This was the text of a flier I handed out when I played at O'Briens on December 27th.
The Pagan Origins of Christmas
Though most people think of Christmas as a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus, this has not always been true. In fact, most evidence from the Bible seems to support a fall birthdate for Yeshua. So why do we celebrate Christmas in December?
In fact, the birthdate of Jesus was not set until the western Churches decided upon it in the 4th century AD. Most branches of Christianity didn't celebrate a December holiday until centuries later. The explanation seems to be that the Western church deliberately chose December so that it could compete with (and eventually replace) various pagan ceremonies celbrating the winter solstice.
The most important celebration (in terms of its influence on Christianity) is the Roman Saturnalia, named after a feast in honor of the god Saturn. In the thrid century AD, Emperor Aurelian combined the Saturnalia with a host of other pagan-religious celebrations, creating a celebration called the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun that occured on December 25th. At this point in history, Christianity and pagan Mithraism were fierce competitors for the official Roman religion, and it's likely that the Roman celebrations were the direct cause of the western Churches' adoption of December 25th as the date of the birth of Christ.
Other religious traditions which had a significant impact upon Christmas festivals were Celtic Druidism and Germanic Odinism. The solstice celebration itself was called Alban Arthuan by the Druids and Ialka tid (or Yule-tide) by the Odinists. It is from this pagan origin that Christianity acquired most of its traditions: holly, ivy, mistletoe, the yule log, the giving of gifts, a decorated evergreen tree, and magical reindeer. In fact, because of its pagan influences, Puritans here in Massachusetts unsuccessfully tried to ban Christmas entirely during the 17th century.
But nearly every religion has a winter solstice celebration: ancient Egypt, Greece, Inca, European Paganism, or Native American spiritualism all celebrate the solstice in one way or another.
The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. As such, it marks a midpoint in the seasons, the point at which the cold winter months start their journey back to summer. Rituals of the winter solstice usually invoke a Sun God for his eventual return. This often involves a sacrifice to the god of crops or animals, or of goods that were produced in the winter months. Sometimes the Sun God dies or is himself sacrificed, to be born anew in the springtime; this happened in the ancient Egyptian rituals of Osiris, the Lenaea celebration of the Greek god Dionysos, and the Mesopotamian Zagmuk celebration in honor of Marduk.
After Christianity "adopted" the pagan rituals, the old dieties themselves all followed a similiar path: they were converted into demons by Christians. Sun gods became fire gods; symbolic sacrifices of animals and goods were re-written as human sacrifices, often of children.
Molech was the chief diety or idol of the Ammonites, a tribe that existed concurrently with the ancient Jews. According to ancient Jewish lore, the Molech idol was made of brass, with a face that was like a calf: his hands were stretched out to receive gifts or embrace his followers. The Chemarims, or priests of Molech, would sacrifice infants to the idol, either by burning them alive, or by killing them and burning their bodies. According to legend, this often happened at Gehenna, a garbage dump in the Valley of Hinnom and an inspiration for the Christian notion of Hell; in later times, the Romans would dump the bodies of crucifixion victims there.
Molech is often equated with the god Baal (whose name, literally translated, means "Lord"); there is some debate that Molech was an invention of the Jews as slander on Baal-worshippers, but it seems more likely that Molech was in fact worshipped as a fire god. It's also likely that the sacrifices by fire were merely symbolic in nature; the infants were either shaken over the flames, or passed through the heated arms of the idol, to ensure the favor of the deity.
Old Testament passages explicitly forbade the worship of Baal or Molech. Passages occur in Leviticus, Ezikial, Jeremiah, and both books of Kings that mention Molech by name. A sample, from Leviticus 20:2 - "Tell the Israelites: Anyone, whether an Israelite or an alien residing in Israel, who gives any of his offspring to Molech shall be put to death. Let his fellow citizens stone him." Other passages are more explicit; followers of Molech are often said to be "whoring" after their gods. It is likely that Molech and Baal worship was the reason for the inclusion of "Thou shalt not have any gods before me" in the Ten Commandments.
Here we have one of the first instances of Judeo-Christianity advocating the oppression of other religions. Even now, people who are said to be of competing religions are said to sacrifice infants to the fires of Hell. It is therefore appropriate that we choose Molech as our Sun God for our winter solstice celebration.
It is time for the gods of old to take back the season that is rightfully theirs. Let Molech be our Fire God, rising in vengance from the ashes, so that he may once again rule over the Earth in place of a weak and pitiful Christ.