So, when was Christmas brought in? It was proclaimed as a part of Byzantine Christianity in the west by Constantine in 336 AD. He was in good health at the time and preparing to go to war with the Persians and he died suddenly in 337AD. In 354 AD it was listed in the civil-religious calendar of the church in Rome. In the east, January 6th was the preferred date for Yeshua’s birth but John Chrysostom, an early church theologian, introduced December 25th. As a result, this date was celebrated in both the east and the west. Let’s take a look at some gods of the Greeks and the Romans and see how they fit into this scenario. Roma was a goddess of Rome and it personified the people and the nation. It is linked to emperor worship. Zeus, or Jupiter in Rome, joined her in treaties and oaths and was the protector of these things. If the emperor joined with her, he was also joined to Zeus (Jupiter). Their “characteristics” were transferred to the emperor and personified in him. Constantine continued to do this but he pictured himself as Mithra in art, on coins and in architecture. Roma is linked to “Fortuna” and “Luna” (the moon). You will find male and female deities over a city and empire. Baal had Asherah as an escort in Canaanite mythology, which eventually was picked up by Israelites. The emperor also developed a new name. He was called “reverence” and we can see how this is related to the modern term “reverend” for Christian ministers. Another goddess was called Tyche and it was the Greek term for Fortuna. It means “good fortune, success, luck and chance.” The early Greeks considered her as associated with the “Moirai” or the fates. She was the messenger of good and evil. In Mithraism, the “sun god” rules the fates. They came to be understood as the good brought about by the gods. She was deified as a daughter of Zeus eventually. Tyche became associated with Roman emperor worship (fortune) and was identified with Fortuna and Isis. She will be pictured holding a rudder of a ship in the right hand and a horn of plenty in the left. The symbolism is obvious in that the rudder directs the life of man and the horn of plenty is prosperity and good things. Fortuna, as we have said before, is the goddess of good luck and success and it became a popular name to give children. You will find the name in 1 Cor 16.17. Fortuna was seen as a protector of the people and cities. She was associated with the Moirai (fates) also. So, what do we have so far. Mithraism starts in Persia and is picked up by the Romans and it makes its way to Constantine. It is absorbed into Byzantine Christianity in the west by the fourth century. Roman emperors were worshipped as personifications of the gods. There have been coins discovered with Nero on one side and Roma (Tyche) on the other. Roman soldiers would burn incense to her because they wanted to live and have good luck during a battle. According to Josephus, Vespasian did this during the battle for Jerusalem in the first Jewish revolt. So, the Moirai (fates) related to Tyche, Fortuna, Roma and Luna (moon goddess) and they guided “your destiny” and ” numbered” your life. Your life was in their hands, as was your final destiny. “Meni” is Hebrew for the “Moirai” (fates or numberer) and this name is mentioned in Isa 65.11. The context of this verse is the second coming of Yeshua. The verse says “But you who forsake the Lord, who forget My Holy Mountain, who set a table for Fortune and who fill cups with mixed wine for destiny (Meni).” These were seen as rivals to the Lord and “forake” is used to mean that they have left the God of Israel for other gods. “Forget” means they ignored the Lord and they don’t relate to the truth. It also says they “set a table” which is an idiom for a festival (Isa 21.5; Zeph 1.7). “Fortune” in Hebrew is “Gad” meaning “fortune” and is equated with Mithra later on. “Destiny” is “Meni” in Hebrew meaning the god “Meni” (the numberer). So, Meni carries the same idea as Tyche, Luna, Fortuna and Roma (the numberers or the fates =Moirai). You will see a word play in 65.12 where it says that the Lord will “destine you” for the sword. The Nabateans, who lived in Petra and the area, worshipped a moon goddess associated with Meni and it had a holy day of December 24th (keep this in mind). Fortune is Gad in Hebrew and it is the god of good luck and fortune and this is the same as Mithra. Now, let’s look a little deeper into this. In Rome, they had a festival called Saturnalia. It was in honor of the god Saturn and it was held on December 17 and later extended it to December 26th. There were banquets and gift giving and the wearing of what is called the Phrygian cap, which is a cone shaped hat much like what elves and “Santa’s helpers” wear during Christmas. There was a carnival atmosphere that threw out what was accepted socially. It is a festival of light that lead to the winter solstice. This festival was later celebrated as the “birth of the invincible sun” on December 25th. So, the context of Isa 65.11 is a festival that is celebrated on December 24-25th at the time of the second coming of Yeshua. Now, Fortune, or Gad, in Isa 65.11 was a deity for luck and will be equal to Mithra. This god was worshipped on December 25th. As we have mentioned before, the Saturnalia was held between Dec 17th and December 26th. We know that there were important dates that fell during this period and that was Mithra’s birthday (Dec 25th) and Meni (Dec 24th). Another festival time we need to know about is the Bacchus festival and this cult will be the same as the Dionysus cult in Greece. Wine will be the catalyst for the revelry involved. In Mithraism, this revelry was called “Bacchanalia” and this celebration went from being private at first to a more public display during the first century. Now, Christmas today is not associated as a drunken holiday, but New Years Day is. It is a holdover from these ancient customs that were connected to Christmas itself. The Dionysus cult , as mentioned before, is Greek and Bacchus was the Roman counterpart. Zeus was the father. When Hellenism spread, especially in Israel during the Maccabean revolt, it was these religious concepts and festivals that the people rose up against. Dionysus (Bacchus) is anti-structure and drunkenness and base behavior was the norm. These festivals were in winter and early spring and it involved rituals that separated male and female and were violent. Roman historians said there were black-clad men and white-clad women and the priest of Dionysus chased the women and had the freedom to kill them. There was a total disruption of society and people met in grottos, just like Mithraism. Human sacrifices were also associated with this festival, as was animal sacrifices and the eating of raw meat. The “root” of Christmas will be related to Saturnalia, which is linked to all these other festivals. Around February/March in Greece, these festivals ran for days. On the first day, barrels of new wine were opened and “Dionysus” arrives in a ship from the “outer world” with satyrs, and a drinking contest was held. Meals were offered to Hermes, who bestowed many powers to others. Phallic processions were done which were symbolic of male pleasure and violence, not fertility. One can only imagine where this went from here. Drunkenness, male violence towards women and sexual perversions were everywhere. You might say “this has nothing to do with Christmas” but let’s look at it for minute. Mistletoe is directly related to the festivals of Saturnalia, Dionysus and Bacchus. Valentines Day is in February, about the time of the Dionysus festival. Now you can see why Isaiah wrote what he did in Isaiah 65.11 under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. He says you have chosen something I don’t delight in and you must move away from it. Christmas and the season has its roots in all of this. But how did all of these pagan roots get substituted for the Christmas season. How did the most despised pagan festival become central on the Christian calendar. Most people will say ” I don’t know about all that Saturnalia and Bacchus stuff. What does that have to do with me?” But, we do have God and his festivals. Why do we even need a birthdate for Yeshua when believers never even celebrated one for 300 years after his birth. If the Lord thought it was so important to celebrate his birth, don’t you think he would have been more specific as to when he was born? But, in all of this you will have a merging of the Bacchus/Dionysus cults with Mithraism, centering around the winter solstice and the birth of the sun-god on December 24-25th. In Part 4 we will pick up here and put all of this together.