Myths and Misconceptions About Christmas
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 15, 2012
Once again the season is upon us, when much of the world’s population celebrates Christmas and all the holiday trappings thereof. I’ve made numerous posts on the subject before, including The Physics of Santa Claus, how the idea of Santa Claus can be used as a tool to teach critical thinking to kids (including a podcast interview I did on the subject), and the tongue-in-cheek celebration of Newtonmass :)
And, of course, along with all of that, there is not to be missed the chance to spread some skepticism and critical thinking regarding Christmas in general. To help with that, my skeptical colleague Phil over at Skeptic Money has once again posted the Ultimate Christmas Quiz that you can use to test your (and that of your friends and family) knowledge of the holiday. You might be surprised to learn about all of the myths and/or misconceptions which exist in popular culture about Christmas…
Note: if you enjoy this quiz, check out The Ultimate Easter Quiz.
There are 12 questions below, how many will you get right? Can you do better than your friends? Your christian friends?
Pull out a piece of paper and mark your answers.
FYI… The answers are at the bottom (no cheating….) count your correct answers and see how you score.
The Ultimate Christmas Quiz – By David Fitzgerald
1. What year was Jesus born?
a. We don’t know for sure, since the gospels disagree irreconcilably.
b. We don’t know for sure, but the gospels agree it was during the reign of Herod the Great (died around 4 B.C.).
c. We don’t know for sure, but the gospels agree it was when Quirinius was governor of Syria (6 A.D.).
d. We don’t know for sure, but the gospels agree it was the year the moon was in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars.
e. D’uh! The year zero, of course.
2. According to the Gospels, what day was Jesus born?
a. Dec 25th.
b. Dec 24th.
c. No date is given in any gospel.
d. The day of the Winter Solstice.
e. The third night of Hanukkah.
3. What pagan holiday did later Christians “borrow” to celebrate Jesus’ birthday?
a. The Greek Brumalia festival
b. The Roman feast of Saturnalia
c. Dies Natalis Solis Invicti (“the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun”)
d. All of the above
e. None of the above
4. So what day was Jesus really born?
a. Jan 6
b. Feb 2 (Groundhog Day)
c. March 25
d. We can’t be certain.
e. Sometime during Sukkoth, the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles
5. According to Mark (the oldest gospel) where was Jesus born?
a. He doesn’t say.
b. By the chimney, with care.
c. In his parent’s house in Nazareth.
d. A manger in Bethlehem.
e. A cave in Bethlehem.
6. According to Luke, who were the Wise Men?
a. A group of 2 – 12 Zoroastrian astrologers from Persia.
b. Three kings of orient bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh from afar.
c. There were no Wise Men.
d. Cupid, Donder and Blitzen.
e. Melchior of Persia, Caspar (or Gaspar) of India, and Balthazar of Arabia.
7. According to Matthew, who showed up on the night of Jesus’ birth?
a. Shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night
b. An angel and a multitude of the heavenly host
c. The prophet Simeon and the prophetess Anna
d. Ten lords a-leaping
e. No one.
8. What happened after Jesus’ birth?
a. Impossible to say for sure – two of the gospels tell completely contradictory stories, and the other two say nothing.
b. Good tidings were brought for him and his kin; and then figgy pudding, for they would not go until they get some.
c. Scary stuff: An angel warns Joseph via a dream to flee their home in Bethlehem for Egypt. Herod kills all the baby boys in the region. After Herod’s death, they return to Judea but are afraid of Herod’s son, so they move to Nazareth in Galilee instead (evidently, Matthew forgot that Galilee was ruled by Herod’s other son!).
d. Happy stuff: The shepherds spread the good news to all, baby Jesus is circumcised, and after the obligatory 40 days for ritual purity, brought to the temple in Jerusalem where prophets hail him as the Christ. They return home to Nazareth and go back to Jerusalem every year for Passover until Jesus is twelve.
e. We aren’t told, the gospels immediately cut to his adulthood.
9. Which of these traditional Christmas elements were originally pagan?
a. Christmas Trees
b. Yule Logs
c. The Birth of the Savior
d. Boughs of Holly and Sprigs of Mistletoe
e. All of the above
10. Where does the word “Yuletide” come from?
a. It’s an abbreviation of the Latin ultimus ides, “last holiday of the year.”
b. From Germanic/Old Norse “Jul-time” or “Jól-time” (the midwinter fest).
c. Named after Julius Caesar, who invented Sanctus Clausius, the Roman Santa Claus.
d. Named in honor of Hywll Tydd, ancient Welsh god of reindeer and socks.
e. Nordic priests copied the name from the Christian Christmastide.
11. Who started the War on Christmas?
a. True American Christian Fundamentalists and the Founding Fathers
b. Richard Dawkins
c. Godless atheists, the liberal media, gays and lesbians, activist judges, science teachers, lawyers, the ACLU, democrats and everyone else we hate.
d. The Jews
e. Al Qaida
12. Our familiar modern American “Santa Claus” is based on all these earlier figures, EXCEPT for:
a. The English Father Christmas, Charles Dickens’ characters and the Victorian cartoons of Thomas Nast.
b. The Dutch Santa, Sinterklaas or Goedheiligman
c. A de-horned, sanitized, anagram of Satan.
d. Mighty Norse thunder god Thor’s father, Odin
e. St. Nikolaos, 4th-century Greek bishop and patron saint of children.
Bonus Question! (re-gifted from the Ultimate Easter Quiz)
13. Who wrote these gospels, anyway?
a. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John – I mean, come on, it says so right there.
b. Actually, none of the gospels even claim to be written by eyewitnesses -all were originally anonymous and written at least a generation later.
c. Well, it’s more like the end of first century for Mark and sometime in the early to mid 2nd century for the others, if you must know.
d. Hold on – Not only that, but Matthew and Luke just reworked Mark gospel, adding their own material and tweaking Mark’s text to better fit what they thought it should say.
Incidentally, if you want the answers, then you have to go visit Phil’s website for them. Cheers! :D