Christmas Trivia

Christmas Trivia, Fun and Games

The three months at the end of the calendar year represent most retailers’ best hope for a successful year. Many do as much business then as in the preceding nine months. And that business revolves around the celebration of the birth of a Child more than two thousand years ago. So, in the spirit of the season, let’s take a brief look at interesting tidbits, back stories and other oddities that have developed during those years.

At Christmastime who do you picture drinking Coca Cola: Santa Claus or a Polar Bear?

The answer is pretty generational. From the time of W. Clement Moore’s poem that starts “’Twas the night before Christmas…” the portrayal of Santa Claus has varied from “a right jolly old elf” to the mental picture of Santa those of us of a certain age have of him that was inspired by a Michigan native of Swedish descent named Haddon Sundblom. Sundblom had been approached by the Coca Cola Company in 1931 to create the definitive Santa, and show him drinking Coke. During the next thirty-five Christmas seasons Santa, who bore an interesting likeness to his illustrator, would find Coke relaxing or energizing or something to share – depending on the Coke message at the time. After a variety of alternative approaches, Coke tasked the Creative Artists Agency, normally a firm that represented Hollywood stars, with the assignment of coming up with something different for the 1993 Coke Christmas campaign. The result was Polar Bears, animated to be sure, but definitely Polar Bears. Since then the bears have made periodic appearances in Coke messages, improving in their abilities as computer animation has evolved.

A Lot of Musical Trivia

Who was Olive and can you name the rest of Santa’s reindeer?

Olive is the “other reindeer” in the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, as in “Olive, the other reindeer, used to laugh and call him names… .” [It’s really “all of the other reindeer,” get it?] The traditional reindeer employed by Santa, after W. Clement Moore named them, were Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donder and Blitzen.

Ah, but do you recall, the Most Famous Reindeer Of All?

Rudolph was actually born/created in a promotional storybook by the Montgomery Ward department store back in 1939. As war clouds loomed over the horizon in Europe, Robert May, a Ward’s PR staffer, wrote the book which sold more than 6,000,000 copies for Ward’s. Ten years later, in 1949, Hecky Krasnow produced the recorded version that was sung by Gene Autry (the Singing Cowboy.) That spawned a legend, and an industry.

What’s the story behind Silent Night?

On Christmas Day in 1818, according to popular legend, Father Joseph Mohr was without music for his Christmas service at Nicola-Kirche (the Church of Saint Nicholas) in Oberndorf, Austria. The pipe organ had broken down (poor church mice had gnawed holes in the bellows) and there was no way to get it repaired in time for the service. Father Mohr had written a poem for a Christmas Mass he had held in 1816, and asked his choir director, Franz Gruber, if he could do something with it. Gruber remembered the music of his upbringing in the Austrian mountains and composed a song that could be sung by almost anyone. Together, accompanied by a guitar, Father Mohr and Choirmeister Gruber, sang what has become probably the most popular Christmas carol in the world.

Snack Time - Figgie Pudding Recipe

Figs were one of the first fruits cultivated in the cradle of civilization, then brought to England by the Romans, and put by the English into song as the traditional Christmas Carol “We Wish You A Merrie Christmas”. Or is it “Merry” and “Figgy”? We’re still working on that. (modern recipe)(from


  • 1 cup Canola Oil
  • 1 cup light molasses
  • 1 package of Fig Newtons™
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup of dark raisins (optional twist: soak the raisins in Southern Comfort™ or brandy overnight)
  • S cup walnuts, chopped
  • S cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 Tbs. Hot water
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • lb. of butter , melted
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup Confectioners Sugar
  • Optional - Splash of liquor
  • 1 pint whipping cream

Pour the milk over the fig Newtons in a large mixing bowl.
Stir until the cookie part softens.
Mash the mixture together to create a paste.
Add oil, molasses, walnuts, flour, soda, nutmeg and salt and mix together.
Gently add the raisins and mix.
Put the mixture in a metal bowl with a tight fitting lid.
Put 2-3 inches of water in a very large kettle and place the metal bowl inside.
Cover the kettle and simmer on low for three hours (to create "steaming).
There are other equally good methods of steaming. Any steaming method will work
as long as the pudding steams for approx. 3 hours.
Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick in the center. It should come out clean.
After it has cooled in the bowl for a minimum of one hour, invert the pudding onto
a serving plate.
Combine eggs, melted butter and confectioner's sugar and mix with a whisk.
If you are adding a splash of liquor it would go into this mixture.
It should be relatively thick (add as much sugar as needed to make it
"run thickly off a spoon")
Whip the cream until it is stiff.
Gently add whipped cream to the sugar mixture.
To serve, rewarm the pudding to just above room temperature
(the microwave is fine for this).
Put a slice of the warm pudding on a plate and pour the sauce over the top.

