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Celebrations with Pagan Roots

By December 22, 2022Uncategorized

Muslim celebrations are legislated by God and the Messenger Muhammad. Their origin is based on textual evidence, Quran and Hadith, and they are celebrated to mark God’s worship and devotion to Him.

Many other celebrations that have religious or cultural associations are in fact pagan in origin. Paganism refers to polytheistic religions. In the European context this would include the religions of the Greeks, Romans, Norse, and others. In Islamic nomenclature, pagan refers to things that God did not legislate or approve of, rather they are man-made traditions and customs. In this blog, we will look at five common celebrations that have paganism at their roots:

Christmas 

Scholars have long argued about the exact date of the birth of Jesus. However, many experts agree that it was not the 25th of December. Where did Christmas come from then? For an ancient Roman, December 25th was the time to celebrate Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun. The Sun God was venerated under different names all over the enormous territory of the Roman Empire and became the most important god during the 3rd century AD. The emperor Aurelianus built a big temple for the Sun God in Rome and inaugurated it right on December 25th, 274 AD. December 25th was the last day of more than a week of celebrations in Rome, known as Saturnalia. The most significant aspect of the Saturnalia was the traditional exchange of gifts as people do for Christmas now.

 

New Year’s Day

For the Romans, New Year’s Day was a very important date, but the most interesting fact is that originally the Roman year didn’t start on January 1st, but in March. This was mainly because March was the month dedicated to Mars, the Roman god of war, which was also believed to be the divine father of Romulus, the founder of Rome. However, it was Julius Caesar in 46 BC, with his Julian Calendar, who permanently established the holiday on January 1st. Just like people now celebrate on the eve of a new year, the Romans would also feast the night before.

 

Easter

Easter is a very peculiar Christian holiday, which doesn’t fall on a specific date like the other festivities, but is based on the cycle of the moon: in fact, it falls on the first Spring Sunday after the new moon. But many traditions associated with Easter show completely different (and pagan) origins: in fact, the word “Easter” itself comes from the name of Eostre, the Germanic goddess of Spring. The famous Easter Eggs and the Easter bunny, which is supposed to deliver candies to the kids, were originally associated with Eostre, as symbols of rebirth and fertility.

 

Halloween

Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31. The tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts and evil spirits. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth.

 

Birthdays

The idea of celebrating the date of your birth is a pagan tradition. In fact, many Christians didn’t celebrate birthdays historically, because of that link to paganism. Pagans thought that evil spirits lurked on days of major changes, like the day you turn a year older. The ancient Greeks believed that each person had a spirit that attended his or her birth, and kept watch. That spirit “had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born,” says the book The Lore of Birthdays. The candles were a response to the evil spirits that showed up to communicate with the gods. 

Conclusion

Muslims should only participate in celebrations that are legislated and ordained by God. Part of being devoted servants of God is to ensure that our actions, behaviours, and life events comply with God’s teachings, regardless of the actions of others around us. Muslims have a distinct identity which is Divine in origin and it stands out from man-made systems and traditions. 

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Sister Eva
Sister Eva
1 month ago

I am a new Muslim revert, formerly pagan.

But, even though we only observe specific holy days, should we not tolerate and congratulate those who observe the holidays associated with their beliefs and customs?
What does that say about accepting our neighbors where they are at?

Deborah
Deborah
1 month ago
Reply to  Sister Eva

Assalamu Alaykum Sister Eva, I reverted 3 years ago, formerly an atheist, and prior to that Catholic. I agree it’s a tough balance. We want to be true to Islam but also not alienate others for whom we are trying to set an example. My small contribution is that I try to use neutral language. Instead of saying “merry Christmas” or “happy holidays”, I say “enjoy your time with your family”.

This is the first December I am wearing hijab, Alhamdulilah, and as I write I realize there are at least 3 instances where co-workers brought up Islam to me in the past couple weeks. 1- holiday conversation in a beginning of a meeting and I was asked to share what are the Muslim holidays. 2 – co-worker down the hall asked if I minded if she put out some decorations. 3- the person who writes the newsletter for our very large department asked for input for the holiday message. Perhaps these are only small subtle things, but focusing on our own behavior of being kind and human and excellent stewards of Islam seems to have given me respect from co-workers and perhaps in the future they will think about Islam in Sha Allah.

