The Emphasis on Children
There is probably no better time of year to be a child than Christmas time. Children around the world are showered with gifts and affection at this time of year. This is a special time of year when children are often the focus of attention. Parents who are normally busy with the details of everyday life suddenly have time to focus their energy on the children who adore them. The focus children receive at this time of year is a long standing tradition. However, to understand how this tradition began, we must understand how children were treated and viewed in the past. To do this, we will take a brief stroll through the history of children. We will begin at the present and move backward in time.
For the most part, children today are treated very well in most societies around the world. Of course there are very serious exceptions to this fact, but overall those exceptions are in the minority. In today's world, there exist an intimacy between parent and child which was absent through much of human history. The development of the idea children should be treated with tenderness and compassion is a very new one. The first quote we will look at comes from the late nineteenth century. It is from a Government publication about commercial relations. Buried amongst page after page of statistics and figures relating to commerce and industry is a tiny quote which reveals how children were being treated in Greece at that time.
This quote describing nine year old boys and girls working fifteen hour days in the heat of the summer was written in 1891. This was of course written in reference to Greece and may sound barbaric, but the situation back in the U.S. was not much better. Children in colonial America, and even more recent, were often viewed as property. The following quote shows they were simply viewed as laborers.
So, not until the nineteenth century did the servitude of children even become frowned upon. Next, we will take a small step back to the eighteenth century. There we will find children were being sent out of the family to work at about age ten. As we go back in time, we will notice that age getting ever younger.
Notice the author's use of the words "hierarchical structure" here. This is going to be an important part of this chapter. Children, by simple virtue of being children, automatically fell into a lower bracket in the social hierarchy. Concerning Children, the lines of social prejudice were not drawn on the basis of wealth in the sixteenth century, as we see in the next quote.
That was written about the year 1500 in reference to the English. Notice the age at which children were being sent out of the home has slipped from nine to a range of seven to nine. That age seems to settle out in antiquity at about seven years old being the end of childhood. Classical literature is ripe with comments supporting this conclusion. The idea of a seven year old leaving home and being indentured as a servant today is virtually inconceivable. However, this was the norm during the middle ages, and the differences do not end at the notion of young children entering the workforce. The interaction between parent and child during our era would be viewed by the medieval parent as preposterous. For example, in the middle ages and before, parents would not engage in baby talk with their children. There were no high pitched expressions of elation or goo goo gaga in the hopes of making a child smile. Baby talk was considered the language of fools.
Now we will take a bigger leap back in time to the beginning of the middle ages and a quote from the early fifth century.
This quote appears to imply children were not even seen as truly human at times. This next quote probably comes from sometime between the sixth and third century B.C. It comes from a woman by the name of Theano. According to the book titled Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome, Theano was a credible historical figure who was, in her time, considered the "ideal" as far as being a wife and mother was concerned (Plant 68). The following is from a letter she wrote giving motherly advice to another person.
The translation of that quote was made in 1726. Therefore, some of the words and spelling may seem foreign to the modern reader. Theano was basically saying not to spoil the children by giving them too much education, pleasure, or food. She continued on in the letter to chastise the person it was written to for trying to coax a child into smiling when it cried, warming things for it in the cold, and cooling things for it in the heat of summer. She continued by telling the parents they were giving their child too much good tasting food and too fine an education. She tells them "to pluck up those pleasures in your children by the roots, practice upon them the hardy and not the delicate method of breeding. Let them learn to bear hunger and thirst with heat and cold." This letter illustrates the differences in where the line was drawn in the past as to the spoiling of children. There is a great divide between modern parenthood and that of the ancient Roman. The divide is further widened to form a grand gulf by the fact the father of a Roman child held absolute power over the child to the point of allowing the child to live or putting the child to death. A father could choose death as punishment for a child. This was not unheard of. The absolute authority of the father over the child began at birth. On the day of birth, a child was laid at his or her father's feet to either be accepted or rejected.
