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A True-or-False Guide to the Online Rumors You’re Sure to Hear This Christmas

Image for article titled A True-or-False Guide to the Online Rumors You’re Sure to Hear This Christmas

Photo: Everett Collection (Shutterstock)

The OG fact-checkers at Snopes have compiled the year’s best and worst holiday rumors, social media glurge, and questionable email forwards. Here’s a quick guide so you’ll know how to respond when they come across your aunt’s Facebook feed this holiday season.

Claim: The same actor played Ralphie in A Christmas Story and Ming the Elf in Elf.

Status: True. Both roles were played by Peter Billingsley, who seems to have a thing for appearing in classic Christmas movies. Billingsley, by then a successful producer, was not credited for the role in Elf, though.

Claim: Jingle Bells was written as a Christmas song.

Status: False. This holiday standard was written in 1850 by James Pierpont, who did not mention Christmas in any of its lyrics. Some maintain that Pierpont wrote the tune for a Sunday school Thanksgiving pageant, where other contend that its lyrics about courting in a sleigh would be too racy for a religious pageant, and it’s likely just about hooking up with girls in a sleigh. Either way: It’s not about Christmas.

Claim: The U.S. Postal Service tries to deliver gifts kids ask Santa for.

Status: True. Every year since “Operation Santa” began in 1912, the USPS has been pairing needy children with benevolent people in order to make holiday dreams come true. It works like this: When the Postal Service receives a letter to Santa, they scan it, post it on a website, and invite nice people to claim it and fulfill its requests. You can check out the letters here, but be aware: Kids don’t want toy trains anymore—they’re asking for PlayStation 5s and iPhones.

Claim: Christmas presents never arrived late while Trump was president.

Status: False. This is one of those online rumors that makes me rub my temples, because even though it’s completely silly, you know millions of people believe it. The source is an October tweet from Rep. Jim Jordan that reads: “Christmas presents were never late when President Trump was in charge.” For the record: There have been shipping delays every holiday season since the beginning of time, and the delays were particularly bad in 2020, the last year of Trump’s presidency.

Claim: The U.S. Post Office did not issue new Christmas stamps this year, but did issue new stamps for Eid al-Fitr, Diwali, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa.

Status: False. This is one of those “War on Christmas” things, and it’s just not true. The USPS issued a set of new Christmas stamps this year called “A Visit from St. Nick,” while stamps from Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa were all issued before this year. Weaponizing Christmas through lies really sucks.

Claim: A photo shows a Menorah displayed in a window in Germany in 1932.

Status: True. The photo of a Menorah in a window with Nazi flags outside in the street is genuine. It was taken by Rachel Posner, wife of Rabbi Dr. Akiva Posner in Kiel, Germany. The inscription on the back reads:

“Death to Judah,” so the flag says.

“Judah will live forever,” so the light answers.

Claim: Darth Vader appeared in a 2020 Vatican nativity display.

Status: False. Sadly, the Pope did not choose to honor Star Wars in 2020. The Vatican nativity scene in question is made up of figures crafted by art school students and teachers from Castelli, Italy between 1965 to 1975, Star Wars didn’t come out until 1977. The non-traditional Nativity scene does feature an astronaut as a consolation prize, though.