The African Origins of Christmas
Historian, author, and educator Anthony Browder summarizes the African origins of Christmas
QUESTION: What are the African origins of what is often now considered to be the “Christmas” or “holiday” season?
ANTHONY BROWDER: Generally what we consider to be holidays were in fact holy days in Africa, specifically in [ ] Egypt, [ ] culture and civilization. And these holy days were timed to coincide with the relationship between specific celestial phenomenon. The heavens, stars, constellations, the sun and planet earth. And that relationship literally affects everything on the planet. And because there was a specific impact on the way that the earth’s relationship to the sun, as it revolves around the sun, affects everything on the earth, there’s specific times for certain holy celebrations were, were organized.
So this season, this winter season, is a time where we’re approaching the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year. And we have celebrations now, Hanukkah, festival of lights. We have Christmas, with Christmas lights. These lights refer to the fact that on the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year, day in which in the Northern hemisphere we have 19 hours of night. And then the winter solstice expands from four days, December 21-24. And then after that four-day period of time, then the sun is born on December 25. That is, the length of the day begins to increase by approximately one minute per day.
And that time frame was viewed in ancient Africa as the birth of the sun, the S-U-N. In other cultures or traditions, that tradition came down to us as the birth of a savior, who is viewed as the son, the son of God. But many of the traditions that we now find in Christianity, for example, the birth of Jesus on December 25, the birth of Jesus in a stable, all refer to specific phenomena that were happening in the heavens, and were acknowledged by Africans in Kemet, in the Nile valley, over 6,000 years ago.
QUESTION: How is any of this known?
BROWDER: We know this because we can look up in the sky at night and we can see specifically the constellation of Orion dominates the nighttime sky. And the constellation of Orion was known to the ancient Egyptians as Sahu. That was the constellation associated with a primary deity by the name of Asar or Osiris. He was the lord of resurrection. And according to the story, Asar was murdered by his brother. And after his death, his spirit came and impregnated his virgin wife, Auset, who then nine months later gave birth to their son Heru on December 25.
Now, this story sounds familiar because it’s a story, it’s an African story, that’s over 6,000 years old. Haru was born on December 25, the same birthday as his father. He was born to avenge the murder of his father and restore his father’s kingdom. So this is a story, this is a myth that was a metaphor to help explain specific phenomena that were happening in heaven. So the priests in ancient Kemet were aware of this phenomenon, and they in turn created rituals that will allow the people to maintain a certain system of order.
After foreigners came in to Kemet, they adopted many of the traditions of the Nile valley, and they adopted many of the personalities and changed their names. So Asar was renamed Osiris, Auset was renamed Isis, Heru was renamed Horus. And then that story is a story that is later modified after the Romans conquer Egypt in 30 BCE, took Egypt away from the Greeks. And they then took these same personalities and they were known to their people as the Madonna and child, the black Madonna and child. And ultimately when Rome began to establish Christianity as the state religion, they then took this story of Asar, who is known as the lord of resurrection, and his son Heru, and morphed them into the religion that we now know as Christianity, with the birth of Jesus on December 25.
So we can break this, this phenomena down to precise detail. Because December 25 is the birth of the sun, S-U-N, when the length of the day begins to increase by approximately one minute per day. At the moment of the birth of the sun, the constellation of Orion is in the constellation known as Sagittarius, or which was known in ancient times as the stable of Aegeus. So it was said that the sun was born in a stable. There are three stars in the belt of Orion, which makes this constellation so readily identifiable. And those three stars point to the Eastern star, which we now know today is Sirius. Sirius is the star system that was associated with Auset, the wife of Asar and the mother of Heru.
So in ancient times in Kemet, those three stars in the belt of Orion, or Sahu, were known as the three wise men, or the three kings. The Eastern star, or Auset, rises in the east around the time of the birth of the sun on December 25. And at the same time that Eastern star is rising, it is rising in the constellation of Virgo, the virgin. And so it was said then that the son is born of a virgin because the constellation Virgo is halfway above the horizon, literally being bisected by the horizon. So the son was said to have been born of a virgin.
