As I am a big fan of Ancient Origins, I subscribed myself to a website which is called “Ancient Origins” and I wanted to seize the opportunity of the Christmas festivities to reconstitute the origins of Christmas through a blog post recapitulating several interesting facts that I have found on the origins of Christmas thanks to that website. All of us know that Christmas, for Christians, means the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ whereas for non Christians, it’s a very special tradition made with Christmas tree, Santa Claus and His Santa Helpers, the arrival of Winter, good food during family meetings, distribution of gifts to your loved ones and especially to children and a special thought especially for the vulnerable society including the poor, the elderly and the disabled among all of them. But do we REALLY know the origins of Christmas? Is Christmas REALLY linked with Jesus Christ’s birth, since there were some sources stipulating that he was not born in December? It would be interesting for us to discover more about the tradition of Christmas. I did several researches on Ancient Origins, and I would like to propose you a recapitulation of some interesting points to remember regarding the Christmas celebration.
It would take me a long expose in that blog to describe Christmas, since there were so many interesting stuffs I discovered in those sites and which I won’t be able to post in one single blog post. This one, for example, turns around the Nativity and the Birth of Jesus Christ, and what we should understand behind it and as per the interpretation of the Holy Bible in comparison with the interpretation of the Ancient Times. if I would like to write that blog post also, it’s because according to some press articles I have discovered thanks to a friend of mine, several countries in Europe banned and removed the traditional Christmas crib, which is a part of the tradition in most of those countries which follow Roman Catholicism. Because of the increasing number of migrants invading those countries and unfortunately applying their own rules instead of respecting and applying the rules of their new homeland, those countries completely turned upside down, mostly by the fault of their government who tolerates those migrants much more than their own citizens. I hope that through that blog post, I can contribute into teaching and reminding to the maximum people the true roots of Christmas and its place within religion, not only within Christianity, but also in all other religions of the world.
First of all, where do the very first origins of Christmas come from? This article is first of all proposing to us an interesting book to purchase and to read from author Joseph F. Kelly, entitled “The Origins of Christmas”, where we may find some interesting stuffs in other articles about it until we acknowledge containing of that book. In this one for example, a British physician, chose to celebrate Christmas as per the Medieval Times. Here is an extract explaining the importance of the pilgrimage of the Medieval Travelers during Christmas time which is worth to be meditate about: “Pilgrimages were sometimes local affairs, or they could be epic voyages across land and sea. These trips, sometimes dangerous, were taken up as a test of the pilgrim’s faith. Medieval pilgrimages were a way of life, and initially an involved practice that took travelers to Christian sites connected to the life of Jesus—especially Holy Land destinations such as Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem, some 3,000 miles (4800 kilometers) away from Europe. As time went on, pilgrimages were done closer to home to see relics and places of martyrs and saints, becoming the first holidays (holy days) taken by Medieval people.”
His pilgrimage is very original and completely differentiates from the idea that we all have regarding the nativity. We all know about the Nativity scene described as per the Holy Bible, when Mother Mary gave birth to our Lord Jesus Christ in a manger in Bethlehem. When Jesus was born, there was a shining star in the sky that the Shepherds saw and which was announcing the birth of the Messiah. After Jesus was born, three Kings saw the little angel and bent down in front of Him with precious gifts such as myrrh, cherubim and seraph. This is the scene that is reconstituted every year in most part of Roman Catholic countries.
However, this article gives a completely different description about that Holy Star, which completely contradicts the Nativity scene that we all know, and considered as the celebration of the Winter Solstice: “Rooted in the cyclical pagan year, Christmas can be linked back to the celebration of the Winter Solstice around December 21st, a time when the night was at its longest, and the coming of the “light” was celebrated and revered. New hope, the Sacred Fire, the Light of the World, all represented the end point of one natural cycle, and beginning of another. The Solstice may have been the longest and darkest of days and nights, but from that point on, there would be more light and the promise of a coming spring.” Another article stipulates about the mystery of that Nativity star. According to the Holy Bible, the star guided the three wise men to the manger where Jesus was born. The Star was in the East Side, whereas the three wise men were taking a South route to Jerusalem. And what was strange was that the Star was guiding the three wise men to the South, whereas it was a star of the East. How could it be? In that article, one paragraph could perhaps explain that phenomenon:
“If Matthew’s wise men actually undertook a journey to search for a newborn king, the bright star didn’t guide them; it only told them when to set out. And they wouldn’t have found an infant swaddled in a manger. After all, the baby was already eight months old by the time they decoded the astrological message they believed predicted the birth of a future king. The portent began on April 17 of 6 BC (with the heliacal rising of Jupiter that morning, followed, at noon, by its lunar occultation in the constellation Aries) and lasted until December 19 of 6 BC (when Jupiter stopped moving to the west, stood still briefly, and began moving to the east, as compared with the fixed background stars). By the earliest time the men could have arrived in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus would likely have been at least a toddler.”
