Test Your Commercial Christmas IQ!

Christmas is not just the biggest consumer gifting holiday, but also the effective close of the B2B calendar year. Let's face it, there's no holiday on the planet that involves more buying and selling.

Since many people feel a bit guilty about all this commercialism, I thought it would be fun to see how much you know about the commercialization of Christmas.

Here's the first question.

QUESTION 1: We give gifts on Christmas because the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus.

We give gifts on Christmas because the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus.
This statement is FALSE.
Regardless of the story of the magi, nobody knows what day Jesus was born.

The Christmas holiday, for hundreds of years, was on overlay over a Roman holiday called the Saturnalia, which was marked by tomfoolery and reversal of social roles, in which slaves and masters ostensibly switched places, with humorous results.

The "gift-giving" in Christmas celebrations originated with the extortion of high quality food from the upper classes by the lower classes -- a survival of an ancient pagan custom. You can see this in the world's oldest English Christmas carol "We wish you a merry Christmas" where the singers demand "figgy pudding" and threaten that "we won't go until we get some."

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QUESTION 2: Santa Claus is an ancient tradition that was commercialized in the early 20th century.

Santa Claus is an ancient tradition that was commercialized in the early 20th century.
This statement is FALSE.
While Santa Claus is loosely based upon some medieval legends, the first advertisement featuring Santa Claus dates from 1842, exactly one year after the first popular depiction of Saint Nicolaus -- a publicly-sold woodcut -- appeared. In short, Santa Claus was an entirely commercial invention, created in order to generate sales, first of a woodcut and later of presents.

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QUESTION 3: The Christmas holiday party is a long-standing tradition in American business.


The Christmas holiday party is a long-standing tradition in American business.
This statement is FALSE.
For much of the history of the United States, December 25th wasn't even a holiday, much less an occasion for holiday parties. As late as 1850, December 25th was not a legal holiday in New England, so stores were open, business were open, and children were expected to attend school. While parties did take place, they were mostly among the unemployed and lower classes, who sometimes pursued their celebrations by finding richer folk and demanding money (rather than food as in the past) and sometimes beating them up if they didn't come through. Christmas only became a business holiday after it had been domesticated in the late 19th century

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QUESTION 4: Ebenezer Scrooge does NOT bring Christmas presents to the Cratchits' Christmas party.


Ebenezer Scrooge does NOT bring Christmas presents to the Cratchits' Christmas party.
This statement is TRUE.
While Scrooge was reformed from his miserly ways, he wasn't reformed enough to transcend class distinctions. Scrooge spends Christmas with his nephew, an incidental character that Dickens apparently created to avoid the uncomfortable idea of the upper-class Scrooge partying with the lower-class Cratchits. Such social mixing was unthinkable in Victorian England. Scrooge sends a goose to the Cratchits and then, next day, gives Bob Cratchit a raise in salary. He apparently later accepts other members of the family into his business, presumably in clerical roles similar to that of their father.

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QUESTION 5: Christmas is a religious holiday that's been blatantly commercialized.


Christmas is a religious holiday that's been blatantly commercialized.
This statement is FALSE.
For centuries, the liturgical calendar has held Easter as the most important date, with Christmas either ignored or put into a very minor role. Prior to the mid 19th century, you'd likely hear a sermon AGAINST Christmas, with the local parson decrying the way that it was used as an excuse for drinking, carousing, social reversal, and all sorts of thuggery.

In the mid 19th century, the "trick or treat" behavior was co-opted into a family holiday involving the giving of presents. While the new "domesticated" holiday had a religious overtone, it was primarily a commercial event from the start, with presents among family members replacing the extorted presents of the traditional celebration.

Therefore, it's more correct to say that Christmas is a commercial holiday that's been co-opted for religious purposes. So, when social conservatives complain that Christmas should be about religion and resent people saying "happy holidays", they should reflect that the "old time" Christmas that they are apparently missing had more resemblance to being mugged on the street than a mass in a church.

SCORING: Count 1 for each answer you got right. What was your score?