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Top 5 Christmas Myths

Updated on March 26, 2012
Top 5 Christmas Myths
Top 5 Christmas Myths

Top 5 Christmas Myths

If we are told something often enough, by enough people who assume it to be true, we can easily fall into the trap of just accepting those "facts" uncritically. We then join the majority in believing stuff that just isn't true

Christmas time is a time which is full of stuff that we "think" we know, but you would be surprised at how much of it is nonsense. For example....

1: Jesus was born on December 25th in the year 0001

Well... It stands to reason doesn't it? We are celebrating Jesus's birthday, so therefore he must have been born on the 25th of December, and as the calendar starts from the year of his birth, then it must have been in the year 0001.

Not Really. Most biblical scholars would tell you that it is most unlikely that Jesus would have been born on the 25th of December.

Part and parcel of the nativity story is the information that the shepherds "kept watch over their sheep at night" (Luke 2:8), but December time in Bethlehem is extremely cold with temperatures after sundown dipping well below freezing. Shepherds tended to "keep watch" only from about April to October. During the winter, flocks were sheltered, and the shepherds stayed at home.

The census that Augustus Caesar was said to have called never actually happened, but if it had, it would not have been timed for winter time. This was a massive undertaking requiring travel by a huge number of people. Bad weather, freezing temperatures and muddy roads would really threaten the success of the operation. For this reason, the census tended to take place after the harvest season in September or October.

The date of 25th of December was originally a pagan celebration of the winter solstice and a feast day for such gods as the Roman sun god and the Persian god Mithras. The early Christian church was having a hard time competing with this festival, and so, in the fourth century, in a sort of "if-you-can't-beat-them-join-them" way, they decided to usurp the festival by declaring that Jesus was born on the 25th of December!

Most scholars will tell you that the true date was more likely around the end of September, and in the year 6 AD not 0 AD.

2: Jesus was the product of a "Virgin Birth"

St. Paul not only fails to mention a virgin birth, but actively implies that it was a perfectly normal birth.

An error in an early Greek translation of Isaiah from the original Hebrew substituted "virgin" for "young woman." This error was probably happily accepted by the early church because it would have allowed them to adopt the well known "virgin birth" myth that was an integral part of the birth story of many pagan gods, including:

  • Horus (circa 1550 BCE),
  • Zoroaster (1000 - 1500 BCE?),
  • Krishna (circa 1200 BCE),
  • Indra (circa 750 BCE),
  • Buddha (circa 600 BCE),
  • Mithra (Born 25th of December - circa 500 BCE),
  • Quirrnus (circa 550 BCE),
  • Attis (circa 200 BCE),
  • Adonis (also born in Bethlehem but many centuries before Jesus)

And of course it is well documented in the Bible that Jesus was descended from the Royal house of David - which wouldn't be the case if Joseph (not a carpenter) wasn't his dad.

3: Baby Jesus was born in a stable and was visited by three kings.

Well, he was definitely born in a stable wasn't he? Er...

This is an assumption taken from the report that he was laid in a manger. There was no such thing as separate stabling in those days. The animals were kept in the house and the house owners would sleep in a room above the animals in order to benefit from the heat they provided. Mangers were commonly used as makeshift cribs because of this.

Neither would they have been staying in an inn. Mary had many relations in the area who would have provided shelter - it would have been considered a great dishonour if they had not done so.

The Greek word used in Scripture is kataluma which simply means "lodging place", and while this might possibly apply to an inn, the only other time this particular word was used in the New Testament, it meant a large, furnished, upper story room in a private house. The translation seems to be one of "guest chamber", and not an inn.

The Three Kings?

Nowhere in the scriptures does it mention how many visitors came to see Jesus. The number three has been assumed because there were three reported gifts - Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, but these could have been the result of a whip-round amongst thirty-three visitors for all we know.

Neither were they Kings. They were described as Magi meaning "wise men". Most scholars think that they were likely to have been astrologers. Interestingly, (Matt. 2:11) suggest that the visits were not to a baby in a manger, but to a small child in a house, so the visit could well have occurred much later than the date of his birth.

4: The term "Xmas" was coined to denigrate Christians.

The use of X to denote Christ is actually a very legitimate usage and one almost as old as the faith itself.

The symbol of the cross is an intrinsic part of the Christian movement, not only as the symbol of crucifixion, but also in the form of a blessing where the "sign of the cross" is made.

The use of the X as in "Christmas" is not a reference to the crucifixion, or indeed an attempt to anonymise Christmas - It is in fact an ancient reference to Jesus himself and stems from the Greek "Xristos" - Christ.

5: Christmas has always been the biggest Christian Holiday

It is assumed that Christmas is, and has always been, the biggest bash in the Christian calendar, but this is just not the case - Especially in the USA.

It was not until the nineteenth century that Christmas really took off in America, having largely been shunned and ignored before that. It was extremely rare for it to have been celebrated at all by the early Protestant settlers.

In fact, not only wasn't it popular, but there was a period of twenty-five years, way back in the 1700's when it was actually ILLEGAL to openly celebrate Christmas if you lived in Massachusetts.

Merry Xmas from Gaizy
Merry Xmas from Gaizy


Submit a Comment

  • Gaizy profile image

    Gaizy 6 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    Thanks Sustainable Sue - They're nice stories - just not true.

  • Sustainable Sue profile image

    Sustainable Sue 6 years ago from Altadena CA, USA

    I love it when people dispel a myth, especially widely accepted ones like these. Well done. I'm going to refer this to my siblings.

  • Gaizy profile image

    Gaizy 6 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ Dim Flaxenwick - Thanks for the ratings! - It's fascinating how, over time, embellishments to stories become accepted as facts.

  • Gaizy profile image

    Gaizy 6 years ago from Denbigh, North Wales, UK

    @ nemanjaboskov - It's amazing what you can unearth with a bit of research.

  • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

    Dim Flaxenwick 6 years ago from Great Britain

    Great stuff.!!!! Loved it. Didn´t know the bit about the ´´Inn´´. Thanks for your informative hub.

    Rated up and awesome.

  • nemanjaboskov profile image

    Nemanja BoŇ°kov 6 years ago from Serbia

    This is a very interesting story indeed.

    I have heard about a lot of myths related to the birth of Jesus, and it is always nice to read about some of them...