The Myths of Christmas

Don’t get me wrong, I like Christmas almost as much as the next guy, but there are misconceptions and flat out lies about Christmas that continue to be perpetuated.

For starters, Jesus was not born on December 25. We don’t know when Jesus was born, but the best estimates put it in the spring time. Also, the choosing of the date of December 25 is not fully understood either, but the most compelling arguments have to do with “pagan” celebrations and the winter solstice. These are not far-fetched ideas when you look at how the ancient world implemented celebrations. They were often centered around nature or were designed to take over the existing religious celebrations of a group so as to show complete domination by their empire.

Am I saying that we should not celebrated Christmas on December 25? No. I’m simply asking that we realize that December 25 is the day that we celebrate the birth of Jesus, not the day Jesus was actually born.

Second, the “immaculate conception” is not the same as the “virgin birth.” The doctrine of the “immaculate conception” says that Mary was conceived and born without the stain of original sin. This, then, allows her to be a virgin when she conceives Jesus (a product of a poor translation of the Hebrew for young woman, not to mention a misappropriation of a text that originally referred to Hezekiah). They are two separate doctrines and should not be confused. On a related note, the text of Matthew (1:25) does not support the idea of Mary as a perpetual virgin, as if all of her other children were conceived without her ever having had sex.

Third, the wise men were NOT at the manger. Matthew is very clear that the wise men were not even summoned by Herod until AFTER Jesus was born, meaning that they could not have arrived on the night he was born. Also, the text states that there were three gifts, not that there were three wise men, that is an assumption. So, please, take the wise men out of your Christmas plays. They simply do not belong there.

Fourth, Santa Claus is not real. This may (should) be a no-brainer yet this idea is still perpetuated by many. I believed in Santa when I was young, as I’m sure many of you did, and it didn’t harm for life, but it seems to me that if we tell our children a whole host of things are real such as Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, etc. and then later tell them, or they find out, that these things are not real, then what separates these fake figures from other things/figures that we tell them are real that they cannot see, like God. This is even more exacerbated when churches participate in this farce by having “visits from Santa.” Aside from this, I simply favor a policy of honesty.

Okay, I’ll end my rant now and let you respond. What is your take on the myths I have identified? What myths of Christmas, or any other holiday, have you seen perpetuated?

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13 thoughts on “The Myths of Christmas

  1. Thomas,

    While I agree with your factual assertions, I do not think any of these myths in any way detract from Christianity (and that includes Santa Claus). I believed in Santa. It was a fun and wonderful childhood experience. It is also a cultural experience. When I have children, my children will believe in Santa. I believe fostering an imagination is important and it is equally important to respect people’s right to teach their children their own beliefs/share important common traditions (like Santa) with their children.

    My husband’s cousin informed his entire class (in a very rude way by the way) there was no Santa and his parents rewarded him for it. I was disgusted. It was not his place to denigrate someone else’s tradition that way. It was not his place to disrespect other beliefs–and that’s what he did. It’s up to parents what they teach their children and a childhood belief in Santa doesn’t harm anyone. If anyone dares take it upon themselves to tell my children Santa isn’t “real” before I am ready to do so myself, woe unto them.

    That’s right up there with those ridiculous people who insist “Happy Holidays” is a completely inappropriate greeting in PUBLIC NON-RELIGIOUS stores. That drives me insane. I despise it. Ok whew–I’ll step off my soapbox now lol 😉

    1. I completely agree with you that it is not my place, or the place of anyone else, to try to “undo” what others choose to teach their children. However, I do think that by perpetuating these relatively minor “myths” and untruths we support a culture that perpetuates larger myths and untruths and this often results in a lack of critical thinking skills that are necessary in all areas of life, especially religion. Notice, also, that I am speaking to the group of which I am a part.

  2. Well to be fair ‘Christian’ is a blanket term that encompasses many belief systems (and myths). Also, I wasn’t clear on who your intended audience was. If you were targeting a very specific audience then the post (and ire) makes far more sense 🙂

  3. Ok… I appreciate the clarification on the common myths of our Christmas. With that being said I do find it hard to grasp the whole “Santa” segment. We truly believed that Santa was real and it was a great thing! We were able to cherish the awe and magic that surrounded who Santa was – which for a child is something beyond compare. Now that I have children of my own I am constantly reminded of that. The first time they feel the rain, the grass, or the first time they see snow is such a moving moment. It allows you to see life in a way you have long since forgotten. I think that is why so many enjoy the idea of a Santa – it allows them to relive those moments of wonder, imagination, and pure joy.
    So while I understand your explanation of small mistruths versus larger ones I don’t really like the crack on the “Santa” myth.
    My children believe in Santa and can choose to believe as long as they want.

    1. Isn’t it great how we can have spent so much of our lives together and have very similar life experiences and yet be so different? I think it is, anyway. With that said, as I said earlier, I fully respect the decisions that others, especially you, make with regards to these things. However, just as those who choose to push the idea of Santa demand respect and cooperation from others, do not those that do not choose to perpetuate the idea deserve reciprocal respect and cooperation?

      Also, I agree that many experiences for children are very moving and adults should do all that they can to revisit “those moments of wonder, imagination, and pure joy,” as you put it. However, I try to also find new experiences that foster wonder, imagination, and pure joy. These experiences do often include cultural and religious myths, but, for me, they are in an intellectual manner. That is, I find great joy at examining and learning about various cultural and religious myths, but that joy is almost never extended to my being a participant in those myths.

      1. Well of course my heart is sad that your post makes it seem that my telling you and Elizabeth about Santa, the tooth fairy,etc were such terrible things to do but it did the same thing for me that is did your sister, gave me great joy and I do not beleive that it scared you as it might appear from your post. I believe that these are innocent ways of enjoying traditions not the horrible misguidance of children to untruths. I love a good read, a good story and happy ending and believe that Santa is not a bad tradition. I agree that you have always enjoyed the intellectual part of life and for that I am very happy but I can not feel that it is so terrible to relax from pure intellect and just enjoy small fantasties and family fun too.

  4. As a child, I was much more captivated with the coming of Santa at Christmastime than the Advent of the Messiah (even though I knew the correct answer to, “what’s the true meaning of Christmas?”). There’s nothing wrong with the fun of Santa; I just don’t want my kids to have that same distraction.

  5. I understand the story of the wise men and that they really didn’t come to Bethlehem, but could they not be included in the Christmas play, manger scenes, etc as a representation of the role they did play much like Dec. 25th is a representation of Jesus’ birthday and not the actual day? Also, did you see the 20/20 piece on the newly translated book “Revelations of the Maji (sp)” Suposedly it’s a recounting of the wise men’s journey to see Jesus from they’re perspective. I was surprised; however, when they discussed them coming to Bethlehem. Any thoughts?

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