Now that we have our presents wrapped, the tree is up and decorated – it’s time to put a little light on the subject

When Christmas trees first moved into houses to help families celebrate the season, they were often illuminated by candlelight. While they offered a magic glow, candles were prone to burn down and ignite the tree – causing no end of additional problems.

An early use, therefore, of electric lights was to replace candles on Christmas trees. Then the fun started. At first the lights were shaped like candle flames and were large and clunky. As technology improved, the lights began to shrink, and assume even more shapes. Remember Bubble Lights? As the lights became smaller one previously-solved problem became more troublesome: how to find, and replace, the tiny bulb that had burned out somewhere in the middle of the 150-light string and was creating a vast dark patch on the lower right quadrant of the tree. That problem was solved by adding an additional wire that carried current to all of the bulbs, all of the time, not depending on each bulb to absorb juice, take what it needed and then pass it along – the scheme that failed when a bulb somewhere burned out and broke the circuit.

Now a new type of light is reaching the popular market: the Light-Emitting Diode (LED). These are the same devices that are in automobile tail lights and municipal traffic lights among other uses. They are frugal to the point of stinginess with electrical energy and they can last for an average of a year or more if left on continuously.

The problem is achieving a true white light, the kind everyone thinks of belonging on Christmas trees (unless they like to have a variety of colors – or even a single color as a theme – a trend that should have died out in the 70’s). White light is created by the addition of red, blue and green light, and LEDs are very good at producing red and green – but not too good at blue. Scientists now think they have a solution: an organic material that creates blue light that will last as long as the other components, resulting in true white lights that will last for many Christmases to come.

Economics of the 12 Days of Christmas

Nearly everyone has heard The Twelve Days of Christmas, the English carol that dates back to the fifteenth century. Many can sing most, if not all of its verses. It has become so popular over the years that it has become the source for parody and economic forecasting. Take, for example, economic forecasting. MSN Money, among many other media organizations, annually reports on the true cost of the gifts mentioned in the carol, as derived by PNC Advisors: “To buy the partridge in a pear tree, the 12 drummers drumming and all the gifts in between in the verses of the famous song you'd have to shell out $18,348, according to PNC Advisors' annual survey. And if you were really true to the song, buying all the gifts including the repetitions? Those 364 items would cost a cool $72,608, up 9.5% from last year's $66,344.

Musical Alternatives to the "12 Days"

The variant that ends up with “3 French toasts, 2 turtlenecks and a beer in a tree” is attributed to a comedy team from:
a. Yale
b. France
c. Canada

In 1959 a popular satirist complained of the over-commercialization of Christmas in his version called “Green Chri$tma$” It ends with “5 tubeless tires, 4 quarts of gin, 3 cigars, 2 cigarettes and some hair tonic on a pear tree.” His name was:
a. Bob Newhart
b. Stan Freberg
c. Alan Sherman
Not long afterwards another satirist wrote his version that ended with “Statue of a naked lady with a clock where her stomach ought to be, Simulated alligator wallet, Calendar book with the name of my insurance man, Green polka dot pajamas, and a Japanese transistor radio (a Nakashuma, the Mark IV model – that’s the one that’s discontinued – in a leatherette case with holes in it so you can listen right through the case and a wire with a thing on one end that you can stick in your ear and a thing on the other end that you can’t stick anywhere because it’s bent.” He was:
a. Bob Newhart
b. Stan Freberg
c. Alan Sherman
(Answers: C, B, C)
(and special thanks to Wikipedia)

Christmas TV Specials

Back in the days when there were only three networks to watch, every major variety show, even dramatic shows, had Christmas specials. Lawrence Welk, Andy Williams, even Jack Webb’s Joe Friday on Dragnet managed to get in a Christmas message. The all-time popular Christmas shows, though, were the ones broadcast in 1970 and 1971 by Bob Hope. They were the 12th and the 26th most-viewed television programs in history, topping the last episode of Cheers and a bunch of Super Bowls (the most-watched ever was the last episode of MASH).

Perhaps the longest-running Christmas show, A Charlie Brown Christmas, won an Emmy from the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences for its original broadcast during the 1965-66 season:. Bob Hope’s Christmas Special won an Emmy that year, too.

What’s so special about rosemary?

After Joseph and Mary had been warned that King Harod sought to kill the young “King of the Jews,” they fled into Egypt. Stopping to rest by a stream, Mary took advantage of the pause to wash the Baby Jesus’ clothes. With no clothesline available, she laid them on a fragrant nearby bush to dry. The bush was henceforth called “Rosemary” for its service to the Christ child, and its blossoms forever more became the blue of Mary’s robes.