Wed | Jan 23, 2019

What is Christmas, really?

Published:Monday | December 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Michael Abrahams, Online Columnist

So,another year has almost passed and Christmas is upon us again. The time of year when we reflect on the birth of someone we are told is our Lord and Saviour, who we better accept or we burn eternally in Hell.

The time of year when we spend money to buy gifts for people who can usually afford to buy gifts for themselves. The time of year when we spend time with family, including some we wish were not family. The time of year we go broke.

Sounds like a lot of fun, huh? The central theme of this festive season is supposed to be the birth of Jesus Christ, but we all know that many of us are just being hypocrites about the whole thing. Christmas today is not all about that at all. As a matter of fact, serious questions exist regarding the virgin birth, the existence of Jesus Christ or, if such a person did exist, his divinity.

I was taught in Sunday school that the story about Jesus Christ was unique, only to grow up and read for myself that stories about virgins impregnated by gods existed long before Jesus allegedly lived. Apparently, gods just love to knock upvirgins.
For example, about 2,000 years before the Christian Era, Mut-em-ua, the virgin queen of Egypt, was said to have given birth to the pharaoh Amenkept. She was allegedly impregnated by the god Kneph,who mystically impregnated her by holding a cross to her mouth. Also,the infant was visited and adored by three kings who offered him gifts. Sound familiar?

Another Egyptian god born of a virgin was Horus. This was more than 2,000 years before Christ. He was born to his mother, Isis, who was a virgin goddess. Her husband, Osiris, a god, was murdered and dismembered and his penis thrown into the Nile where some reports claim that a catfish or a crab made a 'happy meal'of it. (I am not sure if it was eaten with a side order of fries).

Isis,however, was unfazed by the dismembering and penis-eating, and simply retrieved her deceased husband's body parts, made a gold penis, or,more correctly, a dildo, and conceived. (I am not making this up.)And there are other stories of deities impregnating virgins before Christ, not only from Africa, but from Europe and Asia as well.

Many modern scholars reject the Virgin Birth story. Some theorise that it served the purpose of making Christianity more competitive with other religions and beliefs at the time, as many of them had central figures who were allegedly born of virgins.

Some others claim that when translated properly, the term 'virgin' should really read 'young woman'.
Regarding the life of Jesus Christ, there is a paucity of information outside of the Bible itself, and the Gospels, which many follow religiously, were written decades after his death was reported to have occurred. There are no existing eyewitness accounts of Jesus.Zero. The best known non-biblical writers of the era who wrote aboutJesus, Josephus and Tacitus, were actually born after his death.

As for the whole birthday thing, many agree that based on the descriptions in the Bible, it is very unlikely that if Jesus Christ had existed, he would have been born at this time of the year. We also know that December 25 was a time of pagan celebration centuries before Christ was documented, and that the powers that be just decided to call it Jesus' birthday for convenience which, to me, is an insult to Jesus.

What I find interesting is that many of us tell our children that God impregnated a virgin, and that her son walked on water, raised a man from the dead, multiplied fish and bread, died, came back to life three days later and went up into the sky, while telling them that Santa Claus flying around is obviously a myth because that story is impossible.

Knowing what we do now about ancient civilisations and religions, I do not think it unreasonable to seriously re-evaluate the origins of Christianity.And I say this not to be disrespectful to the religion, but I do so out of concern, because although Christianity has brought peace of mind and solace to many, like other religions, it has been the source of much bigotry, intolerance and oppression and has, in some cases,significantly hindered human-rights efforts and scientific advancement.

But, being liberal minded, I support freedom of religion as well as the right to free oneself from religion. So, this Christmas, put up your Nativity scenes, Christmas trees, Santa Claus and reindeers, Frosty the Snowman, holly and mistletoe and enjoy yourselves.

But if you see people taking the 'Christ out of Christmas', please try to understand that there is a good reason why some of us do.

Michael Abrahams is agynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback and, or tweet@mikeyabrahams.