One time each year, the world acts civilized for a few weeks. The “holiday” season brings out feelings and thoughts of goodwill and brotherhood in the masses, who would normally be at each other’s throats, for one reason or another. It’s a sad commentary on the state of things that humans can set aside their differences and actually be nice to complete strangers, but just long enough to say “Happy Holidays” instead of Merry Christmas so nobody gets their panties in a knot.
I say Merry Christmas. Get over it.
Beginning on Black Friday, the day just after Thanksgiving, although it was on Thanksgiving day this year in the United States, the Christmas season is an officially open invitation for Americans to go on a retail feeding frenzy. As long as you’re not battling your way through the mall or other retail big box stores, someone will offer you good wishes for your holiday season. You may, however, be surprised by the number of widely held beliefs that are inaccurate, misinterpreted, or just plain wrong in regards to the Christmas season. Here’s a look at some of the most common Christmas holiday misconceptions, and how they came to be.
#1 Who Wrote “’Twas The Night Before Christmas”?
An anonymous New York resident submitted this well-known verse, “A Visit From St. Nick,” to the Troy Sentinel in 1823. Clement C. Moore, a local professor and poet, claimed it in 1836, though its structure and style matched none of his other published works. Another family in the area came forward to state that their patriarch had been reciting the poem to them each Christmas Eve since at least 1809. Many suspect that the verse came over with Dutch settlers, because of all the cultural references mentioned in the work. Regardless of its origins, the majority of people are familiar with this poem, but don’t have a clue who gets the credit for writing it or it’s actual origin.
#2 Are Real Christmas Trees A Fire Hazard?
Every year, of the millions of Christmas trees put up all over the world, only a small percentage of fires occur that can be traced back to shitty wiring. Generally, the problem is faulty or overloaded wiring, and not the actual tree, that is to blame. Fire safety experts advise that a real tree is no more hazardous than artificial trees, as long as people are “smart” and remember to keep it watered. But hey, we live in the land of blaming inanimate objects for short comings, why change and accept responsibility once a year. Safety? Fuck safety, we need more fucking lights! Right? Right.
#3 Was Jesus Born On December 25th?
Oddly enough, though bible scholars agree that Christ was more likely born in late Spring or early Autumn, many people still subscribe to the belief that Christmas day is the actual date of his birth. Too many seasonal signs in the scriptures point to the likelihood that he was born during a warmer time of the year. The presence of shepherds in the fields is one of the more blatant signs, but I’m just saying. Centuries later, the Roman Catholics were spreading Christianity to the far reaches of Europe, and trying to assimilate the masses of heathens by superimposing the Christian faith over the pagan traditions already in place. In an attempt to overshadow the pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice, one of Christianity’s more important holy days was intentionally scheduled for December 25th.
#4 Is Christmas The Most Important Christian Holiday?
It may be surprising for many people to discover that, while the celebration of the birth of Christ ranks high in the religious charts, in the eyes of theologians, it comes in second. The birth of the Son of God is an important earmark in history, but the more notable spiritual moment occurred when Christ’s divinity was proven – at his resurrection. Easter marks the historical point where Jesus stopped being a man, and became immortal, and religious scholars consider this the most important landmark in the Christian faith. Interesting enough, the actual date of Easter is also in question, as its springtime celebration coincides suspiciously with the pagan fertility ritual, Ostara, which is where we get Easter eggs and bunnies. Sneaky, huh?
#5 Did Three Kings Visit Jesus In The Manger?
The bible does not say anything about kings visiting Jesus, at any time during his childhood. Scripture states that three wise men followed an exceptionally bright star in the east, finding their way to the Son of God, and bestowing expensive gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Since these alleged ‘wise men’ still believed in astronomical portents, and none of them had a Eurail pass, it is more likely that the magi caught up with Jesus around his first birthday. Centuries later, a mosaic in Ravenna, Italy, depicted the ‘gifts of the magi,’ and the names of the ‘three kings,’ Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar became part of this nativity myth and is still alive and kicking today.
#6 Is It Sacrilegious To Shorten Christmas To “X-Mas?”
The sad truth behind this myth simply illustrates how little modern Christians know about this holiday. Contrary to the belief that people who write “X-mas” are taking Christ out of Christmas, the habit of abbreviating the name is based on the Greek spelling of Christ, “Χριστός.” The Roman spelling also starts with an X. Entomologically, the argument could be made that people who write Christmas as X-mas are keeping the “Christ” in Christmas. This whole ‘X’ thing probably appeals to American rednecks, who can’t spell worth a shit, I know this personally.
#7 Are Santa Claus, Saint Nicolas And Father Christmas The Same Person?
The modern interpretation of Santa Claus, at least in America, is an amalgam of characteristics from several traditions; however, each of these traditions had very different points of origin.
Saint Nicolas was a Turkish bishop who, around the fourth century, dedicated his life to giving to the poor. He died on December 6th, so when the church canonized him, this date became St. Nicolas Day. In the 15th century, as attention focused back onto Christmas, and less on December 6th, Christians of that era wanted to keep the gift-giving tradition, and he became Father Christmas. The Dutch brought St. Nick to the New World, calling him sinterklaas. So, in America at least, Santa Claus is the modern representation of these varied cultures.
These widely held, but incorrect, beliefs don’t dampen the holiday spirits. It is more common these days for everyone to get their panties in a twist when someone says “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays.” Let’s face facts, not everyone celebrates Christmas, but my family and I do, hope that doesn’t get anyone’s ass all chapped. In reality, those who don’t celebrate Christmas don’t offend me, to each his own, the end. Many of your neighbors celebrate Hanukkah, or Kwanza or some will even argue with you to say they are the real Christians who do not believe in Christmas. These days it’s not uncommon to find new age pagans and wiccans, celebrating the Winter Solstice. Count yourselves lucky that, despite your differences, total strangers are willing to extend you the tidings of peace, brotherhood, and goodwill. Considering the intolerance that is so common in the Christian faith and throughout the world, take what you can get from your non-Christian neighbors, and don’t make problems where there aren’t any.
Regardless, of how – or what – you celebrate, have a safe and Merry Christmas season, and a prosperous New Year. So, there you have it, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it, Merry Christmas.
H/T to Scorpion Sting