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20 December 2017 | by Kathy O’Shaughnessy

What’s it all about?


 

We think we know what Christ­mas is, until we step a little closer. As Judith Flanders shows, the more one learns about it, the more the familiar picture dissolves.

The date, for instance. “According to biblical scholars’ calculations … 17 April, 29 May and 15 September are all more likely dates” for the birth of Christ. Sad news to those reared on Advent calenders with cosy snow scenes. What about the Nativity scene in the stable? Created, according to Flanders, by Francis of Assisi, in 1223. And that famous American practice of hanging up stockings for Santa to fill? Probably Dutch in origin, a tradition that began with the leaving of presents in clogs. Nothing is quite what it seems.





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