Spenta Productions | The Truth Behind Christmas
So, is it Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah or happy Kwanzaa? That seems to be the question every year around this time. But this year, let us celebrate it for what it really is. It was originally the Yule or Yalda festival meant to commemorate the birth of the Sun God, Mithra. Perhaps it had something to do with the Ice Age, which bedeviled ancient Nature Worshippers for so long that the day following the Winter Solstice, when days start getting longer, the day when light is born again, that day, the 23rd of December, was the happiest day of the year for our freezing pagan ancestors and celebrated accordingly.
The Yalda festival was a Mithraic celebration, which finds its origins among the earliest Iranians. But after the Roman General, Marcus Licinius Crassus was trounced at the Battle of Carrhae by Iranian Pathians in 53 BCE, Roman Legions adopted their superior God Mithra, the “Unconquered Sun,” for themselves and the Yule Tide became an official celebration of the Roman Empire.
Many of the original pagan symbols survive in what has come to be called Christmas, most notably the color red symbolizing the ruddy dawn of the rising sun commemorated by poinsettias, Santa's suit and mistletoe. Iranians not only decorate and dress in red but also eat red during their Yalda Feast. Pomegranates and watermelons are an essential part of beckoning Mithra back from his deep sleep. The Yule log, the giving of gifts, decorated evergreen trees, and magical reindeer all date back to a time when nature rather than people were worshipped.
Most Christians know that December 25th is not the actual date of Jesus’ birth. But to call it "Christmas" stretches the limits of irony as early Christians, even some today, did their best to abolish it. Polydor Virgil, an early British Christian, famously said "Dancing, masques, mummeries, stage-plays, and other such Christmas disorders from these Roman Saturnalia and Bacchanalian festivals . . . should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them."
In Massachusetts, Puritans unsuccessfully tried to ban Christmas entirely during the 17th century, because of its heathenism. The English Parliament abolished Christmas in 1647. Some contemporary Christian faith groups do not celebrate Christmas to this day including the Worldwide Church of God (before its recent conversion to Evangelical Christianity) and the Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact, I suspect that the last pagan holdouts supported the switch to "Christmas" in an effort to save their celebration from being abolished entirely by the Papacy.
In a compromise, the Catholic Church, in the beginning of the 4th century CE, agreed to celebrate the birthday of Yeshua of Nazareth (later known as Jesus Christ) on December 25th, two days removed from its original Yule date. Eastern churches followed suit and began to celebrate Christmas after 375 CE. Ireland started in the 5th century. The church in Jerusalem started in the 7th century. Austria, England and Switzerland in the 8th. Slavic lands in the 9th and 10th centuries.
Regardless of its origins, it's a great time to wish friends and family joy, prosperity and good health for the coming year.
|In Search of Cyrus the Great|