1) What does the word Yule mean?

Derived from Old Norse, it’s a medieval word meaning "midwinter". From the seventh century it became associated with Christmas.

2) How many Santa Clauses are there in Iceland?

There are 13. They are known as the Yule Lads, and among their number are Spoon-Licker, Bowl-Licker and Door-Slammer.

3) And while we’re in Iceland what happens to anyone who doesn’t get clothes for Christmas?

Icelandic folklore suggests that anyone who doesn’t will be eaten by an enormous black feline, the Christmas Cat, that prowls the island on Christmas Eve to feast on anyone who hasn’t received any new clothes.

4) How old is the Up-Helly Aa festival?

The Up-Helly Aa festival in Lerwick dates back not to the Vikings, but the 1870s. It was organised by a temperance society in an attempt to keep young men away from alcohol.

5) Name the writer and composer who each had a hand in the creation of the carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing?

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing appeared in print in 1739 in Hymns and Sacred Poems, written by the author Charles Wesley, best known for his children’s book The Water Babies.

Wesley’s lyrics were altered by his co-worker George Whitefield and more than 100 years later a tune by the composer Felix Mendelssohn was adapted for use with the carol’s lyrics by William H Cummings.

6) When was Christmas banned?

In 1644, an Act of Parliament in England effectively banned the festival and in June 1647, the Long Parliament passed an ordinance confirming the abolition of the feast of Christmas.

But that was a drop in the ocean compared with Scotland where Christmas celebrations were discouraged in the later years of the 16th century and then officially prohibited in 1640.

The death of Oliver Cromwell and the Restoration of the monarchy saw the end of the ban in England and eventually Scotland followed in 1712.

But north of the border the Church of Scotland continued to see it as a “Popeish festival”. That prejudice continued for centuries. Christmas Day only became a public holiday north of the Border in 1958.

7) How many Bethlehems are there?

There are 28. Most of them are in the United States. But you can also visit Bethlehem in Sweden and Germany.

8) Who directed the 1987 film adaptation of James Joyce’s Christmas short story The Dead?

John Houston directed the film which also starred his daughter Anjelica. It was to be his last film. He died the year it was released.

9) How far back does the Christmas carol service at King’s College, Cambridge date?

Only 100 years. It began in 1918. The BBC started broadcasting it in 1928 and yet by 1939 the broadcaster was suggesting that it had been going for five centuries.

10) Which came first: the Christmas card or the Christmas cracker?

While the first Christmas card (sent to James VI and his son dates back to 1611), the modern custom can be dated to 1843.

Senior civil servant Sir Henry Cole, who worked as assistant keeper of the Public Record Office (later renamed the Post Office) came up with the idea of the Christmas card as a way of promoting the post office’s services.

That said, the Christmas card’s real popularity didn’t begin until the 1860s and 1870s. Christmas crackers date back to 1847.

11) How did robins become a popular Christmas card theme?

Victorian postmen were nicknamed “robins” because of their red-jacketed uniforms. When robins started to feature on the Christmas cards, they often had a letter in their beaks representing the workers who delivered them.

12) Santa Claus comes from a Dutch folk tale based on Saint Nicholas – or Sinterklaas. Can you list some of the different names he is known by?

Here’s a few: Kris Kringle in Germany, Babbo Natale in Italy and Pere Noel in France.

13) What is the biggest-selling Christmas single ever?

Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. It has sold more than 100 million copies since 1942.

14) And how about the origins of Jingle Bells?

Well, it wasn't penned as a Christmas song. Published in 1857, it was written by James Lord Pierpont to be sung at the US Thanksgiving. The original title of the song was One Horse Open Sleigh, but that was changed to Jingle Bells when it was reprinted in 1859.

15) How did tangerines become a stocking filler?

The tradition of putting tangerines in stockings is said to come from 12th-century French nuns who left socks full of fruit, nuts and tangerines at the houses of the poor.

16) What dishes were popular during a festive feast for wealthy Edwardians?

According to food historian Seren Evans-Charrington, the 13-course menu included braised ox heart in aspic, roast quail with glazed grapes and redcurrant glazed ham. For pudding? Mussel jelly was among the favourites.

17) How did the NORAD Santa Tracker come about?

At the height of Cold War between the US and Soviet Union in 1955, Colonel Harry Shoup at the Continental Air Defence Command (CONAD) in Colorado received a call on a top-secret hotline.

Braced for news of an impending missile attack, Colonel Shoup instead heard the nervous voice of a young boy asking: “Are you Santa Claus?”

The number had been mistakenly published in a local newspaper as the Sears department store's Santa hotline. It had one digit wrong – and instead listed the covert phone number.

Ever since CONAD (renamed the North American Aerospace Defence Command – or NORAD – in 1958) has been the official Santa Tracker, using its satellite network to chart his progress around the globe.

Today, 1,500 NORAD troops and volunteers answer phone lines on Christmas Eve.

18) Can you name other momentous events to happen on December 25?

Here’s a handful: William the Conqueror was crowned in 1066; Sir Isaac Newton was born in 1642; Halley’s Comet was confirmed in 1758; the First World War Christmas Truce in 1914; deposed Romanian president Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were shot by firing squad in 1989; Mikhail Gorbachev resigned in 1991; and the British-built Mars probe, Beagle 2, disappeared in 2003.

19) What height was the world’s tallest Christmas tree?

The Guinness World Records lists the world’s tallest cut Christmas tree as 67.36 m (221 ft) – a Douglas fir erected and decorated at Seattle’s Northgate Shopping Centre in December 1950.

20) What fast food chain is popular for Christmas dinner in Japan?

KFC. It all dates back to the hugely successful “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (“Kentucky for Christmas!”) campaign in 1974. In some Japanese locations, you need to reserve your bucket of chicken up to two months in advance.