Know Your Christmas Trivia

10 December 2012

Think you know all about why Xmas is not a good abbreviation, or where our Christmas traditions come from? Maybe you do - but then maybe you've just been believing in popular misconceptions all these years.

Perhaps instead of charades you'd like to indulge in a little game of your own Christmas QI after Christmas dinner this year. If so then this feature is about all you need. You'll have to invent your own klaxon sound though for when your family's version of Alan Davis comes up with a 'well known' but erroneous fact!

So here's what we've found. Perhaps you've got a few nuggets of your own that you'd like to add to the end?

As an aside, if you're looking for some Christmas cheer to add to your computer and like the photo above (we certainly did!) then click on it. The photo is available as wallpaper, and the link will take you to its website.

Rudolph and his mates

The Reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh were the invention of Clement Clarke Moore (or Major Henry Livingstone Jr) in the 19th century poem we know best as The Night Before Christmas.

Like the red of Santa’s outfit, Rudolph our red nosed reindeer was created as a part of an advertising campaign. He was invented by Robert L. May for the Montgomery Ward department store and Frosty the Snowman was a chainsmoking emblem for whisky.

For extra points memorise this list. Knowing all eight names will always win you a point in a Christmas quiz!

  • Dasher
  • Dancer
  • Prancer
  • Vixen
  • Comet
  • Cupid
  • Donner
  • Blitzen

Santa's Sleigh

That Santa soars through the night sky at all is the invention of yet another author from the 1800s, Washington Irving. He described Santa flying through the sky in a weightless carriage in a short story.

Xmas isn't anti-Christian

Lots of people think that using Xmas instead of Christmas is way of taking the religious aspect out of Christmas. Not so. The etymology of X comes from the Greek Chi which is the first letter of Christ’s name. So now you can carry on writing Xmas without feeling guilty.

NASA's Santa Sighting

This is one of my favourite Santa stories. On Christmas Eve in 1965 two astronauts floating about the earth called in frantically to Mission Control. An object was hurtling towards them at great speed! There followed a few minutes of anxious silence as the helpless ground control waited to find out what happened. Then they heard the sound of Jingle bells, played by the astronauts. Those bells, and the harmonica used, are now on display in the National Museum of Space & Aeronautics in Washington.

Kissing under the mistletoe

Guess what? Another Victorian invention! In times past the mistletoe was very important to the inhabitants of Britain. In Celtic traditions it could ward off evil spirits. It was also used to treat wounds and cure infertility. It wasn't until the 1800s however that you got a quick snog if you were standing underneath some. Those Victorians - not so prudish as we might think!

Christmas trees

The decorated Christmas tree as we know it today started out life in the 1700s in Germany. But they were popular even before the arrival of Christianity, having been used to cheer up the dark night of the Winter Solstice. Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert, being German, bought the tradition of a decorated tree with him. And America caught the bug eight years after their marriage in 1840 when a newspaper ran a photo of the royal tree.

Nativity scenes

We owe our nativity scenes, complete with live animals, to St Francis of Assisi, the chap known as the patron saint of animals. In 1224, to help his followers understand the birth of Jesus, thereby starting one of our oldest holiday traditions. At that time the manger was also used as the alter for the mass.

Gift wrap

Some of you might be the kind of people who spend hours wrapping presents and adding all sorts of amazing finishing touches and flourishes. So you’ll be interested to know that the wrapping of gifts has thought to have been around since 105AD in China.  Although in those days they didn’t have decorative paper and other such modern fripperies.

Christmas dinner

The traditional Christmas dinner takes 295 days to get to your plate. That's the time it takes including sowing and growing the vegetables, according to supermarket chain Morrisons. Turkey is a new addition to our diet, being native to North America. We know from Dickins that they used to have a traditional Christmas Goose for dinner. And before that? A pig’s head with a delightful smothering of mustard.

What do you think?

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