Christmas quiz: From Dickens to Carey, test your knowledge of Kris Kringle (and Scrooge, too)

How much do you really know about Christmastime and the myriad trivia that surround it? Those fascinating bits and pieces are found in film, music and art, literature, lore and tradition, and far beyond.

Trivia, yes, but hardly trivial. Rather, that vast body of details is ingrained in the historical and cultural shaping of our most celebrated holiday, after New Year.

On the lighter side, who doesn’t like a trivia quiz? For instance, maybe you know that in 1931 Coca-Cola commissioned artist Haddon Sundblom to create what is still the definitive image of Santa for its ad campaign. He used his own image.

Or perhaps you recall that our current president (wearing a red tie) had a cameo in “Home Alone 2.” He gave directions to the Plaza Hotel lobby to young Kevin McCallister: “Down the hall and to the left,” although the next shot shows Kevin turning right.

There’s lots to know about Christmastime, which is the point of this quiz — to fortify you with seasonal savvy so you can astound your family and friends around the punchbowl. By the way, eggnog was first called “milk punch,” as recorded in an early 18th-century cookbook.

This is the first of a three-part series of Christmas quizzes that appear in print on Sundays in The Bee.

Christmas Movies

One of many families’ Christmastime traditions is going to the local multiplex for some holiday cheer, action-adventure or sentimental tears. This year, think “Mary Poppins Returns,” “Bumblebee” and “Welcome To Marwen.”

A related signpost is the Hallmark Channel’s “Countdown to Christmas” and “Miracles of Christmas” extravaganzas. The network began rolling out a record 37 new holiday movies on Nov. 19, continuing through Dec. 29.

Meanwhile, how well do you know your Christmas movies?

1. In “A Christmas Story” (1983), it’s the 1940s and young Ralphie Parker hopes and schemes for a present he just knows his parents won’t give him for Christmas because it’s too dangerous. What is it?

a) A turbo-charged Bull’s Eye Auto-Reload slingshot

b) A Robin Hood Deluxe Archery Set, complete with ashwood bow and metal-tipped arrows

c) A Red Ryder 200 Shot Range Model air rifle (BB gun)

d) A Honda Go-Fast model motor scooter

2. According to the comprehensive business magazine Forbes, what was the highest-grossing Christmas movie of all time?

a) “Elf”

b) “The Polar Express”

c) “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

d) “Home Alone”

3. Film, stage and TV adaptations of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” number in the hundreds. In what year was the first film adaptation made?

a) 1935

b) 1930

c) 1901

d) 1938

4. Three of these animated adaptations of “A Christmas Carol” are real, one is made up. Can you spot it?

a) Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

b) Beavis and Butt-head Huh-Huh-Humbug

c) The Real Ghostbusters: Xmas Marks the Spot

d) Little Lulu’s Christmas Adventure

5. The perennial favorite “The Bishop’s Wife” (1947) starred Cary Grant as an angel, David Niven, as a clergyman and Loretta Young as his discontented wife. The film was nominated for five Oscars. Which one did it win?

a) Best sound

b) Best director

c) Best picture

d) Best editing

e) Best scoring

6. The 1947 Christmas classic “Miracle on 34th St.” poses the question: Is Macy’s department store Santa the genuine jolly old elf (he calls himself Kris Kringle), or simply a delusional man in need of institutionalization? At Kris’ trial, the judge rules he is indeed the real Santa, based on:

a) Sworn affidavits from other department store Santas

b) Thousands of letters from children addressed to Santa Claus and delivered to Kris in the courtroom

c) Sworn testimony from adults who witnessed Kris perform Christmas miracles

d) Thousands of letters written by Kris and delivered to children in New York City

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town

1. What are the names of Santa’s eight reindeer as they appeared in Clement C. Moore’s poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” a.k.a. “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”? Yes, this is a trick question.

