Green pine trees, elaborate ornaments, wrapped presents, eggnog and mistletoe are common sights during this time of year. Some front lawns may have the nativity scene with depictions of Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus in the manger, perhaps accented with barn animals, three magi (or wise men), and a bright star shining brilliantly above.

It all depends on the version of the story you like.

But the genesis of these festivities were never intended to be about Christ. At least that is what many scholars teach and believe.

Before there was Christmas, there were Roman and other European pagan traditions. Those festivals included German yule feasts, Persia’s celebrations of Mithra, and Rome’s Saturnalia. The winter solstice in Rome consisted of pagan worship and a week-long orgy created by Emperor Aurelian in honor of the Roman god Saturn.

According to the New International Encyclopedia, in an effort to transform society from pagan to Christian, church officials made the winter festivals all about Jesus Christ.

“As Christianity spread, the feast of the winter solstice…” (the shortest day of the year) “… was easily turned into the feast of Christ, the light of life,” according to the encyclopedia. “Many of the beliefs and usages of the old Germans, and also of the Romans, relating to this matter, passed over from heathenism to Christianity and have partly survived to the present day. But the church also sought to combat and banish–and this it was to a large extent successful–the deep-rooted heathen feeling by adding, for the purification of the heathen customs and feasts which it retained, its grandly devised liturgy, besides dramatic representations of the birth of Christ and the first events of His life.”

African history experts like Ashrwa Kwesi, who spoke on the topic at Los Angeles’ KRST Unity Center this past Saturday, said the story does not begin there. Christmas and European winter celebrations actually come from Africa, he said. Christmas as we know it, he said, is a European version of an ancient African celebration of the birth of the god, Heru.

Moustafa Gadalla, author of “Historical Deception: The Untold Story of Ancient Egypt” and “Egyptian Mystics: Seekers of the Way,” agrees.

“An ancient Egyptian festival celebrating the birth of Heru was held on Dec. 25, and it resembles the Christian festival of Christmas,” he writes.

Gadallah continues the thought in “Egyptian Mystics,” saying, “In the ancient Egyptian traditions, the rejuvenation/birthday of a new/renewed King comes symbolically 28 days after Nov. 27–the symbolic Last Supper and the Death of Ausar–i.e., Dec. 25. The Christian calendar celebrates the same day as the birth (rebirth) of the new king, namely Jesus, who is referred to as a king throughout the Bible.”

Kwesi believes that the Christian Christmas symbols erected throughout the season originate from Egypt and the ancient astrological story of the virgin birth.

For example, the Bible says that a bright star was seen on the night of Jesus’ birth, and that three wise men had followed it to Bethlehem.

“Pagan and Christian Creeds” (Webster’s French Thesaurus Edition) explains that the stars in the sky tell the story of the virgin birth. The Temple of Denderah in Egypt consists of a dome that depicts a representation of the northern hemisphere of the sky and the Zodiac.

“Here, Virgo the constellation is represented, as our star-maps, by a woman with a spike of corn in her hand (Spica). But on the margin close by there is an annotating and explicatory figure–a figure of Isis (Auset) with the infant Horus (Heru) in her arms, and quite resembling in style the Christian Madonna and Child, except that she is sitting and the child is on her knee. This seems to show that the Egyptians made no doubt of the constellation’s connection with Isis and Horus.”
Kwesi concurs with the findings, and adds that Virgo shows the birth of the son (or sun), aligned with the brightest star in the galaxy, Sirius, on Dec. 25. The three wise men in the story of Jesus are represented in Orion’s belt, which consists of three stars, diagonally aligned with Sirius.

Some may be asking why this even matters. As we celebrate traditions such as Christmas, it may be useful to understand how those traditions arose. Before every presentation, Kwesi tells his audience that he is not there to persuade anyone to change their minds about what they believe, but to receive and process the information they have received.