Ok, just for fun, let’s test your Christmas knowledge with 10 questions.
1. Traditionally, when is the Christmas Season?
In Western Christianity, the Christmas season is traditionally synonymous with Christmastide, which runs from December 25 (Christmas Day) to January 5 (Twelfth Night or Epiphany Eve), popularly known as the 12 Days of Christmas.
2. Traditionally, when is the Season of Advent?
In Western Christianity, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas (always falling between 27 November and 3 December) and ends on Christmas Eve on 24 December.
3. Traditionally, what was the purpose of the Christmas Eve midnight candlelight worship services?
It was the transition worship service marking the end of Advent and the beginning of Christmas. The midnight service would be the first time that Christmas carols were sung. On the Sundays before that moment, the only hymns sung were Advent ones such as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”, preparing us for Christ’s coming.
4. How many Christians are there in our world?
Different studies show that there are over 2 billion Christians worldwide. From its humble beginnings in Bethlehem to being a small, persecuted minority in the Roman Empire, Christianity is now the world’s largest and most widespread religion, and it is growing in many parts of the world (just not in the West, sadly).
5. Who was the real-life inspiration for Santa Claus and what was he primarily known for as it relates to Christmas?
Nicholas of Myra (in modern-day Turkiye) was bishop born in the 3rd century A.D. and he was primarily known for giving money to poor families who were facing selling their daughters as prostitutes. According to legend, he would anonymously throw bags of gold coins into the windows of such families, thus saving the daughters. Again, according to later tradition, the coins supposedly landed in the shoes or stockings that were drying by the fireplace. Thus, serving as the inspiration for the “stocking stuffer.” After Nicholas died and was declared a “saint” by the Roman Catholic Church, he became known as St. Nicholas, and it was only in the last two centuries that his name evolved into St. Claus and then Santa Claus (“santa” being the Spanish word for “saint”).
6. Speaking of St. Nicholas being adapted into Santa Claus, which company helped to popularize the image of Santa, with his white beard and red suit in a marketing campaign in the 1930’s?
In 1931, Coca-Cola hired artist Haddon Sundblom to create a Christmas ad of Santa Claus drinking Coke. The jolly, white-bearded fellow in a bright red suit remains the personification of Old St. Nick.
7. The Christmas Tree is one of the most iconic symbols associated with Christmas. According to historians, in which country did the practice of celebrating the Christmas Season by erecting and/or decorating a Christmas tree come from?
Germany. According to tradition, Protestant German reformer Martin Luther began putting candles in the branches of his evergreen tree as a way of replicating the starry sky above Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth.
8. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, which recording artist has the best-selling Christmas song of all time (and, what is the name of that song)?
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.
9. Who wrote the 1843 novel that helped revitalize the Christmas holiday, resulting in newfound popularity in the West?
Charles Dickens. Prior to the mid-19th century, Christmas celebrations had become quite rowdy with lots of drinking and debauchery. In 1843, the great British writer Charles Dickens published his short novel, “A Christmas Carol.” The story, with its messages of charity, family, and the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge, perfectly captured what we now refer to as “the Christmas spirit”: the idea that the holiday brings out the best in all of us.
10.Why was December 25th chosen to be the day on which Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus?
Note that we observe or celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th. That is different from claiming that December 25th was the actual day of Jesus’ birthday, though there is an ancient tradition that Jesus was conceived on the same day as his death, which could have been on March 25th (Passover day), thus making his birth nine months later. Another tradition is that early Christians (by the mid-3rd century A.D.) Christianized the date of the Roman pagans “Feast of the Unconquered Sun”, December 25th, to celebrate the birth of the one who truly brought light into this world, Jesus. There may be other theories and traditions, but Christians cannot be accused of pagan, idolatrous worship if we choose one day a year in which to remember and celebrate the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. If anything, it is a chance for us to witness about Jesus and his coming to our world.