If accepted, the child could be raised in any manner the father saw fit. The child could be made to have all of the benefit the father could afford, or the child could be made into a slave. If rejected, children were exposed, meaning they were left where they might be found by someone who could use them or might otherwise show some sort of compassion toward them. The "compassion" showed them could arguably be worse than death for the child. They could again be used in any manner the finder might see fit. Only the imagination of the most deranged lunatic might limit the cruelty which some of these exposed children surely experienced.
We need not imagine the cruelty which was bestowed upon Spartan children between 800 and 600 B.C. Spartan children cry out from the pages of historical literature written in their blood, sweat, and torment. Spartan males were taken from their mothers at age seven to be raised by the state. The state transformed the boys into machines of war. They entered regular military service at age twenty and were kept in this capacity until age sixty. Even after marriage, they remained in the military barracks with the other men until age thirty. Their famous black broth consisted of pork boiled in blood, salt, and vinegar. Both men and women engaged in athletic exercises in the nude. Their entire existence involved becoming machines of war for the men and creating new recruits for the women. A Spartan mother’s greatest hope for her son was this: he might die a glorious death in battle; this was the purpose for which he was born (Duiker 99).
Like in Rome, Spartan children were also examined at birth to see if they were fit to live. The Spartan examination was performed by both the mother and the state.
Older Spartan men encouraged disputes among the children so they could see how well the children fought. The children’s education was limited to subjects which would instill obedience and courage. They were made to play barefoot and naked, and were intentionally kept dirty. Spartan boys were only allowed to bathe on certain special occasions. They were sent out to steal their food but were severely flogged and deprived of food if they were caught. This punishment was not inflicted because they stole but because they were not stealthy and smart enough to steal without getting caught. One Spartan boy was said to have concealed a stolen fox under his clothing. He is said to have allowed the fox to disembowel him with teeth and claws rather than be caught in the act of stealing. Spartan children were fed meager rations. Spartans believed under-fed children would grow taller because they were lighter; excess food and weight was believed to hamper vertical growth. At one time, humans were sacrificed at the altar of Dianna in Sparta. Lycurgus is said to have replaced this practice with the flogging of young Spartan men at the altar. Their blood was then sprinkled on the altar in place of the human sacrifice. Some of the young men are said to have perished due to these floggings. Some doubt the details of this particular claim. (Plutarch 155-58).
Back in Rome and moving forward in time now, there appears to be a great change in attitude toward Roman children which took place between the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. For example, A Dialogue on Oratory by Tacitus, tells us the second century B.C. mother of Tiberius and Gaius, and also the mothers of Julius Caesar and Augustus who lived during the first century B.C., took a very personal role in the lives of their sons. These mothers personally provided for the early education of their children. The same writing tells us by the late first, or early second century A.D., the responsibility for educating Roman children was from infancy, handed over to servant girls who were, to quote Tacitus "attended by one or two, commonly the worst of all the slaves, creatures utterly unfit for any important work" (Tacitus 180). This appears to be the tipping point in Roman society when the decline in personal attention by the parent led to an emotional disconnect between parent and child. Many credit this disconnect with the degradation of Roman society in general.
How sad a testament the coming of our Savior marks the same exact point in history as this loosening of bond between parent and child. This bond should have flourished through Christian love and values supported by Biblical principles after the message of Christ. But, it did not. On the contrary, the degradation of the parent-child relationship continued to an apparent pinnacle of ruthless disengagement during the middle ages. This is also the time period when pagan ritual was being transformed into Christian tradition.
