Top 10 Christmas Myths
It’s again that time of the year when winter chill and Christmas carols add to the holiday cheer. Every year thousands celebrate Christmas across the globe. It has attained almost a secular status because non Christians celebrate it with equal fervour and spirit. The traditional Christmas celebration borrows from various pagan rituals and festivals. A festival of sharing, love and camaraderie, modern day Christmas as we know it was started in Victorian England in the 1860s, though Christmas day celebration had begun way back in the 4th century AD when Christianity was adopted as the official religion of Rome by Emperor Constantine. A tradition that has lasted for so many centuries will obviously be subject to various myths, legends and fables. So sit tight while we leash the reindeers and take a myth busting ride down the ages of fables associated with the festival of Christmas.
10. It is not sacrilegious to refer to Christmas as Xmas
This happens to be one of the silliest myths, a product of orthodox thought that believes by abbreviating Christmas to Xmas one ruins the spirit of Christmas. However, facts show otherwise. In Greek, the first letter of Christ would be ‘chi’ that is represented by the letter X in Roman alphabet, so one is actually invoking an ancient custom by calling it Xmas and it is not a sacrilege to do so.
9. Santa was not always plump and happy
Though the figure of Santa Claus was based upon the figure of St. Nicholas, a bishop of Demre who was said to be generous and loving towards children. However, the myth of Santa Claus took years to build. By 1821 he was imagined flying across the sky in his sleigh driven by reindeer and by 1837 people began believing that he climbed down chimneys to bring gifts to good children, but it was not until the Civil War was Santa imagined as he is today; before that he was envisaged as thin and beardless. Washington Irving in 1809 said that Santa was heavy man who smoked pipe, wore baggy breeches and a Dutch broad brimmed hat. The modern day Santa wearing a red suit with a flowing white beard and rotund features was the brainchild of Thomas Nast (1863).
8. Christmas is not the most important Christian holiday
While it is certainly the most pompously celebrated Christian festival and has taken an almost secular meaning, Easter by far remains the most important Christian festival for it stands for Jesus’s suffering for mankind’s sins and how he rose from the dead. His resurrection implying not only proof of His divinity and but also the promise of eternal life for every true Christian free from sins and on the righteous path. For devout Christians, Christmas remains a winter festival, a mere celebration of sorts, while Easter which is about Christ’s resurrection and his sacrifice seems like the real deal. Christmas marks the birth of a Messiah, Easter celebrates His divinity and munificence. The Christian religious scriptures in fact ask Christians to celebrate the death of Jesus and not the His birth.
7. Christmas presents? Think again!
Exchanging gifts with friends and family is the most natural association with Christmas. However, the Bible or any of the Holy Scriptures does not speak of this practice. Therefore, it seems only logical that the ritual of exchanging gifts came from the ancient festival of Saturnalia where it was a customary ritual, it may also have originated from Biblical tale of the gifts of the magi who had visited Jesus after his birth and presented him with gold, frankincense and myrrh.
6. Christmas trees, say what?
According to Biblical exegetes like Jeremiah, Christmas trees were a big no no. Jeremiah (10:2-6) says, “Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen…For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a TREE out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers that it move not,” clearly forbidding the practice of adorning the Christmas tree. Some people misinterpret the meaning (which is rather ambiguous) to say that Christmas trees are okay. While idolatry remains forbidden in Christianity, people began associating the evergreen tree with the divinity of Christ, with its branches pointing upwards indicating reverence to God.
The Christmas tree decoration was a custom followed by the Germans which the English adopted after Prince Albert (who was German), Queen Victoria’s husband introduced it in the royal household. From there it spread to the other parts of Europe and eventually the USA.
5. Kissing underneath the mistletoe? You’re probably doing it for dear life!
Movies, books and telly series over the years have told you that you absolutely must kiss under the mistletoe, sounds warm, fuzzy and romantic, right? I should hope not. Firstly, the mistletoe isn’t a plant; it is a parasite that grows on softwood trees. Secondly, it is an ancient symbol of fertility. The myths associated with the mistletoe dates back to the Vikings who thought it had the power to raise the dead (oh the thought!), it is also associated with the resurrection of the Norse God, Balder who had a dream that he was going to die, as a result of which, his mother, Frigga pleaded with all the elements of the earth to spare and protect her son. Balder’s enemy, Loki, finally devised a plan to kill him and tricked Balder’s blind brother, Hoder into shooting him with an arrow made out of mistletoe. Needless to say, Balder died but was then resurrected by Frigga’s tears. The mistletoe’s bad reputation changed and Frigga began the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe as a sign of thankfulness for her son’s life.
4. The Three Wise Men of Bethlehem Myth
The Bible never makes clear how many wise men or magi had visited Jesus. Early Christian painting show from 2 up to 8 magi. The number three was presumed most likely because of the three gifts that Jesus was bestowed with: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Also, the wise men did not arrive until a good time after Christ’s birth, contrary to the popular belief that they visited Him on the night He was born. They did not come to Him until he was older on his presentation in the Temple of Jerusalem (Luke 2:22-39). The Scripture calls Jesus a child and not a baby, when the magi met him.
3. Mary didn’t travel to Bethlehem on a donkey
The incredulity of the thought! A woman, who is nine months pregnant traveling so many miles to journey on rugged terrain from Nazareth to the land of David, Bethlehem, on a donkey is certainly absurd and far fetched. There is no Biblical evidence of the fact apart from the suggestion that she was accompanied by Joseph. Nevertheless, she traveled to Bethlehem and gave birth to Jesus fulfilling Micah’s prophecy (Micah 5:2) at around 700 to 500 BC. The fulfillment of the prophecy proves the validity of the Bible.
2. Jesus was not born in a stable
Those cute little greeting cards showing a baby Jesus in a manger surrounded by Joseph, Mary, the three wise men and angels overhead adds a beautifully nostalgic touch to the spirit of Christmas. Alas! They are all untrue except the part about a manger. There is no Biblical evidence as such about the validity of such assumptions. The scriptures use the Greek word ‘kataluma’ to describe his birth place which can mean a guest house, inn or lodge. Historians believe that in all likelihood Jesus was born in at a relative’s house, perhaps out in the open but definitely not in a stable.
1. So you think Jesus was born on the 25th of December?
You’ve probably heard Boney M croon about how Mary’s boy child was born on Xmas day and believed them? From Christmas greeting cards to your 2nd grade teacher, everyone told you that Christ was born on 25th December and yet they couldn’t be more wrong! There is no Biblical evidence of the fact that Christ was born on 25th December and in all likelihood, he was born during spring because the presence of shepherds and sheep as well as the improbability of being outside in bone chilling winter cold seems to hint at the weather having been spring. 25th December came to be regarded as the day that celebrates the birth of Christ and is perhaps borrowed from the Roman pagan celebration of Saturnalia, a festival of merry making, feasting, happiness and exchange of gifts, clearly a precursor to our modern day Christmas festivities.