November is upon us and so comes the Thanksgiving holiday, celebrated in American Christian circles for honoring a specific time when God provided safety and refuge for the initial inhabitants of the Plymouth Colony supported by their ‘Indian’ aka Native American neighbors. Here are historians’ recounting of the event: Thanksgiving. In fact, it took place over three days sometime between late September and mid-November in 1621, and was considered a harvest celebration. This year, 2021 is exactly 400 years since the very first Thanksgiving! Let us see what else the Historians tell us about it…
“Basically it was to celebrate the end of a successful harvest,” says Tom Begley, the executive liaison for administration, research and special projects at Plimoth Plantation. “The three-day celebration included feasting, games and military exercises, and there was definitely an amount of diplomacy between the colonists and the native attendees as well.
Just over 50 colonists are believed to have attended, including 22 men, four married women—including Edward Winslow’s wife—and more than 25 children and teenagers. These were the lucky ones who had made it through a rough entry into the New World, including a harsh winter during which an epidemic of disease swept through the colony, felling nearly half the original group. Some 78 percent of the women who had arrived on the Mayflower had died during the first winter, a far higher percentage than for men or children. “For the English, the first Thanksgiving was also celebrating the fact that they had survived their first year here in New England,”…
“We don’t know for sure how it came about that they were there,” Begley says of the Native Americans at the first Thanksgiving. “Some native historians have suggested that Massasoit and his men were in the area anyways, because at the end of the harvest was when they typically made their diplomatic rounds to other native groups. Also, Massasoit commented to the Pilgrims in March of 1621 that they would be back to plant the corn on the south side of what we know as Town Brook in Plymouth. So he still recognizes that there are some planting grounds that are his peoples’ in Plymouth.”
So, we know that as Americans, the first Thanksgiving and those to follow were to give THANKS to God for His provision through the year past and looking forward to His goodness in the year to come. That first Thanksgiving, Pilgrims were thanking God for their own survival, mourning the deaths of those they had lost and praying for protection upon them as they entered the new year. Is that not a sufficient understanding and a foundation for our Thanksgiving celebrations this day?
And soon comes DECEMBER a month within which Americans and people the world over celebrate CHRISTMAS!! I will be blatantly honest, if I hear another ‘Seasons Greetings’ or ‘Happy Holidays’ because someone FEARS offending another person’s religion, I will likely blow a gasket. (Not that I have any gaskets, but with all the metal that has been installed in me in the last 20 years, I would not be surprised to find not only gaskets but leaking valves and metal connections that require a lube and oil!)
Allow me to simply outline a couple of the ‘holidays’ that are celebrated in the next month and then go from there. First, right at our Thanksgiving time, the Sikh mourn the death of a prophet Guru Tegh Bahadur. He was martyred for his faith on November 24, 1675, three hundred and sixty-four years ago. Only 36 years after our first Thanksgiving. He displayed an act that no other Sikh prophet had ever done. He sacrificed his life to protect the right of any individual to practice a faith of his choice and to not be pressurized into conversion. His was a sacrifice to protect the right of Hindu Pandits of Kashmir to be allowed to wear Janeau (sacred thread) and Tilak (marking on forehead), even though the tenets of Tegh Bahadur’s own belief laid no importance on these articles of faith. The Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, was trying to convert all of India to his faith, even at the cost of their religious freedom. You could convert or lose your life. For over four years, this practice was continuous with many losing their lives. A group of Kasmiri Hindu Pandits asked Guru Tegh Bahadur for help. He advised them to tell Aurangzeb they would convert if he could convert Bahadur to Islam. Under Aurangzeb’s orders, he was arrested in July 1675 and kept in an iron cage in Delhi for over three months, till November 1675. To break his spirit, he was tortured immensely.
