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!


The Story of Charles Dickens Writing A Christmas Carol

This is the story of how Dickens’ most profound work, A Christmas Carol, came to be, excerpted from "The Third Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told" by R. William Bennett.

Charles Dickens’ beginnings marked him as all our circumstances do. To be sure, there were those far worse off than himself.  However, pain is a relative condition.  In the complicated cauldron of our expectations, our unmet needs, the influences of those around us, and the sheer uniqueness of every person, we concoct our window through which we see the world, interpreting reality in our own context.  With that perception, we evaluate our condition.  In that estimation, Charles was most troubled.

 Dickens’ father John, to whom Charles had been close was jolly in demeanor but as expansive in his spending as he was in his impression of himself. His inability to manage his finances led to catastrophic financial failure which eventually landed him in Marshalsea, a debtors’ prison.  Catastrophic not only because of the humiliation it brought upon the Dickens’, but also because according the conventions of the system, the prisoner was kept while members of the family would be required to work to satisfy the debt.  Charles’ siblings were, for the most part, too young to earn wages anywhere.  Perhaps the only one, other than Charles, that could contribute was his older sister Fanny.  However, she was enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music and her parents were resolute that she should continue her education there, despite their circumstances.  That left Charles to labor in behalf of the family’s financial needs.

Charles’ pain over this situation had not drained his spirits all at once.  Rather, it was the culmination of the three prior years of emotional bloodletting.  Until 9-years-old, he led the ordinary life of a middle-class child in the early 19th century.  However, it was at one moment that year he had a sudden realization: his father had no intention of facilitating Charles’ education.   Charles’ physical stature was small, but he had an active mind and he knew it.  He craved following a course that would allow him to develop himself.   This understanding of his father’s lack of aspiration for Charles, threw him into a depression.  This was exacerbated by Fanny’s acceptance at the Royal Academy of Music, and the contrast devastated him.

The next few years did nothing but affirm his doubts and fears.  Just before his father was incarcerated at Marshalsea, Charles’ parents had agreed to have him work in a shoe polish factory to contribute what little pittance he could to the satisfaction of the Dickens’ debt.  He was to share living quarters with other boys near his work, living apart from his family.  Soon after John entered Marshalsea, Charles’ mother gave up the house and moved herself and children in with her husband as was permitted in the system.  They were now all together, except for Charles.  When the family’s situation improved enough to permit their release and enable Charles to leave the factory, his mother resisted. She tried to keep him there to supplement the family income so that his sister could continue with her study of the arts and she could invest in baubles and clothes in grand measure for herself.  There were many in worse arrangements.  In the most abhorrent of working conditions, untold numbers – many of whom were children – died in their labor under the hands of merciless employers. 

Just around the corners and down the alleys from the factories were yet more, starving in the shadows, hidden enough so that those who would not like to look would not have to see.  But has already been said, one’s pain is measured against their own expectations, and for the young boy who adored his family and had dreams of Cambridge University, sitting alone in the front window of the polish factory as he applied labels, day after day, listening to the rats scurry beneath him, was torture and nothing could seem worse.

Such challenges create forks in our life journey, one branch a concession to the belief that our conditions are unchangeable, and the other a path of self-determination in which we take ownership for attempting to ascend to a higher and better place.  Far too many, if not most, drift down the well-trodden path of submission, lost and hopeless, seeing themselves as the unchangeable byproduct of their misfortune.

But for Charles, whether by divine providence, strength of will or some combination of these and other forces, the less common path was taken.  His experience planted within him seeds that would inform the artistry of his life.  It created a perspective through which he would view the world and allow him to see what to others had become invisible – the poor, the impoverished, the downtrodden. He had emerged from at least the perimeter of those same shadows and the memory of all his senses did not fade with time.   It was more than their physical condition that pained him.  It was the draining of their soul, the settling for a life of subsistence and survival, or something short of it, that that created both sadness and alarm.  In the richly textured society of the time, these people were a gray swath of background behind the images of those who were enjoying success.  He gave them something they did not and could not possess on their own.  He became their voice.

