The Afterbirth of Christ (And Other Things We Don’t Like To Think About At Christmas)


Placenta is not a Christmas word. At least, not a word we usually associate with Christmas. We like a clean Christmas. A happy Christmas. We don’t want a slimy, messy, bloody, placenta-y Christmas.

But Christmas is about a birth, a very important one. When we think about the birth of Christ, we picture this:

This is not the birth of Christ. This is hours after the birth of Christ, maybe even days or weeks later. Because birth is gross. Yes, it is the miracle of life. But the miracle of life is gross. The picture above is part of the Christmas story, but it’s a sanitized, edited-for-TV fairytale version. You know what else is part of the Christmas story? Placenta.

I won’t subject you unwillingly to a picture of placenta, but if you really want to see what it looks like, you can see some here:

And that’s not all the Christmas story has.

The Christmas story has a king committing mass infanticide.

The Christmas story has a scared teenage mom and her new husband on the run from a Middle Eastern death-squad.

The Christmas story has the Virgin Mary in a cave full of cow shit, screaming in labor pains for hours trying to squeeze God through her birth canal.

Are these nice things? No, they are not. Should we think about them every Christmas? No, not every Christmas. But there is a time and place for everything. Sometimes it’s good to think about the beautiful Christmas. It makes a good story, and sometimes a good story is what we need.

But sometimes it’s good to think about the ugly Christmas, with the blood, fear, death, pain, screaming, and…yes, placenta. Because sometimes we need to remember that Christmas is real. That the Christmas story isn’t just a collection of nice ideas…that it has significance beyond the symbolic. That it relates to people like you and me, when we’re scared or hurting.

Without fear and pain, what was Christmas for?

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4 Responses to The Afterbirth of Christ (And Other Things We Don’t Like To Think About At Christmas)

  1. Joe Lib says:

    Quinisext council of Trullo, year 692, Canon LXXIX.

    As we confess the divine birth of the Virgin to be without any childbed, since it came to pass without seed, and as we preach this to the entire flock, so we subject to correction those who through ignorance do anything which is inconsistent therewith. Wherefore since some on the day after the holy Nativity of Christ our God are seen cooking σεμίδαλῖν , and distributing it to each other, on pretext of doing honour to the puerperia of the spotless Virgin Maternity, we decree that henceforth nothing of the kind be done by the faithful. For this is not honouring the Virgin (who above thought and speech bare in the flesh the incomprehensible Word) when we define 384 and describe, from ordinary things and from such as occur with ourselves, her ineffable parturition. If therefore anyone henceforth be discovered doing any such thing, if he be a cleric let him be deposed, but if a layman let him be cut off.

  2. Joe Lib says:

    The Quinisext council of 692 in Trullo decreed that Christ had no afterbirth.

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