We’re all familiar with the story of Mithras, right? He was born of a virgin on December 25th and lay in a manger where he was attended by shepherds who brought gifts. He took a last supper with his followers, died, and then rose to heaven. He was worshiped on Sunday and was often depicted with a halo around his head. You know this guy, right?
Mithraism precedes Christianity by as much as 1,400 years. Much of the myth of Christianity appears to have been grafted onto Mithraism in order to make it more palatable to the Roman Empire at large, which had adopted Mithraism as one of many state religions. Roman Emperor Constantine was a follower of Mithras before he added Christianity to the list of religions he ascribed to. It was Constantine who moved worship day of Christianity to Sunday (previously it was Saturday, springing from Christianity’s Jewish roots) and declared that Jesus’ real, official, because-I-said-so birthday was December 25th. Constantine decided this in 313 AD without any evidence. It was just more convenient to stick it on Mithras’ Day, which as already an important holiday in Rome because it corresponded to important days in Sol Invictus and Saturnalia. December 25th is important to pagans because it was clear that the sun was returning by then, after months of the days growing colder and shorter. By December 25th, court astrologers could assure the Emperor that yes, the sun had decided to return. The head priest of Mithras was called papa or pope.
So when you’re celebrating Christmas this holiday, don’t forget to sacrifice a bull for Mithras. After all, he is the true origin of many of the rituals that Christians celebrate every year. Jesus, it’s worth noting, venerated Saturday as his holy day. Jesus was probably born in February or September and he was not born of a virgin. But in order to compete in the crowded marketplace of faith in 300 AD you pretty much had to be born of a virgin. Oh, and Jesus was probably not very keen on the Romans since they had conquered his people and forced them to worship strange gods (like Mithras). In fact, the whole point of becoming a messiah was so he could throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. Something to think about for all the Roman Catholics out there.