We are likely at another turning point in the transformation of the parent-child relationship. History appears to be repeating itself in our time. The degradation of the ancient Roman parent-child relationship began with education of the children; similarly this is the case in our time as well. The failure of parents to take the prominent position in the education of their children is again commonplace in today's society. Christian parents now routinely trust their child's education to a stranger. Modern parents willingly submit their child's conscience to a teacher who thinks their duty is to fill the impressionable mind with mythology and also the fable of evolution. I too was taught by the public school teacher. However, my teacher prefaced the lies with a warning: through coercion she was being forced to infect our thought with the deception of evolution. With that warning as a ruler, we measured the rhetoric which poured forth from the dragon through her mouth. I was blessed, because, like Caesar, Augustus, and the Gracchi brothers, my mother had taken a very prominent and personal role in my early education. Due to the grace of God, the dedication of my mother, the warning of the teacher, and the desire for truth, I eventually came to understand the junk science behind evolutionary thinking and also the error of paganism. The modern parent is most often too distracted by the all-consuming task of just-getting-by to assume the role of teacher. Our desire for the things of this world have taken precedence over moral instruction. Still, the modern parent is more loving, more compassionate, and more loyal to their children than perhaps any generation in the past two thousand years.
The modern parent would not dream of withholding food from a child for the sole purpose of letting that child experience hunger or fail to try to coax their baby to smile when it cries. The idea of an education spoiling a small child seems foreign to us today, and the thought of leaving the fate of a child to anyone who might find it is incomprehensible. However, this demonstrates the point we need to understand in this discussion concerning why the focus is on children at Christmas time. In times past, the children were viewed very differently than they are today, as we have seen. On the social hierarchy, children were on the level of a servant, slave, or even subhuman as the quote from Macrobius appears to imply.
At the Saturnalia, there was a role reversal or equalizing of the classes which took place, as we have already discussed in the section dealing with Santa. There are numerous sources which tell us how the Saturnalia was the great social equalizer. Here is one of them.
Since the children were viewed much like a servant, the reversal of roles extended to them.
This reversal of roles at the Saturnalia would have included men dressing and acting as women and vice versa. However, the main reversal of roles which took place was between the rich and the poor and between those high in the social hierarchy and those lower in the social hierarchy. During the Saturnalia, the poor would enter the homes of the wealthy and demand the finest of food and drink in exchange for good favor. This reversal of roles is well documented and is the result of a pagan idea called the golden age of Saturn. The above quote credits Numa, the second king of Rome, with instituting role reversals at the Saturnalia. The heathen religions taught there was no servitude under the rule of Saturn. Therefore, one of the rituals associated with the Saturnalia was the freeing of the slaves, although this was only for the duration of the celebration of course. The masters even served their servants during the festival. Since the children were viewed much like a servant, the reversal of roles extended to them. This same tradition has come down through history from the Saturnalia through the middle ages and colonial times to today. Children today are no longer commonly viewed as servants, yet the Saturnalian tradition continues.
There is also another lesser pagan ritual which was originally celebrated separately from the Saturnalia which has bearing on this topic. Few realize the word juvenile comes to us from a pagan Roman goddess named Juventas. Juventas was worshiped at a shrine located in the inner temple of Minerva on the Capitoline hill in Rome. She was said to be the guardian of youth and rejuvenation. The word rejuvenation again carries the name of this goddess into the modern English language. The celebration of Juventas was brought to the Saturnalia in the form of a sub-holiday called Juvenalis by Caligula, as we see in the following quote.
The cultural celebrations this time of year fit right into the Wiccan religion and Pagan way of life.
The celebrations in honor of Juventas took on different names throughout the centuries, and she appears to have come in and out of favor with the Roman people. However, the worship of this pagan idol seems to have consistently simmered beneath the surface. Writing during the latter part of the first century B.C. or early part of the first century A.D., Livy places Juventus in Rome during the sixth century B.C. (Livius "vol. 1" 535). Nero is said to have implemented a celebration called the Juvenalia in her honor after the time of Caligula. The time of year the celebration took place has varied throughout the years, but the celebration is still very much alive in Christmas and on the pagan calendar as well. Here is a quote from a modern Wiccan bible, printed in 2003, which describes the current rituals used in honor of this pagan deity. It places the day of celebration on the nineteenth of December.
