Merry Solstice

Christmas may not be a warmed over pagan holiday after all. I quote here from Mark Shea’s unpublished Behold Your Mother

According to William Tighe, a church history specialist at Pennsylvania’s Muhlenberg College, “the pagan festival of the ‘Birth of the Unconquered Sun’ instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the ‘pagan origins of Christmas’ is a myth without historical substance.”

For the fact is, our records of a tradition associating Jesus’ birth with December 25 are decades older than any records concerning a pagan feast on that day.
[T]he definitive “Handbook of Biblical Chronology” by professor Jack Finegan (Hendrickson, 1998 revised edition) cites an important reference in the “Chronicle” written by Hippolytus of Rome three decades before Aurelian launched his festival. Hippolytus said Jesus’ birth “took place eight days before the kalends of January,” that is, Dec. 25.

Tighe said there’s evidence that as early as the second and third centuries, Christians sought to fix the birth date to help determine the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection for the liturgical calendar—long before Christmas also became a festival.

More at:

Mr. Shea does not explain away Saturnalia, which was celebrated anciently from Dec 17th through Dec 23. But it looks as if the early Christians took the traditional day for the annunciation (March 25) and added nine months.

As an added symbolism, any shepherds abiding with their flocks by night in December would probably be overseeing ‘lambing’–any lambs born early, in the winter months, are the one fat and large enough to serve as the paschal lamb for Passover. In other words, the shepherds in charge of the seeing to the birth of the paschal lamb were brought in to see the birth of the Lamb of God.

The three wise men may have been based on Zoroastrian lore: in Persian myth, when Zoroaster died, he promised to return in a later reincarnation, at such as place as a special star would show.

If this is true (and I cannot vouch for it, I am repeating a rumor) either real Magi, Persian holy men, were traveling east looking for the reincarnation of their great spiritual leader, the world’s first monotheist, or the Apostle thought it right to attribute such a search to them, perhaps to make the claim that Christ was acknowledged as divine, or should be, by their northern neighbors.