2. Where did Santa’s “ninth reindeer” come from?

3. After Santa comes down the chimney and deliver toys to good girls and boys, how does he get back up the chimney?

4. What is Mrs. Claus’ first name?

5. When did the first department store Santa make his appearance?

Christmas Songs

Christmas songs seem to be fair game for any artist. For instance, more than 200 singers have recorded “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” since it debuted in 1934. Yet some tunes seem to “belong” to certain singers. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Elvis Presley crooning “Blue Christmas,” or any singer daring to cover Alvin & the Chipmunks’ “Christmas Don’t Be Late.”

We’ve all heard the holiday playlist hundreds or thousands of times, but how well have the lyrics stuck? Complete the lyric line and find out; the artists named are either the original singers-songwriters or the ones whose versions are most often heard on the radio.

1. “Run, Rudolph, Run” (Chuck Berry)

Said Santa to a boy child, “What have you been longing for?”

“All I want for Christmas is a ....”

2. “Jingle Bell Rock” (Bobby Helms)

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock

Jingle bells chime in jingle bell time

Dancing and prancing in Jingle Bell Square ...

3. “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (Mariah Carey)

Oh, I won’t ask for much this Christmas,

I won’t even wish for snow.

And I’m just gonna keep on waiting....

4. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” (Bing Crosby)

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,

“Do you hear what I hear,

“Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy?

“A song, a song

“High above the trees ...

5. “Song For a Winter’s Night” (Sarah McLachlan)

If I could only have you near

To breathe a sigh or two,

I would be happy just to hold the hands I love ...

6. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (Bing Crosby)

I’ll be home for Christmas

You can plan on me.

Please have snow and mistletoe ...

7. “Feliz Navidad” (Freddy Fender)

Feliz navidad

Feliz navidad

Feliz navidad ...

8. “A Hazy Shade of Winter” (Simon & Garfunkel)

Leaves are brown now

And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.

Look around,

Leaves are brown,

There’s a patch of ....

9. “Paper Boy” (Roy Orbison)

In the distance the ringing of laughter

And in the midst of the laughter he cries,

“Pretty paper, pretty ribbons of blue

“Wrap your presents ...

10. “River” (Joni Mitchell)

It’s coming on Christmas,

They’re cutting down trees,

They’re putting up reindeer ...

11. “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (Thurl Ravenscroft)

Your brain is full of spiders

You’ve got garlic in your soul, Mr. Grinch,

I wouldn’t touch you with a ...

12. “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” (Darlene Love)

They’re singing “Deck the Halls”

But it’s not like Christmas at all

’Cause I remember when you were here ...

13. “Little St. Nick” (Beach Boy)

Well, way up north where the air gets cold

There’s a tale about Christmas

That you’ve all been told,

And a real famous cat all dressed up in red ...

14. “Santa Baby” (Eartha Kitt)

Santa baby, slip a sable under the tree for me,

Been an awful good girl.

Santa honey, one thing I really do need, the deed

To a platinum mine

Santa baby, so ...

15. “Let It Snow” (Dean Martin)

When we finally kiss goodnight

How I’ll hate going out in the storm,

But if you really hold me tight ...

16. “Sleigh Ride” (The Ronettes)

Outside the snow is falling

And friends are calling, “Yoo hoo!”

Come on, it’s lovely weather ...

17. “My Only Wish (This Year)” (Britney Spears)

Santa, can you hear me?

I have been so good this year

And all I want is one thing ...

18. “Little Drummer Boy” (Ray Conniff Singers)

Little baby

I am a poor boy, too

I have no gift to bring ...

19. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (Frank Sinatra)

Here we are as in olden days,

Happy golden days of yore,

Faithful friends who are dear to us ...

20. “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” (John Lennon and Yoko Ono)

A very Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year

Let’s hope it’s a good one ...

