False origins used by Christians
This is a collection of false origins used by Christians that appropriate existing culture and traditions. I'm sure some of these were created inadvertently, but, no doubt, others were purposely made to make the world seem more Christian. These false origins are often repeated so frequently and with such conviction that many Christians never even think to doubt them.
Some Christians claim that candy canes were created as a Christian teaching tool. They believe the shape represents a shepherd's crook, and the colors of white and red represent the Jesus' purity and blood. Flip it upside down, and lo, you have the letter J to symbolize Jesus!
Evidence of striped peppermint stick candy goes back to 1844, but the earliest printed example of even part of this specious Christian origin story goes back only to 1968. Here is an excerpt from The Milwaukee Journal 1968-12-13, p.49, "It's Christmas Season: My How Sweet It Is."
When I was Sunday school, I was told that the word "history" was a portmanteau of "his + story," where "his" naturally referred to the Christian god. Thus, "history" was the story of God's creation. My Sunday school teacher made no attempt to explain that this contrived etymology was merely a learning aid, and, as a child, I believed it to be the actual etymology of the word. I made the illustration to the right from a quick Google search to demonstrate how popular it is for Christians to exploit this similarity.
"History" has a known etymology which comes from the Greek ἵστωρ [hístōr] which means "the one who knows," and has nothing to do with gods, Abrahamic or otherwise.
Pharisees are mentioned in various books of the New Testament, almost always in a negative light. I was always taught the the word meant, "I am very fair, you see," said with a sarcastic tone, indicating that the Pharisees thought very highly of themselves. This was enforced by Brian M. Howard's 1974 Evangelical children's song, I Just Want to be a Sheep, which contains the lyric, "Don't wanna be a Pharisee / 'Cause they're not fair you see."
As a child, it didn't click with me that the Pharisees existed over a thousand years before the formation of the English language, so, despite their similar sound, the words probably weren't related. I later discovered that the Pharisees were a traditional Jewish political and religious group of common people during the time of Second Temple Judaism (circa 400 BCE - 70 CE) and their name comes from the Hebrew פְּרִישַׁיָּא [Pərīšayyā] meaning "set apart, separated."
Sadducees are mentioned in various books of the New Testament, but considerably less than the Pharisees. In church, the word Sadducees was explained to me as people who described themselves as "I am very sad you see," again, reinforced by the song I Just Want to be a Sheep which contains the lyrics, "Don't wanna be a Sadducee / 'Cause they're so sad you see." No attempt was ever given to explain their real history.
The Sadducees were an elite political group that existed from around 200 BCE - 70 CE which rivaled the Pharisees. The actual etymology of the word is unknown, but it suggested to come from the Hebrew צָדַק [ṣāḏaq] which means "to be just."
A quick look online will show you all sorts of Christian origin stories for wreaths, although, none of them are in agreement. The most common is that they represent the crown of thorns placed on Jesus' head according to the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John, but additional links are made to holly berries symbolizing blood, the circular shape symbolizing unending love, the evergreen symbolizing eternal life, etc.
The reality is, wreaths predate Christianity by centuries. They were worn on the head by the ancient Greeks and Romans to show rank and privilege, and used as an emblem during the harvest festivals of various gods and goddesses.
Christmas wreaths, like the Advent wreath, are noticeably different, but they are merely modified designs based on earlier different religions.
These are topics that I know have a false Christian origins, which I will write about in more detail in the future.
- Christmas trees
- Christmas wreath
- Jesus fish
- United States of America