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Poll: public knows Christmas story

21 December 2012


King-makers: children from Lowes Wong junior school, Southwell, in Southwell Minster on Monday, with models of the Magi that they made from wire, paper and fabric, for part of the minster crib scene

King-makers: children from Lowes Wong junior school, Southwell, in Southwell Minster on Monday, with models of the Magi that they made from wire, pa...

THE majority of people still have a good general knowledge of the nativity story, a poll commissioned by the Bible Society suggests.

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 cent);

• 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 cent);

• that the word Immanuel means "God is with us" (32 per cent);

• 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).

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