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Yuletide Spin Control: The 12 Trivias of Christmas

When I was a young journalist with no seniority, I worked every holiday and often filled in for the state editor, who was the most senior person in the newsroom and had every Christmas off since sometime in the Eisenhower administration.

It was an easy, if somewhat boring, job that involved scanning for news in weekly and small daily newspapers from around Nebraska, publications that often filled in blank spaces in their news columns with one- or two-paragraph “items” about Christmas. After a while, I got so steeped in the topic that I could win bets on yuletide trivia at any bar in town, not just easy ones like what are the names of Santa’s reindeer but also the tricky ones like what are the names of the three wise men in the Bible (they aren’t named; Gaspar, Balthazar and Melchior were made up in the Middle Ages).

That was the origin of Spin Control’s annual 12 Trivias of Christmas, which we offer every year as a way to promote peace on Earth and good will to Democrats and Republicans. No peaking or getting the answers from Wikileaks. Here’s this year’s edition:

1. In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” what is the name of the housing development George Bailey was building for folks like the Martinis?

A. Bailey Estates

B. Bailey Park

C. Bedford Heights

D. Pottersville

2. In the Dickens story “Christmas Carol,” which of the following public officials is not mentioned?

A. Alderman

B. Mayor of London

C. Member of Parliament

D. Queen

3. What space mission sent back the message “Roger, there is a Santa Claus” while orbiting the moon on Christmas Day 1968?

A. Apollo 8

B. Apollo 9

C. Apollo 10

D. Apollo 13

4. In the movie “A Christmas Story,” Ralphie’s mother didn’t want him to have a Red Ryder BB gun because …

A. He might shoot his brother.

B. He might break a window.

C. He might put his eye out.

D. It was too expensive.

5. In the Netherlands, Santa Claus is Sinterklaas, with an assistant Zwarte Piet, who in recent years has become controversial because of complaints about …

A. Capitalism, because he encourages too much spending.

B. Racism, because he puts on blackface.

C. Sexism, because he and Sinterklaas are both male.

D. Size-ism, because he’s usually played by a dwarf or little person.

6. Back in the day, St. Nicholas was a real person. What was his job?

A. King

B. Merchant

C. Bishop

D. Poet

7. What other Christmas song is mentioned in “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”?

A. “Santa Claus is Coming”

B. “Deck the Halls”

C. “Jingle Bell Rock”

D. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

8. From which direction did the Magi come to visit the baby Jesus?

A. North

B. South

C. East

D. West

9. Nativity scenes, or creches, are a holiday tradition that started in what country?

A. Italy

B. France

C. Germany

D. England

10. According to Pope Benedict, there shouldn’t be any of what in a Nativity scene?

A. Donkeys. Bible doesn’t say Mary and Joseph rode to Bethlehem.

B. Sheep. Shepherds hurrying to the manger wouldn’t have brought their flocks.

C. Camels. The Magi probably didn’t show up until sometime after Jesus was born.

D. All of the above

11. Which of the following is not one of the 12 Days of Christmas in the Christian calendar?

A. Christmas Eve

B. St. Stephen’s Day

C. New Year’s Eve

D. New Year’s Day

12. The best-selling Christmas song of all time is …

A. “All I Want for Christmas is You”

B. “Silent Night”

C. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”

D. “White Christmas”


1. B. There’s a sort of makeshift sign for Bailey Park when the Martinis arrive. Pottersville is what Bedford Falls becomes without George.

2. D. Aldermen were included in a description of London, the feast at the mayor’s house was described and Scrooge said his nephew talks so much he should run for Parliament. There’s no reference to the queen or king.

3. A. The crew of Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders also read the first chapter of Genesis on Christmas Eve.

4. C. Even the department store Santa told him that.

5. B. The assistant who punishes the bad kids translates as Black Pete, and people complain about the image and because white people play him in blackface.

6. C. Born in the third century, Nicholas was bishop of Smyrna, which is in present-day Turkey.

7. B. The chorus is: “You will get a sentimental feeling, when you hear/ Voices singing, let’s be jolly, Deck the Halls with boughs of holly.” There’s no fa-la-la-la, though.

8. C. According to the Gospel of Matthew, they were from the east.

9. A. Legend says they were started by St. Francis of Assisi in the town of Grecchio.

10. D. In “Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,” Pope Benedict said his study of the Gospels convinced him there weren’t any animals hanging around the manger. None is mentioned in the Bible. So, it was a much more healthy place to put a swaddled baby, but that would make for a pretty dull Nativity scene.

11. A. The 12 Days start on Dec. 25. Christmas Eve is the last day of Advent. St. Stephen’s Day is on Dec. 26, which in some places is celebrated as Boxing Day.

12. D. It’s not just the best-selling Christmas song, Irving Berlin’s tune is the best-selling single, period.


0-3 You could be Scrooge before the ghosts visited.

4-7 You could be Charlie Brown before being drafted to direct the Christmas play.

8-10 You could be Rudolph as the fog sets in on Christmas Eve.

11-12 You could be Linus explaining what Christmas is all about.

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