Dear Pope and Archbishop,
Christmas is a time for sharing. I think we can all agree on that. However, while I am prepared to share the festival you call Christmas Day with my Pagan festival on 25 December, you appear to be reluctant to do the same with me.
Just because you believe in the birth of someone you call the “son of God” doesn’t mean you can re-invent history. While there is no evidence whatsoever of the birth of a deity, or even a powerful individual called Jesus, in Bethlehem on any day in December in the year 0 BC, there is evidence that the Christian church effectively hijacked Christmas.
For Pagans, the beginning of the end of Winter was celebrated around 21 December; the Winter Solstice. Yule. It was and still is celebrated by Pagans, Wiccans, Celts and Druids.
Christmas means "Christ's mass". But it was not celebrated on 25 December, or even at all, until some 300 years after his alleged crucifixion. Until then the Romans, who had gradually become Christian still worshipped the old gods. These included Mithra, a Persian God, adopted by the Eastern Roman Empire.
When Constantine the Great became Emperor in 306 AD, the prevailing religion was Mithraism, but Constantine converted to Christianity. As a result, Christianity became the state religion and public funds were used to build churches. It was Constantine who commissioned the building of the Church of the Nativity on a spot in Bethlehem assumed, without any evidence, to be the exact birthplace of Christ. By the end of the fourth century, the old forms of worship had been banned, and Christianity began spreading across the land.
Christmas appears to have been first celebrated on 25 December in the year 336 AD. In 350 AD Pope Julius I declared December 25 the official date of Christ’s Birthday and in 529 AD Emperor Justinian declared Christmas a civic holiday. Why that date? Because the day was already celebrated as part of the Mithranian and Pagan festivals, and as such the Winter Solstice seemed a convenient date to choose. Mithra was born from a rock on 25 December. It was also the close of Saturnalia, the period when the Romans celebrated Saturn’s triumph over Jupiter. There was also another reason; the sheer fun, joy (and, yes drunkenness and fornication) that occurred during these celebrations was hard to just switch off. So your Christian priests and rulers decided to amalgamate the birth of Jesus, date unknown, with a date that was near to the Winter Solstice and coincided with the height of all these festivities. Nice one!
So your predecessors substituted the birth of Christ for the birth of the sun as a cause for celebration. But what irks me and mine, is that Christian churches refuse to accept that December 25 is also an important date for other, older religions. I urge you to rethink your opposition to this, and to be honest and admit that December 25 “Christmas Day” was in fact purloined from other religions for reasons of expediency. I am afraid that it is the hypocrisy of the Christian Church that sticks in the craw. If there’s an inconvenient truth, then re-tell it as a lie, dressed as a truth.
On 25 December have a good Mithra Birth Day! Happy Yuletide, Praise Wotan and, if you must, Merry Christmas!
An Open Letter to the Pope and the Archbishop of Canterbury: Christmas Doesn’t Belong to You!
Dear Pope and Archbishop,