Holidays sure do seem to blur into each other nowadays. There are Christmas decorations in the shops by Hallow’een and now Fox News is ramping up its scary stories about the “liberal war on Christmas” before Thanksgiving’s even properly begun.
“The first salvo in the war on Christmas this year has been shot,” Fox legal analyst Peter Johnson warned.
Johnson was decrying, as other hosts after him repeatedly would, the decision by Santa Monica, California to discontinue its 60-year tradition of displaying a nativity scene for Christmas.
…“Are these atheists ruining Christmas for the kids?,” Bill O’Reilly asked a guest on his show.
Shhh, don’t tell Bill, but the Pope – not known as a liberal athiest in most circles - has some things to say about that nativity scene in his new book.
“In the gospels there is no mention of animals,” the pope states. He says references to the ox and the donkey in other parts of the Bible may have inspired Christians to include them in their nativity scenes.
The Vatican itself has included animals in the nativity scenes it sets up each year in St Peter’s Square, and Benedict concedes that the tradition is here to stay. “No nativity scene will give up its ox and donkey,” he says.
Showing his scholarly approach to the Bible, Benedict also analyses the moment angels descended to tell shepherds the son of God was lying in a manger nearby. In a blow to fans of the carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Benedict writes: “According to the evangelist, the angels ‘said’ this.
“The calculation of the beginning of our calendar – based on the birth of Jesus – was made by Dionysius Exiguus, who made a mistake in his calculations by several years,” the Pope writes in the book, which went on sale around the world with an initial print run of a million copies.
“The actual date of Jesus’s birth was several years before.”
He doesn’t quite go as far as saying the date of Christmas itself is fictional, but he may as well have.
John Barton, Professor of the Interpretation of the Holy Scripture at Oriel College, Oxford University, said most academics agreed with the Pope that the Christian calendar was wrong and that Jesus was born several years earlier than commonly thought, probably between 6BC and 4BC.
“There is no reference to when he was born in the Bible – all we know is that he was born in the reign of Herod the Great, who died before 1AD,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “It’s been surmised for a very long time that Jesus was born before 1AD – no one knows for sure.”
The idea that Christ was born on Dec 25 also has no basis in historical fact. “We don’t even know which season he was born in. The whole idea of celebrating his birth during the darkest part of the year is probably linked to pagan traditions and the winter solstice.”
So while you’re enjoying Thanksgiving, I hope you are all looking forward to a very pagan Solstice (in this year of “maybe-2018AD”). I’m sure the folks at Fox will be.