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Learn the lore of Christmas trivia

Christmas trivia for aficionados or fans of Christmas:

Santa Claus' name is derived from the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas — Sinterklaas. St. Nick is the patron saint of children and orphans, but did you know he is also the protector of sailors, travelers, teachers, soldiers, prisoners, bankers and pawnbrokers? Pawnbrokers? Yep! The symbol associated with pawn shops — three golden balls — represents the three bags of gold that St. Nicholas tossed through an open window landing into shoes left near the fireplace to dry to be used to redeem the lives of three young women.

Rudolph turns 70 this year. In 1939, Robert May, a writer for retailer Montgomery Ward was asked to create a character for a coloring book that could be given to children visiting the store Santa. Other names were considered: Reginald sounded too British, and Rollo was deemed a bit too perky. May also considered giving Rudolph enormous high-beam, headlight-type eyes to light Santa's route but figured all the other reindeer would be more likely to make fun of a glowing red nose.

In the film A Christmas Story, young Ralphie mentions his dream gift of a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-Shot, Range Model Air Rifle 28 times, approximately once every 3 minutes and 20 seconds.This Christmas, 2 billion-plus cards will be mailed throughout the world, but who sent the first Christmas card ever? That distinction falls to a British civil servant, Sir Henry Cole. In 1843, Cole decided he was too busy to send handwritten messages to family and friends, so he commissioned an artist friend to design a card. The card showed scenes of people performing good deeds, feeding the hungry and caring for the poor. The center illustration depicted a family celebrating a Christmas feast.

A Christmas Carol. You've seen the movie, perhaps you've read the book, but do you know the 11-word original title of Charles Dickens' masterpiece? A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. At the time this book was published, Christmas in Britain had devolved into secular, drunken revelry. The immense popularity of this novel revitalized and reinforced the notion that the day celebrating the Christ child's birth should be centered on family, goodwill and compassion. By the way, Thomas Edison created the first film version, in 1908.

With all of the commotion and flurry of activities and parties leading up to Christmas, a person might be surprised to learn that the 12 days of Christmas actually start with Christmas Day and finish with the eve of Epiphany on Jan. 5. And if you wanted to shower your beloved with the gifts detailed in the song, be prepared to tap into your savings. According to PNC Wealth Management, the total cost would set you back $21,465, with the most expensive item being nine ladies dancing, at $5,473.

Who is credited with saying, "I just wrote the best song I've ever written, heck, I just wrote the best song that anybody's ever written!"? It was Irving Berlin, in 1940, upon completion of I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas, and who can argue with his claim? The original Bing Crosby version has sold more than 50 million singles. And speaking of a white Christmas, it's true what they say about snowflakes: No two are alike. Even if you found two that appeared to be identical, Caltech physics professor Kenneth Libbrecht says that on a subatomic level, the arrangement of water molecules would be different.

Candy canes have come full circle. The first of these candy sticks, fashioned into a shepherd's crook, were provided by a Catholic priest in 1670 in Cologne, Germany, as a distraction for fidgety kids during the long Christmas services. The treat caught on and soon spread throughout Europe and eventually the United States During the 1950s, a candy maker in Albany, Ga., Bob McCormack, was frustrated in his efforts to mass-produce the confection: 20 percent of the canes broke while being made. McCormack turned to his brother-in-law, Father Gregory Keller, a Catholic priest, for help. Keller invented a machine that could twist the striped confection and cut it without breaking. McCormack soon established his company as the premier candy cane-making business in the world.





Herald-Leader Graphic Artist Chris Ware created this "Rube Goldberg-style" piece detailing how to turn on Christmas tree lights. Here's the flow: Dad, carrying gifts to be wrapped and placed under the tree, accidentally drops a Red Ryder carbine-action, 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time (A) which discharges (B) and pops a helium balloon (C). When the balloon collapses, the line drops (D), allowing the mirror to drop in front of the dog who, by the way, is watching A Christmas Carol on TV (E). Dog sees dog treat reflected in mirror (F), pivots and pulls cord (G), which turns the floor lamp on, charging the solar-powered toy car (H), causing the car to lurch forward (I) and collide with a box of Christmas cards. Cards fall (J) and land on power switch (K) and flip the Christmas tree lights on. Simple!

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