Loyola professor searches for facts and myths about Christmas folklore

BALTIMORE - A Loyola University professor is digging into Christmas traditions to separate fact from fiction. 

Dr. Joseph Walsh wrote a book tackling 50 Christmas questions.  He shared some of his favorites with us. 

Walsh says early Christians didn't originally celebrate the birth of Jesus.  He says, "[Christians] don't get to this as far as we can tell until about the fourth century.  In fact, no one even speculates when Jesus was born until around 200."

Santa Claus came much later.  Even though St. Nicholas lived in the 4th Century, his legend didn't grow until much later.

Walsh says, "Santa Claus is really the invention of a handful of people in 19th century New York.  [They]  essentially take old Dutch Sinta Klaus, who is derived from St. Nicholas and they essentially resuscitate him. They're the ones who came up with the sleigh, flying through the air, the gift giving as we know it, and actually what he looks like a round guy with the big beard and all the fur."

Why do we place presents under the tree?  Walsh says, "If you look at the Nativity account, there's the Magi. There's no association. Gift-giving is really a Roman-pagan idea, especially birthday gift giving."

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