The most cherished festival of many nations. Whether one has religious ties or not, it is still the time of the year when families are compelled to unite while the frugal are driven to generosity. Why does this time of the year have such a hold on so many millions of people?
Several years ago a friend of mine when his family was living in a "Christian" community in a mid-western US city, their oldest son compiled a history of Halloween and passed his findings around the neighborhood foolishly thinking that others had been as ignorant as we had been. He tells me that they were not prepared for the response. “Our daughter's car window was smashed, "items" meant to scare, were put in our mailbox, and numerous pieces of "hate" mail were left for us - just to name a few of such "community works projects" designed to deter. Throughout all this was a common message - Don't you dare touch Christmas." Tactics of this sort tend to have an opposite effect on us. We started to seriously delve into the origins of Christmas as well as religion in general. However, we were also wise enough to remove ourselves from this community. Our interest was indeed peaked. Why would otherwise rational people instantly be thrown into an immense personality change just at the mention of origins of a popular celebration?
For hundreds of years, people have known the truth about the origins of Christianity and its practices, yet few can bring themselves to voice the obvious conclusion - Christianity is just another pagan religion. To question often brings one to the brink of atheism or agnosticism. This family embraces neither. We believe in a Creator, but not the ones depicted in "inerrant writings". Investigating "Christmas" and "Easter" is just the beginning in shedding the chains of a senseless prison.
It is not my aim to herd people into a certain corral of thought but to present facts and allow the reader to take his own chosen path from there. Over the years, however, we have noticed a peculiar oddity. People rarely allow facts, or truths to stand in the way of their beliefs and practices.
December 25: A Not-So-Unique Birthday
December 25th is the birthday of the gods. The followers of Jesus Christ are apparently not unique in claiming this day as the birthday of their god. Others have claimed this day long before he came on the scene. The following are some of the more popular gods who share this day as their birthday. This list is taken from the on-line book "The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors" by Kersey Graves, Chapter 8; and from Koster, p. 28 (see bibliography)
1. Bacchus (Egypt, Greece. Also known as Dionysus.)
2. Adonis (Greece)
3. Krishna (India)
4. Chang-ti (China)
5. Chris (Chaldea)
6. Mithra (Persia)
7. Sakia (India)
8. Jao Wapaul (Ancient Britain)
10. Horus, son of Isis and Osiris
12. Tammuz (Syria)
13. Indra (Tibet)
"The god worshipped as a child in the arms of the great Mother in Greece, under the names of Dionysus, or Bacchus, or Iacchus is...expressly identified with the Egyptian Osiris...the Bacchus of Greece was symbolized by the Nebros, or 'spotted fawn'...was known as having the very lineage of Nimrod. From Anacreon, we find that a title of Bacchus was Aithiopais, ie. 'the son of Aethiops'...the Aethiopians were Cushites, so Aethiops was Cush...says Eusebius...The testimony of Josephus is to the same effect." (Hislop, pp. 46-48).
The gods are the same but when adopted by another nation, a name was changed to make him unique in that particular country. "But when the Romans conquered Greece, they took over the Greek gods, giving them new names and identifying them with their own gods" (Eerdmans, p. 102). Christianity merely followed this well-established pattern. A quote from Hibernian comes to mind: "I have 14 brothers and they are all named Bill except Bob and his name is Tom".
