So I mentioned in my article (So the pope hasn’t called me back that at least with New Year we knew what we were celebrating whereas with Christmas it is very difficult to know.
There are two reasons this is the case. The first comes from the fact that a large number of people who believe in Christmas don’t believe in Christ (or perhaps more specifically god). And yet celebrate we do even though we don’t really know what the real reason we’re doing it is.
But it’s not just the non-believers who are confused. The Christians themselves are pretty confused as well. Lets imagine what December 25th might have been like for a Roman in 500 BC.
Well the Roman would be celebrating the birth of his God, a God who was born to a virgin on December 25th as a man and who had come to save everyone from their sins. Who the Roman would have shown his devotion to by getting baptised. When his God was born he was visited by Maji and shepherds. His holy day was a Sunday. His church was founded upon the rock (because to be fair he was born of a “virgin” rock – but you can’t have everything can you). And the cave where this happened was on Vatican Hill in Rome. And the head of the church was referred to as the Pope. Whenever their god was shown in pictures he always had an image of the sun behind his head which looks an awful lot like a halo – but had a point here as their god was born of the Sun (which also explains his day being Sunday). And his followers acknowledged their allegiance to him by having a meal in which they broke bread and drank wine and that the bread had inside it the pattern of the cross. His name was Mithras. And he supposedly lived somewhere near the beginning of 7,000BC. So quite a long time before Jesus popped up.
For a variety of other reasons and festivals (Saturnalia and Dies Natalis Solis Invicti) you as a Roman would also, on the 25th December be giving your friends and family little presents. You would have an evergreen tree which would have decorations on it in your house. And you would go out in groups of friends and knock on other houses doors and sing them songs.
But you say, surely, all of this is an incredible co-incidence? Well yes you’re probably right. It has nothing to do with early Christians mainly celebrating Easter not Christmas. And that because nothing was happening in the winter in the Christian church people decided to celebrate both. And that then the Christians decided to try and control the feasting and bring meaning to it. Which was especially important because most Mithrans were in the army and you didn’t want to tell them they couldn’t have a party any more. You’re right – it’s probably nothing to do with all of that.