‘Tis the season to understand what “Christmas” is really all about. Is Jesus Christ truly the “reason for the season?” As it turns out, no and yes.
When was the first Christmas? Was it around 0 AD/CE or 4 BCE, marking the supposed birth of Christ? Or does this celebration predate Christianity by thousands of years?
Christmas is the Christian version of a very ancient festival celebrating light and the sun’s “birth,” as the hours of daylight increase following the winter solstice.
The winter solstice is the time of year when the night is the longest, after which the days start to lengthen again. The word “solstice” comes from the Latin solstitium and means “sun stands still.”
The ancients perceived the sun as battling for its life for six months, until it reached the solstice, at which point the newborn, reborn or resurrected solar deity was seen as “victorious” over the engulfing darkness.
Because the sun was viewed as the source of light, heat and life, its return was celebrated with great joy and happiness in many places globally. Here is precisely where “Christmas” comes from, except that the Christian celebration is not about the Roman sun god Sol Invictus, the Persian god of light Mithra, the Egyptian solar deity Horus, or the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu. Instead, the winter solstice celebration has been changed into the birth of the Judeo-Christian “sun of righteousness,” Jesus Christ. (Malachi 4:2)
Winter solstice not confined to a single day
The period when the sun stands still was perceived as three days, also said to be the time when the solar hero was “in the tomb,” to be reborn or resurrected. The three-day solstitial period typically began at midnight on December 21st and ended at midnight on December 24th, when the sun stopped standing still and began moving again, from a geocentric perspective in the northern hemisphere.
Thus, it was said that the sun of God was born on “Christmas Eve,” just after midnight on December 24th, the morning of the 25th. This date, therefore, was perceived as part of the winter solstice, the moment of birth of the new sun.
Many gods and goddesses of light
The winter-solstice birth was attributed to many gods and goddesses in antiquity, including some of the best-known and most important of the Roman Empire, the precise area in which the Christian tale about Jesus’s birth was situated.
Some of these solstice-born or resurrected gods included Mithra, Horus/Osiris, the Greek god Dionysus and the Phrygian savior Attis. While these gods possessed many other attributes and were not considered strictly to be sun gods, they were indeed part of the vast solar pantheon of antiquity.
In the fourth century CE, Roman writer Macrobius (Saturnalia 1.18.18) cited certain verses attributed to the legendary Greek poet Orpheus (PEGr fr. 542-43) demonstrating this sacred solar unification:
The sun, whom they call with the surname Dionysus.
And while that verse is more unambiguous, this one by the same poet is more elaborate:
Zeus is one, Hades is one, the sun is one, Dionysus is one.
As we can see, the many gods were syncretized as one solar deity, and the reason for all these entities to be born at this winter solstice is because they were considered sun gods.
Many other times of the month of December, as well as the last couple weeks of November through to January 15th or so, have been full of light festivals, including the famous Roman celebration of Saturnalia and Scandinavian Yuletide. Numerous other such festivities as can be seen in the image included here from my astrotheology calendar, which is adjusted to the year 1 AD/CE. Some of these celebrations date to thousands if not tens of thousands of years ago.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ (John 8:12)
As a human being, Jesus Christ was not born on December 25th. However, Jesus, the “Light of the World,” is demonstrably a remake of ancient solar deities. In this sense, Christ is born at the winter solstice or on December 25th, as are so many other gods of light.
Mithra: Born on December 25th of a Virgin
Was Horus Born on December 25th of a Virgin?
Dionysus: Born of a Virgin on December 25th, Killed and Resurrected after Three Days
Attis: Born of a Virgin on December 25th, Crucified and Resurrected after Three Days
When Was the First Christmas?
Is Jesus the Reason for the Season?
The Star in the East and the Three Kings
John the Baptist and Jesus’s Birthdays
Jesus as the Sun throughout History