Christmas is fast approaching, and as usually happens around this time of year the crazies are out in force. From stories of Nativity scenes being shunned by towns to people going around criticizing various organisations for daring to be inclusive. It’s always amusing to see these people attempt to crush the religious beliefs of others under the banner of protecting their own (after all, it’s the primary purpose of religion).
What I find particularly amusing is this attachment to Christmas Day, as if it’s significant in some way, religiously speaking. In fact, there’s debate over the original origins of 25th December being used as Christmas day. Many believe it was a carry over from a pagan festival, which was no doubt linked to the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere. Others, notably William J Tighe, believe that it was down to an attempt by early christians to calculate Jesus’s actual birth date. Note that Mr Tighe cites no sources. It’s generally understood that the date of December 25th was decided upon by Pope Julius (I) at around 350AD.
It’s almost certain that if Jesus did exist, he was not born on December 25th. It seems far more likely that December 25th was chosen as a date because it aligned very nicely with existing religious festivals such as Sol Invictus. Sol Invictus, literally referring to the birth of the unconquered sun, was believed to be a Roman celebration that allowed for multiple sun Gods to be worshipped simultaneously during the Winter Solstice.
The significance of the Winter Solstice should not be overlooked. Prior to the Christian Jesus myth, multiple Religions celebrated significant events on or around December 25th. This includes Mithra (born to a virgin, could raise the dead, heal the sick and his birth was accompanied by wise men bearing gifts), Horus and Osiris (who was resurrected). To say the world of religious belief is inbred would be an understatement, no more so than around the time of the Winter Solstice.
So when you’re tucking into your turkey on Christmas day, spare a thought for all the other Gods that happened to be born on the same day, the very day that the sun is also “reborn”.
Nativity scene by alexbruda.