I don’t celebrate Holidays. You all know this but rarely have I gone into why. With the high volume of “I don’t celebrate holidays” I’ve had to repeat this year, I thought it would be a good idea to go a bit into the history of Holidays. To put it simply, all Holidays go back to the worship and honor of a God or Goddess. I don’t celebrate Holidays because I don’t believe in worshiping the Gods/Goddesses or taking part in that energy. I do celebrate my birthday (though I honor it differently) and do not consider it a holiday in the way some do. (I do not believe I am worshiping myself by acknowledging my birth). That’s the short version and for the sake of time (because this is already a long post), I will only cover some of the major Holidays.
New Year’s Day – The Babylonian God Akitu, Roman Goddess Janus
In Egypt, the year coincided with the rising of the star Sirius, the Phoenicians and Persians began their new year with the spring equinox, and the Greeks celebrated it on the winter solstice. For the Babylonians of ancient Mesopotamia, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—signaled the start of a new year and represented the rebirth of the natural world. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days. During the Akitu, statues of the gods were paraded through the city streets, and rites were enacted to symbolize their victory over the forces of chaos. Through these rituals, the Babylonians believed the world was symbolically cleansed and recreated by the gods in preparation for the New Year and the return of spring.
Later, Julius Caesar instituted January 1st as the first day of the year, partly to honor the month’s namesake: Janus, the Roman god of change and beginnings, whose two faces allowed him to look back into the past and forward into the future. This idea became tied to the concept of transition from one year to the next.
Valentine’s Day –Lupercalia, Februata, God of Fertility
Originally celebrated on February 15, Valentine’s Day comes from Lupercalia, the “festival of sexual license” and was held by the ancient Romans in honor of Lupercus, god of fertility. Clothed in loincloths made from sacrificed goats and smeared in their blood, the Luperci would run about Rome, striking women with februa, thongs made from skins of the sacrificed goats. The Luperci believed that the floggings purified women and guaranteed their fertility and ease of childbirth. February derives from februa or “means of purification.” To the Romans, February was also sacred to Juno Februata, the goddess of “fever of love”, and of women and marriage. On February 14, small pieces of paper, each of which had the name of a teenage girl written on it were put into a container. Teenage boys would then choose one piece of paper at random. The boy and the girl whose name was drawn would become a “couple,” joining in erotic games at feasts and parties celebrated throughout Rome. After the festival, they would remain sexual partners for the rest of the year. This custom was observed in the Roman Empire for centuries.
Easter- Ishtar, Aphrodite, Venus, Goddess of War and Sexual Love
Rabbits and eggs have long been part of spring celebrations as symbols of new life; symbols of fertility. (Wreath-circles are symbols of the womb)
The Sumerian goddess Inanna is known by her Babylonian name, “Ishtar”. In ancient Canaan, Ishtar is known as Astarte, and her counterparts in the Greek and Roman pantheons are known as Aphrodite and Venus. In short, she is the goddess of war and sexual love. Her cult practiced sacred prostitution or temple prostitution where women waited at a temple to have sex with the Gods. The word Easter does not appear to be derived from Ishtar, but from the German Eostre, the goddess of the dawn—a bringer of light. Ishtar and Easter appear to be homophones: they may be pronounced similarly, but have different meanings.
In brief, Easter was originally the celebration of Ishtar, the Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of fertility and sex. Her symbols (like the egg and bunny) were and still are fertility and sex symbols.
Halloween – Samhain (pronounced /ˈsɑːwɪn/ SAH-win, sounds like Halloween), Lord of Darkness
Halloween kicks off the start of some of the world’s major Holidays and it is the time of the year where heavy witchcraft takes place. In fact, from October 31st through November 1st, this is known as the Witches New Year in some pagan circles. The Celts believed that the dead could walk among the living at this time and that during Samhain, the living could visit with the dead. This is why people dress up in costumes. They are representing the dead who, on this night, walk the Earth and visit the living.