In focusing the lens of public perception, he brought them into view in the colorful, individual lives of Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger, of Nicholas Nickleby and Noggs, of the beloved Nell and her grandfather, and many more. He also gave a face and character to those who would take advantage of them: Fagin, Uncle Ralph, Quilp, and others whose principle sins were ignorant self-centeredness and vacuous hearts.  He disarmed the reading public through his humor, and in their softened state, introduced them to his protagonists who were rich, deep characters, flawed but endearing.  As they became familiar to his readers, he exposed their sufferings. 

Dickens had found his calling.  He enjoyed increasing success as he progressed from The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club to The Adventures of Oliver Twist to The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.  By the time his fourth novel, The Old Curiosity Shop was serialized, as most of his works were, his publisher was selling 100,000 copies per monthly installment.  Charles was easily enjoying the greatest market share of readership of any author in his time, and perhaps any time until then.  His work spawned a nearly infinite variety of related endeavors, from illegally produced plays to porcelain figurines of his characters.  England had become indeed, all things Dickens and the popularity of his work had spread beyond its shores.  From publishing his first sketch “A Dinner at Poplar Walk” in 1833 at twenty-one years old, now eight years later, he was the greatest author in the British Empire.  He was telling the public what they themselves were ignoring at their peril, and they were asking for more, 100,000 editions at a time.

After the publication of The Old Curiosity Shop, there was a mark in the sand past which Charles Dicken’s fortunes, which had falsely seemed impervious, began to change.
While Dickens greatest failures would qualify for heady success among most authors, one’s yardstick is often laid against their own distance already run and Dickens’ primary competition was Dickens’.  Barnaby Rudge, a fictional story set during the Gordon Riots of 1780, the same time as the war for American Independence, was a departure for Dickens.  Somehow, the essence of Dickens’ talents became lost in the story.  His characters failed to inspire, even among his greatest supporters.  Literary critics have analyzed Rudge and placed it near, or at the very bottom of his works. The public seemed to agree, finding it less appealing than his previous stories.  Sales of the serialized novel dropped from 100,000 to 30,000.

This created an inversion of finances with his publisher Chapman and Hall, and Dickens’ advance on royalties exceeded the revenue they were receiving for Rudge.  In addition, Dickens had talked them into financing his taking some time off to recover from exhaustion.  The pressure was mounting to produce a success that would begin satisfying the debt.
There was no peace on the personal front either.  Dickens father, ever enterprising upon his son’s success, was selling early drafts of Dickens’ work without Charles’ permission, which seemed positively virtuous compared to his eventual forging of Dickens name on invoices for his own rich tastes and sending them to Dickens publisher.  Charles and his wife Catherine had their fourth child, Walter, in early 1841, and the pressures of his growing family, his extravagant tastes and his meteoric popularity and subsequent decline left their relationship strained. 

Dickens could not see the cause of the problem.  As he evaluated the situation, it was not the quality of his work that had diminished, but his growing numbers of critics who sought to make their own name by diminishing his.  Misdirected by his own pride, he was not weighed down with remorse or guilt, but with anger.  He sought a diversion, something to take his mind off the unfair situation he endured.

His friend and focus of admiration, fellow writer Washington Irving, suggested he come to America.  Great authors of the time were venturing into the world and writing travelogues of their observations, a sure seller in Dickens’ case due to his public that yearned for another success.  With the triumph of Curiosity Shop, Irving was certain Dickens would enjoy great adulation in the states.  The idea appealed to him.  Dickens was enamored with America, having made somewhat a study of it in Barnaby Rudge.  With his affinity for the underdog, he idolized the country that was not seventy years old at that point and yet had amassed an impressive history.  It was just the diversion he felt he needed.  

