Meheregaanمهرگان and Christmas کریسمس
Roots of Christmas can be traced to ancient Iran and current Zoroastrian calendar. According to the Zoroastrian/Iranian solar calendar, Zoroaster died on day of Khor (Sun = خور، خورشید) and the month of Dei (دی). So, Zoroaster died on the “Sunday” and that’s the date chosen for Christmas! Is this just a random coincidence? Or is it a way for Christianity to connect itself to the ancient religion of Zoroastrianism? Why do Christians go to church on Sundays and not so much on other days? Fire has always been important in the Zoroastrian/ancient Iranian culture as evidenced by the many fire temples that existed throughout the vast Iranian empire. They served as important landmarks as well as places of worship that brought communities together. Iranians believed in protecting and honoring fire. They recognized five different fires: 1. The Great Useful Fire (بزرگ سودمند), 2. Plant Energy (گرمی رُستنی), 3. Lightning Fire in the Clouds (شراره از ابرها), 4. Animal Heat (آتش درون), 5. Heavenly Fire that burn in AhuraMazdaa’s presence; it brightens but never burns (think of flash light) (Sepeenesht = سپینشت(.
The worship of Mehr was spread from Iran to Asia and Europe. Mehr was held is high regard in ancient Iran. Many fire temples and children were named after it (Aazar Borzin Mehr, آذر برزین مهر آتشکده ی کشاورزان بوده در کوه های ریو، شمال شرقی نیشاپور, مهرا، مهرداد، مهرزاد، مهربانو، میترا، و دیگر نام ها). Today, the worship houses of Zoroastrians are also called Dar-e Mehr (درِ مهر). According to the Zoroastrian literature, people must first be honest and then honor all their promises, no matter if those promises were made with friends or foes. Breaking promises was considered a great sin by our Iranian ancestors.
Mehr (مهر), in Avestaa and Old Persian, is referred to as Mitraa (میترا) and in Pahlavi language, Mitra (میترَ). Mehr has come to mean, friendship (دوستی), kindness (محبت), and light (نور). In Zoroaster’s Gatha Mehr means, promise and commitment (عهد و پیمان). In Avestaa (اوستا = دانش و آگاهی), Mehr is created by Ahura (اهورا=هستی بخش) whose responsibility is spreading justice. Mehr isa deity (Eezad) (ایزد=سزاوار ستایش) that protects promises and commitments; that’s the reason for Mehr being represented as light (a reflection of the creator) so that nothing will be hidden from Mehr’s view. In order to oversee all the commitments and promises that people make, AhuraMazd
= اهورامزدا) هستی بخش بزرگ دانا = به نام خداوند جان و خرد) has given Eezad-e Mehr (ایزد مهر) a thousand ears and ten thousand eyes. Mehr is always awake, alert, and strong. Mehr is believed to help the honest people who are in need of his assistance, and exposes those who lie and break their promises. This deity is believed to live on the top of Hara Mountain (کوه هَرا), a place where it is neither day nor night, neither cold nor hot wind ever blows there, and is a place free from any disease or impurity.
In the battle field of life, Mehr has several helpers. They are: 1. (Bahraam [Victory]ایزد پیروزی بهرام = ), 2. (Soroosh [Responsible for carrying out AhuraMazda’s orders] = ایزد فرمانبرداری سروش ), 3. (Rashn [Justice] = ایزد دادگری رشن), 4. (Ashtaad [Truth and Fairness] = ارشتاد = ایزد درستی و داد اشتاد), 5. (Paarand [Plenty and Good Fortune] = ایزد نیکبختی و فراوانی ), 6. (Art = Ashi [Wealth] = ایزد توانگری و ثروت ), and 7. (Raam [Peace] = ایزد رامش و شادمانی رام ).
Mehr is represented by the flower, pansy (گل بنفشه). According to Dr. Oshidari (جهانگیر اشیدری در کتاب دانشنامه مزدیسنا) in later texts, another responsibility of Mehr during the “Judgment Day”is helping people cross the “bridge” and getting rescued from those evils that misguide them and want to take them to hell.
Kaaveh Aahangar/Blacksmith ((کاوه آهنگر
Mehregaan is also associated with liberating Iran from a terrible king who had two snakes on his shoulders and two people were killed every night by the king’s henchmen to feed them. In a public event, similar to the “show trials” that are organized by today’s despotic regimes, Zah-haak (ضحاک یا بیوراسب(, who was about to kill Kaaveh’s 18th son, is confronted by a grieving and angry father who demands the king to release his last son and refuses to sign a petition that called for claiming the king to be a “just” king. Zah-haak, who is shaken by this act of defiance and protest, seeks to appease him and others by releasing his son. When Kaaveh leaves the king’s palace with his son, he puts his apron on a lance and it becomes the banner that rallies the opposition to get rid of the Zah-haak. This banner later becomes known as Derafsh-e Kaaviaan (درفش کاویان) and was decorated with jewels. It is said that it glowed at night and was carried in battles.
According to the Zoroastrian calendar, Mehr is the name of the seventh month and the sixteenth day of every month. Mehr connects the first half of the year to the second half. In other words, Mehr is the connector, it is the peace maker. It also signifies the changing of the seasons and the start of the autumn.When the names of the day and month match, Iranians honor Mehr by celebrating. The celebration of this autumn festival goes on for six days. It starts on the day of Mehr and ends in the day of Raam. It is believed that during this time, God created earth and human soul. Moon, which used to be a dark ball in the sky, started to glow because it started to receive light from the sun.
So, it is during this time that Zah-haak is defeated and on the last day of this month, Raam day, Fereidoon (فریدون) is declared the new king. Peace and prosperity returns to Iran for a while. On Raam day ایزد رامش و شادمانی رام, people relax, have a feast, and drink wine. In Shaahnaameh we read that: “worshipping Mehregaan is his religion; and resting and eating is his way.”
پرستیدن مهرگان دین اوست تن آسانی و خوردن آیین اوست
Enjoy this festive time of the year and Merry Christmas!
Khodadad (Khodi) Kaviani, Ph.D.