According to the book Halloween—An American Holiday, An American History, some of the Celts wore ghoulish costumes so that wandering spirits would mistake them for one of their own and leave them alone. Others offered sweets to the spirits to appease them. In medieval Europe, the Catholic clergy adopted local pagan customs and had their adherents go from house to house wearing costumes and requesting small gifts. Though some would say that Samhain and Halloween are two separate Holidays, they are not. The only difference (as with all the holidays) is that one is ancient paganism (the maintaining of old pagan practices and traditions) and the other is Neo (new) paganism, the incorporation of a more “happy” appearance to seem nice though it is the honoring of the same deity.
Thanksgiving – Ceres, Goddess of Harvest, Grain, Crops
We are taught that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. We are also taught that the real Thanksgiving involved the slaughter of the Natives and the stealing of their land. Both of these accounts are not entirely true. Around this time, I see a lot of people who don’t celebrate Thanksgiving going back to the Natives and while they were a conquered people, it is deeper than that. Thanksgiving, like the other Holidays, go back to the worship of the gods and goddesses. Specifically, this Holiday marks the worship of Ceres, Goddess of Harvest though she has many names. (Ceres is where we get the word Cereal from.) When the pagans had a good season, they thanked their Gods / Goddesses for their bountiful Harvest.
In ancient Rome, Ceres was a goddess of agriculture, grain crops, fertility and motherly relationships. She was originally the central deity in Rome’s plebeian or Aventine Triad, then was paired with her daughter Proserpina in what Romans described as “the Greek rites of Ceres”. Her seven-day April festival of Cerealia included the popular Ceres’ games.
Christmas – Saturn, the Sun God and The Winter Solstice
Christmas has nothing to do with the bible or the real messiah. Instead, it too is an ancient pagan practice. According to the book The Bible as History, December 25 is referred to in documents as Christmas Day in A.D. 324 for the first time. Under the Roman emperor Justinian, it was recognized as an official holiday. An old Roman festival played a major part in the choice of this particular day. December 25th in ancient Rome was the ‘Dies Natali Invictus,’ ‘the birthday of the unconquered,’ (Sun), the day of the winter solstice and at the same time, in Rome, the last day of the Saturnalia. In other words, Christmas is the celebration of the Winter Solstice (the shortest period of daylight and the longest night of the year which began today, December 21st), the Honoring of the Sun God Saturn and the festival of the Saturnalia (party to honor Saturn).
In a book by historian Jack Finegan, Myth & Mystery: An Introduction to the Pagan Religions of the Biblical World, “the worship of the sun-god continued widely throughout the empire, and under Aurelian (A.D. 270-275) the cult was restored to its former high estate. In the year 274 Aurelian declared the god — now called Deus Sol Invictus — the official deity of the Roman Empire; he built a temple of the sun in Rome and set the sun’s birthday celebration (naturalis solis invicti) on December 25, the date then accepted for the winter solstice (also in his solar character the birthday of Mithras.) In the time of Constantine, the cult of Deus Sol Invictus was still at its height, and the portrait of the sun-god was on the coins of Constantine….Likewise, it must have been in this time and with the intent to transform the significance of an existing sacred date that the birthday of Jesus, which had been celebrated in the East on January 6… was placed in Rome on December 25, the date of the birthday celebration of Sol Invictus. This date appears in a list of dates probably compiled in A.D. 336 and published in the Roman city calendar, edited by Filocalus, for the year 354 (Finegan, p. 211-212)”.
(Finegan mentions January 6th but this is also a pagan Holiday. It is called Epiphany. The truth is no one knows exactly when Yahoshua, the real messiah, was born.)
In short, when Constantine became Emperor of Rome, he fused ancient pagan practices with the Bible in order to unite the pagan world. As a Pagan High Priest himself, he sought to reconcile and blend pagan practices with Christian beliefs, to merge paganism with the Roman church. This included sometimes killing off some pagans in the process who refused to accept the Christianizing of their Gods / Goddesses.
The Bible as History
Myth & Mystery: An Introduction to the Pagan Religions of the Biblical World
Halloween—An American Holiday, An American History