Notice the last line in that quote confirms the Christmas celebration fits right in with the pagan way of life. It fits in because Christmas rituals originate in paganism. The next quote shows some of the similarities Christmas holds with the Saturnalia. Here the "spirit of liberty" is said to be in remembrance of the golden age of Saturn. Most sources agree on that point.
One of the most common themes in literature about the Saturnalia is the idea of social equality during the festival. While the idea of abolishing slavery and servitude is certainly a good one, the transformation was far from permanent at the Saturnalia. All known sources agree — the reversal lasted only for the duration of the celebration, and as we saw in the section dealing with gifts, the tradition was often used as a means of control. This is still the case; children are still manipulated with the threat of no presents from Santa if they misbehave.
During Christmas, children are still treated very much the same as they were during the Saturnalia. The author of the following quote tells us why the transition from Saturnalia to Christmas was so easy to make in the eyes of a child.
Children getting gifts, and also the general focus on children at Christmas, is the result of the reversal of the social hierarchy at the Saturnalia and the worship of Juventas which continues to this day.
Throughout history, children were often viewed very differently than how they are viewed today. This is evident even in our Bible. Christ was "much displeased" when the children were forbidden from coming up to Him.
Mar 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.
I dare to say few Christians today would try to prevent children from being around Christ. The attitude towards children on the whole has changed dramatically in the last hundred years. In many ways, that change has been positive. The ability of children to learn quickly is better recognized today than ever before, but they are still used as an excuse for continuing in pagan tradition as far as Christmas is concerned. When I speak to people about Christmas being a relic of paganism, the most common reason I hear for continuing to celebrate it is "the children." People who admittedly understand Christmas is of pagan origin will defend its continued observance on the basis of the children. The look in the eyes of the child when they receive their presents brings forth emotions in the adult. During these discussions, this look is often credited as the emotional catalyst which propels Christmas into the future of the Christian family. For that reason, I will take a short pause in our walk through the pagan origins of specific traditions and rituals to point out some relevant points pertaining to children.
Children and Christmas
The word children is used over 1800 times in the King James Bible. The word child is used another 205 times, and the phrase little ones is used an additional 80 times. Children are an important topic in the Bible. In fact, the entire family unit is designed to teach mankind about our relationship with our Creator. He is called our Father, and we are repeatedly called His children.
Gal 3:26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Here we are called His children by faith. This faith is incredibly important. We must have faith like the faith of a child. We must accept the kingdom of God as children accept whatever is presented to them: without question and in total belief.
Luk 18:17 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.
The point of illustration in that verse is the uncompromising belief children have in their parents. Children will believe whatever their parents teach them. If a parent teaches a child Christ was born on December 25th, then the child will believe that lie. If a parent teaches a child there is a man named Santa who slides down the chimney distributing presents to children, the child will believe that lie. We must not be mistaken about the fact these are lies. These are lies which were born out of paganism. The lie and paganism are of a surety the work of the devil. Christ Himself said the devil was the father of the lie.
Joh 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
What good can come from lying to a child? We are especially warned about offending a child who believes in Christ.
Mar 9:42 And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.
If a parent teaches a child about Christ, that child will believe in Christ. If that same parent then teaches that child lies and pagan rituals, then is that child not offended in the site of God? One of our greatest fears when teaching people about Christ should be teaching them something wrong. Christ spoke to the scribes and Pharisees on this subject.
Mat 23:15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.
This verse is especially pertinent to the modern Christian because, no matter what we choose to believe, there is someone out there crossing seas and land teaching it. There are many who are being turned into "twofold more the child of hell." The Bible tells us how children should be taught. They should be taught in the manner the parent wants them to behave as adults.
Pro 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Spiritually speaking, Christmas is a childish thing because it has nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with pagan ritual.
We should not be lying to the children. We should not be teaching them pagan ritual. This also applies to adults who are young in their walk with Christ. Adults who are new to the faith are also called children in the Bible. Pastors must be careful to teach truth and expose lies. Christmas is a lie. Spiritually speaking, Christmas is a childish thing because it has nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with pagan ritual. We are taught to put childish things out of our lives.
