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5 Facts You Didn't Know About the Real Story of Christmas

Your nativity set probably doesn’t reflect the historically accurate story of Christmas! Discover 5 facts about the real story of Christmas.

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On the night Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph huddled in a barn, surrounded by animals. They gazed upon their newborn baby as a star shone bright above. Shepherds and wise men gathered shortly after to visit Jesus. Right? 

Not exactly. The Bible doesn’t give us a whole lot of detail about Jesus’ birth, and over the years we’ve taken some creative liberties. We’ve filled in the blanks with our own interpretation of what happened.  

So what’s the real story of Christmas? Here are 5 unexpected facts: 

1. Jesus probably wasn’t born in December. 

The Bible doesn’t give us a specific date of Jesus’ birth. December 25 didn’t come into play until the 4th century. The Roman Catholic Church decided to celebrate the birth of Jesus on the same day as the pagan winter solstice celebration. 

2. Jesus wasn’t born in a barn.  

Mary and Joseph likely stayed in someone’s home in Bethlehem. However, there probably wasn’t space for them in the guest quarters. That meant Jesus would have been born in the lower room of the house where animals were brought in for the night. Mary probably got resourceful and used the manger (a feeding trough) as Jesus’ crib. 

3. We don't know if any animals were around. 

Although Jesus was probably born where animals were usually kept, the Bible doesn’t specifically say whether or not there were any around. (So your nativity set with donkeys and sheep might not be historically accurate!) 

4. We don’t know how many wise men visited Jesus. 

The song may go “We three kings...”, but the Bible doesn’t tell us how many wise men, or magi, visited Jesus. They did, however, bring him three gifts: gold, myrrh, and frankincense. We often assume there was one wise man per gift. 

5. And they weren't there at the same time as the shepherds. 

You’ve seen the Christmas cards depicting shepherds and wise men surrounding the baby Jesus laying in a manger. Based on the account in Luke 2:11-15, we know that the shepherds journeyed to see Jesus the night he was born. However, it’s possible the wise men didn’t visit Jesus until some time had passed. In Matthew 2:11, we read that “they entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary.”  

Notice the difference between the two passages: it’s noted that the shepherds saw a baby, while the wise men saw a child. The distinction between the two could indicate that time had passed between their visits. 


There’s even more about Jesus than what you might assume! Check out 10 interesting facts about Jesus


LCBC stands for Lives Changed By Christ. We are one church in multiple locations across Pennsylvania. Find the location closest to you or join us for Church Online. We can’t wait to connect with you! 

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