In 1842, with renewed enthusiasm as a balm for his worsening mood, he compelled his wife Catherine to join him on the Britannia, bound for The United States.  She hesitated because of his condition that they leave their four children behind for the six-month expedition, including their seven-month-old infant. However, Charles successfully convinced or cajoled or compelled, and the two of them left for New York.

Dickens, initially invigorated by the gargantuan crowds he drew, quickly became disenchanted with America and Americans.  His tendency to vary dramatically from an initial rosy view to one in which he could find nothing of redeeming value was a pattern he exhibited in many areas and manifested itself here.  His discontent ranged appropriately from the practice of slavery, to his somewhat narcissistic repulse of what he saw as Americans’ complete lack of propriety regarding how he was addressed and how he was touched. 

From the streets of Boston and New York to the Washington DC waiting room of President Tyler where he was to be received, he was put off by the smoking, the spitting and the loose manner of speech.  Though his irritation with the lack of copyright protection in the United States was justified, he received many admonitions to drop the subject, at least from his speeches.  Nonetheless, he used most every public opportunity to press his point, delivering a withering diatribe on how he and others were being wronged.  The couple fled to Canada for a rest in the last month of their visit, and then returned home in June, leaving behind a public that was fascinated with the man, but found him pompous, ostentatious and “foppish.”

His summed up his experiences and observations in the non-fiction, American Notes for General Publication, his editorialized travelogue.  He used Americans and their homeland as the foil for criticism, very thinly veiled in humor, and the venting his own disapproval.

American Notes sold poorly in England, surprising Dickens with his countrymen’s disinterest in the topic.  Dickens now had rebranded himself.  No longer the upbeat character who, with legitimate concerns for the welfare of the poor, used humor to disarm and engage his readers on the topic.  He was now the sullen critic, the acerbic observer and voluble witness of weakness, failure and disillusionment.  This tone was not only unbecoming, more importantly, it did not sell books.  It seems almost everyone understood this but Dickens himself.  He continued his onslaught in, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit.  When the already low sales of the serialized novel appeared at risk for further decline, he felt he could give a lift to the story by having his protagonist visit America. 

He satirized and lampooned the young nation.  His readers found it neither humorous nor appealing. “There is nothing that more offends the population of any country than the interference of a foreigner with its laws and institutions,” wrote the publication, The Atlantic Monthly in a retrospective 30 years after his visit. “Dickens seemed to think that there was something noble in the courage with which he put at risk his universal popularity, in order to tell the Americans, face to face, that they were guilty of injustice to himself…”. Dickens vitriolic lancing of American pride cost him the friendship and respect of Washington Irving, not to mention further damaging his sales records.

By 1843, life was indeed bleak for Dickens.  England was in a devastating depression.  Dickens’ literary disappointments had heaved him into an excessive debt, falling further short of the sales commitments he had made to his publisher Chapman and Hall.  His marriage to Catherine Hogarth was at best in a lull, at worst showing of signs of weaknesses that might cripple it.  His image in the public eye, a factor of most importance to Dickens, was that of a once great author who had peaked and had become lost in a self-centered vortex of egotism, his demise only a matter of time, if not already past.

Then something remarkable, or really, a series of somethings most remarkable, happened.

There are moments in time when disparate threads of our lives, seemingly unrelated, are pulled together and wound tightly and upon their emergence from that bond, have experienced a metamorphosis into a greatly strengthened cord, that strength coming from their combination.  Whether it was the invisible hand or the pierced one that gathered these strands of Dickens’ life is left open for one’s own conclusion, but gathered they were.  In this case, the threads were three catalytic events that would combine to change the course of Dickens’ life.

