Mithras and/or Sol Invictus and Christmas

I’ve heard for a long time that the reason Christmas is on Dec 25th is because it was a day associated with Mithras. A Wikipedia article states that it was a day associated with Sol Invictus. Does anyone have any good references supporting either claim?

Christianitytoday affirms that Dec25 was associated with both Mithras and Sol Invictus prior to its association with the birth of Jesus.

Sol Invictus is Mithras.

Says who?

No not really. He could be the same thing as Elagabalus or Tony Wakeford though.

This article from Touchstone Magazine make the opposite claim, that Christmas as Dec 25 preceded Sol Invictus and its gang.

If you actually read that article, it claims to make that claim, but when it goes into detail, what it actually says is that the early Church’s calculation of the date of Christ’s birth was March 25, and that December 25 as the date did in fact come after Sol Invictus, just like everyone says. I’m not sure how this is supposed to support the author’s thesis.

Actually, while I would not want to be briefed to defend the argument in GD, the argument made is a bit more logical, given its questionable assumptions, than that. I assume that is what the article intended to present. It works like this:

“Jesus began his ministry at about age 30, and it lasted three years, give or take. Since God is perfect, He would no doubt have been incarnate in Jesus for exactly one generation, or precisely 33 years – meaning from conception to death. The first Good Friday was on March 25, which means the Annunciation, and Jesus’ conception, would also be on March 25, 33 years before. Given the term of pregnancy, a conception on March 25 would come to term on December 25, hence Christmas.”

As I said, I don’t want to be put in a position of defending this. But that was the logic used.

As for Mithras/Sol Invictus, I was given to understand that Festa Solis Invicti was on December 22. It celebrated the end of the retreat of the Old Roman deity Sol, who turns and begins staying above the horizon longer. Sol was equated in the early centuries C.E. to Mithras, deity ofr a mystery religion that like Christianity got started during the First Century. A theory, once widely accepted then rejected, is slowly regaining favor, that Mithras was a Christ-type figure associated with Mazdism.

How much the conceptions of the three deities interacted in the popular mind is still quite debatable. There clearly was some sort of interaction, but details are of course sketchy and undocumentable.

It should perhaps be mentioned that the Son/Sun wordplay that makes this so obvious in English was a development in the English language over several hundred years after the actual timing of the midwinter Christian feast was set.

Time for my semi-annual plug of the excellent History of Rome podcast which featured a Christmas special back 2008 that went into this in some detail.