The <i>IoS</i> Twelve Quizzes of Christmas

Cole Moreton tests your Yuletide knowledge
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The Independent Online


1) Who did the original singers of "O Come All Ye Faithful" want us to follow, as revealed last week?

A) Little Baby Jesus. B) Good King Wenceslas. C) Bonnie Prince Charlie.

2) Which Victorian poet wrote the words that became "In the Bleak Midwinter"?

A) Christina Rossetti. B) Alfred, Lord Tennyson. C) William McGonagall.

3) Why might Elizabethan Catholics have sung "The Twelve Days of Christmas" as if their lives depended on it?

A) It was a secret rallying call to the Spanish. B) It was a secret message to Rome. C) It was a secret reminder of their beliefs.

4) How did Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer get to pull Santa's sleigh?

A) It was dark, and they couldn't see. B) Blitzen had a cold. C) An American advertising man wanted to make some money.

5) We all want some figgy pudding, according to the carollers. Asda has started selling it this year. But what is it?

A) Christmas pudding but with figs. B) Stollen. C) Sex.


1) C) Bonnie Prince Charlie, born 1720. Professor Bennett Zon of Durham University announced that the original Latin words were in a code that can be translated as "come faithful Catholic Jacobites and behold Charles, born the king of the English".

2) A) Christina Rossetti.

3) C) It might have been a coded song about the catechism – four calling birds being the gospels, for example. Then again it might not.

4) C) An American ad man thought him up in 1939, and a new, hugely marketable character was born. Romantic, isn't it?

5) A) A white Christmas pudding, with figs instead of raisins.


1) Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall shot Bambi's mother on TV last week. He recommends we eat deer instead of turkey, and served a bit of her in every course. What was in the pudding?

A) The deer's fat. B) The deer's tongue. C) The deer's cute smile.

2) When did turkey become the universal roast of choice for Christmas dinner and why?

A) In the 1800s because of Charles Dickens. B) In the 1920s because of the recession.

C) In the 1950s because of bigger freezers.

3) How should you stir your Christmas pudding mix, and why?

A) Clockwise, to follow the path of the star. B) East to west, to follow the path of the Wise Men. C) While singing, to follow the example of the angels.

4) What is it illegal to eat in England on Christmas Day?

A) Pigeons. B) Mince pies. C) Sprouts.

5) Why are mince pies called by that name?

A) They contain sweet mincemeat. B) They used to contain real minced meat. C) The original word was the Old English "meanes" meaning "chuck everything in".


1) Suet pudding made with fat, so A).

2) Most people believe it was after the roaring success of 'A Christmas Carol', in which Scrooge orders one. They're wrong. It's C). Turkey did not actually become the "traditional" meal for families of all incomes until the 1950s, when it was marketed aggressively as perfect for new bigger ovens and freezers.

3) B) East to west, in honour of the journey made by the Wise Men.

4) B) Oliver Cromwell banned the eating of mince pies as part of a crackdown on Christmas, which he saw as pagan. The law still stands.

5) B) Because they used to contain real minced meat, including chopped liver.


1) The star of Bethlehem was not actually a star, according to a BBC documentary to be shown on Christmas Eve. What was it?

A) Jupiter in conjunction with the Moon. B) The supernova Aquila. C) A spaceship.

2) Myrrh was one of the gifts brought to the infant Jesus by the Wise Men, along with gold and frankincense. But what is myrrh?

A) Perfume. B) Oil. C) Sap.

3) How many kings turned up at the stable?

A) Three. B) Six. C) Dunno.

4) There was no snow outside; it wasn't a stable; the donkey wasn't there, nor were the shepherds, and the star didn't stop overhead. Who said so last year?

A) Richard Dawkins. B) Osama bin Laden. C) The Archbishop of Canterbury.

5) Why did a Nativity set carved by Bethlehem carpenters create a sensation in 2007?

A) It included the security wall around their town. B) It included a black Jesus. C) It included a tank.


1) Jupiter doing unusual things, so A), say leading astronomers – although one thinks it was the supernova. Only Chris de Burgh believes C).

2) C) Resin from the sap of a tree found in Ethiopia and Somalia. Said to prophesy death, because of its use in embalming – but it was also used in perfumes, and to anoint kings.

3) Three? Who says so? There is no evidence for that. The Gospel of Matthew, the only place in which they are mentioned, specifies only three gifts, not the number of givers. So the correct answer is C).

4) C) The Archbishop, obviously.

5) A) The so-called "peace wall".


1) Have yourself a cool Yule. But where does that word come from?

A) A Tin Pan Alley songwriter who wanted something to rhyme with cool. B) A wild Scandinavian pagan festival. C) A chocolate log.

2) What is the origin of the name Boxing Day?

A) Drunken public fighting matches. B) Old-fashioned Christmas bonuses. C) The children playing with the box and not the toy.

