On Friday 23 November, the world woke up to breaking news that Pope Benedict XVI has “banned Christmas”. More specifically, mass media around the world has labelled the Pope as a "Killjoy” for speaking out against Christmas traditions such as the singing of Christmas carols, as well as the traditional Nativity scene. One Australia TV network (Sunrise, Channel 7) went as far as saying that Benedict XVI is a “grumpy Pope”, and that “we should just stop listening to him”.
It turns out the press has not done their research! Or maybe they have... but they are conveniently glossing over the real facts for the sake of a good headline.
So how did the headline: “Nativity story's significance continues to unfold today” (Catholic News Service)
... lead to this headline: “Pope's book on Jesus challenges Christmas traditions” (CNN)
... then to this one: “Killjoy Pope crushes Christmas nativity traditions: New Jesus book reveals there were no donkeys beside crib, no lowing oxen and definitely no carols” (Daily Mail, UK)
... and finally this headline: "Pope bans Christmas" (wownews.co.uk)
Here is the real story – Pope Benedict XVI released his latest book "The Infancy Narratives" on 21 November 2012 in Italian.
In the book, the Pope, as an historian and a scholar, looked at the real Christmas story and separated the facts from the myths by analysing 180 versus from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (see Rome Reports). He then invites the reader to apply the information and message to their personal lives. One of the myths that the Pope raised was that there is no historical record of Christmas carols being sung at the first Christmas. He also noted that the true date of Christmas is likely to be a lot earlier than what we currently celebrate, and also that there is no account of their being animals in a manager where Jesus was born – pointing out that our modern concept of the Nativity scene is not really what the first Christmas looked like.
Does this mean that the Pope has banned Christmas traditions?
Not at all! As Alessandro Speciale, Vatican correspondent for the Religion News Service, said to CNN "The pope is a traditional man and he doesn't want people at all to change their traditions". In fact, the Pope has always keenly advocated the singing of Christmas carols as an important part of our Christian culture!
So the Pope has not “banned” Christmas, or anyone of the Christmas traditions that we know and love.
Do you want to know what the Pope’s book is really about? Click here!