Quotes about Christmas or December 25th
"According to Dr. Lightfoot, the temple of Jerusalem was employed in celebrating the birthday of a pagan God (Adonis) on the very night Christians assign for the birth of Christ. Robert Taylor informs us that nearly all the nations of the East were once in the habit of rising at midnight to celebrate the birthday of their Gods, on the twenty-fifth of December. And to this statement, Mr. Higgins adds that "At the first moment after midnight of the twenty-fourth of December, the ancient nations celebrated the accouchement of the queen of heaven and celestial Virgin, and the birth of the God Sol, the Infant Savior, and the God of Day"". (Graves, chpt. 8)
The Rev. Mr. Barret tells us, "It was once common for the women in Rome to perambulate the streets on the twenty-fifth of December, singing in a loud voice "Unto us a child is born this day". The twenty-fifth of December, then, it will be observed, was marked as the birthday of the incarnated Gods, Saviors, and Sons of God, of many of the religious systems of antiquity, long prior to the birth of Christ." (Graves, chpt. 8)
"But at least one Mithraic practice survived - 25th of December is celebrated in various cultures as the birthday of the new sun. Mithraists used the date to celebrate the birth of Mithras and Christians took it over for the celebration of Jesus' birth". (Eerdmans, p.89)
"Even the Christians could not hold out against the flood and the marks of the compromise to which the Catholic church came in the matter may perhaps be seen in the coincidence of the “Lord's Day” with Sunday and the Church's adoption of the 25th day of December, the birthday of the Unconquered Sun-God, as the anniversary of the birth of Christ". (Legge, I-118)
"In like manner they (the Manichaeans) probably observed Christmas as the birthday not of Jesus, but of the Sun-god in accordance with the traditions preserved by the worshippers of Mithras". (Legge, II-349 as quoted from Augustine).
"As a holy day and a holiday, Christmas is an amalgam of the traditions from a half-dozen cultures, accumulated over the centuries...originated with different peoples to become integral parts of December 25th, a day on which no one is certain Jesus was born". (Panati's, p. 67).
"The idea to celebrate the Nativity on December 25 was first suggested early in the fourth century, the clever conceit of church fathers wishing to eclipse the Dec. 25 festivities of a rival religion that threatened the existence of Christianity". (Panati's p. 67)
"It is important to note that for two centuries after Christ's birth, no one knew and few people cared, exactly when he was born...the church even announced that it was sinful to contemplate observing Christ's birthday "as though he were a King Pharoah"". (Panati's, p. 67).
Several renegade theologians, however, attempted to pinpoint the Nativity and came up with a confusion of dates...what finally forced the issue, and compelled the church to legitimize a December 25th date, was the burgeoning popularity of Christianity's major rival religion, Mithraism. (Panati's, p.67).
The tradition was established as far back as 753 BC when King Romulus founded the city of Rome...the Roman observance of Natalis Solis Invicti occasioned December feasts and parades; so too, did the celebration of the Saturnalia, in honor of Saturn, god of agriculture. The church needed a December celebration. (Panati's, p. 68).
Thus to offer converts an occasion in which to be pride fully celebratory, the church officially recognized Christ's birth. And to offer head-on competition to the sun-worshippers' feast, the Church located the Nativity on December 25. The mode of observance would be characteristically prayerful: a mass; in fact, Christ's mass". (Panati's, p. 68)
"...within the Christian church no such festival as Christmas was ever heard of till the third century, and that not till the fourth century was far advanced did it gain much observance. How then, did the Roman Church fix on December the 25th as Christmas-day? Why thus...a festival was celebrated among the heathen at that precise time of the year, in honor of the birth of the son of the Babylonian queen of heaven and...To conciliate the heathen, and to swell the number of the nominal adherents of Christianity, the same festival was adopted by the Roman Church, giving it only the name of Christ". (Hislop, p. 93).
"That Christmas was originally a Pagan festival is beyond all doubt. The time of the year and the ceremonies, with which it is still celebrated, prove its origin". (Hislop, p. 93).
"It must have been the birth-day of the Lord Moon, therefore, and not the Sun, that was celebrated by them (the Saxons) on the 25th of December, even as the birth-day of the same Lord Moon was observed by the Arabians on the 24th of December". (Hislop, p. 94).
"There can be no doubt, then, that the Pagan festival at the winter solstice - in other words, Christmas - was held in honor of the birth of the Babylonian Messiah". (Hislop, p. 102).
"Among these (festivals), Christmas Day may be considered the most important. The first festival of this kind ever held in Britain...was celebrated by King Arthur in...AD521. Previous to this year, the 25th of December was dedicated to Satan, or to the heathen deities worshipped during the dynasties of the British, Saxon, and Danish Kings". (Knowlson, p. 76).
"Relative to the time of Christ's birth, the 'Encyclopedia Britannica' says, "Christians count one hundred and thirty-three contrary opinions of different authors concerning the year the Messiah appeared on earth - many of them celebrated writers"...It is evident from the facts just presented, that all systems of Christian chronology as founded on mere conjecture...What would be thought of a witness who should testify in court to the truth of an occurrence of which he did not know the year, or even the century, in which it took place, or who could come no nearer than one hundred and thirty-three years in fixing or guessing at the time. Would the court accept such testimony?" (Graves, chpt. 8).
