Christian tradition of baby Jesus being born in a barn in December does not ring realistic. Why would they be traveling in the cold winter? Spring would seem more likely. The Church does not even try to insist that the Dec. 25 is a true date. They, in fact, do not know when he was born. So, why December 25th?
One idea, contrary to popular Jewish experience now, the Christians were trying to come up with a holiday that competed with Hanukah which is 8 days long. The Greek and Roman Pagan holiday of Saturnalia (named after their G-d) was from Dec 17-25, was also 8 days long). Hanukah begins on the 25th of Kislev, a winter month usually corresponding with December.
This secular date 25th of December is actually first mentioned in the Torah (not by that name but known by the time of the Sun); since Adam celebrated the first “Sun-day” in history. Since tradition has Adam born on Rosh Hashanah each day he noticed that there was less and less of sunlight. He was sure the end of the world was quickly approaching. When December 22 came, he noticed the day stop getting shorter. By December 25th he was happy to realize the days were actually getting longer – a day to celebrate. The pagans picked this date for the same reason.
During the Roman times the secular calendar as we have today, was almost finished. It at first had only 10 months; 6 months of 30 days and 4 of 31. It started with January and ended with September (7), October (8), November (9) and December (10) the end of the year. They lost 61 days every year – which I don’t know how they compensated. At some point July and August were added, for obvious reasons, named after Julius and Augustus Caesars.
In the Greek period Saturnalia was a time of intoxication, sexual freedom (rape) and consuming cookies that were in the shape of humans. (Was this the beginning of gingerbread cookies or the wafer given at mass?) For the Romans it became known as the day darkness would be destroyed; marked by murdering a man that was chosen to be the “enemy of the Roman people”. During the entire 8 days, Roman courts were closed and punitive action was ignored allowing mayhem to be legalized.
When the Church was trying to entice the pagan rabble to join their ranks – they realized they could not give up on this holiday. December 25th was incorporated into the Christian calendar maintaining many of the debased traditions and the Jews were the enemy. They connected it to Jesus’s birth date and his Brit Mila correspondingly would have taken place on January first .
Many of the minhagim (that’s the Hebrew for customs) are the reminiscence of those beginning rites.
In 1466 the Pope instituted instead of the original running around intoxication; Jews were forced to run through the street naked trying to avoid being beaten. Later on it became the day to make the Jewish Rabbis parade around in clown outfits. Eventually it was just one of the many days that it was a good excuse to have a pogrom.
The Christmas tree was from another pagan tradition that worshiped and decorated trees (see, tree huggers, have a long history). The Mistletoe was a pagan plant used to poison their human sacrifices. Christmas presents were from the Saturnalia ritual of demanding the hated population to bring gifts (taxes) to the emperors.
Santa Claus has many traditions. There was a St. Nicholas from Turkey who died Dec. 6 345CE, though only recognized as a Saint in the 19th century. He was involved with portraying Jews in the New Testament as “the children of the devil” since they were involved with Jesus’s death. He became popular (after his death) and was liked by German and Celtic pagans since his bones were brought physically over by pirates earlier. They created an idol to represent St. Nick: a man with a white beard who rode a horse through the sky in a winter coat (it is cold in their area). The Christians adopted the Santa Claus figure and encouraged gifts to be given. The Famous poem “It was twas the night before…” was written by Dr. Clement Moore in 1822 introducing the idea of reindeer and entrances through chimneys. In 1931 Coca Cola introduced Santa Claus in a red outfit to match their advertising campaign. And Santa was born – a blend of Christian crusader, pagan god, and a commercial idol.
In any case, this “holiday” has no real meaning to the Christians other than imitating horrible pagan traditions and the killing of Jews. One should be wary of the “merry” of Christmas.
Credited: Much of the information is from Rav Keleman’s speech called Christmas – the real story.http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/Christmas_TheRealStory.htm