all of creation enjoys its rebirth, or new creation (cf. Rev 1:12-18, where Jesus is presented in the imagery of a triumphant Helios). Thus December 25 is not only appropriate to celebrate the newborn infant Jesus in his first advent, but the triumphant Jesus of the second coming brings to a close the further prophetic anticipation of the *Advent season. Color: white.
The date of December 25 may have also at one time commemorated the Cana wedding event (Jn 2:1-12), a *pericope evoking Dionysian imagery of miraculous wine production at a wedding with concepts of fertility and new life/beginnings apparent. The *Annunciation is celebrated nine months before Christmas Day.