index
The Freethought of the Day that I visit occasionally had this to say today,
"For a fact, the Christians stole Christmas.  We don't mind sharing it with them, but we don't like this pretense of theirs that it is the birthday of Jesus.  It is the birthday of the Unconquered Sun- Dies Natalis Invicti Solis.  Christmas is a relic of sun worship."
Disclaimer: I found some interesting information tonight that I thought I'd share.  Some of the information may be offensive to you, but I share it without force and in the hope that you will form your own opinion.  You are free to believe what you want.
Christmas as a Celebration of the Winter Solstice
My immediate reaction was that this must be from an overly zealous freethinker jumping to conclusions from minimal evidence.  At the same time, I remember hearing this somewhere before, so I was curious and decided to do a little Googling.  Turns out, there is a lot of evidence to support this, and interestingly, religious sects are readily forthcoming about the truth of this information.  Here's what I found...
"History convincingly shows that Dec. 25th was popularized as the date for Christmas not because Christ was born on that day,
but because it was already popular in pagan religious celebrations as the birthday of the sun."
(The Good News)
The Birthdate of Jesus Christ
I had no idea this was in dispute, but look at these quotes from a Christian magazine:
"The Bible makes no mention of Christmas, nor does it anywhere encourage any sort of celebration of Christ's birth.  History records no such celebration until at least several centuries later when the Catholic Church essentially adopted the Pagan midwinter Saturnalia festival and the Dec. 25 celebration of the birthday of the pagan sun god Mithra as the supposed birthday of Jesus Christ in an effort to make Christianity more appealing to pagans." (The Good News)
The Winter Solstice
"As the earth travels around the sun in its orbit, the north-south position of the sun changes over the course of the year due to the changing orientation of the Earth's tilted rotation axes with respect to the sun... In the northern hemisphere, the Winter solstice is the day of the year when the Sun is farthest south...  The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year." (Weisstein's World of Astronomy)
The Winter Solstice has been catalogued and celebrated for thousands of years.
                          * Stonehenge perfectly marks both solstices.
                          * Newgrange in Ireland marks the Winter Solstice by allowing a sliver of sunlight to penetrate its inner                                                                 chamber at dawn on that one day of the year.  It is about 5000 years old- older than Stonehenge by                                                                  centuries, and older even than the Egyptian pyramids.
                          * (more examples are
here)
The birthdate of the Pagan sun god coincides with the Winter Solstice.
This is to symbolize the sun's "rebirth," which in practical terms, means the re-lengthening of days.
Back to Jesus' Birthdate
"A careful analysis of Scripture, however, clearly indicates that Dec. 25th could not have been the date for Christ's birth."

There are two reasons for this.
1) Luke 2:8 says shepherds were "living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night," which didn't happen in wintry December weather.
2) Luke 2:1-4 says that Mary and Joseph came to Bethlehem to register for a Roman census, which could not have taken place in below-freezing temperature and bad road conditions.

There are some scriptural hints at Jesus' birthday though.
1) Luke 1:24-36 says that Jesus was born during Elizabeth's (John the Baptist's mother) 6th month of pregnancy.
2) Luke 1:23-24 tells us John was conceived around the end of June, making him born at the end of March.  Subtract 6 months and Jesus would have been born around the end of September.
SO WHY DO WE CELEBRATE JESUS' BIRTHDAY IN LATE DECEMBER??
I don't know.  But I do know this...
The widespread speculation that "the Catholic Church essentially adopted... the Dec. 25th celebration of the birthday of the pagan sun god Mithra as the supposed birthday of Jesus Christ" is given a ton of credence by the following similarities between the modern Christian Christmas and the ancient Winter Solstice celebrations.

Check this out:
* "The Romans decked their halls with garlands of laurel and placed candles in live trees to decorate for the celebration of Saturnalia"
* Gift exchange was a custom of Saturnalia.
* Kissing under mistletoe is a Druid custom from Winter Solstice celebrations.
* Evergreen trees were used as decoration during Winter Solstice to symbolize enduring life, just like the return of the sun.
* The evergreen tree was made the official symbol of the Scandinavian sun god Baldor.
* The idea of 'The 12 days of Christmas' comes from the Scandinavian custom of the yule log, which was a thick cut of tree trunk capable of burning for 12 days.
(All of the above taken from
Zenzibar)


Estimations of exactly when Jesus' birthday began being celebrated on Dec. 25 vary.  I've heard estimates as early as 320 A.D. and as late as 1800 A.D. (
Zenzibar)  Another source claims it was around 1000 A.D (Candlegrove).  The fact that these dates are inconclusive is less interesting than the fact that ALL the estimates are WELL after Jesus was born.  In fact, look again.  There is no hint of a Dec. 25th Christmas until centuries after his death.

Interesting.

Again, you are free to believe what you want, whether it be in line with facts or not.
I'll leave you with the rest of the Freethought of the Day quote that I began with.

"The customs of this time of year endure because they are pleasant customs.
It's fun to hear from distant family and friends, to gather, to feast, to sing.
Gifts, as Robert Ingersoll once said, are evidence of friendship, of remembrance, of love.
The evergreens displayed now as in centuries past flourish when all else seems dead,
and are symbols, as is the returning sun, of enduring life.
In celebrating the Winter Solstice, we celebrate reality."
- Anne Nicol Gaylor