Christmas Quiz Answers

So 24 hours on… here we are…

1.     In the song “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”, what did my true love give to me on the 12th day?
12 Drummers Drumming
2.     Who wrote the Christmas story, “The Snowman”?
Raymond Briggs
3.     What colour is Santa Claus’ belt?
4.     In the TV show “The Simpsons”, who or what is Santa’s Little Helper?
The pet dog
5.     What is the connection between “Comet”, “Cupid” and “Vixen”?
They are all names of Santa Claus’ reindeer
6.     In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, how many different ghosts visited Scrooge?
7.     Which country traditionally provides Britain with a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square in London?
8.     Who were Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar?
The Three Wise Men
9.     From the Christmas Carol “Good King Wenceslas”, where was Good King Wenceslas the King of?
10.     In which famous Christmas Song is a snowman pretended to be “Parsons Brown”?
“Winter Wonderland”

The winner gets..bugger all. I thought about something nice, but couldn’t be bothered… but do remember it is the thought that counts 😉


Christmas Quiz

For a bit of a laugh, here’s some Christmas Quiz questions for you…

I’ll post the answers tomorrow at the same time…

1.    In the song “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”, what did my true love give to me on the 12th day?
2.    Who wrote the Christmas story, “The Snowman”?
3.    What colour is Santa Claus’ belt?
4.    In the TV show “The Simpsons”, who or what is Santa’s Little Helper?
5.    What is the connection between “Comet”, “Cupid” and “Vixen”?
6.    In Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, how many different ghosts visited Scrooge?
7.    Which country traditionally provides Britain with a Christmas tree for Trafalgar Square in London?
8.    Who were Balthazar, Melchior and Caspar?
9.    From the Christmas Carol “Good King Wenceslas”, where was Good King Wenceslas the King of?
10.    In which famous Christmas Song is a snowman pretended to be “Parsons Brown”?

Answers in 24 hours from now…

Christmas Traditions

Gift Giving – In the Dec. 17th Roman festival of Saturnalia and Jan. 1st Roman New Year holidays, gifts were given as good luck emblems and houses were decorated with greenery. The early Christians frowned on this pagan ritual, and wouldn’t have any part of it. For years though, many of the converts wouldn’t part with the practice of giving gifts and related it to the Magi’s giving of gifts and later to St. Nicholas’ gift giving. Gift giving became widely accepted by the middle ages.
The most popular gift requests of boys & girls are of toys, but in the 19th and early 20th century it was fruit, nuts and candy and for many of the early letters to Santa printed in newspapers would include this.
Beginning in early 1900’s Teddy bears became the most requested gift by boys and girls and still is the most popular stuffed toy of all time.
Many churches to this day make up sacks of fruit, nuts and candy to pass out to everyone on the Sunday before Christmas. I don’t know where this got started at, maybe you know, email me if you know.

Holly – Early Christians of Northern Europe decorated their homes & churches with this easily grown evergreen and was called “Holy Tree” later “Holly”, because the pointed green leaves reminded them of the crown of thorns and the red berries of the drops of blood at Jesus’ crucifixion.

Kris Kringle – German for “Christ’s Child” or “Christkindlein”. A name for a early German gift-bringing infant Jesus or angelic being, who was thought of as a Christ’s helper and gave gifts to poor and needy children. As cultures merged, visits from the similar St. Nicholas, Pere Noel, Pelznickel and Christkindlein all became overshadowed or mutated into Santa Claus.

Lights – The lighting of candles and decorating with candles has always been popular, but also one of biggest sources of danger during the Christmas holidays.
In 1895 a New England Telephone employee, Ralph Morris, while looking at the newly installed string of lights made for the telephone switchboard decided to take some home to decorate his tree with. And/or it may be attributed to Thomas Edison’s partner, Edward Johnson for inventing the first string of lights around the same time Ralph, for safety reasons.
In 1923 President Calvin Coolridge started the annual tradition of the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on the White House lawn.
Check out Outdoor Christmas Lights. – Information on outdoor Christmas lights as well as tips, safety and troubleshooting.