So this was a metaphor, if you will, for a celestial phenomenon that determined specific things that were happening on earth. Others appropriated this knowledge and then incorporated it into their religious system, and changed the names of these original mythological personalities. So now know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the celebration of December 25 as the birth of Jesus was a celebration that did not come into existence until at least 350 years after the birth of Christ. It was a result of conferences and meetings that were held by Constantine and Theodosius in order to hammer out the basic traditions of what would be the official state religion of the Holy Roman Empire. And no minister, no theologian today worth their salt can tell you with honesty that Jesus was born on December 25. Nobody knows the date that Jesus was born. The date was appropriated because for thousands of years prior to the birth of Jesus that date, December 25, had been celebrated as the birth of the sun, S-U-N.
QUESTION: Please clarify your seemingly interchangeable use of terms like “Egypt”, “Kemet”, and “Africa”.
BROWDER: Let’s be clear, Egypt is in Africa. There’s no such thing as the Middle East. That was a term that came into common use during the early 20th century, and it was a term that was used to geographically and historically remove Egypt from the continent of Africa, thus removing the history of African people from the continent, as well. Egypt is a Greek word, as are many of the terms that are used to describe the accomplishments of African people. Egypt is a Greek word. Sphinx is a Greek word. Pyramid is a Greek word. So one of the things that I’m always stressing is the importance of identifying African people, places, and things, by their original names.
The original name for Egypt is Kemet. Kemet is a word that means the nation of the black people. Kemet is the oldest documented civilization known to mankind. And I’ve been traveling to Egypt over 51 times in the last 35 years, studying this history inside and out. And I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that that culture, the ancient culture, the oldest documented civilization known to mankind, was established by indigenous African people, and all of the major accomplishments which we now associate with Egypt were developed by indigenous Africans. And it wasn’t until after Kemet was conquered by the Greeks, Alexander of Macedonia in 332 BC, that Kemet became Egypt.
So most of the stories, images that we see of the ancient Egyptians are false images. And it has to do with the continued distortion of African history, culture, and the people associated with African history and culture.
QUESTION: Why is understanding this history important? What value to everyday life can be derived from an understanding from an understanding of the politics of mythology, symbol and image?
BROWDER: Myths are important because myths transcend time and space. They transcend personalities. And they are ways of incorporating the essence of a people into a, a phenomena. Myths are not true, but they contain truth. Every culture has their foundational myths, which serves as the foundation for their culture. And what we have found as African people living here in the West is that our memory has been erased and the erasure has been forgotten. And others have been telling our story, and have, as Dr. John Henrik Clarke said, written us out of the respectable commentary of human history.
And so we look, for example, at ancient Kemetic or ancient Egyptian symbols that have been taken all over the world. But most people don’t know that they’re African, and they don’t know what they mean. For example, the Washington monument is a structure 555 feet tall. The tallest structure in Washington, DC. And it’s a structure that actually represents the resurrection of an ancient African king by the name of Asar. That symbol is the oldest symbol of resurrection known to mankind. It represents the resurrection of an African man. So why don’t people know that information? It certainly is available to anyone who’s willing to do the research. But we have to ask the question of what else don’t we know?
So one of the things that prompted me to begin an in-depth study of African history, and more specifically Nile valley history and culture, is that most of what we know about that culture has been falsified by the people who are responsible for enslaving our ancestors. And I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that truth is a means of restoring a people’s consciousness. So our people, people of African ancestry in Baltimore and my hometown of Chicago, and New York, behave the way that we behave because we have been socialized to believe that our history began in slavery. We don’t know our true story, and that there have been concerted efforts over the centuries to deny us the opportunity to tell our story.
My daughter wrote her first book when she was eight years old, My First Trip To Africa. And a young man in Maryland had written a book report on my daughter’s book. And the book detailed her trip to Egypt. The trip that she made when she was seven years old. This young man was reprimanded by his teacher because his book report was entitled My First Trip to Africa, and the book report was about Egypt, and everyone knows that Egypt is not in Africa. Now, that happened 20 years ago.
So this disconnect of African history, people, and culture from the continent is still occurring, and that’s why it’s so critically important that we document our story and that we share it with anyone who has a mind and heart to listen and learn.
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