Merry Christmas!

Ho, Ho, Ho!

This blog is full of good stuff on the Joy of Christmas: Facts, Fun and Fantasy, for all those who love and can't get enough of Christmas!

There's lots here, so check the listing in the Blog Archive for the following:

- Traditions
- Story of Christ's Birth
- History of Santa
- World customs
- Scriptures
- Stories
- Prose
- Carols
- Meanings, symbols, origins
- Holiday greetings worldwide
- Facts and trivia
- Quotes
- Movie and TV clips
- Much more!

More will also be added. Let me know if there's something that should be here. Comments are appreciated!

To test your Christmas knowledge, see the trivia quiz at the bottom of this page!


Elf Story

by Carma Wadley
Deseret News, 12/22/02

Any child can tell you how it is: Santa Claus has a huge workshop at the North Pole, where he spends the year supervising a large crew of toy-making elves.

But few adults can tell you exactly how elves came to be part of the Christmas story.

We can trace the evolution of Santa from the good bishop Nicholas in Asia Minor, who spent his life doing such helpful deeds that he earned sainthood, with a special calling to protect sailors, unmarried women and children.

We know that when settlers came to the New World, they brought their own traditions - including that of St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle or Sinterklass - with them.

But when Clement Clark Moore wrote his now-famous poem in 1822 about  "A Visit From St. Nick," he characterized Santa himself as a "jolly old elf" small enough to bound down chimneys. Since then, Santa has not only gotten bigger himself, but he has acquired a magical bunch of elfin helpers. And for that, it seems, we can thank not only folklore but advertising.

Like many parts of the Christmas story, the elves have roots in pagan customs that were incorporated into the celebration. The gnome-like creatures are a part of Scandinavian lore, where they served as mostly benevolent helpers.

In his book "Christmas Treevia," D. Peter Harrington notes: "In Norway, Christmas elves were called "Julenisse." They are legendary creatures who are given a bowl of rommegrot on Christmas Eve, They are thought to live in the barn and help the entire household throughout the year. It is thought that this is the beginning of the myth that Santa Claus has elves to help him make toys."

Still, it took awhile for them to make an appearance in the Santa legend as it developed in America. We can thank Washington Irving (of "Rip Van Winkle" fame) for getting it started. In his "History of New York," published in 1809, Irving has St. Nick flying over snowy New York on St. Nicholas Day, dropping gifts down chimneys. Moore picked up on that idea, exchanging the wagon for a reindeer-drawn sleigh.

Our image of this Santa was solidified some 40 years later, when political cartoonist Thomas Nast illustrated Moore's poem with drawings of the "chubby and plump" figure, giving him the furred red cap, black belt and jovial expression we know and love.

As cartoonist for the influential Harper's Weekly for 22 years, Nast also drew a Santa for each Christmas issue of the magazine, which "he claimed was a welcome relied from the relentless pressure of political cartooning," Cynthia Hart, John Grossman and Priscilla Dunhill say in their book "Joy to the World: A Victorian Christmas."

In some of his drawings, Nast slipped in a few little "brownies" as Santa's helpers.

In December 1882, Harper's Monthly published a story of a kingdom of dwarfs that lived at the North Pole — and claimed that their shenanigans in the kitchen were responsible for the northern lights. Stories like this may have added to the notion that Santa lived in that arctic region. By the 1890s, he seems to be firmly entrenched there.

Katharine Lee Bates (of "America The Beautiful" renown) brought Mrs. Claus into the picture with a storybook published in 1899 called "Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride." (In those days, "goody" was a common contraction for "goodwife.")

In the mid-1940s, George Hinke, an illustrator for the Ideals Publishing Co., added to our image of both Santa and his elves. His book "Jolly Old Santa Claus" features a variety of scenes from the North Pole and showed what he called "brownies" feeding reindeer, helping with toys, even having a pillow fight.

"He did a marvelous job of creating this whole wonderful world," says Patricia Pingry, publisher of Ideals. The magazine began publication in 1944, and Hinke joined the staff in 1945. "He was German, so a lot of his paintings were a combination of German traditions and new customs he found in America. He was one of the first to paint in color."