Merry Christmas! – When the phrase was coined, merry meant blessed and peaceful, “or Blessed and Peaceful Christmas”. The phrase “God bless ye merry gentlemen” when written, meant “blessed peaceful” gentlemen.

Mistletoe – Ancient Celtic priests calls Druids around the New Year would collect mistletoe from their holy oak tree and offer some as a sacrifice to the gods. Some would be hung up during a ceremony which people would stand under it and kiss showing an end to their old grievances with each other. This later practice never actually died out.

Nativity Scene (creche) – St. Francis of Assisi is responsible for popularizing the nativity scene, but it most probably existed earlier.
In 1223 or 1224 St. Francis wanted to add hope and joy of God’s love to his message by constructing a life-size manger scene with live animals, with the gospel sung around the scene. This became very popular.

North Pole – In 1882 Thomas Nast drew a cartoon showing Santa sitting on a box addressed “Christmas Box 1882, St. Nicholas, North Pole”. Nast just figured it was a good place for Santa to live.

Ornaments – Early Christmas trees had real fruit and flowers and candles as decorations, looked good but was very heavy on the branches. German glass blowers began producing glass balls to replace the heavy decorations. These became known as Blubs.
In the 1800’s the women’s publication, “Godey’s Lady Book” popularize the making of homemade Christmas ornaments & decorations.

Poinsettia – Early Mexican Christians called it the “Flower of Holy Night” and legend has it that a small boy was upset on Christmas eve because he had nothing to offer the Christ Child on His birthday. While the boy was praying at his village church altar, a flower sprang up with its brilliant red and green.
The plant was named after the American ambassador to Mexico, J. R. Poinsett, who found out they grew well in the U.S. after sending some to his home in S. Carolina.
Poinsettias have long been considered poisonous to humans, but according to the POISINDEX information service, a 50 lb child would have to eat around 500-600 leaves. The AMA handbook just lists occasional vomiting as side effects of ingestion of leaves.

Red and Green – Possibly from the Holly, which was a early Christmas decoration. Or from the AD325 council of Nicaea, which laid down guidelines for symbolism in church art; Red – blood, sacrifice, divine love, courage, & martyrdom, Green – stood for hope, earth growth, spring, safety, rest youth, & victory, Blue – divine mystery, eternity, & heaven, Purple – royalty & riches, Violet – justice, penitence, pain, pity, & sadness, Gold – Spiritual riches, achievement, & good life, White – purity, faith, truth, peace, & eternity, Black – evil & unknown.

George Michael – December Song

I just love this song… (once this has been imported in FB, the Youtube bit might be missing)

“December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas)” is a Christmas single released by George Michael on December 25th, 2008. The track was originally announced during one of the last dates on George Michael’s 25 Live tour. The track was available for free on George Michael’s official website on December 25th and December 26th of 2008. It was released commercially on December 13, 2009.

The track was written by George Michael and longtime writing partner David Austin.

During the Gerry Ryan show on December 19th, David Austin confirmed that the song had originally been written with the Spice Girls in mind. After a few failed deadlines, the song was going to be given to Michael Bublé but George Michael decided to keep it for himself.

The song features a sample from the Frank Sinatra recording “Christmas Waltz”.

George Michael performed the song live on December 13 for the final of the 2009 series of The X Factor. The day after the performance, physical copies of the song were sold out in one day, forcing George Michaels record label to print new copies. Many fans have commented on forums of their annoyance at not being able to buy a physical copy of the single- possibly also giving the song a lower chart position than it’s true potential.

The Cowell Factor

So it’s a big congratulations to Rage Against the Machine for getting the 2009 UK Christmas number one spot on the singles chart. If you’ve been living under a rock for the best part of the last 2 weeks you’ll not know the full story.

It’s all been an anti XFactor/Simon Cowell campaign as for the past four years, the XFactor have had the Christmas number. Long gone are the days of the likes of Mr Blobby, East 17, or even Sir Cliffmas of Richard being number one, such is the juggernaut nature of the XFactor beast.