The first had its source a few years earlier when Dickens had made the acquaintance of Angela Burdett-Coutts.  She was the granddaughter of Thomas Coutts, founder of the banking firm, Coutts & Co.  Just before her grandfather’s second wife died, this woman, kind of heart to young Angela, stipulated in her will that if the twenty-three-year-old would agree to never marry a foreigner and to never involve herself in the affairs of the bank, she would inherit 50% of Coutts’s personal fortune.  These might seem unusually restrictive covenants until one realizes that this bequest totaled about 3 million pounds. 

Angela agreed, changing her name from Burdett to Burdett-Coutts, and instantly joined the ranks of the wealthy, earning the label of the richest woman in England after the queen.  Unusually, Angela did not fall prey to the temptations of indulgence common to high society living or to causes political in nature.  Rather, she set about to improve the conditions and opportunities for the poor and raise the consciousness of the problem to the nation at large.  Her role in this story is made significant by her acquaintance with the dynamic, popular young author Charles Dickens, who would afford her the perfect partnership to deploy her resources.  Charles and Angela shared a common concern for the state of the poor and in this concern, she periodically engaged him to help her decide where to direct her philanthropic funds and efforts. 

In 1843, Angela urged Charles to visit one of the so-called ‘Ragged Schools’ which provided free education for the indigent. Though noble in their purpose, they typically ran radically short of funds for even the most basic needs.  Specifically, she suggested he travel to the Field Lane School on Saffron Hill.  In an ironic twist, the school, built in 1841, was located in the exact location of the criminally infested section of London where Dickens had fictionally placed Fagin’s den in Oliver Twist, and therefore Dickens was no stranger to the surroundings, nor to the type of poverty that created these conditions.  Nonetheless, he was deeply affected by his visit.  Of his observations of the young inhabitants of the ragged school he said, “…the children in them are enough to break the heart and hope of any man.”

Upon hearing his reactions to the school, Miss Burdett-Coutts immediately allocated resources to address what Dickens thought were the most immediate problems, the simple inability to practice any hygiene whatsoever, and the cramped conditions that made any kind of progress unlikely.  Forgetting himself, forgetting the criticism levied against him, forgetting his peevish lack of tolerance for others, Dickens re-immersed himself in the world about which he had written to establish his career.  If what he saw, by his own words, would “break the heart and hope of any man”, then he was this man – his own heart was broken, and as a result, became receptive for what was to come.

The second strand was an invitation from his older sister, Fan.  She lived with her husband in the suburbs of the great industrial town of Manchester.  Where London was the center from which the industrial revolution was steered, and all that was rising or sinking on its tide – culture, the arts, society, and the like – Manchester was the engine, a city singular in purpose.  It was considered the greatest industrial city in the land.  Often referred to as the “chimney of the world” the coal soot of its many factories was a feature of everything that could be touched by the wind which blew through its confines.  With a population nearing 400,000, it was the second largest city in England and a third larger than a similar city in America, New York.

If its key products were said to be the heart of textile manufacturing, it would also have to list one of its primary by-products the poverty that accompanied the men who made those goods.  A few years prior, an effort had begun to construct an athenaeum, a building to house a library, a school for languages, and other means to educate the masses of the public and support learning.  While the project had been germinated in good times, the recent depression left the completed building and its mission in serious debt.  Would he, his sister queried, come speak at an event to raise funds to support the Manchester Athenaeum?  He had had a busy year, with many charitable speeches, and by his own writing revealed he had grown tired of the efforts, both physically and emotionally.  Therefore, it is not clear why he accepted this invitation, but one could assume that his heart, softened and pained at the sight of the children of Field Lane School, inspired him to reinvigorate his platform that the education and support of the poor was one of the most important things he could engage in.

He shared the stage that October night with two other men.  The first was Richard Cobden, a fiery activist who had become the voice of the working man, seeking to end the tariffs, such as the Corn Law, that protected the wealthy at the expense of the poor.  The other was a young man who had left the study of law to become an author, writing a series of romance novels.  From there, he had also found his way into parliament as a junior member.  His inclusion on the agenda that evening grew from his interest in social improvement works.  He was, without a doubt, the least important of the three.  In later years this man, Benjamin Disraeli would go on to serve two terms as Prime Minister of England.

