January 11, 2000
Nice try Jack
Ms. Shashaani ["Borrowed
ideas"] argues interestingly that Christmas may have something
to do with shab-e yalda and other old Persian traditions of that
period of the year. This is a fascinating and enjoyable article and the
author obviously knows her subject matter well.
However, I must say that I find the notion of attempting to relate Christmas
to the astrological/astronomical basis of shab-e yalda rather far-fetched.
Maybe she is right, I am no expert, but sometimes things are just simple
coincidences. Would anyone, for example, try to connect the Islamic Republic's
day (Farvardin 12) with April's Fool's Day in the West?
The Persians clearly have made some contribution to human history, but
I doubt if the timing of the birth of Jesus Christ was one of them. Why
not face it, perhaps his birth had more to do with the family planning
habits of the Almighty and the virgin Mary than shab-e yalda. It just happens
that Christ is thought to have been born around that time. Even that is
highly uncertain (as the author also notes) because the Roman calendar
used at the time was distorted by the absence of proper allowance (through
leap years and so on) for the extra 6 hours or so in a solar year.
Moreover, while I find Ms. Shashaani's arguments regarding the connections
between Mithraism and Christianity quite persuasive and I admit the possibility
that uncertainties regarding the date of birth of Christ may have contributed
to adoption of apparently Mithraic dates, I am not so sure if the article
presents all the evidence in a fully objective and comprehensive manner.
For example, did the Persians really make much significant contributions
to astronomy, as opposed to mainly borrowing concepts from the people that
they forcefully brought under their rule, such as Babylonians whose civilization
reached its height before it was invaded by the Persians?
Also while the word Magi may have been derived from Mogh (Zoroastrian
preacher), the origin of the three wise men is a lot more uncertain than
the article suggests. I am puzzled, in particular, how the author claims
that they came from the religious city of Qom when this city gained its
religious status only many centuries later and in the context of a different
religion, namely Islam.
In summary I would thank Ms. Shashaani for her very interesting article
but cannot help say nice (and enjoyable) try Jack, but let's not push it,
not everything has its origin in old Persian traditions.