Here’s the thing, if you release a song a week before the Christmas chart, and depending on how much publicity you’ve given it (GMTV, This Morning, BBC Breakfast, The One Show, not to mention how early you tease/release it to radio), you are highly likely to get a good chart position. The XFactor is simply the biggest TV show in the UK in the run up to Christmas. Each week 19 million people sit, watch, and tweet/facebook about their favourites on the show.

Love the format or loathe it, it’s part of pop culture at the moment. Each week on facebook/twitter you’ll see comments for and against it, but that’s just part of everyone being different, just because someone likes or dislikes it, doesn’t make them any better or worse. It’s just there.

So back to the “science bit” – RATM becoming the Christmas Number one. Between Rage & Joe, they’ve sold approx a million copies which is a damn good figure to be fair. Written about revolution against corruption in society, “Killing in the Name” is widely recognised as the band’s signature song, and has been noted for its distinctive guitar riffs and heavy use of strong language (no s**t) But is there a winner in this?

Any ideas who might be a winner?

You could say that RATM – they’re number one, they sold more than Joe. Plus there are new fans of their music

The charity Shelter is also a winner since RATM wll donate all their royalties from Killing in the Name.

Joe M, although he didn’t get the Christmas number one, well, he’s won XFactor & will have a year of full backing from Syco (Cowell’s label)

What about Jessi Alexander and Jon Mabe? Who you may ask? Well they’re the song writers behind The Climb – a nice Xmas royalty bonus coming their way I think.

And what about the main baddy of this piece? The very reason behind RATM being number one? He is the Hooded Claw to the UK music’s Penelope Pitstop – yes, Mr Simon Cowell. Is he actually a winner too? Well,  I suppose yes. He’s employed by Sony Music via his label. And Sony Music are also the label that RATM are on – some may say coincidence, other conspiracies say it was a plan.

I just say there are no losers in this – it’s given the singles chart a good kick up the arse. The industry itself is basically to blame on that part though. Going back to 1995 when CD singles used to be sold for 99p in their first week of release meant that songs would go straight in at Number one, then the next week drop to 14… pop became disposable. Now with RATM becoming the first download only Xmas number one (can you imagine how many they’d have sold if it was on CD too? lol), the industry needs to start looking at ways of developing talent, and not just seeing a trend from a focus group, and copying it (Pixie Lott, Little Boots).

If one good thing was to come from this year’s “battle” would be that people find more good music – don’t just wait for music to be on the tv or the radio – carpe diem, as they say in Cardiff… 😉

So, Christmas 2010 number one… “Chesney Hawkes The one & only” campaign anyone…?

Christmas Quotes

“Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space.”
Dave Barry

“In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukka’ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukka!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!'”
Dave Barry

“Christmas is a time when everybody wants his past forgotten and his present remembered. What I don’t like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.”
Phyllis Diller

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

“Christmas is a race to see which gives out first – your money or your feet.”

“Christmas at my house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. We start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, we’ll be seeing six or seven.”
W.C. Fields

“I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white man would be coming into my neighborhood after dark.”
Dick Gregory

“Santa Claus wears a Red Suit, He must be a communist. And a beard and long hair, Must be a pacifist. What’s in that pipe that he’s smoking?”
Arlo Guthrie

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

“I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying, toys not included.”
Bernard Manning.

“Dear Lord, I’ve been asked, nay commanded, to thank Thee for the Christmas turkey before us… a turkey which was no doubt a lively, intelligent bird… a social being… capable of actual affection… nuzzling its young with almost human- like compassion. Anyway, it’s dead and we’re gonna eat it. Please give our respects to its family… ”
Berke Breathed “

“The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin.”
Jay Leno.

“A Christmas shopper’s complaint is one of long-standing.”
Jay Leno.