When Dickens turn came, he instantly mesmerized the audience.  Drawing upon the well of inspiration that guided his life, he artfully spoke to the concerns of the growing gap between rich and poor.  He spoke from experience about what he saw at Field Lane.  He validated that while the intentions of his antagonists in stories like The Old Curiosity Shop and Oliver Twist were fiction, they were based on facts that were even more brutal than presented to his readers.  His theme was to challenge those who felt providing education for the poor could promote disastrous consequences, a popular and widespread notion.  He engaged the audience with these famous lines:

“I do not know whether, at this time of day, and with such a prospect before us, we need trouble ourselves very much to rake up the ashes of the dead-and-gone objections that were wont to be urged by men of all parties against institutions such as this, whose interests we are met to promote; but their philosophy was always to be summed up in the unmeaning application of one short sentence. How often have we heard from a large class of men wise in their generation, who would really seem to be born and bred for no other purpose than to pass into currency counterfeit and mischievous scraps of wisdom, as it is the sole pursuit of some other criminals to utter base coin–how often have we heard from them, as an all-convincing argument, that “a little learning is a dangerous thing?” Why, a little hanging was considered a very dangerous thing, according to the same authorities, with this difference, that, because a little hanging was dangerous, we had a great deal of it; and, because a little learning was dangerous, we were to have none at all.”

When their laughter finally died down, Dickens became more serious:

“Why, when I hear such cruel absurdities gravely reiterated, I do sometimes begin to doubt whether the parrots of society are not more pernicious to its interests than its birds of prey. I should be glad to hear such people’s estimate of the comparative danger of “a little learning” and a vast amount of ignorance; I should be glad to know which they consider the most prolific parent of misery and crime. Descending a little lower in the social scale, I should be glad to assist them in their calculations, by carrying them into certain goals and nightly refuges I know of, where my own heart dies within me, when I see thousands of immortal creatures condemned, without alternative or choice, to tread, not what our great poet calls the “primrose path” to the everlasting bonfire, but one of jaded flints and stones, laid down by brutal ignorance, and held together, like the solid rocks, by years of this most wicked axiom.”

All attendees were electrified, and it triggered something within Dickens.
That night, Dickens walked the dirty streets of Manchester nearly until dawn.  The response of the crowd echoed in his ear, reaffirming to him the cause that he might best support with his natural gifts.  He was humble, and he was inspired, and these two combusted within him.  In these moments, and in many that would come in future, similar nocturnal walks in London, in this crucible, the third strand was added to the to the other two.  From multiple biographies of the great author and from his own personal letters, it appears that over this period of time, he was given a gift – clarity of thought – that contained within it, three self-observations.

First, maybe it was not the critics and readers that were wrong.  Maybe, in fact, it was him.  In a move most unusual in public figures, for whom ego is often their primary conveyance, he examined himself.  Maybe he had become lost in his anger and disgust, and in so doing, cut himself off from his natural talents, and perhaps in the process, his foreordained purpose.

Second, perhaps he could inform without preaching, educate without intimidating, inspire without using guilt and encourage rather than goad action.  Perhaps he could return to his style that allowed him to set the table with his stories and permit the reader to voluntarily select what they were ready to hear, rather than be force-fed a diet of thick, heavy culpability. 

Finally, Dickens happened upon a most extraordinary thought: change in human behavior does not and will not come from an external force.  It will never be permanently engaged by device or demand.  Change must begin and come from within – from a change of heart.  From this inner wellspring, actions will voluntarily be altered, the effects of which will spread outward in concentric rings.  If he were going to change the world, he understood that the world must be changed by individuals, each of whom must undergo a personal transformation. 

