"The [Christmas] season is steeped in tradition and its roots stem back in history. The commencement of the holiday lies in pagan worship long before the introduction of Christianity. The god Mithra was worshiped by the ancient Aryans, and this worship gradually spread to India and Persia. Mithra at first was the god of the heavenly light of the bright skies and later in the Roman period was worshiped as the deity of the sun, or the sun-god--Sol Invictus Mithra.The power of Jesus never ceases to amaze me! Because even His glory broke through false pagan belief, making Christmas is a universal celebration. It is a testimony to me that He lives. That He is real. That He is the Son of God. That He possesses ALL things!
"In the first century after Christ, Pompey carried on conquests along the southern coast of Cilicia, in Asia Minor, and many of the prisoners taken in those military actions were brought captive to Rome. This introduced the pagan worship of Mithra to Rome, for these prisoners spread the religion among the Roman soldiers. The worship became popular, particularly in the ranks of the Roman armies. We find today, in the ruins of the cities of the far-flung Roman Empire, the shrines of Mithra. Mithraism flourished in the Roman world and became the chief competitor of Christianity in the religious beliefs of the people.
"A festive season for the worshipers of the sun-god took place immediately after the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year--the time when the sun stands still after its annual dip into the Southern Hemisphere. The commencement of its climb from this low point was regarded as the rebirth of Mithra, and the Romans celebrated his birthday on the twenty-fifth of December each year. There was great merriment on this holiday--festivals and feastings, gifts given to friends, and the dwelling places decorated with evergreens.
"Gradually Christianity gained a victory over Mithraism, which had been its strongest rival, and the festival day celebrating the birth of Mithra was used by the Christians to commemorate the birth of Christ. The pagan worship of the sun, deeply rooted in Roman culture, was replaced by one of the greatest festivals among Christians. Christmas has come down to us as a day of thanksgiving and rejoicing--a day of good cheer and goodwill to men. Although it has an earthly relation and significance, it is divine in content. The ancient Christian celebration has lived continuously through the centuries.
I add my voice with Elder Hunter's:
"It has been said that Christmas is for children; but as the years of childhood fancy pass away and an understanding maturity takes their place, the simple teaching of the Savior that "it is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35) becomes a reality. The evolution from a pagan holiday transformed into a Christian festival, to the birth of Christ in men's lives, is another form of maturity that comes to one who has been touched by the gospel of Jesus Christ.I'd love to hear what your family is doing to Keep Christ in Christmas!
"If you desire to find the true spirit of Christmas and partake of the sweetness of it, let me make this suggestion to you. During the hurry of the festive occasion of this Christmas season, find time to turn your heart to God. Perhaps in the quiet hours, and in a quiet place, and on your knees--alone or with loved ones--give thanks for the good things that have come to you, and ask that his spirit might dwell in you as you earnestly strive to serve him and keep his commandments. He will take you by the hand and his promises will be kept."