THE majority of people still have a good general knowledge of
the nativity story, a poll commissioned by the Bible Society
But there were some misunderstandings about the details,
including the 60 per cent of respondents who believed that Mary and
Joseph were married; the two per cent who thought that they were
"on their first date" when the Angel Gabriel announced that Mary
was with child; and the 37 people who said that Father Christmas
was the first visitor to the manger.
"Knowledge of the nativity story is remarkably good," said the
Bible Society's Director of External Relations, Ann Holt.
The researchers ICM asked more than 1000 children under 12, and
1000 parents, ten questions about their knowledge of the Christmas
story. Most scored six out of ten, and almost a quarter got eight
or more answers correct.
They also found that more than half of all the families who were
polled were planning to attend, or had already attended, a school
nativity play this year. Overall, 98 per cent of those polled
correctly identified Bethlehem as Jesus's birthplace, although a
few named Beirut.
"This poll shows what an important part schools have to play in
passing on the Christmas story from one generation to another, and,
historically, what a good job they have done," Ms Holt said.
But, she said: "Nativity plays do sanitise the story, so many
assume Mary and Joseph were married, and, in doing so, miss the
genuine hint of scandal there was at the time."
The survey reports that the best-known facts about the nativity
were, in order:
• that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, which was known by 98 per
cent of those questioned;
• that Mary put the baby Jesus in a manger, which was known by
89 per cent;
• that the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth (83
per cent knew this);
• that Herod was king at the time (77 per cent knew this);
• that the angels were the first to announce the news (63 per
• that Mary and Joseph were travelling because they had been
ordered to register with the authorities (52 per cent);
• that the shepherds were the first to visit Jesus (46 per
• that the word Immanuel means "God is with us" (32 per
• that Mary and Joseph were engaged when she found out that she
was going to have a baby (26 per cent); and
• that the Wise Men travelled west, following the star to
Bethlehem (14 per cent).