What about the birth of Jesus? As per the Holy Bible, Mother Mary was still Virgin when she was pregnant of Jesus Christ, after the Archangel Gabriel came to her and spread a message to Her regarding the birth of the Lord. The word Virgin was always interpreted as someone who never had any sexual intercourse with anyone in the past, including one’s marital partner. However, the paragraphs here-under give a completely different version of the interpretation of the word Virgin, and describe the Mother Mary in a completely different personality, as someone who doesn’t need a lover nor a partner besides her, who is mentally strong and totally independent, in total contrast with the Virgin Mary known in the Christianity:
The greatest misunderstanding in the Virgin Mary’s story comes from a mistake in translation. It is common for translations to be based on former translations and the meaning behind words is often decoded by specialists in specific languages. Moreover, many translations were made of this story based on dictionaries created by specialists in Latin – which is the key to the mystery behind the word ”virgin”.
The word ”virgin” comes from the Latin ”virgo”, which means ”maiden” or a sexually inexperienced woman. This word was the basis for the stories about Mary as a woman who had never had intercourse with a man.
However, historically the term virgin meant ”one-in-herself” – a woman who didn’t need a man. It didn’t necessarily mean that she didn’t have one, however. This interpretation better represents a woman who was independent, financially free, mentally strong, and not overly dependent on her lover or partner.
In ancient times, women were sometimes believed to be very strongly attached or even mentally addicted to their first sexual partner. Therefore, to avoid this problem, an ancient society of the Mediterranean area (and also other parts of the Middle East and Persia) decided to create a custom which became a part of religious ceremonies.
It was once common for women in these locations to go to the temples of Ishtar or Aphrodite, for example, to have sexual intercourse with the priest. They could never meet again, but this act, which was seemingly approved of by the goddess of the temple, allowed the woman to avoid becoming too attached to her lover. The visit in the temple was usually a suggestion given by her family and it was not seen as a betrayal or scandal.
Another article stipulates another coincidence with the Winter Solstice, alike the case of the Star, assimilating Jesus Christ to the pagan Green Man. Who was that famous Green Man? Here is the answer below from that article about the Pagan myth of the Green Man:
The legend of the Goddess and Green Man then skips to the Vernal Equinox, when the Green Man is ready to finally emerge from the womb of his mother. This is the time when the “male” light equals the “female” darkness, and their male-female polarity fully unites to produce a fresh infusion of life force to cover and fertilize the land. The fetal body of the Green Man is now ready to push out of the womb of his mother Earth in the form of the new tender sprouts of spring. Soon, his annual resurrection will be complete. This will occur on or around the same day as our Easter, a modern holiday associated with the much more recent resurrection of another Son of a virgin.
The legend of the Green Man then covers the hot summer months, when the Son rapidly matures as the rapidly maturing vegetative growth of nature. He matures so fast, in fact, that the Green Man not only becomes One with his Father in Heaven, but he even mates with and inseminates his own mother. Their co-habitation produces a second infusion of the fructifying life force on Earth and manifests as a second proliferation of vegetation and accompanying harvest. Ultimately, this event would serve to hasten the Green Man’s demise, and soon he would die again with the decaying vegetation and the falling of leaves of autumn. The cause of his death? The sacerdotal interpreters of his legend would later assert that it occurred because of the sins of humanity. It was believed through original sin humanity had given up not only its own right, but the right of all life on Earth, to achieve eternal life.
