The Real Origin Of Christmas
Starting with a book called "The Jesus Mysteries", by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy I became increasingly interested in the precursors to Christ. The information they give is a rework of other previous papers but sensationalised. The message they give has now been repeated throughout the Internet - often just plagiarised without acknowledgment. They say that Christ was purely a copy of the following Pagan gods :- Mithras, Osiris, Dionysus (and one or two more for good measure). The book says that :- "They are the saviour of mankind created by a single God as a man. They are the son of God equal with God. God is made mortal by his own wish They are born of a mortal virgin who when she dies ascends to heaven They are born or created on the 25th of December or the 6th of January Their birth is foretold by a star Their birth is in a lowly place. They have a visitation by 3 shepherds There is a midnight mass/celebration" This is all plain nonsense.
All three gods quoted above are definitely pagan and have differing stories come from different places and end differently. In fact there is even debate about whether the Persian Mithras is the same god as the Roman Mithras. The similarities with the Christ story exist if you try very hard but the stories are all different. All are associated with mystery cults, where the initiate is taken through several levels of knowledge, pretty much like the Masons today (or not if you read other sources). There is no single source for the stories and they differ.
The main sources are Greek texts which are then translated, however these refer to other peoples gods and may well be wrong. The Greek texts are not numerous and cross referencing is difficult. Add into this confusion several eminent 20th century scholars who have a distinct view point to prove and even more clarity is lost.
So very briefly as far as I can tell (and whilst I quote the common line other sources will disagree, amplify or omit) Mithras was originally a Persian god. He created the world by sacrificing a bull, all living things arose from the body, blood and seed of the bull. The myth became a mystery cult appealing to soldiers. Mithras was born from a tree. However the more research you do the less clear and more complex his attributes and story are and almost anything goes.
Osiris was an Egyptian god taken up by the Greeks and Romans. He was identified by the Greeks with Dionysus. He was born a mortal after an affair between the Earth God Seb and the sky goddess Nut who was married to the Sun God Ra. He was born around the year end followed on 4 subsequent days by other brothers and sisters. Amongst other things he was judge of the dead and associated with the after life. He was a divine hero who suffered and was resurrected before judging the dead. In this sense there are parallels with Christ. He became the model for subsequent Pharaoh in their pyramids seeking the after life.
Dionysus - in Latin Bacchus the god of fertility, wine and ecstatic frenzy. Zeus, the head Greek god, impregnated a mortal Semele who was killed by his thunderbolts by mistake. Zeus then saved Dionysus from her womb and hid him in his own thigh until he was born.
So how was Christmas really started. "Christmas in our age is a harmony of three elements , the junketing of the Roman crowd trying to relieve the gloom of winter, the Roman Cult of The Sun and it's light and at the heart, the memory of a birth in a manger in a Palestinian town of Bethlehem. To that harmony, much later the North added elements from folklore such as the Germanic Christmas tree" A History of Christianity, Owen Chadwick. That is - just like we always thought.