Clearing up the misconceptions about the festive season.

Think you know everything there is to know about Christmas? Well, take a look at this Christmas myth list and you might find some festive facts are actually fiction!

1. December 25th is the birthday of Christ

Nope! In fact, Gospel writings suggest a more likely date for his birth might be the sunny spring days of April 17th or May 29. So probably no snow, then! However, in about 340 CE, the early church declared that the date would be December 25th. But why? Likely because this date is very close to the Winter Solstice, which had been an important Pagan festival for hundreds of years previously. So putting the two festivals together made the new one more likely to catch on.

2. Only one god celebrates his birthday on December 25th

Before the early Christian church decided to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th, another deity had claimed this date first. Mithras, a Sun god, known as 'the light of the world', had his birthday marked on this date. Strange parallels exist between this Pagan god and the story of Christ, such as both being born from a virgin and attended by shepherds, both having 12 disciples and performing miracles and both resurrecting after death.

3. Christmas was always called Christmas

No! Instead, this time of year was popularly known as 'Yule' until about the 9th century. Yule is a Pagan word for the festive season, probably derived from the Norse word 'jul', meaning 'festivities'.

4. The Nativity scene was always popular

Like many elements of the Christmas story, the nativity scene only gradually filtered down into popular consciousness over many centuries. In the 12th century, churches began staging plays depicting the nativity story which popularised this part of the story.

5. Christmas trees are a Christmas tradition

Well, of course they are now. But that's not how it started. Today's typical Christmas trees, such as spruce, pine or fir are evergreen trees, which symbolise eternal life in Paganism. So Pagan cultures, pre-dating Christianity, decked their homes with evergreens during the winter months as a reminder of nature's eternal cycle of birth, life, death and resurrection.

6. Everyone loves Christmas

Nope. In fact, plenty of Christians wanted to cancel Christmas! In the 17th century England and Scotland, as well as across the Atlantic in early new world settlements, the Puritans were in control. This strict and austere sect of Christianity did not approve of the frivolity associated with Christmas, such as carol singing, feasting, dancing and music. So the Puritans banned Christmas! Luckily, the ban didn't last for too long as people rebelled against it and Christmas was restored, at least in the UK. Puritan America had to wait until about 1870 for celebrating Christmas to be socially acceptable!

7. It's traditional to give Christmas gifts to your family

That's not how it started. Giving gifts at Christmas began as an obligation to show thanks to your supposed social superiors - a thankfully very outdated tradition! So aristocrats would present gifts to their monarch, while tenants might give gifts to their landlord. Later, the tradition reversed as it became expected for employers to thank their workers with Christmas bonuses. Only much later, by about the 18th century, did it become normal for parents to buy children gifts.

8. Santa is a traditional part of Christmas

Surprisingly not. Santa as we'd recognise him today only arrived in collective consciousness in the late 18th century. His name is reputed to be a mistranslation of the Dutch for Saint Nicolas, which sounded like 'sinterklass'. The Coca-Cola advert of 1931 had a huge impact on creating the image of Santa with his red robes, fur hat and black boots that we recognise today. However, a jolly male figure has always kept watch over the winter season - the Pagan Holly King. Similar to Santa in appearance but wearing green instead of red robes, the Holly King personifies the feasting and festivities of this part of winter.

9.  Christmas gifts were always wrapped

No. Originally, presents were not wrapped. Gift wrapping began in the 19th century. Wrapping probably originated for practical reasons - to keep gifts clean in houses which relied on sooty fires for warmth.

10. Christmas tree lights are a modern invention

Christmas is a festival of light amidst the winter darkness. This comes from its Pagan roots as a winter fire festival. So decorating your home with extra lights was always part of the celebration. Traditionally, people put lit candles on their Christmas tree, which was a major fire hazard! Luckily you can just flick a switch to get multi-coloured lights today. Happy Christmas, festival of light!