On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

The 10 myths of Christmas

What we’ve been fed, turkey and all, about this celebration gets dumped down the chimney.

HERE are 10 myths about Christmas and of Malaysians going on holiday this season.

Myth One: Jesus Christ was born on Dec 25 and Christians are celebrating his birthday.

Definitely not! In fact, for the first three centuries of Christianity, Christmas wasn’t in December or any calendar at all. According to most reports, Western Christians celebrated on Dec 25 after Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the empire’s favoured religion. Eastern Orthodox churches, especially in Russia and much of Eastern Europe, however, mark Jan 7 as the date of Christ’s birth.

Myth Two: Christmas trees are compulsory – Westerners chop them down and Asians buy fake ones.

The Christmas tree was introduced by German immigrants into America. Before that, no Americans felt such trees needed to be killed and decorated with silly balls. My preference is the China-made ones. Guangzhou is now the world’s biggest maker of fake Christmas trees and in Kuala Lumpur, the biggest distributors are in Petaling Street.

Myth Three: Santa Claus is fat, bearded and white and is probably from Norway or a Scandinavian country.

Not true. St Nicholas is said to be a fourth century Bishop of Demre, Turkey, who is said to have carried a sack of toys for children. If they are fat, how could they come down from the chimneys? Well, in Malaysia, there are no fat Santa Claus at the malls and I am more interested in the origins of the slim, curvy Santarinas. Who cares about fat Santas with diabetic problems?

Myth Four: Jesus Christ is white, looks Italian, has blue eyes and blond locks of hair.

That’s a good one but the fact is he was of Middle Eastern stock. He was born in Bethlehem in Judea and raised in Nazareth in Galilee, or what is present-day Israel. He would probably be darker in complexion, unlike the pictures drawn by the famous Italian painters commissioned by the churche­s. He was probably tanned.

Myth Five: In the Last Supper, Jesus Christ and his disciples sat at a long table, as depicted by Leonard Da Vinci.

Absolutely not. There was no long table. They sat and ate cross-legged. In Malaysia, it’s called duduk bersila.

Leonardo, like a modern photographer, had to fit Jesus and everyone into a frame, in this case, a painting. And since then, that has been how the Last Supper – the last meal Jesus had with his disciples before he was crucified – has been depicted.

Myth Six: It’s Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, and British Premier League football fans go to the stadiums to box themselves silly.

Boxing Day dates back to the olden days when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts from their employers, known as Christmas Box. In modern days, we would prefer our bosses to bank the bonuse­s into our accounts. No need for boxes lah, thank you very much.

Myth Seven: Turkeys are a must for all Christmas dinners.

That’s comical. This huge bird, whose meat is rather tough to eat, only made its appearanc­e in Europe, particularly in England, in the 16th century. In Malaysia, we prefer our extra virgin kampung chickens – and we also prefer the drumsticks and thighs. When it comes to birds of the feathered kind, Malaysians mostly hate the breasts, for some unknown reasons, unlike the Westerners.

Myth Eight: Christmas trees must be ­decorated with ornaments and lit up the whole night.

Again, it’s a lie. Anyone saying this must have a political agenda to discredit us Christians. The bloggers should stop it. The reality is we re-use all the previous years’ decorations. You can be sure that the lights will mostly be off this time, especially with the electricity rates hike now. Can’t say much about those fellows at the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca who keep all the lights on. But I am from Penang, and the lights are on only if there are visitors.

Myth Nine: Most of the Christians of Chinese origin will go on vacation to China during this holiday season.

Now that’s hitting below the belt. This is the best time to be a Malaysian because every­one else seems to be a Malaysian, regardless of their race, when they are OUT of the country. China is a NO for me because I can’t speak and write Chinese. Oh, that’s a surprise to you? Good, you learnt something today. I will probably miss my nasi lemak when I am away. Is that another surprise? And no, China isn’t my second home.

Myth Ten: Malaysians who decide to remain in Malaysia this Christmas will get to see some great movies on TV.

Fat chance! We can bet that they will still be watching re-runs of monster fishes, giant snakes and ugly Americans selling and buying junk passed off as antiques.

Have fun and good luck. Wishing everyone Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!