The Nativity Scene always represented Jesus as a newborn baby in a manger, surrounded by His parents Joseph and Mary, the donkey Mary was riding, a few animals and the Three Kings. But some sources mentioned that this Nativity scene wasn’t the first one. This article for example revealed the existence of a Nativity Scene which happened 3000 years ago before Jesus’s birth. By coincidence, the Nativity Scene, which was an Egyptian scene and the oldest one of the world, showed the same details that we find in the nativity scene that everyone knows, with a man and a woman surrounding a newborn baby, and a couple of animals around them. However, there were not the Three Kings. What if the nativity scene that everyone knows could have been inspired from that one from Egypt to represent Jesus’s birth? And another coincidence is that after Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary had to seek refuge in Egypt since the King Herod menaced to kill all male children under age of 2 since one of them would be the new Messiah at his place. Is there a link between those two nativities? In that thesis, here is the conclusion formulated by the author regarding the possible link between the Egyptian and Christian nativity scenes, which is worth to be considered:
To ignore in the analysis of the ultimate “King of Kings” these important Egyptian divine-birth scenes – which feature prominently in the human psyche of the time vis-à-vis important rulers – ranks as an egregious error. As are numerous other aspects of Egyptian religion and culture relevant to the study of Christian origins, the Egyptian birth scenes are highly germane to the study of the Christian nativity. The Egyptian religion remained a huge force to be reckoned with by the time of the Christian effort, and it simply would not have been ignored – indeed, it was not.
Prior to the creation of the gospels, the Egyptian religion had long spread far beyond the confines of Egypt, and there were Egyptian tutors at Rome, teaching the religion to emperors during the first century, along with shrines to Egyptian gods in as farflung places as Macedonia and Great Britain. Isis was hugely popular around the Roman Empire at the time, but long previously there had been in Israel Egyptian forces who left vestiges of their worship over the centuries. In a thorough analysis, we need to factor in all of this Egyptian influence and the proximity of this massively impressive culture to the area of the gospel tale.
Another character who should not be ignored either, the character of Joseph. This article simply describes Joseph as Mary’s husband but the description of his character in that extract is very interesting:
If a type is to be sought in the character of Joseph, it is that of a simple, honest, hard-working, God-fearing man, who was possessed of large sympathies and a warm heart. Strict in the observance of Jewish law and custom, he was yet ready when occasion arose to make these subservient to the greater law of the Spirit. Too practical to possess any deep insight into the Divine mysteries or eternal significance of events which came within his knowledge (compare Luke 2:50), he was quick to make answer to what he perceived to be the direct call of God (compare Matthew 1:24). Originally a “just man” (the King James Version), the natural clemency within his heart prevailed over mere justice, and by the promptings of the Holy Spirit that clemency was transferred into a strong and enduring love (compare Matthew 1:24). Joseph is known to us only as a dim figure in the background of the Gospel narratives, yet his whole-hearted reconciliation to Mary, even in the face of possible slanderings by his neighbors, his complete self-sacrifice, when he left all and fled into Egypt to save the infant Jesus, are indicative that he was not unworthy to fulfill the great trust which was imposed upon him by the Eternal Father.
This character should not be confused with another Joseph featuring in the Old Testament, and who is known for his coat of many colors. By coincidence though, we find in his story another link with Egypt, since in this synopsis, Joseph is described as Jacob’s son and was the only good son of Jacob whereas all his other brothers were rogues. They wanted to get rid of Joseph since he was loyal to their father and always informed his father when his brothers were misbehaving. Joseph was then sent as a slave to Egypt and though being a hardworking and honest person at the service of the Pharaoh, the Pharaoh’s wife fell for Joseph and attracted him, which made the Pharaoh angry and sent Joseph to prison. While in prison, he was having some strange dreams about famine which would ruin Egypt for seven years, since he had seven dreams. Those dreams he had came from the power of his technicolor coat, which had some magical powers, and the Pharaoh decided to give Joseph a second chance thanks to his dream interpretations and to nominate him as a government worker, with the responsibility of storing food for the hard times. The coincidence is that, as well as that Joseph had some strange dreams about famine in Egypt during his exile there, Joseph as husband of Mary also had dreams through archangel Gabriel announcing the birth of the Savior. The second coincidence was that Joseph husband of Mary had to seek refuge in Egypt with Mary during King Herod’s menace of killing all those children under 2, and that they had to wait for King Herod’s death before bringing back Jesus to Israel.
Here is another detail which should not be forgotten: the fact that Joseph and Mary had no place to stay to deliver the baby. Some interpretations mentioned that everyone rejected them and refused to give them hospitality. However, there is an article which denies that fact and which mentions instead that all homes were too busy to welcome them: To be “turned away” is not really the same as being “rejected.” The inns were full. There wasn’t a value judgment involved on the part of the innkeepers; they simply had no room. I think Luke adds this detail to emphasize the deceptively lowly birth of Jesus. Metaphysically, it suggests that we can’t expect the world around us to acknowledge the birth of Christ awareness in us. In a world busy with its own priorities, a spiritual birth may seem insignificant. But we know how important it is. I’m sure Mary and Joseph felt no sense of rejection or negative judgment. They were grateful and appreciative for the healthy birth. And, as is always the case when we are One with the divine, it happened at the perfect time and place. This explanation is worth being the subject of another debate regarding the difference between to be turned away and to be rejected, and which may be the subject of another blog post later.
