Like a gigantic game of Chinese whispers, the Christmas story has slowly started to follow a tangential path from its original one. Assumptions have somehow become commonly spread ‘truth’ but do not fear. Here we have what went wrong with the Christmas story.

Take the traditional Christmas song Little Donkey, for instance. The song tells the tale of the little donkey that carried a heavily pregnant Mary into Bethlehem. Interestingly enough, in the biblical story you will find no such donkey. Luke 2:4-5 gives us the only description of the Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

Sadly, the poor little donkey didn’t get a mention even though he may have carried a hefty load all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

Another slightly skewed part of the Christmas story is the number of wise men who turned up. The astronomers who followed a prominent star to get to Bethlehem are not mentioned by Luke however Matthew does talk about their arrival. Contrary to popular belief, we do not know if there where three wise men. In the gospel according to Matthew he refers to them only as “magi” suggesting there was, in fact, more than one but no specific number is given. The word magi derives from, through a number of different languages, the Avestan term magâunô which referred to Zoroastrian priest figures who were known for their astrological interests and research. This suggests that the ‘wise men’ were in fact astronomers, thus explaining their knowledge of the stars.

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The Magi Journeying – James Tissot

So there you have it. You can now go and win that awful Christmas quiz your granny makes you do every year.

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas!