Below is a Christmas quiz to help you evaluate what you really know about Christmas. After the quiz, there is a short section going over parts of the Bible that are relevant to this festival in our current culture, as well as a link to an article from last year about the general dispute that seems to surface each year about what Christmas should mean to everyone. The answers to the quiz and some explanations of them will be at the end, and there will be a bibliography of the sources that I studied to come up with the quiz.
A Christmas Quiz:
1. To whom is attributed the idea of a creche, also known as a nativity scene?
b. St. Augustine
c. St. Francis of Assisi
2. What country is the historical St. Nicholas said to have come from?
3. Which Roman god is the precursor to Father Christmas?
4. Which name alternative for Santa Clause comes from the German tradition that the Christ-Child, or “Christkindl, ” traveled the earth bringing gifts?
a. Father Christmas
b. Saint Nick
c. Kris Kringle
d. The Children’s Friend
5. Who is Black Peter?
a. a man dressed as the devil being Santa’s helper
b. the elf who cleaned the chimney before Santa went down
c. a representation of Peter as he denied Christ
d. a bishop who dressed in black and helped the poor
6. Who wrote a book on Dutch history in 1808 that greatly influenced the current version of Santa Claus?
a. Washington Irving
b. Charles Dickens
c. Mark Twain
d. Sir Walter Scott
7. Who was Thomas Nast?
a. the Puritan governor who outlawed Christmas
b. the newspaper editor who answered the question, “Is there a Santa Claus?”
c. the man who wrote “Up on the House Top”
d. a cartoonist who drew a picture of Santa Claus
8. What Christmas character(s) got its (their) start in an advertisement for the department store Montgomery Ward?
a. Frosty the Snowman
c. Santa’s elves
d. the little drummer boy
9. Why was Christmas Day a day of apprehension and even fear in Europe by the 1400’s, and as late as the 1800’s?
a. people rarely had enough to eat
b. it was feared the animals might speak, communicate, and revolt
c. violence, rioting, and looting were common
d. if someone hadn’t paid their year-end taxes to the king they would be imprisoned
10. In which state is the town of Santa Claus?
11. What animal lead to the minor crisis that resulted in “Silent Night” being written? What instrument was used while singing it for its first generation?
a. pig/no instrument
12. Approximately how many years after its composition was the authorship of “Silent Night” generally known?
13. How many baby boys are estimated to have been killed due to Herod’s decree?
14. What post birth sacrifice indicates that Mary and Joseph were poor?
a. the dove
b. the bull
c. the lamb
d. the grain
15. About how many miles is it from Nazareth to Bethlehem?
16. How many places are named Bethlehem in the United States?
17. Why did the Puritans outlaw Christmas?
a. they associated it with the British monarchy and royal court
b. the customs of the celebration included “monstrous” parades and disrupted church services
c. it was a festival full of drunkeness and lewd exhibition
d. all of the above
18. During what time period were most of our Christmas “traditions” solidified?
d. none of the above
19. Approximately when did the winter celebration begin to include Christ’s birth?
a. late 1200’s
b. mid 100’s
c. early 300’s
d. early 600’s
20. How may Puritan rejection of the winter festival have helped win the Revolutionary War?
a. b and c
b. Christmas customs were not yet part of the American culture, so it was reasonable to proceed with the war effort on Christmas Day.
c. the European forces, the British and the Germans, were heavily involved in “celebrating” on a crucial Christmas Day
d. Americans were so used to rioting on Christmas Day, so fighting on that day was easy.
(If you would like to print and share the Christmas Quiz this PDF should be convenient: A Christmas Quiz)
We need to be honest about what Christmas is or isn’t in our culture, and how it got that way. Other than giving the account of Christ’s birth, there is no imperative nor example of celebrating that event in the Biblical account. So how should we decide what to do?
First of all, in all things, it is good to consider religious legalism versus the path of a person’s heart when loving and knowing God. Ephesians 2:8-10 reminds us that those who are saved by grace become new creations, and the “good works” follow. From other scriptures, it seems that “good works” has more to do with how we treat each other than what ceremonies we attend to. The sum of the commandments is to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.
Colossians chapter 2 says not to let others judge us by rituals and festivals, which surely can be taken to imply that we also should not judge others by their festivals. What is performed outwardly in repetitious ceremony has little to say about real devotion of the heart.
It is also true that God shows a pattern throughout of encouraging a good party or feast. The ones He designs are with the intent of pointing people to His promises and provision. There is nothing, however, that indicates we can’t have a party just because we want to; and the way we want to, within the bonds of love for each other. Others should be allowed the same liberty, even those of different beliefs, as discussed in this article from last year about why no one should be forcing or guilting anyone else into a particular reason for Christmas.