"The familiar abbreviation for Christmas originated with the Greeks. X is the first letter of the Greek word for Christ, Xristos. By the sixteenth century, 'Xmas' was popular throughout Europe. Whereas early Christians had understood that the term merely was Greek for 'Christ's Mass', later Christians, unfamiliar with the Greek reference, mistook the X as a sign of disrespect, an attempt by the heathen to rid Christmas of its central meaning. For several hundred years, Christians disapproved of the use of the term. Some still do". (Panati's, p. 71).
Twelve Days of Christmas
"...the song probably predates the sixteenth century. It's believed that the original song, with slightly modified wording, derived from a "forfeits game" which was played on the Twelfth Night. Each player would have to remember and recite the objects named by the previous player and then add one more. The forfeits game played on the Twelfth Night is of Gallic origin". (Panati, p. 125).
"The sinister aspect of Saturn; the winter solstice...birthday of the unconquerable sun...The dead return during the twelve nights of the duration of the Saturnalia...The twelve days of Chaos symbolize the pattern of the coming months of the year. The period of Chaos is governed by the Lord of Misrule...Transvestism (q.v.) is a feature of the time of Chaos in Saturnalia, orgies, carnivals etc. and signifies a form of return to chaos. Babylon held the twelve days of duel between Chaos and Cosmos; in Christianity, these are the twelve days of Christmas." (Cooper, under Saturnalia).
The Christmas tree is commonly thought to have innocent beginnings, but apparently, in actuality, it was just a transfer of superstition.
"The custom of a Christmas tree, undecorated, is believed to have begun in Germany, in the first half of the 700's. The earliest story relates how British monk and missionary St. Boniface (born Winfrid in AD 680) was preaching a sermon on the Nativity to a tribe of Germanic Druids outside the town of Geismar. To convince the idolaters that the oak tree was not sacred and inviolable, the 'Apostle of Germany' felled one on the spot. Toppling, it crushed every shrub in its path except for a small fir sapling. A chance event can lend itself to numerous interpretations, and legend has it that Boniface, attempting to win converts, interpreted the firs survival as a miracle, concluding 'Let this be called the tree of the Christ Child' ". (Panati's, pp. 69,70).
"The custom of decorating an evergreen tree goes back to the pre-Christian period of 'raw nights' (December 25 to January 6) when people would hang green branches in their houses and light candles to keep evil spirits at bay". (Bruce-Mitford, p. 44).
Going back even farther, we discover just why the fir tree, or evergreen tree, was chosen to represent Christ and why the 'heathen' held this tree sacred. "The pine tree. As an evergreen, the pine symbolizes immortality...It is an attribute of the Greek god, Bacchus, and an emblem of Jupiter, Venus, and Diana". (Bruce-Mitford, p. 44).
"The Christmas tree now so common among us was equally common in Pagan Rome and Pagan Egypt. In Egypt, that tree was the palm tree; in Rome, it was the fir; the palm tree denoting the Pagan Messiah as Baal-Tamar, the fir referring to him as Baal-Berith. The mother of Adonis, the Sun-God and great mediatorial divinity, was mystically said to have been changed into a tree and when in that state to have brought forth her divine son". (Hislop, p. 97 . See more on this under 'Yule.')
"...the virgin Mary was seen as the 'tree of life'..." (Biedermann, p. 351)
"The Christmas-tree, as has been stated, was generally at Rome a different tree, even the fir; but the very same idea as was implied in the palm tree was implied in the Christmas-fir; for that covertly symbolized the new-born God as Baal-berith, 'Lord of the Covenant', and thus shadowed for the perpetuity and everlasting nature of his power now that after having fallen before his enemies, he had risen triumphant over them all. Therefore, the 25th of December, the day that was observed at Rome as the day when the victorious god reappeared on earth, was held at the Natalis Invicti Solis, 'The birth-day of the unconquered Sun' ... the Christmas tree is Nimrod redivivus - the slain god come to life again". (Hislop, p. 98).
