5 Myths About Christmas that Just Won’t Go Away

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Myth 1: Clement C. Moore wrote “Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Truth: The poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was originally published anonymously in New York’s Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. Thirteen years later, Clement C. Moore stepped forward and said that he was the author of the poem. But soon after that, other members of his family disputed his claim, saying that other members of their family had been reciting the poem for at least the last 30 years or so. [Source]

Myth 2: “The Twelve Days of Christmas” song is a secret Catholic code

Xavier Romero-Frias / Wikimedia Commons
Xavier Romero-Frias / Wikimedia Commons

Truth: In 1979, a Canadian scholar published an article titled, “How to Decode the Twelve Days of Christmas.” His article had a novel claim: the different gifts in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” are code for Catholic beliefs, and it was created by English Catholics when Catholicism was illegal in England. Since then, the claim has been repeated and spread far and wide in Catholic circles.

There’s only one problem: the scholar who originated the theory provided no evidence for his claims and later admitted that he had just made it up. Besides, none of the things he claimed the song mentioned in code were unique to Catholicism, so there would have been no need for them to be hidden from Protestants. [Source]

Myth 3: Coca-Cola invented Santa Claus

Husky / Wikimedia Commons
Husky / Wikimedia Commons

Truth: The character Santa Claus developed into a form close to its current form in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Coca-Cola ran its famous advertising campaign in the 1930s. The campaign did help to further popularize the character, but the company did not make his clothes red to correspond better with Coke – Santa was already depicted with red clothes.

Further, Coca-Cola wasn’t even the first soft drink to be marketed with Santa Claus. The company White Rock Beverages used images of Santa Claus wearing red to advertise mineral water in 1915. [Source]

Myth 4: The “Immaculate Conception” refers to the conception of Jesus

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Truth: While it’s of course true that Jesus was conceived without any Original Sin, the term “Immaculate Conception” refers to the conception of Mary without any Original Sin.

Myth 5: Christmas is celebrated on December 25th to replace a pagan holiday

Carla Tavares / Wikimedia Commons
Carla Tavares / Wikimedia Commons

Truth: The first record of Christians celebrating Christmas on December 25th dates back to the 4th century. St. John Chrysostom says that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on that date not to co-opt a pagan celebration, but because they had good reason to believe December 25th was the actual date of Christ’s birth.

Here’s his reasoning: Scripture tells us that Elizabeth conceived John the Baptist after her husband Zachariah did his priestly duties for the Day of Atonement. That holy day usually falls around late September or early October. Scripture also says that after the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive Jesus, she visited Elizabeth, who was six months pregnant. This means that Mary probably conceived Jesus around late March. Nine months later is the end of December.

Some point out that there was an ancient pagan feast on December 25th. While that may be true, there were lots of pagan feasts throughout the year – a Christian feast lining up with a pagan feast isn’t that rare and doesn’t prove anything about the origin of Christmas.

What are some other Christmas myths? Join the discussion in the comments.