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”
Shirley Temple

“Let me see if I’ve got this Santa business straight. You say he wears a beard, has no discernible source of income and flies to cities all over the world under cover of darkness? You sure this guy isn’t laundering illegal drug money?”
Tom Armstrong

“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer… Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously?”
Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

“Christmas begins about the first of December with an office party and ends when you finally realize what you spent, around April fifteenth of the next year.”
P. J. O’Rourke

“There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.”
Bill McKibben

“Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
Norman Vincent Peale

“There has been only one Christmas – the rest are anniversaries.”
W.J. Cameron.

“Santa Claus has the right idea. Visit people once a year.”
Victor Borge

“There is a remarkable breakdown of taste and intelligence at Christmastime. Mature, responsible grown men wear neckties made of holly leaves and drink alcoholic beverages with raw egg yolks and cottage cheese in them.”
P.J. O’Rourke.

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.”
Larry Wilde.

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.”
Hamilton Wright Mabi

“Let us remember that the Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history, because it has meant the pouring into a sick world of the healing medicine of love which has transformed all manner of hearts for almost two thousand years… Underneath all the bulging bundles is this beating Christmas heart.”
George Matthew Adams

“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
Harlan Miller

“If there is no joyous way to give a festive gift, give love away.”

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”

“Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.”
Helen Steiner Rice

More Christmas Trivia

* Santa Claus has many different names around the world including Father Christmas in the UK, Pere Noel in France, Kriss Kringle in Germany, La Befana in Italy, Julinesse in Denmark, Dedushka Moroz (meaning Grandfather Frost) in Russia and the Three Kings in Spain and Mexico.
* The typical image we have of Santa Claus dressed in red clothes with white fur trim, is an amalgamation of cultural input over many years. Some people claim the image of Santa we know today is from Coca-cola advertising, but this simply isn’t true. The standard Santa garb was well established by the 1920s and it wasn’t until the 1930s that Coca-cola first used the Santa Claus design in their advertising.
* The word Christmas comes from Cristes maesse, or “Christ’s Mass.” There is no set date for his birth in scripture and it wasn’t celebrated on any particular day. However Christmas was first celebrated on the 25th of December in Rome in 336AD with an aim to replacing the popular pagan winter solstice celebrations
* The first Christmas card was designed in 1843 by J.C. Horsley
* The twelve days of Christmas are the days between Christmas Day and Epiphany (6th of January) and represent the length of time it took for the wise men from the East to visit the manger of Jesus after his birth.
* Popular belief holds that 3 wise men visited Bethlehem from the east bearing gifts. However there is no mention in the bible about the number of wise men who visited. Three gifts were brought – gold, frankincense and myrrh, but names commonly attributed to the wise men – Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar were added some 500 years later.
* The 26th of December is traditionally known as St Stephen’s Day, but is more commonly known as Boxing Day. The reason it was called this is either alms boxes in church were opened and the money distributed to the poor, or alternatively it was named from the practice of servants receiving boxes of gifts from their employers on this day. Boxing day is NOT named after the practice of throwing out large numbers of boxes after Christmas!
* English Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas between 1647 and 1660 because he believed such celebrations were immoral for the holiest day of the year.
* The first postage stamp to commemorate Christmas was issued in Austria in 1937
* Christmas trees become popular in the UK from 1841 when Prince Albert erected a tree in Windsor Castle following a German tradition. Fir trees have been decorated at Christmas time in Germany since the 8th century.
* The Queen’s Christmas speech was first televised in 1957.
* The definition of a white Christmas in the UK is for a single snow flake (perhaps amongst a shower of mixed rain and snow) to be observed falling in the 24 hours of December 25th.
* The Christmas tree displayed in Trafalgar square in London is an annual gift to the UK from Norway since 1947. The Norwegian spruce given is a token of appreciation of British friendship during World War II from the Norwegian people.

Black Friday

Black Friday is the last Friday before Christmas.

In the UK, Black Friday is one of the busiest days of the year for restaurants, public houses and nightclubs being the busiest night of the year for office Christmas parties. Black Friday is one of the busiest days of the year for emergency services.

It is generally celebrated when people finish work and wish to celebrate the beginning of the Christmas period.