About ‘A Christmas Carol’

1. British author Charles Dickens published a novella in 1843 about a miserly businessman who gets a reality check when three spirits show him his past, present and possible future. What was the title?

a) “A Christmas Carol: The Haunting of Ebenezer Scrooge”

b) “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas”

c) “Three Haunts and a Gaffer: A Christmas Carol”

d) “A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and the Specters”

2. The Ghost of Christmas Present transports Scrooge to Bob Cratchit’s house to witness the family’s Christmas Day dinner. Which item was not part of the meal?

a) Turkey and stuffing

b) Mashed potatoes and gravy

c) Applesauce

d) Christmas pudding

3. “A Christmas Carol” was actually Dickens’ political statement spurred by his shock over:

a) The cruel treatment of farm animals

b) The government’s crude attitude toward England’s suffragette movement

c) The awful working conditions and abuse suffered by children in factories and mines

d) A disturbing move of the British faithful away from the Church of England

4. To hammer his political point home, Dickens created a scene in which the Ghost of Christmas Present pulls aside his robe to reveal two grotesque urchins, a boy and a girl. The spirit warns Scrooge, “Beware them both!” What are their names?

a) Lust and Envy

b) Ignorance and Want

c) Cruelty and Intolerance

d) Denial and Disease

5. Dickens paid a publisher to print “A Christmas Carol,” making it one of literature’s earliest self-published books. How large was the first printing, and how quickly did it sell out?

a) 6,000 copies sold out in five days

b) 15,000 copies in 10 days

c) 50,000 copies in two weeks

d) 1,000 copies in one day

6. When first published, “A Christmas Carol” sold for about $25 in today’s money. How much does a copy from the first printing of the first edition sell for now?

a) $18,000 to $45,000

b) $13,000 to $27,000

c) $5,000 to $10,500

d) $2,000 to $4,500

Just for fun

1. Why are candy canes curved?

2. You can find prefabricated kits and Food Network specials on how to make a gingerbread house, but who first thought it up?

3. The advent calendar is a fun countdown to Christmas. What was the biggest one ever made?

4. “The Elf On the Shelf” book and companion toy became a hit after it was conceived in 2005. What was the Jewish version that followed?

Who Said It?

1. “The one thing women don’t want to find in their stockings on Christmas morning is their husbands.”

a) Theresa May

b) Amy Poehler

c) Joan Rivers

d) Margaret Cho

2. “Mail your packages early so the post office can lose them in time for Christmas”

a) Robin Williams

b) Tina Fey

c) Megan Brennan (the postmaster general)

d) Johnny Carson

3. “That’s the true spirit of Christmas – people being helped by people other than me”

a) Mark Zuckerberg

b) Jerry Seinfeld

c) Julia Louis-Dreyfus

d) Samantha Bee

4. “My idea of Christmas is very simple: Loving others. Come to think of it , why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

a) Bob Hope

b) Mother Teresa

c) Tom Hanks

d) Jimmy Carter

5. “Once again we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes in his own way — by going to the mall of his choice.”

a) Kristen Wiig

b) Melissa McCarthy

c) a press release from the Mall of America

d) Dave Barry


Scoring is simple: If you answer half the questions correctly, give yourself a Christmas gift. If not, go out of your way to perform a random act of kindness this holiday season. Either way, you win.


1. c) Ralphie’s dad surprises his son with the rifle, but, predictably, Ralpie’s first shot ricochets off the target and hits him in the cheek.

2. d) “Home Alone” at $285.76 million.

3. c) The silent movie “Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost: A Christmas Carol” was 6 minutes and 20 seconds long. Only 4 minutes and 55 seconds of it exist today, kept at the British Film Institute.

4. d). Lulu Moppet was born in the pages of The Saturday Evening Post in 1935 and went on to star in her own TV show and become a “spokestoon” for Kleenex tissues.

5. a). Young did win the best actress Oscar that year, but for “The Farmer’s Daughter.”

6. b). Kringle’s lawyer argues that the U.S. Postal Service — “A branch of the federal government” — recognizes Kris as “the one and only Santa Claus” because postal workers deliver 21 bags of mail to Kris in the courtroom, all addressed to Santa Claus. For the fun of it, the National Judicial College recently posed the case to 400 judges, asking how they would rule. More than 80 percent agreed with the verdict.