A story began to form in his mind.  This would be a tale of a man who embodied the selfishness that was so destructive of the time.  Even his name, Scrooge, would in onomatopoeic fashion, evoke in the reader an understanding of his character.  He would be given a gift, procured for him by one like him – a former business partner who had died in his sins – to see the impact of the choices he had made in his past, to see himself as the world now saw him, and to see his future should his path not change.  The supporting cast? Jacob Marley, the three ghosts of Christmas, nephew Fred, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, and two briefly referenced children, one named Ignorance and the other Want. 

According to the words of his friend and biographer, John Forster, as Dickens walked, “with a strange mastery it seized him.”  Upon his return to London, while trying to finish Martin Chuzzlewit, he continued to find inspiration in nightly walks of sometimes fifteen miles, and in crafting his story, he “wept over it, and laughed and wept again.”  He would use the language of song, crafting the chapters as “staves” or verses.  It would garner a simple title: A Christmas Carol.

 In six weeks’ time, the story was complete.  His publisher’s lack of conviction for the book led Dickens to confidently fund its production using his own resources.  It was not just any Christmas story, and as such, should not look like just any other.  The page edges were trimmed in gold and contained within them 8 illustrations from his old friend, John Leech.  The cover was red cloth embossed in gold with the title, A Christmas Carol, and two boughs of holly leaves. The dedication was simple, a message from a friend to a friend, unassuming and not preachy, and toying with the concept of the spirits in his tale allowing the reader to see he was not taking himself too seriously:

I HAVE endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me.  May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.

Their faithful Friend and Servant,

 C. D. December 1843.

The book was expensive in its production for its size and length, due to Charles’ vision of its appearance.  At the same time, he wanted it accessible to the masses, and priced it barely above his cost.  On December 19, 1843, the first editions of A Christmas Carol went on sale for 5 schillings. 

Whatever doubt the Dickens publisher had about the curious little book vanished as quickly as the first printing.  That printing of 6,000 copies sold out by Christmas Eve five days later.  In response two more runs were initiated prior to the end of that year.  The enthusiasm for the little book continued, and by the end of 1844, A Christmas Carol experienced eleven more printings. 

From that profound moment in 1843 to Dickens passing in 1870 he would write nine more novels, some to critical acclaim, some to criticism.  He would also pen more than twenty additional short stories, including four Christmas themed works, but none quite like Christmas Carol.

More than 175 years have passed since this little book was launched into the public consciousness.  A Christmas Carol has quietly marched on, to this day never having gone out of print from its first run on December 19, 1843. It plays on an untold number of stages large and small.  Businessman and postman find the time to don the hat and scarf, to memorize the lines, to huff humbug at Bob Cratchit.  Director’s children learn to walk on a crutch to utter the few, but most famous lines of A Christmas Carol. Neighbors and friends sit in the audience, back for a second or fifth or twenty-fifth viewing to fear, to laugh, to cry, to hope and to turn, perhaps only a bit, with the transformation of the old man.

Its simple story in its simple package with its simple message should never be underestimated.  Truth has a backbone that holds it erect in the face of the gravest of challenges.  It related and relates a message that was fit for times of plenty, to spread our bounty.  It is fit for times of need, to remember those most hurt. 

In this war we fight today for the hearts of man, it is as unassuming a solider as there ever was, the Johnny Appleseed of that infantry:  diminutive and unassuming, but as pure in heart as any and more than most. Yet onward it voyages, planting seeds to be harvested by those that come upon the fruits of its message.

As long as there is at least one, and maybe only one heart to lose itself in the care of others, we carry on.  We are indeed fellow passengers, as nephew Fred proclaimed to his uncle Scrooge.  A victory for one is a beacon for us all.  If that single heart is yours alone, then we as a people are not lost, it is not over, and there is hope.   

(Excerpted from the forthcoming book, The Third Greatest Christmas Story Ever Told, or How Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol Won a Battle in the War for the Hearts of Man by R. William Bennett.)

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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.