Popular Christmas Carols Quiz

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About This Quiz

How much do you know about songs of the Christmas season, from jingling jams to joyful hallelujahs? Take this quiz to find out!

Which Christmas song was the first song ever broadcast on radio?

A Canadian inventor named Reginald Fessenden created the first audio broadcast in 1906. He read passages from the Bible and played "O Holy Night" on the violin.

"Joy to the World" is based on which book of the Bible?

It is taken from Psalms 98. It first appeared in publication in 1719.

Which Christmas carol is also the third best-selling single in world history?

Bing Crosby's version of "Silent Night" is one of the best-selling songs ever. The song has been translated into at least 140 languages.

In what year was "Silent Night" first performed?

It was written by a young priest in 1816 and then performed at a church in the Austrian Empire on Christmas Eve in 1818.

What was the original title of "The Little Drummer Boy"?

"The Little Drummer Boy" was called "Carol of the Drums," and by carol standards it is brand new — it wasn't written until 1941.

A poem called "The Manger Throne" provided the basis for which carol?

The poem was written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865 and used for "What Child Is This?" a haunting song written as Dix was recovering from a life-threatening illness.

"Jingle Bells" was originally written for which holiday?

The song was published in 1857 by James Lord Pierpont, and it was written for Thanksgiving. Since then, it's become universally associated with Christmas.

"The First Noel" originated in which area?

It's an English Christmas carol, and it was first published in 1823. In its early forms it was sometimes written as "The First Nowell."

What type of tree does "O Tannenbaum" reference?

A Tannenbaum is a fir. The song's original version has nothing to do with Christmas. Instead, it praises the fir's evergreen traits as a sort of faithfulness that people aspire to.

When was "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" first published?

It was published along with 16 other songs in 1700, but "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" is the only one still commonly sung today.

The tune of "Greensleeves" is used for which Christmas carol?

"Greensleeves" is an English folk song, and its melody is used for "What Child is This?" It was written in 1865 and is one of the most popular carols in America.

Which Christmas song was also the first song ever broadcast from space?

While they were in space in 1965, the crew of Gemini 6 played a version of "Jingle Bells" as a prank. They also implied that they saw Santa Claus.

How did NASA Mission Control respond to the astronauts' prank of playing "Jingle Bells" with a smuggled harmonica?

Although the astronauts were clearly breaking protocol, Mission Control couldn't do much, so they replied with a resigned "you're too much, six" (in reference to the Gemini 6 mission).

Which band has NOT covered "The Little Drummer Boy" on one of its albums?

The Ramones may not have covered the song, but just about every other band has done some version of this popular tune.

In what year did "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" first appear?

It was published in a collection called "Hymns and Sacred Poems," written by Charles Wesley in 1739. The original version was less anthemic and more solemn.

On which book of the Bible is "While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks" based?

The song is all about Luke 2, in which angels announce the birth of Jesus to shepherds.

"It Came Upon the Midnight Clear" may have been written in response to which war?

It was originally a poem written by a minister named Edmund Sears, who lived in Massachusetts. His world-weary poem may have been a response to the Mexican-American War.

About how long did it take composer John Frederick Coots to come up with the music for "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" in 1934?

Presented with the words (written by Haven Gillespie), Coots came up with the foundations for the music in about 10 minutes.

The day after "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" debuted on a radio show, how many orders for the sheet music were received?

More than 100,000 people called, clamoring for copies of the song's sheet music. It was an instant hit, and eventually 4 million copies were sold.

"Do You Hear What I Hear" was inspired by which real-world event?

As Christmas songs go, this one is relatively new. It was written in 1962 in response to the Cuban missile crisis.

"The Quest of the Magi" is better known by what title?

"The Quest of the Magi" is better known as "We Three Kings," a carol written for a Christmas pageant in 1857.

What's the name of the tune that's most often paired with "O Little Town of Bethlehem" in the United States?

The simple and sparse tune "St. Louis" is the melody played with the lyrics, which were composed by an Episcopal priest in 1868.

Who wrote "O Come, All Ye Faithful"?

The English version, written in the 1840s, is easy to trace; but as for the original, no one really knows who wrote it. It may date all the way back to the 1600s.

The lyrics for "Away in a Manger" are often attributed to which person?

Martin Luther has often been associated with this song, but there's no evidence at all that he wrote it.

Which song is the most-published Christmas song in North America?

"Joy to the World" is the most-published Christmas song. Other often-published songs are "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "When Shepherds Watched Their Flocks."

"Deck the Halls" dates back to which century?

The familiar Welsh melody is from the 16th century, but the English lyrics are relatively recent, from the 1860s.

How many different artists have recorded "Winter Wonderland" since it was written in 1934?

At least 200 recorded versions have been released. As the story goes, the song was written by a man named Dick Smith as he was recuperating from a bout of tuberculosis.

For which movie was "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" originally written?

In the 1944 movie "Meet Me in St. Louis," Judy Garland sings the song to her little sister. The bittersweet song's original lyrics are even more depressing than the wistful incarnation used in the film.

Which band turned "Joy to the World" into a No. 1 hit in 1971?

Three Dog Night's version, called "Joy to the World (Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog)," was intended as a silly kid's song and wound up atop the Billboard charts.

Which of these carols is the oldest?

"God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen" is one of the oldest Christmas carols in existence. It may date all the way back to the 1500s.

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