The cries were everywhere: “I want my 2015 Xmas Quiz,” people said, ignoring the fact that (a) I have not done the Xmas quiz for a few years now, and (b) this is not my column. But still, the calls came — in email, on Facebook, on Twitter. It was a veritable firestorm. I’m not saying it went viral, but it definitely went bacterial.
This space listens; this space responds. Obviously, I don’t have time to do the whole thing, but I can give you the answers. You and your family can huddle around the Advil bottle on New Year’s Day and solve the quiz together.
Warning: Google may not help you here. Ha!
1. Maurice Candycane, an Austrian inventor. He was trying to make a biodegradable fish hook; alas, the entire thing softened into an oddly striped gelatinous mixture, then hardened again. As a result, generations of Americans remember his name.
2. Mesopotamian workmen, primarily. The much-repeated legend that the tomb was erected by the emperor’s hand-picked Palace Guards is untrue; that rumor was circulated by agents in the employ of Queen Asmopasolia, who was intriguing against her brother.
3. Reno is west of Honolulu; Hong Kong is north of Moscow; Canada is south of Paraguay, and Juneau is east of Kansas City. Remember that the globe is round and everything is east of everything, and so forth.
5. “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” was originally called “A Rumpty Tumpty Rumpty Tumpty Jolly Pinafore,” a bawdy drinking song about a widow, a stableman and a wheel of cheese.
6. In order: Marlon Brando, Stephen Sondheim, Lucien Truscott IV, Mary Roach, Shari Lewis, Ray Charles, J. D. Salinger and, unexpectedly, Juan Peron.
7. In 1915, the first department store window display in San Francisco was at the long-defunct Davenport’s Softgoods. All the clothes and accessories, even the drapes, were designed by Dorothy Smith. The name stuck.
8. Sort of like this:
If your answer was (c), shoes, you’re right!
9. “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” has been performed by Cyndi Lauper over 40 million times. The Rolling Stones, by contrast, have done “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” only 34 million times, if Keith’s figures are correct. The third place finisher, surprisingly, was “It’s My Life” by Wendy O. Williams and the Plasmatics.
10. Bears do in fact suffer from mange.
11. “The darker the night, the brighter the stars,
The deeper the grief, the closer is God!” — Fyodor Dostoevsky
12. The answer is (b), a kind of industrial cleaning agent, often used with feathers. The other choices were all Santa’s reindeer.
13. It was common in 19th century British manor houses to put sugar on cut flowers. The sugar would drift down on to the table and, eventually, on to the food. When the sweet stuff hit the kippers, you get the phenomenon mentioned in the question. Ladies were not immune!
14. The entire film was shot in Morocco on as budget of less than $1 million. The interior of the spaceship was an old aircraft hanger, the grand ballroom was the lobby of the hotel where Hawks and the cast were staying, and the rehearsal room for the Vienna Philharmonic was the Grande Kinema in Rorfir Square, closed due to revolutionary activity.
15. Contrary to popular belief, ketchup was not the first condiment.
16. It was all once a giant inland sea. The place we know as “Salt Lake City” was originally called “Surble” and was occupied mostly by ocean-going corvids.
17. That’s not a question I choose to answer at this time.
18. King of Prussia, Pa., was the home of both Prussian Chocolates and Prussian Armaments. A group of dissident Germans picked up the name, and a whole country was born.
19. We’re still working to perfect the blog. Details, so many details! We thank you for your input; keep it coming. And the answer is (a) ceaseless devotion to a quixotic cause.
I was raised a Christian. In my town, there was no other choice. We had three flavors of Christians: Straight Protestant (which was me, Presbyterian); High Anglican (also called Episcopalian, no crucifixes but incense and stuff); and Catholic (where God knows what went on).
I had a few Jewish friends, but I had no idea they didn’t believe in Christ. The topic never came up. I didn’t really believe either, certainly not in the whole resurrection thing, but I pretended because my mother wanted me to.
I did love Christmas. Easter was a big nothing, and Presbyterians didn’t do the Annunciation and all that craziness. But Christmas, with a green tree inside the house and presents under said tree and tinsel and large decorative stars and wreaths and mistletoe and Santa and chimneys– it was all darned jolly
And carols! They were the first music I ever heard. I loved the hush of “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” and the excitement of “Joy to the World.” “Silent Night” was as bit of a bore, but “We Three Kings of Orient Are” — whoosh.
It includes the line, “sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying, sealed a stone cold tomb.” A vivid death-wielding carol; maybe as little Papist, but sung by a bass in a huge dark church, it brought goosebumps every time.
Cold tombs aside, I never thought about the lyrics much. Sure, come let us adore him, whatever. I am not opposed to heaven and nature singing. If that little drummer boy wants to rum-pa-pum into next week, vaya con Dios, I say.
I still celebrate Christmas every year. My in-town family comes for breakfast and presents, and we make merry. That infant in a manger is not mentioned once.
It’s not clear to me why I need to decorate the house with geegaws meant to replicate the ur-Norwegian landscape, but I do it anyway, because tradition.
The commercial aspect of Christmas has been dismaying forever. The whole Black Friday orgy of consumerism thing seems almost transcendentally dopey. And I am not immune from up-gifting, because I do want to show my love and what’s better than a BRAND NEW CAR. Or at least outerwear imprudently purchased. What does that have to do with laughs around the waffles? Not much. I’d like to stick to handmade oven mitts, but probably I’ll use Amazon instead.
Lately the church itself has been getting in my face quite a lot. I understand that all Christians are not hate-drunk bigots, but too many of them are. They are involved in campaigns to harass gay people. They stand by smugly while their co-religionists terrify women at health clinics.
Worse, they seem to be at the forefront of the stupidity movement. They don’t care for Darwinism, climate change or the Big Bang theory. They say hateful and ignorant things about Jews, Muslims, Native Americans, Sikhs, Mexicans — any group that is not them. Now those damn wretched terrorist Syrians want to resettle in Our Country and destroy Our Way of Life with, you know, hummus and IEDs.
I am not a Christian. I am an atheist. The things I liked about Christianity — peace of earth, treat every person as you would be treated — seem to have been lost. I used to sing a hymn called “Onward Christian Soldiers.” Seems like too many people are taking the lyrics seriously. It’s no longer a battle for the souls of men; it’s about the bodies of men, and raining destruction upon them. “Let’s carpet bomb them,” Ted Cruz says. Ted Cruz is the darling of the evangelicals. Yeah, the peace-on-earth people.
The church militant is scary. It wants to destroy the world I live in and replace it with a hypocritically pious theocracy filled with rules about how to run your life, particularly your sex life. They’re sex-crazed, and not in a good way. And they’re taking over the middle of the country like a plague.
Hide the kids! The zombie hordes are coming.
Last night there was a knock on my door. I opened it and saw no one. Then suddenly from the sidewalk: “Oh come all you faithful…” It sounded like an order. Suppose he’s not adorable. What then?
The carolers were silhouetted against the street lights. They were bundled up against the cold. They looked menacing, rising up like warrior-ghosts. I waited out the first verse. I yelled “thanks” and began to close the door.
“Come, join us,” someone said.
Did I want march through the night, flashlights waving, forming a melodic mob, demanding that each household drop what they were doing and come and adore the Christ child? Because he’s holy? I did not.
The singing continued. I inched back into my house. When they came to “word of the Father, now in flesh appearing,” I closed the door. I want to deal with ineffable in a kindlier way, thanks so much. And go away.
But still, I am a generous blogger, and I come bearing gifts. Be of good cheer!