American definitions of Black Friday
Black Friday as a term has been used in multiple contexts, going back to the nineteenth century, where it was associated with a financial crisis in 1869. The earliest uses of “Black Friday” to mean the day after Thanksgiving come from or reference Philadelphia and refer to the heavy traffic on that day. The earliest known reference to “Black Friday” (in this sense), found by Bonnie Taylor-Blake of the American Dialect Society, refers to Black Friday 1965 and makes the Philadelphia origin explicit:

JANUARY 1966 — “Black Friday” is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. “Black Friday” officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.

The term Black Friday began to get wider exposure around 1975, as shown by two newspaper articles from November 29, 1975, both datelined Philadelphia. The first reference is in an article entitled “Army vs. Navy: A Dimming Splendor,” in The New York Times:

Philadelphia police and bus drivers call it “Black Friday” – that day each year between Thanksgiving Day and the Army–Navy Game. It is the busiest shopping and traffic day of the year in the Bicentennial City as the Christmas list is checked off and the Eastern college football season nears conclusion.

The derivation is also clear in an Associated Press article entitled “Folks on Buying Spree Despite Down Economy,” which ran in the Titusville Herald on the same day:

Store aisles were jammed. Escalators were nonstop people. It was the first day of the Christmas shopping season and despite the economy, folks here went on a buying spree. … “That’s why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today ‘Black Friday,'” a sales manager at Gimbels said as she watched a traffic cop trying to control a crowd of jaywalkers. “They think in terms of headaches it gives them.”

Usage of the term has become more popular in the Midwest since 2000.

Accounting practice
Many merchants objected to the use of a negative term to refer to one of the most important shopping days in the year. By the early 1980s, an alternative theory began to be circulated: that retailers traditionally operated at a financial loss for most of the year (January through November) and made their profit during the holiday season, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving. When this would be recorded in the financial records, once-common accounting practices would use red ink to show negative amounts and black ink to show positive amounts. Black Friday, under this theory, is the beginning of the period where retailers would no longer have losses (the red) and instead take in the year’s profits (the black).The earliest known use, again found by Bonnie Taylor-Blake, is from 1981, again from Philadelphia, and presents the “black ink” theory as one of several competing possibilities:

If the day is the year’s biggest for retailers, why is it called Black Friday? Because it is a day retailers make profits — black ink, said Grace McFeeley of Cherry Hill Mall. “I think it came from the media,” said William Timmons of Strawbridge & Clothier. “It’s the employees, we’re the ones who call it Black Friday,” said Belle Stephens of Moorestown Mall. “We work extra hard. It’s a long hard day for the employees.”

The Christmas shopping season is of enormous importance to American retailers and, while an examination of the quarterly SEC filings of major retailers such as Wal-Mart or Target shows that most retailers intend to and actually do make profits during every quarter of the year, some retailers are so dependent on the Christmas shopping season that the quarter including Christmas produces all the year’s profits and compensates for losses from other quarters.