1Co 13:11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
The time has come to leave the relics of paganism in the past. Now is the time to move forward and stop using children as an excuse for lying to children. The task of teaching this subject to children is far easier than teaching an adult. Christian children quickly and readily walk away from Christmas once they know the truth. Adults, on the other hand, tend to linger at the pagan trough refusing to spit out the lies they have been taught. Children enter this world as innocent little beings. They do not come into existence asking for presents on a certain day. They come into this world instinctively believing every word which is taught them. They are clay prepared for the sculptor and will become representative of the nature in which they are fashioned. If they are fashioned in the manner of evil, they will become evil. If they are fashioned in the manner of righteousness, they will become righteous. If they are fashioned after a mixture of paganism and Christianity, they will become exactly like the world around them.
The children should be taught the differences between Christianity and paganism; they should not be taught to mix the two. They should not be lied to. They should be trained in the way they should walk as Christians, and they should be taught the Christian walk is different than the pagan walk. They should be taught to focus on God. They should be taught to abstain from the materialism associated with Christmas. A child who is taught to abstain from Christmas will see the presents others exchange. This should not been seen as a point of contention but an opportunity to demonstrate the difference between Christianity and paganism, between materialism and being spiritually minded. The absence of presents should be seen as a point of accomplishment. The Christmas present should be seen as an opportunity to teach the children to come out from the world and be separate. We are called to be separate, to be peculiar. Part of being separate and peculiar is not conforming to the materialism and pagan rituals of the world.
Tit 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
Everything starts with the children. Every group trying to change the world is vying for the minds of the children. The parent has the upper hand in this matter because the parents are the ones in whom the child places the most trust. Therefore, the responsibility falls on the parent and the pastor to teach the children not to mix paganism and Christianity.
Many of the views toward children which led to the focus being on them during the Saturnalia have faded from the memory of modern society. Therefore, we should not let the pagan rituals associated with Christmas drag us backwards in this respect. Children hold a special place in society today, and we should not demean that progress by focusing on them only at this one time of year. Children are a great blessing and a great responsibility. We must recognize they are at the front line in the battle between good and evil, and we must act accordingly. The children should not be used as an excuse to continue celebrating in the manner of paganism. On the contrary, the children should be viewed as one of the most important reasons to leave this relic of paganism called Christmas in the past.
Do We Love the Children Enough to Put Aside Christmas?
1. Children were treated very badly in past societies and were often seen as slaves or servants.
2. One of the pagan rituals at the Saturnalia was the reversal of roles between slaves and their master.
3. This pagan ritual was in remembrance of the so-called Golden Age of Saturn. The ritual was observed in honor of the pagan idol Saturn.
4. Since the children were viewed much like a servant, the reversal of roles extended to them.
5. The focus children now receive at Christmas is a remnant of this reversal of roles.
6. The focus on slaves and children at this time of year has historically been used as a means of control. This is still the case; children are still manipulated with the threat of no presents from Santa if they misbehave.
7. The Juvenalia is a festival held in honor of a pagan idol called Juventas who is said to be the guardian of youth.
8. This festival is currently celebrated by pagans on December 19 and is called the Day of Children.
9. This pagan holiday is celebrated by giving gifts to children.
10. The Wiccan bible states "The cultural celebrations this time of year fit right into the Wiccan religion and Pagan way of life."
11. Historians say Christian children made the transition from Saturnalia to Christmas easily because they still received the toys they were accustomed to getting at the same time of year they had always received them.
12. Christians should not be lying to the children.
13. Christians should not be teaching children pagan rituals.
14. Children are the greatest reason to put aside Christmas.
As we go back to examining the pagan origins of individual Christmas rituals, we will start with another tradition born out of the reversal of roles at the Saturnalia — Christmas charity.