3) Which British scientist was the first to propose – among other weighty matters – that Christ's birthday celebration was moved to Christianise the winter solstice? (Clue: he was himself born on Christmas Day.)

A) Faraday. B) Newton. C) Darwin.

4) The Pope disagrees, saying it is as a result of what happened on 25 March. What would that be then?

A) Mary got pregnant. B) Mary got the orders to return to Bethlehem. C) Mary got an Easter egg.

5) When is the first recorded use of the word Christmas?

A) 1038 B) 1438 C) 1638.


1) Not the log or the song but B).

2) Most likely from the tradition of giving servants a gift or box of money as a reward for the year, so B).

3) B) Isaac Newton.

4) A) The conception of Christ, when the angel appeared to Mary. But that date may have been chosen by early believers to tie in with the spring equinox.

5) A) 1038, from the compound of "Christ's mass".


1) Santa evolved from the legend of St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra in Turkey. What age was he when he became bishop?

A) 17. B) 47. C) 77.

2) The image of Santa as a jolly old man was first popularised in America by advertisements for a soft drink. But which drink?

A) Ginger ale. B) Coca-Cola. C) Dr Pepper.

3) Santa used to wear blue or green. Who was responsible for the dominant image of a white-bearded fat fellow in red and white?

A) Coca-Cola. B) Macy's store. C) 'Harper's Magazine'.

4) Who came up with the idea of a workshop at the North Pole, and lists of children who had been naughty or nice?

A) Charles Dickens. B) Thomas Nast.

C) Clement Clarke Moore.

5) Who is Father Christmas?

A) Santa by another name. B) A Spirit of Christmas in England from before Christianity. C) A fatter Che Guevara.


1) A) He was 17. Nicholas became known for handing out gifts to children. He died in AD346 on 6 December, which is when Santa visits in some countries.

2) A) Ginger ale, made by White Rock Beverages in 1923. Coca-Cola is often credited with – or accused of – inventing the modern Santa, but did not use him until the 1930s.

3) C) Not Coca-Cola this time either. Coke built on a caricature of Santa created by German-American cartoonist Thomas Nast for 'Harper's Magazine' in the 1860s. He chose red to work well on new colour presses.

4) Thomas Nast again, so B). But his Santa is based on that invented by Clement Clarke Moore in his story ''Twas the Night Before Christmas' (1822).

5) All of the above. In reverse, he appeared as an icon of rebellion against Puritan attempts to ban Christmas in the 1600s; this was based on a pre-Christian old man of the winter; in 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens he looks like the pagan Father Christmas but acts like the modern Santa. The two have since become synonymous.


Match the names for Santa to the country: Russia, Turkey, Italy, Albania, Finland.

A) Babbo Natale (Father Christmas).

B) Joulupukki (Yule Goat).

C) Noel Baba (Father Christmas).

D) Babadimri (Grandfather Winter).

E) Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost).


A) Italy. B) Finland. C) Turkey. D) Albania. E) Russia.


1) Who brought the Christmas tree here?

A) Prince Albert. B) Queen Charlotte. C) Queen Victoria.

2) The surprise Christmas hit of 2005 sold out fast, was made of metal and PVC and ended up in many a landfill site the following year, although some still call it stylish. What is it?

A) The black tree. B) The upside-down tree. C) The chilli pepper bauble.

3) For more than 20 years, the residents of Leonard Road, Wollaston, famously put on a spectacular light show outside their homes, attracting 40,000 people a year and raising £200,000 for charity. Not any more. Why?

A) The credit crunch made it too expensive. B) Environmental groups slammed the waste of energy. C) Unscrupulous traders attempted to cash in.

4) Which English council banned Christmas from its city centre for fear of offending Muslims, instead rebranding it 'Winterval'?

A) Manchester. B) Birmingham. C) None, it never happened.

5) Why did German Hans Greiner start blowing glass into baubles in 1847?

A) He couldn't afford apples for the tree. B) He couldn't blow it into the shape of a reindeer. C) He saw a gap in the market.


1) Everyone thinks it is Albert, German consort of Queen Victoria, but the answer is her grandmother, B). Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen to George III, followed the customs of home at Windsor from 1800 onwards.

2) A) The black artificial tree. 'Ideal Home' magazine said it suited minimalist modern interiors against which the traditional green would "stick out like a sore thumb".

3) C) Residents turned off their lights in protest when a single burger van turned up to make money from the crowds in 2005, and the show has never been restarted.

4) C) None, it never happened. Birmingham did run a festival called Winterval in the late 1990s, but alongside Christmas.

5) The legend in his home town of Lauscha says A). The way it took off and made a fortune suggests C).


Match the hit to the year: 1993; 1988; 1990; 1957; 1969

A) "Two Little Boys" by Rolf Harris.

B) "Mary's Boy Child" by Harry Belafonte.

