Monday, 10 December 2012

Christmas Factoid #2: How Many Wise Men?

Well, as you will no doubt be aware by now dear long suffering reader we here at DFTP like to carry on with an idea and see it through once we've had it - which means that in the run up to Christmas this week I will be bringing you some pointless and potentially erroneous information about the Yuletide season which you can then duly share over your slowly congeling eggnog in that vital second between congratulating the chef for the turkey and retreating in agony as the flames from the christmas pudding singe your eyebrows.

Last week I revealed the shocking truth about Christmas Cracker Jokes and sat back and waited for the gasps of surprise to reverberate around the world (I checked on googlemaps and they're currently half-way across Sweden, but got distracted by the skiing)

This week I'm again turning to that dubious source of knowledge, the televisual programme QI (Quite Interesting) - a show that asks you questions about things you think you know and then reveals that the usual answer may be wrong.  They don't necessarily claim to be right themselves either - so please treat the below factoid as highly suspicious.  I would go so far as to advise wearing gloves and handling it with a pair of tweezers until safely disposed of.


Factoid #2: The Nativity Scene Ain't What It Used To Be

Anyone who has kids, or used to be a kid (and that's most of us with the possible exception of Benjamin Button) will have been in or attended a school nativity play.  I don't know what this is like today: my only term of reference is the film Love Actually, where people learn to speak foreign languages in the four week run up to Christmas (and, as such, i tend not to trust as an impeccable source of fact) but in my day it was a wooden crib/manger, some tuneless recorders and a bunch of kids with tea-towels on their heads.

No doubt at least one third of the above (the tea-towels) is not allowed these days, as it's deeply insensitive to say the least - but lets imagine that the basics are: a toy doll to represent Jesus, three shepherds, three wise men, Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh and of course an X-Box...

But wait a many wise men did you just say?  Three????

Naughty naughty.

Firstly - they weren't wise men.  I mean - you probably worked that out for yourselves on the grounds that they apparently thought that perfume and balm were sensible presents for a baby (I'd be willing to bet real money that Mary changed them for the equivalent of a pack of pampers the next day) - they were Magi - which is an entirely different kettle of fish

Secondly - there weren't three of them.  Well, there could have been - but we don't know.  Nowhere in The Bible does it stipulate the number of Magi present - we assume that there were three because there were three gifts, but there could have been four and one got to the shops too late (it was, after all, Christmas and there were probably queues...) or three hundred and only their leaders brought gifts.

Also forget any animals that you think may have been present at the birth - again The Bible doesn't say anything - and there's only one mention of where Jesus was born (in Luke, apparently) so there may not have been a manger either.

All in all I will probably stick with the romantic image of the birth: sheep, donkeys, shepherds, wise men and - if you believe Love Actually - lobsters.


The Bug said...

These are the kinds of things that used to drive me crazy as a child. I totally didn't understand the concept of story-telling & myth. I just wanted the facts ma'am!

Now that I'm older I appreciate the symbolism a little more, but the nativity story still grates just a bit :)

Titus said...

I don't know where to begin with this. You haven't covered the virgin birth bit.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Bug - i can understand that, but often the myth is what sells

Titus - i thought it best to stay away from that one :)