"Baal-bereth, which differs only in one letter from Baal-berith, 'Lord of the Covenant', signifies 'Lord of the fir tree'". (Hislop, p. 98 footnote).
"'Ail' or 'Il', a synonym for Gheber, the 'mighty men' (Exodus 15:15), signifies also a wide-spread tree, or a stag with branching horns. Therefore, at different times, the great god is symbolized by a stately tree or by a stag". (Hislop, p. 98 footnote).
Even the Christian Bible and the Jewish Tanakh record the heathen origin of the Christmas tree in Jeremiah 10:2-5, Thus said יהוה, “Do not learn the way of the gentiles, and do not be awed by the signs of the heavens, for the gentiles are awed by them. (3) “For the prescribed customs of these peoples are worthless, for one cuts a tree from the forest, work for the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool. (4) “They adorn it with silver and gold, they fasten it with nails and hammers so that it does not topple. (5) “They are like a rounded post, and they do not speak. They have to be carried, because they do not walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they do no evil, nor is it in them to do any good.”
"The English and American custom of hanging up sprigs of mistletoe at Christmas time and of feeling free to kiss anyone standing under them seems to go back to the Celtic enthusiasm for the plant". (Biedermann, p. 224).
"As neither tree nor shrub, it symbolizes that which is neither one nor the other, which, by extension, is the realm of freedom from limitation, so that anyone under the mistletoe is free from restrictions, but also free from protection, and re-enters the world of chaos..." (Cooper, under Mistletoe).
"Two hundred years before Christ's birth, the Druids celebrated the start of winter by gathering mistletoe and burning it as a sacrifice to their gods". (Panati's p. 68).
"Gathering mistletoe was an occasion for great ceremony and only sprigs that grew on sacred oak trees were collected - by the highest ranking priest, and with a gold knife ...". (Panati's p. 69).
"During the Roman feasts of Natalis Solis Invicti and Saturnalia, patricians and plebeians bound sprigs into boughs and festively draped the garlands throughout the house". (Panati's, p. 69).
"...according to legend, it sprang up where lightning had struck a tree (especially an oak). Mistletoe growing on oak trees was especially prized ...". (Bruce-Mitford, p. 224).
"In the Breton dialect of Vannes, among the many words used instead of mistletoe, there is the curious name of 'deur derhue'. "oak-water"". (Bruce-Mitford, p. 661).
Why was the oak held as sacred?
"In many traditions the oak was a sacred tree to which the privileges of the supreme sky-god were attributed, doubtless because it attracts lightning and is symbolic of Kingship...In all ages and among all peoples the oak has been synonymous with strength...at Shechem and at Hebron Abraham received the divine revelation in an oak grove...Odysseus on his return went twice to Dedona to 'hear the will of Zeus from the high-crested oak of the god'...the druids' priestly quality entitled them to both wisdom and strength and the oak symbolizes both..." (Chevalier & Gheerbrant, pp. 709, 710).
"Mistletoe is the Golden Bough of the Druids and Aeneas and represents the sacred feminine principle with the oak as the male." (Cooper, under Mistletoe).
"Oak...Christian: a symbol of Christ...Druidic: the sacred tree...Graeco-Roman: Sacred to Zeus/Jupiter...emblem of Cybele and of Silvanus and in Greece of Philemon...Hebrew: The Tree of the Covenant...Scandinavian and Teutonic: Thor's Tree of Life; also sacred to Donar. Oak groves were places of worship in Germanic rites." (Cooper, under Oak).
"...for the Druids, it was the oak which was also the sacred attribute of the Germanic god of thunder and the (Greek) King of the gods, Zeus". (Biedermann, p. 351).
"That the mistletoe bough in the Druidic superstition...was derived from Babylon was a representation of the Messiah, 'The man the branch'. The mistletoe was regarded as a divine branch - a branch that came from heaven, and grew upon a tree that sprung out of the earth". (Hislop, p. 99)
"With the official recognition of Christmas on December 25 in the fourth century, the Church forbade the use of mistletoe in any form, mindful of its idolatrous associations. As a substitute, it suggested holly. The sharply pointed leaves were to symbolize the thorns in Christ's crown and the red berries drops of his blood. Holly became a Nativity tradition." (Panati, p. 69).
