In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon and panelists Kristine Haglund, Jared Anderson, and Zina Petersen explore all these questions plus lead a fascinating tour into other parts of the Christmas story. Why are only five women mentioned in the Gospels’ presentations of Jesus’s lineage—and why are the ones listed all women with “questionable” sexual pasts? What are the Twelve Days of Christmas? What is the “Immaculate Conception” and how does it affect theology about Mary and ideas about the Eucharist and other religious devotions? How has pagan history and ideas folded into the history of “Christmas” (not Jesus’s birth but the celebration of it)? The panel discusses solstices and equinoxes, meshings of calendaring systems, the link between carnivals and holy days, shepherds’ presents to the Christ child, and even a longstanding tradition of “ghost story” tie-ins with Christmas that Charles Dickens resurrected. Why was there a period of time in which Christmas was illegal? And much more!
Perhaps most important, however, is the discussion of how and why the panelists and many other Christians throughout history, knowing all that they know about what likely is and is not factual about traditional accounts, still celebrate Christmas, joyfully sing carols alongside those for whom the stories are less complicated, and experience this season as spiritually enriching.