I've read that the celebration of Christ's Nativity was not even observed in the early church, that developed in the Second Century. We often hear comments to the effect that our modern holiday of Christmas was derived from pagan solstice celebrations. For centuries, the Romans celebrated a holiday called the Saturnalia near the winter solstice. In the later centuries, a Persian celebration of the "Unconquered Sun" was observed in Rome, also around the time of the solstice.

But the fact is, there are no documented sources that help establish exactly when a late December holiday of Christ's nativity became a Christian holiday. Nor are there any specific sources to suggest that pagan holidays were "baptized" into our traditional Christmas observance. There are other Christian traditions that appear similar to pagan customs, like Easter eggs and bunnies. But while the timing of Christmas near the solstice is indeed too remarkable to appear coincidental, this idea is just another popular scholarly inference, not supported by direct evidence.

Each year Christian parents explain "The Santa Myth" to their kids. But we see that even the story of Jesus has some "urban legends" that make the rounds every year. As we see from the Christmas story, sometimes we don't know as much about things as we think! In the coming year, perhaps each homeschool family should make it a point to turn a critical eye toward things we read and hear. We ought to teach our kids to inquire as to "how do we know what we think we know," and place our faith and hope accordingly.

Jay Ryan is the creator of "The Classical Astronomy Update," a free e-mail newsletter for helping Christian homeschool families learn more about what's up in the starry sky. If you would like to receive the Update, please drop Jay an e-mail at moonfinder@mangobay.com.  Also, you can visit the Classical Astronomy web site - www.ClassicalAstronomy.com .