Of course, Jesus Christ wasn't actually born on Dec 25th...for starters, ancient Jewish shepherds wouldn't've been out in mid-winter keeping an eye on their flocks. It's not how they did business. It was far more likely that the Nativity took place in late summer/early Autumn, so whose birth are we actually celebrating here?
Welllll....Mithraism aka pagan sun-worship celebrated 25th December as "The Nativity of The Sun", or Sun-Day. Mithraism was the fastest growing cult around the 320's-ish and was the one big major rival to an up-and-coming crank-sect known as Christianity. No prizes for guessing what happened next...
Mario Righetti, a renowned Catholic liturgist, wrote: "the Church of Rome, to facilitate the acceptance of the faith by the pagan masses, found it convenient to institute the 25th December as the feast of the temporal birth of Christ, to divert them from the pagan feast, celebrated on the same day in honour of the 'Invincible Sun' aka Mithras. Mithras, in case yr wondering, was also known throughout Europe and Asia by the names Mithra, Meitros, Mihr, Mehr, Meher and Mitra, as used by Conan the Barbarian's creator Robert E. Howard. The veneration of this God began around 2000bc in Persia and spread fairly rapidly around the globe.
It makes perfect logical sense that, when you hit the shortest day of the year, usually round the twenty-something-or-other of December, you start praying to yr local Sun Diety (or regional 'female' analogue thereof), requesting that could you, pleeeeeease, please, have some daylight and warmth back pretty soon so that you can hunt or gather food or start planting next season's crops. The religious/spiritual lives of ancient communities were overtly embedded in the seasons themselves.
What Christianity achieved was, in effect, the first corporate take-over: millions suddenly found themselves part of a new hierarchical control-chain; they'd been hoovered-up, lock-stock, in a hostile buy-out by a foreign Diety-Mob with a Work-Hard-Now Ethic and fuck-all in the way of a pension-plan, 'cause, you know...you inherit it all in the next life.
As rackets go, it was a fucking master-plan. And the people on top of the heap are still laughing themselves silly today at its breathtaking simplicity. Fuck, the sky's the limit w/ this one, boys...I mean, these jerks were worshipping a Babylonian Sun Diety a few months ago, now we got 70,000 of the fuckers working for us for free, in this parish alone. Life don't don't get any better than this, does it?
Looking back thru the mists of Time, this religious transistion appears almost seamless, but, no doubt, at the time complex deals were cut behind the scenes by trailblazing Christian zealots, Mithraists, Manicheans and other worshippers of Sol Invictus, the Invincible Sun-deity. The end-result was the creation of a new religious franchise: a stripped-down, generic, Single Diety Package that even the dumbest of hicks could unnerstand...something that could be adapted and adopted, sold-on through-out all of the former Roman territories...Jehovah was repackaged and rebranded; most of the Hebrew-flavour'd nonsense was stripped out, but they left in a vengeful, paternally-authoritarian tone that top-level shyster-priests and bishops could invoke whenever the local help started getting a little uppity...
They then also built in a "Thou Shalt Worship No Other" type clause, in case anyone started drifting back to Dieties or Pantheons w/ more interesting names or physical attributes.
So, yeah, originally, practically all known Sun-deities were 'born' on the 25th December: Krishna (Vishnu), Osiris, Horus, Hercules, Dionysus (Bacchus), Tammuz, Indra, Buddha. A "Mother-night" festival was held at the winter solstice (approximately 25 th December) in honour of the Scandinavian goddess Frigga. Similarly, the great feast of Yule, in which a boar was offered at the winter solstice in honour of Frey.
In the 12th century, the Syrian Jacobite scholar and writer Jacob Bar-Salibi blandly described the Christian take-over, "It was a custom of the heathen to celebrate on the same 25th of December the birthday of the Sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity. In these solemnities and festivities the Christians also took part..." The God of Christ was a Cookoo-God: its followers would quietly leave its eggs in the nests of 'heathens' and allow the poor sods to raise the offspring.
But lately, the tide is turning.
The kindling of lights or fire was a large part of pre-Christian Sun Nativities... so, nice to see that this practice has returned (in full effect) with the recent rise of the urban winter-solstice ritual of buying as many fucking lights as you can afford from B&Q and plastering them over the front of your house and setting them on different random timer-mechanisms. Chavs as the new pagans, anyone?
There's a new pantheon of gods in town constisting of inflatable Snowmen, luminous cartoon Raindeer and enormous figurines of Santa Claus aka Old Saint Nick himself... amazingly, these tacky little electronic winter-elementals seem to have now surplanted and seen-off J. Christ in Retail-Park UK's Mass Unconsciousness...there's been a populist paradigm-shift, one that has unconsciously re-absorbed old world mythologies via the ghost-light of TV and digital-media to create a series of consensual retro-contemporary icons to help hold the icy devil-dark void of winter at bay during those few crucial days while the earth begins to spin itself back towards Spring. Interesting then that some of these Nu-Pagan images have been unashamably stolen from the memory-banks of Kapital itself: bearded, white-suited "Father Christmas" from a 40's Coca Cola advert (rather than blood-stain'd/raindeer-leather-wearing Saint Nick stalking the shadowy, skeletal pine-forests of Old Lapland...) mixed in w/ soft, roundly-'feminised' Disney-style kartoonforms...by unconsciously adopting its trappings, we seem to almost be celebrating the iconography of Mass Consumerism here, as if our frantic end-of-year spending is all that is keeping us from Endless Wagnerian Winter or the Heat Death of the Universe...
Ironically, it appears as if we are using a form of Hyper-accelerated Consumerism to keep the wolf (Fenris) from our door.