How does a Git merge commit know which is the “real” parent?

As I understand it, Git figures out the current state of a repository by tracing back the changes from the current HEAD through its parents to the root.

Merge commits have two parents, like C6 here:

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    I understand the advantages, rationale, etc. for having multiple parents like this.

    However, I don’t understand how you could trace back through the history here. If your head is on the tip of the master branch, and you trace back one commit at a time, how does Git know that C6‘s “real” parent is C5? Is it just something like the order they’re stored in the commit file?

    Or am I misunderstanding something? Is this not what Git does at all?

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    There’s no such thing as a “real” parent. A merge has multiple parents, could be more than two, and none of them is more real than the other. What you are thinking of is the first parent, and that should give you the answer; parents are ordered.

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