C) "Mr Blobby" by Mr Blobby.

D) "Mistletoe and Wine" by Cliff Richard.

E) "Saviour's Day" by Cliff Richard.


A) 1969. B) 1957. C) 1993. D) 1988. E) 1990.


1) Sir Henry Cole sent the first commercially produced Christmas card in 1843. What was on the front?

A) A small child getting drunk. B) Santa showing his backside. C) A nativity scene with Mary saying: "Nappies would have been wiser."

2) Why was it a shrewd move on Sir Henry's part?

A) He'd just started the postal service. B) He'd just started a card company. C) He needed friends.

3) When and how was the first tinsel made, and what was it meant to do?

A) AD100, from shells, to ward off evil spirits. B) 1600s, from hammered silver, to reflect candles. C) 1950s, from PVC, to make more money.

4) Tom Smith was the first London confectioner to sell sweets in a wrapper and call them bonbons. But what Christmas staple did he invent in 1847?

A) Quality Street. B) Crackers. C) The wearing of silly paper hats at the table.

5) Wake up mother, it's the Queen's Christmas broadcast on telly. When was the first?

A) 1957. B) 1967. C) 1977.


1) A) It showed a Victorian family getting into the festive spirit, with a little girl glugging down wine.

2) A) Having played a key part in the foundation of the Universal Penny Post service three years earlier, he knew a fad for cards would gave it a major boost.

3) B) Unfortunately the tinsel went black.

4) B) After hearing a log on the fire crackle. His son Walter added C).

5) A) 1957, but the Queen had done them on the radio since 1952.


1) A small post office in Wales is sent 30,000 letters a year for workers to stamp by hand with an angel, a harp and what else?

A) The name of the village. B) The symbol of the village. C) A map of the village.

2) What is Santa trying to persuade Barack Obama is a good idea, in an American Christmas card this year?

A) Free toys for the poor. B) Universal health care. C) Guns for Christmas.

3) Why did a painting of a dove carrying an olive branch in its beak get a British artist in trouble, and where?

A) It also bore the slogan "Kill Santa", in Finland. B) It was wearing a Sarah Palin T-shirt, in Chicago. C) It was wearing a bulletproof vest, in Israel.

4) What caused a fight between Greek Orthodox and Armenian priests inside the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem?

A) The coffee. B) The cleaning. C) The washing up.

5) Last Christmas, a German company advertised a £100,000 present with a gold handle and diamonds all over. What was it?

A) A saucepan. B) A suitcase. C) A tennis racket.


1) A) The name of the village, Bethlehem. It was called after an old chapel.

2) C) Guns for Christmas. The card was sent by advocates of the right to bear arms.

3) C) It was also in the cross-hairs of a sniper. The street artist Banksy painted it on the security barrier around the original Bethlehem.

4) B) Armenian priests put up ladders in a space the Orthodox clergymen thought was theirs.

5) A) Of course.


1) Why do Polish people eat carp at Christmas? (Cue stories about angry British anglers and supermarkets frantically stocking up.)

A) Because fish scales are lucky and associated with money. B) The fish is a symbol of Christ. C) The original St Nicholas saved a ship from sinking by plugging the holes with carp.

2) Who is Black Pete?

A) A bad elf. B) A coal man. C) The anti-Santa.

3) 'Six white boomers, snow white boomers, racing Santa Claus through the blazing sun...' Who sings this, and what's it about?

A) South Africans, about springboks. B) Australians, about kangaroos. C) Inuits, about polar bears.

4) Where does the Krampus – a demonic beast with horns and a leering face – rattle rusty chains, terrifying children?

A) Alpine villages. B) Alaska. C) The West Midlands.

5) Why do American missile defences track Santa's journey across the globe?

A) Radar operators spotted the speeding sleigh and believed the Soviets were starting nuclear war. B) Good PR for the US war machine. C) The commander thought it up to keep a little girl happy.


1) Any or all of them, depending on whom you ask. Carp is a key part of the meat-free, 12-dish meal eaten on Christmas Eve by Poles and people in many other parts of Eastern and Central Europe.

2) B) A blacked-up, un-PC companion of Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, coming on a steamboat from Spain to give lumps of coal to naughty children.

3) B) Australians. Rolf Harris and John Brown wrote this festive favourite in 1960 instead of singing about snow in 100-degree heat. The boomers are kangaroos who give Rudolph and his chums a rest.

4) A) Alpine mountain villages. The kiddies know Father Christmas is coming, because the Krampus is one of many pagan figures that accompany him in Germanic areas. Another is called Hans Muff.

5) It's C). The girl was trying to get through to a department store's "Call Santa" line in 1955 but got the wrong number. Colonel Harry Shoup picked up the phone in the war room and played along, starting a tradition that now attracts 941 million internet hits. Oh, and B). Obviously.