Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 211The ancient Persians celebrated a festival in honor of Mithras on the first day succeeding the Winter Solstice, the object of which was to commemorate the Birth of Mithras."[363:6]
Among the ancient Egyptians, for centuries before the time of Christ Jesus, the 25th of December was set aside as the birthday of their gods. M. Le Clerk De Septchenes speaks of it as follows:
"The ancient Egyptians fixed the pregnancy of Isis (the Queen of Heaven, and the Virgin Mother of the Saviour Horus), on the last days of March, and towards the end of December they placed the commemoration of her delivery."[363:7]
Mr. Bonwick, in speaking of Horus, says:
"He is the great God-loved of Heaven. His birth was one of the greatest mysteries of the Egyptian religion. Pictures representing it appeared on the [Pg 364]walls of temples. One passed through the holy Adytum[364:1] to the still more sacred quarter of the temple known as the birth-place of Horus. He was presumably the child of Deity. At Christmas time, or that answering to our festival, his image was brought out of that sanctuary with peculiar ceremonies, as the image of the infant Bambino[364:2] is still brought out and exhibited in Rome."[364:3]
Rigord observes that the Egyptians not only worshiped a Virgin Mother "prior to the birth of our Saviour, but exhibited the effigy of her son lying in the manger, in the manner the infant Jesus was afterwards laid in the cave at Bethlehem."[364:4]
The "Chronicles of Alexandria," an ancient Christian work, says:
"Watch how Egypt has constructed the childbirth of a Virgin, and the birth of her son, who was exposed in a crib to the adoration of the people."[364:5]
Osiris, son of the "Holy Virgin," as they called Ceres, or Neith, his mother, was born on the 25th of December.[364:6]
This was also the time celebrated by the ancient Greeks as being the birthday of Hercules. The author of "The Religion of the Ancient Greeks" says:
"The night of the Winter Solstice, which the Greeks named the triple night, was that which they thought gave birth to Hercules."[364:7]
He further says:
"It has become an epoch of singular importance in the eyes of the Christian, who has destined it to celebrate the birth of the Saviour, the true Sun of Justice, who alone came to dissipate the darkness of ignorance."[364:8]
Bacchus, also, was born at early dawn on the 25th of December. Mr. Higgins says of him:
"The birth-place of Bacchus, called Sabizius or Sabaoth, was claimed by several places in Greece; but on Mount Zelmissus, in Thrace, his worship seems to have been chiefly celebrated. He was born of a virgin on the 25th of December, and was always called the Saviour. In his Mysteries, he was shown to the people, as an infant is by the Christians at this day, on Christmas-day morning, in Rome."[364:9]
The birthday of Adonis was celebrated on the 25th of December. This celebration is spoken of by Tertullian, Jerome, and other [Pg 365]Fathers of the Church,[365:1] who inform us that the ceremonies took place in a cave, and that the cave in which they celebrated his mysteries in Bethlehem, was that in which Christ Jesus was born.
This was also a great holy day in ancient Rome. The Rev. Mr. Gross says:
"In Rome, before the time of Christ, a festival was observed on the 25th of December, under the name of 'Natalis Solis Invicti' (Birthday of Sol the Invincible). It was a day of universal rejoicings, illustrated by illuminations and public games."[365:2] "All public business was suspended, declarations of war and criminal executions were postponed, friends made presents to one another, and the slaves were indulged with great liberties."[365:3]
A few weeks before the winter solstice, the Calabrian shepherds came into Rome to play on the pipes. Ovid alludes to this when he says:
|"Ante Deûm matrem cornu tibicen adunco
Cum canit, exiguæ quis stipis aera neget."
|—(Epist. i. l. ii.)|
|i. e.,||"When to the mighty mother pipes the swain,
Grudge not a trifle for his pious strain."
This practice is kept up to the present day.