Sister Eva
Sister Eva
1 month ago
Reply to  Deborah

That’s great.
I reverted in September of this year and everything is still a bit strange. I also grew up Catholic, found Paganism about 20 years ago, and
started looking deeper into Islam a few years ago, with more interest since a visit to Egypt last year.

I am happy that you have positive experiences.
I have not any bad ones myself, so far.

Deborah
Deborah
1 month ago
Reply to  Sister Eva

Alhamdulilah, welcome sister.

So, we both reverted a bit later in life. Definitely hear you about the strangeness. May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala help us adjust and do everything in His namesake.

Hussein Oduor
Hussein Oduor
1 month ago
Reply to  Deborah

It’s not permissable

Hussein Oduor
Hussein Oduor
1 month ago
Reply to  Sister Eva

It’s not permissable

Sister Eva
Sister Eva
1 month ago
Reply to  Hussein Oduor

What’s not permissable?
Accepting that other people believe differently?

I know that we do not celebrate the holidays of other religions.
But, thank you for the reminder ️

Sara Bokker
Admin
Sara Bokker
1 month ago
Reply to  Sister Eva

Welcome sister Eva. Congratulations on your conversion and thank you for writing.

Here is a portion of the latest NMA blog post regarding this:

“Some of us wonder about congratulating those who observe holidays associated with other beliefs and customs not approved in Islam. This is a concern based on the sensitivities and conditioning that we have absorbed from the values of liberalism. We should ask – is this concern something that originates from Islam, or from some other world view?

As Muslims, we should look into the life of the Messenger Muhammad and the early Muslim community (converts to Islam), who, too, lived around and with pagans, people of the scripture, and others, yet they never congratulated them on things that have to do with their false beliefs because it would be consenting, validating, and approving of falsehood, which is something we are commanded not to do. The kindness and tolerance of the early Muslims was not absolute. It was guided and bound by the commandments of God and what is approved in Islam. They were great to their neighbors, in line with the teachings of God, not in spite of them.

We are taught that we can congratulate non-Muslims on blessings in their lives, like being blessed with a child, getting a new house or job, getting well after a health crisis. As far as accepting others for who they are and where they are at, which some people are concerned about, it is worth questioning the root and origin of this concept. We want what is good for others and do not wish them harm. We want their salvation and success. This makes us not accept the falsehood they are involved in, and at the same time, consider their current situation and be wise in how we deal with them, without compromising our values.”

Please read the post in its entirety at: https://www.newmuslimacademy.org/blog/

May Allah bless you and guide us all.

Sister Eva
Sister Eva
1 month ago
Reply to  Sara Bokker

So, is it ok to say ‘Happy Holidays’ to them? After all, it’s their holiday – or does that indicate that I embrace them?

Sara Bokker
Admin
Sara Bokker
1 month ago
Reply to  Sister Eva

You can wish them well and pray for them.
Say something nice without using questionable expressions that validate falsehood.

Sister Eva
Sister Eva
1 month ago
Reply to  Sara Bokker

I’m sorry, but now I’m confused.

Jesus is one of the prophets. He was a man.

Christians celebrate the birthday of Jesus at Christmas time.

So,???
We do not accept what, exactly?

Jesus? The celebration? The customs?

Help!!

Fatima Azam
Fatima Azam
1 month ago

Mashallah,Alhamdulillah Insha Allah A MUSLIM who is following our Holy Prophet, Muhammad [pbuh] should only,only participate in Islamic traditions,QURAN, HADITH and all,all of which Allah swt command’s.Our SALAH- 5 Daily prayer’s,pratical work and doing our Best to be Good Muslims.Having Good manner’s ,being kind,giving to those in need.Going to a Mosque or in our Home doing our Prayer’s on time.I am a convert now 9 year’s and I am proud to be MUSLIM ,Alhamdulillah.I thank Allah swt every day for giving me another day.I Love Allah swt and pray I go to Paradise, Insha Allah.Allah swt Bless all Muslim’s.
Warmest wishes,
Fatima Azam