To instill the highest element of fear, in front of his eyes, his three disciples were tortured to death in a most inhuman manner. Bhai Sati Das was wrapped in cotton and set to fire. Bhai Mati Das was tied to two poles and sawn alive in two parts, from his head to loin. Bhai Dayala was boiled alive in a cauldron full of water.
Guru Tegh Bahadur’s spirit to stand firm for the cause of freedom could not be weakened and when Aurangzeb failed to persuade him to abandon his faith, he was finally beheaded in public at Chandni Chowk on 24 November 1675.
My prayer is that the faithful followers who mourn Guru Tegh Bahadur would, this Thanksgiving, November 25th, consider the prophet, the King, the Messiah who is not dead but is alive forever more who honors them as people and children of His own and He seeks to draw them close to Himself.
As Christmas comes upon us, so many religions of our world have celebrations that rival or attempt to assimilate the Christian celebration of the birth of the Christ child who came to earth to save us from our sins.
The religion most closely associated with the Christian religion is the Jewish faith whose God, Yahweh, is the God of the Bible, the One and Only God of the Universe. He is the author of Creation and His story is throughout the Old Testament, the Talmud, and the Jewish history has stories replete with the acts of God on behalf of His people. The Jewish faith sees Jesus Christ as a prophet, a good man, a teacher but they do not recognize Him as Messiah although countless scriptures point to Him and His miracles lay before us as undisputable evidence. In December the Jewish nation will celebrate Hanukkiah and the protection of the people by the continuation of Light throughout the time of battle. May, in 2021, many of our Jewish friends find that Christ is the Light and it is He who perpetuated the salvation of the nation on that historic night. May they find the Light of Christ in 2021.
The Wiccan religion will celebrate the SOLSTICE over our time of Christmas. My prayer is that they may come to see light in their darkness. Deuteronomy 4:19 God tells us: “And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage.” The Psalmist writes in Psalm 8:3-5 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained, 4 What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit[c] him? 5 For You have made him a little lower than [d]the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.” May our Wiccan friends come to know that the Angel of Light, not that of the darkness, is the One who can provide you with life eternal and a life on this earth more than worth living.
The Islamic calendar holds no celebrations of their holy days in this month of December, based as they are on the time and location of the moon and stars.
The Winter Solstice and religions over time have found December 25th at as a key date for honoring those of their faith who were, in their eyes, equal to Christ. Here is a short list of those who share December 25th and some of the reasons behind it:
So who else celebrated the 25th of December as the birthday of their gods before it was agreed upon as the birthday of Jesus? To be correct, the Christian church has long understood that December 25th is unlikely the actual birthdate of Christ. From the 2nd Century, however, Christian tradition has placed it on this date for whatever their purpose and it has held across the centuries. Biblical scholars debate the actual date and many expect it was closer to the spring of the year. Much is based on the time of Julius Caesar when Quirinius was Governor of Syria and issuing and order for all persons to be registered for taxation. Let us review a few of the religions who use December 25th as their celebratory day.
In India there is the Hindu festival to honor the Hindu deity, Ganesha, where people rejoice, decorate their houses with garlands, and give presents to their friends on this day. The people of China also celebrate this day and close their shops. Buddha is believed to have been born on this day. The great savior and god of the Persians, Mithras, is also believed to have been born on the 25th of December long before the coming of Jesus.
We add only the note that Buddha, though reported as coming “long before… Jesus”, he died, long before Jesus’s death and resurrection. Jesus is the only one still alive. Some say Buddha died in 843 B.C. and others in 949 B.C. This quote from Buddhists.org is instructive, “Did Buddha die a legendary death, choosing the very moment of his passing and calling on his friends to gather round him? Or did he die normally, of old age, an elderly man poisoned by pork or mushrooms…or maybe poisoned by nothing at all?