More Christmas Trivia

* Pope Julius I declared Christ’s birthday as December 25th sometime during the 4th century.
* Christmas trees received their first written acknowledgement in Germany in 1531.
* The tradition of hanging stockings over the fireplace derived from Dutch children placing their shoes next to the fireplace on Christmas Eve. Stockings later replaced the shoes.
* Until the turkey, a goose was the most popular fare served at a Christmas meal.
* The popular Christmas carol Silent Night was written by an Austrian priest named Joseph Mohr in 1818 as a result of a broken church organ.
* Santa has a calculated 31 hours to thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west.
* Christmas trees such a Douglas fir and Evergreen are grown in all 50 states of America.
* The abbreviation of Christmas to Xmas partially comes from the Greek letter ‘chi’, the first letter of the word ‘Christos’, meaning ‘Christ’.
* Australian priests suggest saying “Happy Christmas” instead of Merry Christmas since “merry” often referred to drinking alcohol.
* Bing Crosby’s Christmas classic “White Christmas” is the best-selling Christmas song of all time.
* Alabama was the first state in America to proclaim Christmas day as a legal holiday in 1836.
* Oklahoma was the last state to proclaim Christmas day as a legal holiday in 1907.
* Poet Clark Moore is credited with naming Santa’s reindeer; Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Dancer, Dasher, Doneder, Prancer, and the most famous reindeer, Rudolph.
* The colours in Santa Claus’ suit, red and white, were the creation of artist Haddon Sundblom. Sundblom was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company to redesign Santa Claus, although, Thomas Nast was the first artist to illustrate Santa Claus.
* Austria issued the first Christmas stamp in 1937.
* The first United States President, Franklin Pierce, was the first in 1856 to decorate a Christmas tree in the White House.
* While working for inventor Thomas Edison, Edward Johnson had lights crafted especially for his Christmas tree leading to the popularization of Christmas tree light.
* The red stripe in the candy cane was intended by the inventor as the blood of Christ.
* Mistletoe myth states should a woman appearing under the mistletoe not receive a kiss, she will not marry the following year.
* The first Christmas card was designed by John Horsley in 1840 but was not sold until 1843.
* Christmas wreaths of holly and berries are believed to represent Christ’s thorns and blood.
* In Mexico, the poinsettia plant is called “Flower of the Holy Night”.
* Tinsel became a popular Christmas tree adornment after a mythical spider created sprawling webs from branch to branch. It is believe the Christ Child changed the webs to a silver colour.

Christmas Facts

# In the Ukraine, if you find a spider web in the house on Christmas morning, it is believed to be a harbinger of good luck! There once lived a woman so poor, says a Ukrainian folk tale, that she could not afford Christmas decorations for her family. One Christmas morning, she awoke to find that spiders had trimmed her children’s tree with their webs. When the morning sun shone on them, the webs turned to silver and gold. An artificial spider and web are often included in the decorations on Ukrainian Christmas trees.

# At Christmas, it is traditional to exchange kisses beneath the mistletoe tree. In ancient Scandinavia, mistletoe was associated with peace and friendship. That may account for the custom of “kissing beneath the mistletoe”.

# ‘Klaxon’ is a name that does not belong to one of Santa’s reindeer. A klaxon is actually a powerful electric horn. Its name comes from a German word meaning “shriek”.

# In many households, part of the fun of eating Christmas pudding is finding a trinket that predicts your fortune for the coming year. For instance, finding a coin means you will become wealthy. A ring means you will get married; while a button predicts bachelorhood. The idea of hiding something in the pudding comes from the tradition in the Middle Ages of hiding a bean in a cake that was served on Twelfth Night. Whoever found the bean became “king” for the rest of the night.

# Frumenty was a spiced porridge, enjoyed by both rich and poor. It was a forerunner of modern Christmas puddings. It is linked in legend to the Celtic god Dagda, who stirred a porridge made up of all the good things of the earth.

# In Greek legend, malicious creatures called Kallikantzaroi sometimes play troublesome pranks at Christmas time. In order to get rid of them, salt or an old shoe is burnt. The pungent burning stench drives off, or at least helps discourage, the Kallikantzaroi. Other techniques include hanging a pig’s jawbone by the door and keeping a large fire so they can’t sneak down the chimney.

# The poinsettia is a traditional Christmas flower. In Mexico (its original birthplace), the poinsettia is known as the “Flower of the Holy Night”.

# Louis Prang, a Bavarian-born lithographer who came to the USA from Germany in the 19th century, popularized the sending of printed Christmas cards. He invented a way of reproducing color oil paintings, the “chromolithograph technique”, and created a card with the message “Merry Christmas” as a way of showing it off.

# The “Urn of Fate” is part of the Christmas celebrations in many Italian households. The Urn of Fate is brought out on Christmas Eve. It holds a wrapped present for everyone. The mother tries her luck first, then the others in turn. If you get a present with your name on it, you keep it; otherwise, you put it back and try again.

# In Sweden, a common Christmas decoration is the Julbukk, a small figurine of a goat. It is usually made of straw. Scandinavian Christmas festivities feature a variety of straw decorations in the form of stars, angels, hearts and other shapes, as well as the Julbukk.