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Christmas Lore & Legend

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Christmas Lore & Legend
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Here are explanations or further details about some answers that players might find puzzling or intriguing. If you have a question or comment about a question/answer not listed here, contact the author at

The entry number below refers to the numbers in the booklet that follow each question and are preceded by a ♦. Only those questions whose correct answers are underlined [a, b, etc.] are discussed herein.

      2. One night, so the story goes, Nicholas tossed a small bag of gold coins into the window of a poor family who needed a dowry for a marriageable daughter. The bag happened to fall into a stocking that had been hung up to dry beside the fireplace, thus starting the tradition of hanging stockings on Christmas Eve. [See notes for #400]
      6. The U.S. does not have national holidays, only federal holidays [for federal employees and the District of Columbia] and state holidays.
      18. Due to primarily to war-time rationing of helium.
      21. The wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz.
      31. In the 1912 game, Stanford quit after falling behind 49 to 0.
      44. Matthew says the family fled to Egypt and stayed there until Herod's death. Luke says they took Jesus to Jerusalem to be circumcised and then returned home.
      53. Their website is:
      65. This tourist attraction is a marvel of engineering, built without nails or central support in the Chapel of Our Lady of Light in 1878.
      67. A traditional segment of the annual Christmas show at Radio City Music Hall is the firing of a toy cannon at a line of Rockettes dressed as toy soldiers.
      72. The term "troll" has two musical meanings: (1) to sing parts of a round in succession, and (2) to sing heartily.
      76. Edward H. Johnson, VP of the Edison Electric Light Company, set up a tree in his New York parlor with 80 custom- made, hand-wired, walnut-sized lights of red, white, and blue. The tree rotated and the lights blinked. It was sensational, but hardly practical.
      100. It worked. Nast's drawings of Santa with Union troops has such a disheartening effect on Confederates that General Grant claimed the cartoonist had done as much as any man to preserve the Union.
      127. An apple for good health and a golden orange for prosperity.
      129. Ogden Nash's poem is not as well known as Clement Moore's, but it's just as appealing to the child in all of us.
      137. First published as "Dunder and Blixem" [Dutch for "thunder and lightning"] in 1823, the 1844 version of the poem changed the pair's names to "Donder and Blitzen". The name Donner wasn't used until 1949.
      142. 12 single gifts of a partridge and one gift of 12 drummers.
      163. See Dating Christmas on our "Mistakes, Misunder­standings, and Mondegreens" page.
      164. The star of the TV show The Equalizer, Woodward was a most impressive ghost.
      169. The original/correct phrase is "four colly birds" referring to a type of blackbird. There is no such thing as a "calling bird."
      192. Scrooge's first ghostly visitor was Jacob Marley.
      193. Beginning in 1931, Sundblom and The Coca Cola Company have been primarily responsible for the worldwide familiarity with the American image of Santa.
      211. In Miracle on 34th Street.
      225. After intense lobbying by department-store magnate John Wanamaker in 1939, Roosevelt changed the date from the last Thursday in November to the third Thursday. Congress later changed it to the fourth Thursday.
      228. Santa's assistants are, in Holland, Black Peter; in Austria, Krampus; and in The Santa Clause, Bernard.
      230. Rudolph: 1964, Grinch: 1966, Frosty: 1969, Nightmare: 1993
      242. In 1902, because he thought the practice was ruining forests. His sons, Archibald and Quentin, later dissuaded him by getting a leading conservation expert to testify that proper cutting of Christmas trees was good for timberlands.
      250. The wassail bowl is a large decanter typically filled with a toxic concoction of wine and spices.
      270. In 1948, Sen'ko, Somov, Geordiyenko, and Ostrekin were the undisputed first to reach the North Pole over land, according to Guinness World Records.
      277. The others are Italian, Danish, and Hawaiian.
      286. Named for President Theodore Roosevelt.
      296. First "Rollo" and then "Reginald" were rejected by the writer's bosses. Finally, they accepted his daughter's suggestion of "Rudolph."
      307. Based on Greensleeves.
      308. The number three has been inferred from the three kinds of gifts.
      317. According to the French poet Bonaventure, the youths had been dismembered by an evil tavern owner who intended to serve them for supper until Nicholas [then the Bishop of Myra] intervened.
      333. Connecticut, Kentucky, Indiana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia also have towns named Bethlehem.
      347. Upon going to bed Christmas Eve children tie one end of a piece of string to their big toe and hang the other out the window. In the morning, the rollerskaters give a tug to any string they see hanging.
      349. At Rockefeller Center, in Home Alone 2.
      357. Khriein meant "ointment" such as used in anointing a leader.
      369. Sent from astronauts aboard the Apollo 8 spacecraft.
      374. This is a group of stars near the outermost limits of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way.
      386. Then called the Continental Air Defense Command, they received so many calls that they started the Santa-tracking program, which continues to this day. See their website:
      393. The booklet's author, Robert L. May, was the brother- in- law of the song's writer, Johnny Marks.
      395. Angel Second-Class Clarence Oddbody.
      396. For his role as Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street.
      400. The same family that found the bag of coins in the hung stocking [see notes for #2] had two other daughters, and later, so it is said, received two more bags of gold from St. Nicholas. When the moneylenders of Italy adopted Nicholas as their patron saint, they chose these three bags of gold to symbolize their trade – the three gold balls that today hang in front of most pawnshops. Nicholas also has been named the patron saint of children and sailors.
      402. Scott in 1984, Finney in 1970, and Hicks in 1935 and 1913.
       408. Americans had to import their cards from Europe until 1875, when Prang opened a small press. By 1881, his plant in Roxbury, Massachusetts, was producing over 5 million Christmas cards a year.
      426. In his poem A Hymn Sung as by the Shepherds, ca. 1640
      431. In 1870, introduced by Representative Burton Cook of Illinois
      444. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer. Each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter. Female reindeer, however, retain their antlers until after they give birth in the spring.
      446. Prompted by widespread publicity about a U.S. government sponsored expedition to the Pole in 1882.
      450. The seven birds are: partridges, doves, hens, colley birds, geese, swans, and gold-ringed pheasants (referred to as "gold rings").
      455. In act one, scene one of Hamlet: "Not a mouse stirring."
      464. Founder of Hallmark Cards, Inc., he started off selling postcards in 1908.
      467. Cradles are a rarity in Japan. Most infants sleep as their parents do, on mats on the floor.
      471. "Plum" meant "plump" or "swell", which is what the raisins did when the pudding was steamed.
      473. As strange as it may seem, in 1980, Meco Monardo and Don Oriolo published R2D2, We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
      481. Moore was a wealthy land-owner and a part- time professor of Oriental and Greek literature at a theological seminary in N.Y. City. He seemed reluctant to claim authorship, but accepted the credit by including it in a book of poems he published. Some claim that the poem was written by Henry Livingston, who died before Moore's book was published. But the claim is not flawless, so we'll probably never know the truth of the matter.
      502. The Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (AORBS) was founded in 1995. Here's their website.