"In Roman times, holly was part of the Saturnalia festival celebrated in mid-December." (Bruce-Mitford, p. 44).
"No emblem was more distinctive of the worship of Bacchus than this...ivy in some form or other, was essential to these celebrations. The votaries carried it in their hands, bound it around their heads, or had the Ivy leaf stamped upon their persons...and that Bacchus as represented by his priest, was known in the Mysteries as 'the branch'". (Hislop, p. 49).
"Ivy...Dionysys is generally depicted wreathed in ivy which, as an evergreen, symbolizes the enduring strength of plant life and the persistence of desire...Perhaps this need for protection has made the ivy a female symbol. Dionysus used ivy...to carry away in mystical delirium those women who refused him worship..." (Chevalier & Gheerbrant, p. 546).
"The wassailling bowl of Christmas had its precise counterpart in the 'drunken festival' of Babylon; and many of the other observances still kept up among ourselves at Christmas came from the very same quarter". (Hislop, p.97).
"It was no mere astronomic festival then that the Pagans celebrated at the winter solstice. That festival at Rome was called the feast of Saturn...regulated by Caligula, lasted five days (FN. Subsequently, the number of the days of Saturnalia was increased to seven); loose reigns were given to drunkenness and revelry, slaves had a temporary emancipation (FN. Saturn ..."The emancipator..."), and used all manner of freedoms with their masters. This was precisely the way in which ...the drunken festival...of Bacchus was celebrated in Babylon...it was the custom...for masters to be in subjection to their servants and one of them ruled the house clothed in a purple garment like a king. This 'purple-robed' servant was called 'Zoganes' the "Man of sport and wantonness' and answered exactly to the 'Lord of Misrule', that in the dark ages, was chosen in all Popish countries to head the revels at Christmas". (Hislop, pp. 96, 97).
The wassailing bowl and celebrations now go under "Punch Bowl" activities - whether the beverage is with alcohol or not - the revelry is the same. "A rose by any other name is still a rose".
"The very day by which Christmas is popularly known among ourselves - Yule-day - proves at once its Pagan and Babylonian origin. "Yule" is the Chaldee name for an 'infant' or 'little child'; and as the 25th of December was called by our Pagan Anglo-Saxon ancestors, 'Yule-day' or the 'child's day' and the night that preceded it, 'Mother-night' long before they came in contact with Christianity..." (Hislop, p. 93, 94).
"The Yule log is the dead stock of Nimrod, deified as the sun-god, but cut down by his enemies; the Christmas tree is Nimrod redivivus - the slain god come to life again". (Hislop, p. 98).
"The mother of Adonis, the Sun-God...changed into a tree, and when in that state...brought forth her divine son. If the mother was a tree, the son must be recognized as the 'Man the Branch'. And this entirely accounts for the putting of the Yule Log into the fire on Christmas Eve, and the appearance of the Christmas tree the next morning. As Zero-Ashta, 'The seed of the woman', which name also signified 'Ignigena' or 'born of fire', he has to enter the fire on 'Mother Night' that he may be born the next day out of it, as the 'Branch of God' or the Tree that brings all divine gifts to men". (Hislop, p. 97).
"Saint Francis of Assisi popularized the Christmas 'crib' or 'creche' in his celebration of the Nativity in Creccio, Italy, in 1223. Francis used wooden figures of Mary, Joseph, the infant, sheep, shepherds, starting a tradition still popular to this day." (Panati, p. 217).
"...the boar's head is still a standing dish in England at the Christmas dinner, when the reason for it is long since forgotten". (Hislop, p. 101).
"In many countries the boar was sacrificed to the god for the injury a boar was fabled to have done him...the death of Adonis, or Tammuz...inconsequence of a wound from the tusk of a boar that he died. The Phrygian Attes, the beloved of Cybele, whose story was identified with that of Adonis, was fabled to have perished in like manner, by the tusk of a boar...Diana...the great mother of the gods has frequently a boar's head as her accompaniment...Venus was reconciled to the boar that killed Adonis...On Christmas-day, the continental Saxons offered a boar in sacrifice to the Sun to propitiate her (FN. The reader will remember the Sun was a goddess) for the loss of her beloved Adonis. In Rome, a similar observance had evidentially existed, for a boar formed the great article of the feast of Saturn..." (Hislop, pp. 99-101).