The ancient Germans, for centuries before "the true Sun of Justice" was ever heard of, celebrated annually, at the time of the Winter solstice, what they called their Yule-feast. At this feast agreements were renewed, the gods were consulted as to the future, sacrifices were made to them, and the time was spent in jovial hospitality. Many features of this festival, such as burning the yule-log on Christmas-eve, still survive among us.[365:4]
Yule was the old name for Christmas. In French it is called Noel, which is the Hebrew or Chaldee word Nule.[365:5]
The greatest festival of the year celebrated among the ancient Scandinavians, was at the Winter solstice. They called the night upon which it was observed, the "Mother-night." This feast was named Jul—hence is derived the word Yule—and was celebrated in honor of Freyr (son of the Supreme God Odin, and the goddess Frigga), who was born on that day. Feasting, nocturnal assemblies, and all the demonstrations of a most dissolute joy, were then authorized by the general usage. At this festival the principal guests received presents—generally horses, swords, battle-axes, and gold rings—at their departure.[365:6]
The festival of the 25th of December was celebrated by the ancient Druids, in Great Britain and Ireland, with great fires lighted on the tops of hills.[366:1]
Godfrey Higgins says:
"Stuckley observes that the worship of Mithra was spread all over Gaul and Britain. The Druids kept this night as a great festival, and called the day following it Nolagh or Noel, or the day of regeneration, and celebrated it with great fires on the tops of their mountains, which they repeated on the day of the Epiphany or twelfth night. The Mithraic monuments, which are common in Britain, have been attributed to the Romans, but this festival proves that the Mithraic worship was there prior to their arrival."[366:2]
This was also a time of rejoicing in Ancient Mexico. Acosta says:
"In the first month, which in Peru they call Rayme, and answering to our December, they made a solemn feast called Capacrayme (the Winter Solstice), wherein they made many sacrifices and ceremonies, which continued many days."[366:3]
The evergreens, and particularly the mistletoe, which are used all over the Christian world at Christmas time, betray its heathen origin. Tertullian, a Father of the Church, who flourished about A. D. 200, writing to his brethren, affirms it to be "rank idolatry" to deck their doors "with garlands or flowers, on festival days, according to the custom of the heathen."[366:4]
This shows that the heathen in those days, did as the Christians do now. What have evergreens, and garlands, and Christmas trees, to do with Christianity? Simply nothing. It is the old Yule-feast which was held by all the northern nations, from time immemorial, handed down to, and observed at the present day. In the greenery with which Christians deck their houses and temples of worship, and in the Christmas-trees laden with gifts, we unquestionably see a relic of the symbols by which our heathen forefathers signified their faith in the powers of the returning sun to clothe the earth again with green, and hang new fruit on the trees. Foliage, such as the laurel, myrtle, ivy, or oak, and in general, all evergreens, were Dionysiac plants, that is, symbols of the generative power, signifying perpetuity of youth and vigor.[366:5]
Among the causes, then, that co-operated in fixing this period—December 25th—as the birthday of Christ Jesus, was, as we have seen, that almost every ancient nation of the earth held a festival on this day in commemoration of the birth of their virgin-born god.
On this account the Christians adopted it as the time of the birth of their God. Mr. Gibbon, speaking of this in his "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," says:
"The Roman Christians, ignorant of the real date of his (Christ's) birth, fixed the solemn festival to the 25th of December, the Brumalia, or Winter Solstice, when the Pagans annually celebrated the birth of Sol."[367:1]
And Mr. King, in his "Gnostics and their Remains," says:
"The ancient festival held on the 25th of December in honor of the 'Birthday of the Invincible One,' and celebrated by the 'great games' at the circus, was afterwards transferred to the commemoration of the birth of Christ, the precise day of which many of the Fathers confess was then unknown."[367:2]
St. Chrysostom, who flourished about A. D. 390, referring to this Pagan festival, says:
"On this day, also, the birth of Christ was lately fixed at Rome, in order that whilst the heathen were busy with their profane ceremonies, the Christians might perform their holy rites undisturbed."[367:3]
Add to this the fact that St. Gregory, a Christian Father of the third century, was instrumental in, and commended by other Fathers for, changing Pagan festivals into Christian holidays, for the purpose, as they said, of drawing the heathen to the religion of Christ.[367:4]
As Dr. Hooykaas remarks, the church was always anxious to meet the heathen half way, by allowing them to retain the feasts they were accustomed to, only giving them a Christian dress, or attaching a new or Christian signification to them.[367:5]
In doing these, and many other such things, which we shall speak of in our chapter on "Paganism in Christianity," the Christian Fathers, instead of drawing the heathen to their religion, drew themselves into Paganism.