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Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

(25 December)


Sol Invictus on the Roman relief from the second century CE.

Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (the “Birth of the Invincible Sun”) was a celebration dedicated to Mitra, identified with the Roman god Sol, or the Sun. Sol Invictus was an ancient cult, originating in Persia, but revered mainly in Rome, from where it also received its name. The cult was introduced by Emperor Aurelian in 274 CE.

Festive was devoted to Mitra, identified with the Roman god Sol, meaning the Sun. The holiday commemorated his birth in the mountains of Zagros. The Romans on that day gifted each other and made wishes; kissed under the mistletoe.

To replace the pagan festivals, the Christian authorities decided to place Christ’s birth at this date – this is indicated by the commentary on the twelfth-century relationship of Dionysius Bar Salibi, who says that that it was custom of the pagans to celebrate this day (December 25) the birth of the Sun. As people were accustomed of celebrating pagan festive, it was decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on the 25th of December. Interestingly, in the litany of the Most Holy Name Jesus (probably founded in the fifteenth century), we find the naming of Jesus “the sun of justice.”

Sources

  • Jaczynowska Maria, Religie świata rzymskiego, Warszawa 1987
  • Kempiński Andrzej, Encyklopedia mitologii ludów indoeuropejskich, Warszawa 2001
  • Schmidt Joël, Słownik mitologii greckiej i rzymskiej, Katowice 1996
  • Ścisłowicz Łukasz, Cesarstwo Rzymskie. Ograniczona monarchia czy autokracja? Pryncypat, 2015
  • Zieliński Tadeusz, Religia Rzeczypospolitej Rzymskiej

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