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In The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown claims that Mithras, Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus were born on December 25:

Teabing groaned. 'Don’t get a symbologist started on Christian icons. Nothing in Christianity is original. The pre-Christian God Mithras – called the Son of God and the Light of the World – was born on December 25, died, was buried in a rock tomb, and then resurrected in three days. By the way, December 25 is also the birthday of Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus. The newborn Krishna was presented with gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Even Christianity’s weekly holy day was stolen from the pagans.'

I realize the book isn't known to be faithful to ancient myths, and the author probably was very liberal in interpreting his sources in order to create dramatic connections that fit the plot. However, I'm assuming that at the very least there are ancient sources pointing to a December birth for each of the aforementioned deities. Or are there?

Where did Dan Brown get the idea that Mithras, Osiris, Adonis, and Dionysus share a December 25 birthday? Is there any basis for the claim in ancient myths?

  • Just remember that Dan Brown was writing a novel, not a documentary. Revoking your suspension of disbelief an re-instituting Occam's Razor is usually a good start. It could just be that he wrote the character Teabing as delusionally conflating things or just making stuff up. – Spencer Oct 22 '17 at 15:55
  • The Christians were all about replacing pagan things like all saints day to distract people from samhain and get them to convert. It's totally possible that this is true as a little trick to get people to convert. – Sam Oct 23 '17 at 10:56
  • See Dan Browned – MalayTheDynamo Oct 24 '17 at 7:59
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Since historians started noted how Christianity attempted to displace paganism, assertions such as Dan Brown's are a commonplace. Older cultures did not have a precise calendar, so Dec. 25th is approximately the winter solstice, a period of a few days when the duration of daylight is minimal and which gets more perceptible in the northern latitudes. The "Day" or the "Sun" starts "growing" after the solstice and for sedentary peoples the fact has an obvious importance, which apparently has been magnified by later commentators. Macrobius' (5th c.) interest in the traditional Roman Saturnalia is an influent source mentioning Dionysus and Horus. Mithra, whose genealogy is rather complicated, in imperial times was assimilated to Sol Invictus (the unconquered sun) and so he came to be celebrated at the solstice. Adonis fits well the schema of a rebirth but it is not clear when it was decided that he should be born on Dec. 25th. The so called Cambridge Ritualists have a significant role for the popular connection of the myths and calendar.

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    That theory about Sol Invictus replacement is not without its own problem. Aurelian who created it (in rougly 274). We have good reasons to believe that Christians was using 25th december in 300, under Diocletian. The fact they surely used it in 300 imply they was knowing it roughly when Aurelian created the Sol Invictus. implying replacement a disputable thing. Not that one should dismiss the Sol Invictus thing, but one should also stay cautious. Other than that: Ancient culture did have an extraordinary precise calendar.Sumerian created a specific month (iti.dirig) to match lunar cycle. – Gibet Oct 23 '17 at 9:59
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I'm glad you asked this, because this is something I've wondered about for awhile. I think the other answers cover Mithra and Adonis pretty well, so here's what I have been able to find out about Dionysus and Osiris.
The rural Dionysia (a Greek festival) was held to celebrate the wine harvest, but it actually took place in the month of Poseidon, which "straddled the winter solstice" (Wikipedia). It seems to have been a lot like the Roman Saturnalia.
The Wepet-Renpet Festival, which celebrated the death and rebirth (well, sort of) of Osiris was the New Year festival of Ancient Egypt, but unfortunately their new year was in July, when the Nile flooded.
Hope this helps.

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    Factually the temple of Karnak was build around the winter solstice (his door point to the sun raising on winter solstice) and Egyptians was celebrating that period with a 12 days festival, one of death and rebirth. Babylonian got roughly the same one witn this time Marduk. – Gibet Oct 25 '17 at 10:03
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    Is it the Khoiak festivals that you're referring to? – solsdottir Oct 25 '17 at 14:52
  • Roughly yes. The Khoiak (Ka Hr Ka) is the name of the last mouth of the flood season (Akhet). during the month of Khoiak there was a huge attested celebration of Osiris (the rebirth god). including the raising of a statue called the Djed (Dd). traveltoeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/… There is LOT to say about that thing looking strangely like a Christmas tree...: You find roughly the same in Babylon. I was just mentioining that Egyptian did celebrate winter solstice. – Gibet Oct 26 '17 at 7:29
  • I know, I just wanted you to expand on it a bit. I hadn't thought of the Djed/Christmas tree connection before. Interesting. – solsdottir Oct 26 '17 at 22:31

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