"Jolly Old Santa Claus" has been re-released several times by Ideals, which is now owned by Guideposts. "In 1996, a new version came out where we took out the smoking. We can't have brownies doing that these days," says Pingry.

Illustrator Haddon Sundblom is another contributor to our current popular image of both Santa and his elves. From the early 1930s to the mid-1960s, Sundblom did a yearly Santa advertisement for the Coca-Cola Co. and sometimes incorporated elves in the drawings.

"The full-page ads were reproduced on the back covers of two national magazines," Kathleen Paton says in her book "Santa." "Sundblom's famous image of Santa picked up where Thomas Nast's left off, firmly establishing the definitive 20th-century Santa."

See also: Santa's Elves
Elias Elf Finds His Specialty

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Christmas Trivia: True or False?

The answers to the following can be found within the various posts on this blog...

Holiday Names and Greetings

1. “X-mas” is an irreverent, non-Christian name for the holiday.

2. “Noel” comes from Old French, meaning “new birth”.

3. “Yule” comes from an ancient Viking celebration of the turning of the sun.

4. “Feliz Navidad” directly translated into English means “Happy Birth”.

5. “Mele Kalikimaka” is Hawaiian for “enjoy the holiday feast”.

The Nativity of Jesus

6. Modern calendar years are based on the verified year of the birth of Christ.

7. The number of visitors, known as Magi, Wise Men or Kings, was three.

8. The Wise Men, or Kings, came to see the newborn baby lying in the manger.

9. Early Christians believed Christ was born on December 25th.

10. Shepherds watched their flocks on the cold winter’s night of Christ’s birth.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

11. The Twelve Days of Christmas begin on December 13th.

12. The gifts given on each day in the song represent items at a Christmas party.

13. The “Two Turtle Doves” represented the Old and New Testaments.

14. The last two gifts were 11 lords a leaping and 12 drummers drumming.

Santa Claus

15. St. Nicholas, who preceded Santa Claus, was born in Germany in 1622.

16. Santa’s flying sleigh and reindeer originated from stories in the 1800’s.

17. Although he’s known by many names in many places, Santa is always a man.

18. Kris Kringle was the name of an early Dutch Santa Claus figure.

19. Santa Claus is largely unknown in places like Japan and China.


20. Rudolph’s story was a promotional creation of Montgomery Ward stores.

21. Blixen is the name of Santa’s eighth reindeer.

22. Donner, the seventh reindeer, is sometimes incorrectly called Donder.

23. The reindeer were first named in “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.

24. Instead of reindeer, in Sweden, a goat pulls Santa’s (Tomten’s) sled.

Christmas Trees

25. The custom of decorating trees for Christmas originated in Germany.

26. Before the 1500’s, Christmas trees were considered a pagan custom.

27. Martin Luther is credited with first putting candles, or lights, on the tree.

28. There is no mention of a Christmas tree in Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.”

29. Hanging the tree upside down from the ceiling used to be popular.


30. The first Christmas card was created and sent in London in 1840.

31. The most popular selling Christmas Carol of all time is “Silent Night”.

32. Mistletoe used to be hung for enemies to meet under and call a truce.

33. Poinsettias were first brought to the U.S. from Mexico by Mr. Poinsett.

34. Christmas mince pie contained rabbit, pheasant and partridge meat.

35. “Nog” in eggnog refers to a heavy noggin (head) from drinking too much.