“Both versions of the death of Buddha are defended by scholars. The more mythic versions are romantic and appealing, but some evidences (sic) suggests that even the poisoning explanation is myth. Many have argued that it is likely that Buddha died not of poisoning but of mesenteric infarction, a condition of advanced age.”[i]
The Egyptians celebrated this day (December 25th) as the birth day (sic) of their great savior Horus, the Egyptian god of light and the son of the “virgin mother” and “queen of the heavens” Isis. Osiris, god of the dead and the underworld in Egypt, the son of “the holy virgin”, again was believed to have been born on the 25th of December. Some claim the story of Horus being born of a virgin, laid in a manger came from the times of the prophet Jeremiah, even that he would have heard these stories while traveling in Egypt. Other times seem to focus on the first to third centuries A.D. but most claim the ancient dates to be the accurate ones of his birth and no records at his death. There is no expectation that the god Horus remains alive, however. They are accepted by most as mythological gods who protected Pharoah in the early years of Egypt.
The Greeks celebrated the 25th of December as the birthday of Hercules, the son of the supreme god of the Greeks, Zeus, through the mortal woman Alcmene Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry among the Romans (known among the Greeks as Dionysus) was also born on this day. According to www.mythologysource.com, “Hercules was born in the last months of 1286 BC. It may seem impossible to pinpoint the birth of a demi-god so precisely, but ancient Greek legends provide all the clues needed to create a timeline of mythological events. The Greeks did not place their legends in a time so far removed from their own that it was forgotten.” “The early poet Homer believed when he wrote the Iliad and Odyssey that he was describing events that happened only a few hundred years before his own time. The Greek Age of Heroes roughly corresponds to the archaeological Bronze Age.”
Adonis, revered as a “dying-and-rising god” among the Greeks, miraculously was also born on the 25th of December. His worshipers held him a yearly festival representing his death and resurrection, in midsummer. The ceremonies of his birthday are recorded to have taken place in the same cave in Bethlehem which is claimed to have been the birth place (sic) of Jesus.
The Scandinavians celebrated the 25th of December as the birthday of their god Freyr, the son of their supreme god of the heavens, Odin.
The Romans observed this day as the birthday of the god of the sun, Natalis Solis Invicti (“Birthday of Sol the invincible”). There was great rejoicing and all shops were closed. There was illumination and public games. Presents were exchanged, and the slaves were indulged in great liberties. These are the same Romans who would later preside over the council of Nicea (325 CE) which lead to the official Christian recognition of the “Trinity” as the “true” nature of God, and the “fact” that Jesus was born on the 25th of December too.
In Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon says: “The Roman Christians, ignorant of his (Christ’s) birth, fixed the solemn festival to the 25th of December, the Brumalia, or Winter Solstice, when the Pagans annually celebrated the birth of Sol ” vol. ii, p. 383.
In summary, allow me to simply say two things. The actual date of Christ’s birth is not known although for whatever reason the early Church fathers chose December 25th.
It is now the customary date upon which western Christians celebrate the birth of Christ. We as Christians should worshipfully declare, Merry Christmas! to everyone we meet! Jesus sits now at the right hand of God in heaven. He has been seen post-resurrection on several occasions by scores, literally hundreds of individuals whose testimonies are part of written history. Don’t let the declaration and celebration of His birth end with us!
Men and women who followed Him, who saw Christ post-resurrection, went about giving testimony to what they saw even under the penalty of death. Not a single one recanted of their testimony and all but the Apostle John died a martyrs death rather than recant. John lived to fulfill the assignment given to him by Christ on the cross. He died an old man having survived prison, being exiled to a remote island, and then still continued to care for the mother of Christ, Mary. (John 19:27)
So… there it is… the myths, the mystical, the real, the One and Only. You choose. For me and my house, we will serve the Lord. I shall give thanks to God this Thanksgiving and in the weeks ahead say Merry Christmas to everyone I meet. If they decry my blatant declaration of my choice for celebrating Christmas, then I will happily share with them the reason for my faith. May God bless them and bring them to a saving knowledge of Him! MERRY CHRISTMAS!