"In Norse mythology, the goddess Freyja and her brother were associated with the boar...In ancient Greece, the boar was spoken of as the dangerous prey of Hercules and as the slayer of Adonis and Attis but also as the attribute of the goddess Demeter and...in Rome of the war-god Mars...In Christian iconography, astonishingly, the boar is also a symbol of Christ..." (Biedermann, p. 45).
"... the 'Christmas goose' and 'Yule cakes' were essential articles in the worship of the Babylonian Messiah as that worship was practiced both in Egypt and at Rome". (Hislop, p. 101).
"... 'the favorite offering' of Osiris was a 'goose' and moreover, that the 'goose could not be eaten except in the depth of winter'. As to Rome, Juvenal says, 'that Osiris, if offended, could be pacified only by a large goose and a thin cake'". (Hislop, p. 101).
"It is well known that the capitol of Rome was on one occasion saved, when on the point of being surprised by the Gauls in the dead of night, by the cackling of geese sacred to Juno, kept in the temple of Jupiter". (Hislop, p. 101; see also Biedermann, p. 156).
"The goose was the attribute of Venus (Aphrodite) and Mars...Cupid (Eros), and the phallic fertility god Priapus"" (Biedermann, p. 156)
"Sir Isaac Newton was not a historian, but he was right when he said (in his book on 'Prophesies') that "the Heathens were delighted with the Festivals of their gods, and unwilling to part with those ceremonies; therefore, Gregory, Bishop of Neo-Caesarea in Pontus, to facilitate their conversion, instituted annual Festivals to the Saints and Martyrs; hence the keeping of Christmas with Ivy, feasting, plays, and sports, came in the room of Bacchanalia and Saturnalia; the celebrating May Day with flowers, in the room of Floralia; and the Festivals to the Virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and divers of the Apostles, in the room of the solemnities at the entrance of the Sun into the Signs of the Zodiac in the old Julian Calendar." (Knowlson, p. 5).
"This tendency on the part of Christians to meet Paganism half-way was very early developed; and we find Tertullian, even in his day, about the year 230, bitterly lamenting the inconsistency of the disciples of Christ in this respect, and in contrasting it with the strict fidelity of the Pagans to their own superstition. "By us," says he, "who are strangers to Sabbaths, and new moons, and festivals, once acceptable to God, the Saturnalia, the feasts of January, the Brumalia, and Matronalia are now frequented; gifts are carried to and fro, new year's day presents are made with din, and sports and banquets are celebrated with uproar; oh, how much more faithful are the heathen to their religion, who take special care to adopt no solemnity from the Christians". (Hislop, p. 93 as quoted from Tertullian, De Idolatria, c14, vol.i, p. 682).
1. Bibby, Reginald W. Unknown Gods. Toronto: Stoddart Publ. Co. Ltd., 1993.
2. Biedermann, Hans. Dictionary of Symbolism. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1992.
3. Bruce-Mitford, Miranda. The Illustrated Book of Signs and Symbols. Montreal: Readers Digest, 1996.
4. Chevalier, Jean and Gheerbrant, Alain. A Dictionary of Symbols. Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1994.
5. Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus. Trans. by Christian Frederick Cruse; includes, "An Historical View of the Council of Nice," by Issac Boyle. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1994.
6. Eerdmans Handbook to the World Religions. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publ. Co., 1982.
7. Graves, Kersey. The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors. (1875).
8. Hislop, Alexander. The Two Babylons. Neptune, NJ: Loizeau Brothers, 1916.
9. Knowlson, T. Sharper. The Origins of Popular Superstitions and Customs. Hollywood, CA: Newcastle Publ. Co., 1972. (taken from Brand's Popular Antiquities, 1841).
10. Koster, C.J. Come Out of Her My People/". Johannesburg, RSA: Institute for Scripture Research, 1998.
11. Legge, Francis. Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1964.
12. Panati, Charles. Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.
13. Panati, Charles. Sacred Origins of Profound Things. New York: Penguin Books USA Inc., 1996.