The question of the origin of symbols frequently becomes a hot topic, and in some times and cultures it may have been wise to refrain from certain things if they are so strongly associated with something you don’t want to be associated with. But it appears that most of the time, this sense of “horror” at certain things is limited to a few who are most vocal. Most other people know that decoration or type of music have little to do with the true meaning of knowing or following the true God. The fact is that every gift on earth came from God, and though it might be distorted by some, it does point back to Him. We can choose what to think about when we see or hear things.
Is there anything that should be considered when celebrating Christmas? Is there any reason it even has to be Christ-centered for the Christian? It could be simply participated in as a winter festival by followers of Jesus Christ without denying Him. We have parties for Valentine’s Day or recognize summer solstice without specifically invoking that it is a time of special consecration. It is a choice that has little to do with a real understanding of what has been done for us through His death and resurrection. If we really know Him, we are walking with His Spirit every day, not just during some man-made festival. We could just as well be following the principles of Proverbs 15:13 (a merry heart does good) and Luke 15:13 (where celebration is affirmed to express gladness) all year long.
Here are the answers to the quiz:
1. c. St. Francis
2. b. Turkey
note: Nothing was written down about the man St. Nicholas until about 300 years after he was dead, so other than his name, all else is legend.
3. a. Saturn, god of agriculture
note: Other cultures and religions had winter festivals that involved their specific gods, but the likeness of Father Christmas comes from the image of Saturn.
4. c. Kris Kringle
5. a. a man dressed as the devil being Santa’s helper
note: People get strange ideas….
6. a. Washington Irving
7. d. a cartoonist
note: He was a political cartoonist and artist for Harper’s Weekly. He remembered Moore’s poem from nearly 40 years prior, and beginning in 1863, for the next 23 years he drew a new Santa each year. He was the first to draw the workshop and started the idea of Santa living at the North Pole. Major expeditions to the North Pole were going on at that time.
8. b. Rudolph
9. c. violence
note: From its beginnings, the winter festival was known as a time of up-side-downs. It was more community and publicly oriented, not centered around home and family as it is today. It was much like a combination of trick-or-treat and New Year’s carousing. Those of “lower” social status thought they had a right to expect a day of living as the upper classes and being in charge. They expected gifts from people more well-to-do than they were. Throughout the years, there were cycles of time periods when gangs roamed the streets demanding things on Christmas Day.
10. b. Indiana
note: The town name was changed by the town members to encourage tourism.
11. c. mouse/guitar
note: A mouse chewed through the bellows of the organ. Joseph Mohr had written a poem that Franz Gruber, the church organist put to music. Mr. Gruber instead played the guitar during the service while a children’s choir sang.
12. c. 40 years
13. d. 20
14. a. the dove
15. d. 90 miles
16. d. 28
17. d. all of the above
18. a. 1800’s
note: Clement Moore’s poem, Washington Irving’s book, Thomas Nast’s illustrations, and Charles Dickens’ book A Christmas Carol were all instrumental in forming the current cultural ideas of Christmas.
19. c. early 300’s
20. a. Christmas customs were not part of American culture and the European forces were drinking (alcoholic beverages) in celebration of Christmas.
(and, if you care to also print the answers to the quiz, here is another PDF: Answers to A Christmas Quiz)
Celebrating the Christian Year: Building Family Traditions Around All the Major Christian Holiday, by Martha Zimmerman, published by Bethany House Publishers, 1993
In the Fullness of Time: A Historian Looks at Christmas, Easter, and the Early Church, by Paul L. Maier, published by Kregel Publications, 1991
Family Celebrations: Meeting Christ in Your Holidays and Special Occasions, by Ann Hibbard, published by Baker Books, 1988, 1993
The Battle for Christmas, by Stephen Nissenbaum, published by Vintage Books, 1996
The Winter Solstice: The Sacred Traditions of Christmas, by John Matthews, published by Quest Books, 1998
The Christmas Story, offered by Koinonia House, khouse.org (an audio discussion)
The truth about Santa Claus, by James Cross Giblin, published by Thomas Y. Crowell, 1985
The Story of “Silent Night” by Paul Gallico – (Crown Publishers, Inc.) First Edition 1st Edition, 2nd Printing 1967, by Paul Gallico, published by Crown Publishers, 1967
The book of Christmas folklore, by Tristam P. Coffin, 1973
The Story of Christmas (Trophy Picture Books), by Barbara Cooney, 1967, 1995
A Gift from Saint Francis: The First Creche, by Joanna Cole, 1989
Christmas in America, by Lilly Patterson, published by Garrad Publishing Co., 1969
The twelve days of Christmas, by Miles and John Hadfield, published by Little, Brown, and Company, 1961
Christmas Music Companion Fact Book, by Dale V. Nobbman, published by Centerstream Publishing, 2000
Christmas Unwrapped – The History of Christmas (History Channel) (A&E DVD Archives), video checked out from the library