December 29, 2008

Yalda and Jesus: The Connection

Many moons ago, I was told that Jesus was not born on December 25th, but today, I found research which proves a connection between the selection of Jesus' date of birth and the ancient Persian celebration of Yalda also celebrated by the ancient Romans. It is most fascinating that the two are connected to down play Yalda and up play Jesus' date of birth. Why couldn't the Church have allowed us both?

Joey Green in "Contrary to Popular Belief" researched the following:
Nobody knows when Jesus was born. The New Testament does not specify the date. In the third century C.E., church father Clement of Alexandria suggested May 20, since the New Testament states that the shepherds who were told by an angel of Jesus' birth were watching their flocks during the night (Luke 2:9), which was done only in the spring at lambing time.

In 336 C.E., the Western Church decided to celebrate December 25 as Jesus' birthday (officially adopted by Bishop Liberius of Rome in 354 C.E.), to usurp the popular Roman pagan feast of Natalis Solis Invicti ("birthday of the unconquerable sun"), honoring the Persian sun god Mithras. For centuries, pagans had celebrated the death and resurrection of the sun on the winter solstice in late December, and around 274 C.E., Roman emperor Aurelian had proclaimed Mithraism the official state religion.

The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Ukrainian Catholic Church still follow the Julian calendar, established by Julius Caesar in 45 B.C.E., celebrating Jesus' birthday on January 6.

In the sixth century C.E., a monk, Dionysius Exiguus, began counting the years from the year of Jesus' birth, which he miscalculated to be four to eight years later than the actual date. Since Jesus was born during the lifetime of Herod the Great, his birth had to take place before Herod's death in 4 B.C.E.

The New Testament states that Caesar Augustus ordered a census, compelling Joseph to bring his pregnant wife, Mary to Bethlehem. Ancient documents seem to indicate that a census took place between 6 and 8 B.C.E. So, while most Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25, Jesus was more likely born in the spring - sometime between 4 and 8 B.C.E.

Ironically, despite the Church moving to change Jesus' date of birth to usurp the Roman pagan feast or Shab-e Yalda (Night of Yalda), as it is known as to the Persians, it is still celebrated today by Persians/Iranians all over the world. Held on the longest night of the year - December 21st, it is the tradition of welcoming the birthday of the Goddess of Love, Mitra.

One can only see positive effects resulting from the act of celebrating love; a positive emotion which releases positive energy. I think the Church should have picked a different day to declare Jesus' date of birth and let Yalda and Christmas both be celebrated several weeks or months apart. After all, the more joyous and happy occasions we human beings are given, the kinder, nicer, happier, generous, and more tolerant we tend to become.

So, my vote is for more holiday time and celebrations to be added to our annual calendar, which ideally should result in less time for negative energy and destructive thoughts. We will be more focused on the well-being of our fellow human beings and our one and only planet; Earth.