Finally, regarding those three Magi who came to know about Christ’s birth by following the star, there are not really some concrete explanations which could justify their knowledge about Jesus’s birth. But the article here shows us a very good lesson about those Wise Men. Here is an extract which is worth to be explained about them:
With these prophesies now fulfilled, it is easy for us to look back and understand the Scripture that revealed Jesus’ time and place of birth. However, we know that hindsight is always clearer than foresight, so it causes us to wonder how the Wise Men/Magi could have understood the prophecies.
The Bible does not explicitly tell us, but it is clear that the wise men did understand them well enough to know to follow “His star” and to believe that this Child was the promised King of the Jews (the Promised Messiah). Perhaps Daniel had opened the Scriptures to the magi of his time. Perhaps through the Scriptures and Daniel’s testimony, these men came to fear the Lord and we know that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7) and “the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 9:10). This “fear” is a reverence, respect, and trust of the Lord and His revealed will.
The conclusion of that article is also worth to be considered and meditated about: The Christmas lesson that we can learn from the Wise Men/Magi is that we, too, must trust in what God has said in His Word. He gives us wisdom, just as He gave it to the Magi. The Magi were Wise Men who believed God and His Word and acted accordingly. Christmas is a wonderful time to reflect on the greatest gift God gave to mankind when He sent His son into the world. It is a great time to examine our hearts and ask ourselves if we are wise men? Before the Christmas celebration, I remember I shared a Christmas greeting to a friend of mine, who is at the Head of a local NGO in my country, and who very often organizes some charity activities. Among them, they regularly organize distribution of clothes to the poor, and when I wished him Merry Christmas, I assimilated the act of kindness and generosity of his NGO members to the one of the Three Wise Men towards Jesus, since thanks to their generosity, Jesus became a Master for the Universe, and that regarding that NGO, through their same generosity towards the poor, they can rise today a next Messiah for our country, why not?
In conclusion, even though there are links of those Nativity scenes connected with Paganism and Ancient Egypt, it’s a proof that everything connects, and the sole message behind those connections is that regardless to the times, culture, religion or era, at any time a Messiah can take birth and be an inspiration for the world, thanks to the sharing and caring he or she will be given by some generous people of different walks of life. My friend posted something very interesting on his social platforms: Happy Birthday Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Isaac Newton and of course, Jesus. Merry Christmas. I’m thankful to my friend for having posted that on his wall. Everyone knows about Jesus, but what about those other people? Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is India’s Former Prime Minister and who turned 93 years old this year, was known for having brought 5 major changes in India, which include the construction of roads connecting Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai and known as the Golden Quadrilateral, for the Reining of the Fiscal profligacy, the Telecom revolution, the Sharva Shiksha Abhiyan which was a social scheme to promote education for non scholarised children and the privatisation of some sectors. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was the founder of Pakistan and this article describes his greatest achievement of having found the nation of Pakistan: The political insight and wisdom that the Quaid demonstrated in achieving a homeland on the argument of Muslims being a separate nation has yet to be fully grasped. In this regard, I have yet to come across a more comprehensive tribute to the Quaid’s visionary leadership than what renowned historian Stanley Wolpert wrote in his famous book ‘Jinnah of Pakistan’: “Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Mohammad Ali Jinnah did all three.” Sir Isaac Newton was a key figure into the Scientific Revolution, which is described in Wikipedia as “a concept used by historians to describe the emergence of modern science during the early modern period, when developments in mathematics, physics, astronomy, biology (including human anatomy) and chemistry transformed the views of society about nature.” Sir Isaac Newton was especially known for his law of gravitation stating that “a particle attracts every other particle in the universe using a force that is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers.” What is very interesting is that those four people were born on 25th December, though some statements still cannot retrace if Jesus Christ was exactly born on the 25th December, but what those four people have in common is that they are all four strong change makers and sources of inspiration for the world according to their respective achievements, all of them coming from different eras of time. Who knows if they are incarnations of each other as well? Unfortunately no sources stipulate about that possibility, but one thing is sure, they made of the 25th December a very special day for the world as true visionaries of our humanity.