36. The tradition of filling stockings originated in the country of Turkey.

37. Sleigh rides with jingle bells is a favorite Christmas activity in Australia.

38. Celebrating Christmas was once outlawed in Merry Olde England.

39. Candy canes were created to keep children quiet during church services.

40. Swedish Christmas celebrates St. Lucia, who helped needy people in Italy.


1. False. “X” comes from the Greek letter that start’s Christ’s name and represents Christ.
2. True. Oui, oui. Noel is tres French, an old word which is related to the nouvelle, meaning “new”.
3. True. The word “yule” is old Norse for wheel, meaning the wheel in the sky that turns to give more light.
4. True. “Feliz” means “happy”. “Navidad” translates to nativity, which also means birth.
5. False. It means nothing in Hawaiian. It is an attempt to spell English “Merry Christmas” using Hawaiian letters.
6. False. There is no historical verification to the year of Christ’s birth. Some scholars believe it was in 2 to 4 B.C.
7. False. Three gifts are mentioned, but no number of the visitors is given. Some believe there were 12 or more.
8. False. They arrived well after Christ was born, and most likely saw him inside a home in a regular bed.
9. False. No exact date was known. When Romans became Christian, the Dec. 25th date replaced a pagan holiday.
10. False. Shepherds were not in the fields with their flocks during winter. This most likely occurred in the spring.
11. False. They start on Christmas Day, Dec. 25th, and last until Jan. 6th, the Eastern Orthodox Christmas Day.
12. True. In Old England, a party was held on “12th Night”. All the gifts were represented through food or fun.
13. True. The gifts and numbers were created to represent / disguise gospel principles for early persecuted believers.
14. False. There are 10 lords a leaping, not 11. Correct answer: 11 pipers piping, 12 drummers drumming.
15. False. St. Nicholas was born in Asia Minor, now known as Turkey, sometime during the 3rd Century.
16. False. The idea originated from early legends of Viking gods flying through the skies on animal-pulled sleighs.
17. False. In Italy, the gift giver is an old woman known as La Befana. In parts of Russia, she is known as Babushka.
18. False. Kris Kringle is an Americanization of the German gift giver “Christ-kindl”, or “Christ Child”.
19. False. Santa Claus has become a popular holiday figure in both Japan and China, not necessarily for Christmas.
20. True. It was a 1939 promotional gimmick given to those who did Christmas shopping at Montgomery Ward.
21. False. The name of the eighth reindeer is spelled Blitzen, not Blixen.
22. False. The original text of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” spells the seventh reindeer’s name as Donder.
23. True. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore was the first text that named the eight reindeer.
24. True. Although many reindeer are in Northern Sweden, Tomten rides a sled through the forest pulled by a goat.
25. False. The Germans adapted modern tree traditions from customs of the ancient Romans and Celtic druids.
26. False. 7th Century Catholic monk St. Boniface used the indoor evergreen’s triangle shape to teach of the Godhead.
27. True. Legend claims Martin Luther first put candles on his tree, to represent the light of Christ for his children.
28. True. Christmas trees did not become popular in England until after Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol”.
29. True. Many trees were originally hung upside down in Old Europe and in early Pennsylvania settlements.
30. True. John C. Horsley created his own card in 1840. The idea caught on, and his card was re-printed in 1843.
31. False. Although “Silent Night” is popular in many countries, Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” is the top seller.
32. True. Used for many things, mistletoe brought people together, including those who needed to kiss and make-up.
33. True. Joel Roberts Poinsett, Ambassador to Mexico, introduced the “Holy Night Flowers” to the U.S. in 1825.
34. True. Originally, mince pie was a meat pie. Fruits and spices were later added, and then the meat was dropped.
35. False. “Nog” is another term for “grog”, which is a rum-based drink. Eggnog is sometimes served with rum.
36. True. St. Nicholas, who lived in Turkey, is claimed to have assisted the needy by leaving gold coins in stockings.
37. False. Christmas in Australia occurs during summertime. A beach barbecue is a popular Christmas Day event.
38. True. From 1645 to 1660, because of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans, celebrating Christmas was illegal.
39. True. A Cologne Cathedral Choirmaster gave shepherds crook-shaped candy to kids during long nativity services.
40. True. Though celebrated in Sweden, Lucia’s legend began with her Christian services and martyrdom in Italy.

Correct Answers Rating:
40 - Cheater, you peeked! Not even Santa knew all of these.
35 to 39 - Next in line to be Santa. How’s your “ho, ho, ho”?
30 to 34 - A true Christmas elf. Santa’s looking to promote you.
25 to 29 - On Santa’s Nice List, but you could do better.
20 to 24 - Rockin’ around the Christmas tree, but you’re missing some good stuff.
15 to 19 - You like Christmas, but your favorite holiday is Halloween, right?
10 to 14 - Christmas is coming, and you haven’t got a ha’penny. God bless you.
Less than 10 - Bah humbug. You need to pay more attention if you want more than coal in your stocking. Better watch out or you’ll get run over by a reindeer.