25th December – whose birthday?

mithras-farbe3 A recent addition to our collection is a book about time and its relation to Roman religion. The last chapter in the book might appear to have a somewhat controversial topic as it looks at ‘The non-Christian origin of Christmas’. Forsythe suggests that 25th December, as the birth date of Christ is ‘The most striking example of how a temporal concept with strong religious associations was taken from Roman paganism, absorbed into Christianity, and given a new meaning. Long before it became Christmas, December 25 was simply the day of the winter solstice; and before being associated with Jesus’ birth, the day was the birthday of the Unconquered Sun (Sol Invictus) and of Mithras, the central figure of a mystery religion that was very popular during Imperial times.” (p.113)

If you’d like to know more about this date, and also about the other 6 possible birthdays for Jesus; as well as learning about the Roman calendar and how the “Romans structured time as a means of elucidating numerous aspects of their collective religious experience.” (p. xii) then Forsythe’s book can be found in the Arts & Social Studies Library (Cardiff University).

Forsythe, Gary (2012) Time in Roman religion. New York: Routledge.
ISBN: 9780415522175
Classmark: BL805.F6 (ASSL)

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