1. The steeds are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder and Blixem — not Donner and Blitzen. “Dunder” and “Blixem” come from the Dutch words meaning “thunder” and “lightning.”

2. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer debuted in 1939 in an illustrated promotional booklet by Robert May, an assignment from his bosses at Montgomery Ward department store. Within a year, 2.4 million copies had been handed out.

3. Again referencing Moore’s poem: “And laying his finger aside of his nose and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.”

4. She has been given many names in literature and movies, including Jessica, Gertrude, Carol, Josephine, Victoria and Edna.

5. In 1890 in Brockton, Mass., when the owner of a dry-goods store decided to dress up in a tailored Santa costume and invite parents to bring their kids to “meet” Santa. It was one of the most successful marketing ploys ever.


1. b). The book, commonly known as “A Christmas Carol,” has never been out of print.

2. a). The main course was roast goose with sage-onion stuffing. Apples, oranges and roasted chestnuts were also on the menu, along with hot spiced gin with lemons.

3. c). Britain’s Industrial Revolution essentially enslaved orphans and the children of the impoverished in factories and mines throughout the United Kingdom, a horror Dickens knew well from his own childhood.

The country was outraged when the parliamentary report by the Children’s Employment Commission was released in 1842, featuring testimony from children about the horrid conditions in which they toiled. Though it eventually led to corrective legislation, Dickens vowed at the time to deliver a “sledge-hammer blow” on behalf of “the Poor Man’s Child,” which became “A Christmas Carol.”

4. b) Dickens scholars say the waifs symbolize the consequences of ignorance and want in the world, specifically violent crime and mental instability. Also, they are references to two other Dickens’ novels about social injustice and oppression — “Oliver Twist” and “Hard Times.”

5. a). More copies were quickly printed by the publisher, Chapman & Hall, followed by 11 (some historians say 13) editions over the next year, a remarkable feat for any title.

6. a). Antiquarian-book sellers agree the values of rare books vary dramatically, based mostly on condition but also on which printing (first, second, third, etc.) and which edition (first, second, third, etc.) the book is from, and whether it’s signed or inscribed by the author. The range of $18,000 to $45,000 may seem startling, but “presentation copies” — books Dickens inscribed and gave to his friends — have fetched from $50,000 to $280,000 at auction.


1. Originally they were straight candy sticks, but 250 years ago the German clergy made them into the “J” shape of shepherds’ crooks, to honor the Nativity story.

2. Fancy gingerbread houses were made in Germany, as early as the 16th century, linked to bakers’ guilds. However, it’s thought their popularity surged with the 1812 publication of “Grimm Fairy Tales,” a compilation of ancient folktales that included “Hansel and Gretel.” Remember, the siblings come across a gingerbread-and-candy house in the woods, occupied by a witch with bad intentions.

3. “Guinness World Records” credits the one built as a promotion for a London rail station. It was more than 232 feet tall and more than 75 feet wide.

4. “The Mensch On a Bench,” as see on TV’s “Shark Tank.”


1. c) Joan Rivers

2. d) Johnny Carson

3. b) Jerry Seinfeld

4. a) Bob Hope

5. d) Dave Barry


1. Rock ’n’ roll electric guitar

2. In the frosty air

3. Underneath the mistletoe

4. With a voice as big as the sea

5. Upon this winter night with you

6. And presents on the tree

7. Prospero año y felicidad

8. Snow on the ground

9. To your darling from you

|10. And singing songs of joy and peace

11. Thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot pole

12. And all the fun we had last year

13. And he spends all year workin’ out on his sled

14. Hurry down the chimney tonight

15. All the way home I’ll be warm

16. For a sleigh ride together with you

17. Tell me my true love is near

18. That’s fit to give our king (With lots of “Pa rum pum pum pums” in between)

19. Gather near to us once more

20. Without any fear