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Here’s a fun exercise—to do alone or with a group—to see how much you know about our Catholic faith. Circle the option you think is correct and then check your answers against the answer key at the end of the exercise.
1. During Advent we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” at Mass. What does Emmanuel mean?
a) Baby Jesus b) Messiah c) Savior of the World d) God with Us
2. New Year’s Day is the beginning of the calendar year. When does the new liturgical year begin?
a) Christmas b) First Sunday of Advent c) Easter d) the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday
3. The first two Sundays in Advent focus on the last ___.
judgment b) chance to cut down
your own Christmas tree c) days of the
Thanksgiving sales before the Christmas sales begin d) supper
4. Advent is a penitential season.
5. ___ are used during Advent at the beginning of each Mass to symbolize that Christ, the light of the world (John 8:12), will soon be born.
a) Flashlights b) Bonfires at the front door of the church c) Candles in a wreath
on the manger
6. Jesus was born on December 25.
7. Epiphany means ___.
a) “three kings” b) “the unveiling” c) “post-Christmas” d) “officially over”
8. Which Old Testament prophet said of Christ’s coming: “For unto us a child is born, a son is given; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They shall call him Wonder-Counselor, God-hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.”
a) Micah b) Ezekiel c) Jeremiah d) Isaiah
9. What is a manger?
a) a food container for barnyard animals b) a crib c) a jogging stroller d) a Jewish baby bed made out of straw
10. Christ was unique because his nature was part human and part God.
11. On Christmas Day, Christians around the world exchange ___ to celebrate the gift of salvation that has come through the birth of the Son of God.
a) cell phone numbers b) email addresses c) presents d) Facebook accounts
12. Why do Christians have Christmas trees?
a) Evergreen trees point to new life during the dead season of winter b) Evergreens never die, just as Christians will live forever because of Christ c) It follows the eighth-century tradition of St. Boniface d) all of the above
13. Christmas ___ are songs sung during the Christmas season.
a) hymns b) ornaments c) carols
14. Who was the saint of the Incarnation?
a) Francis of Assisi b) Bonaventure c) Augustine d) Anselm
15. The three kings who visited the Christ child are described as ___ in Matthew 2:1.
a) foreigners b) magi c) pagans d) angels
16. Candy canes symbolize ___.
a) the shepherds who visited the Christ child b) the sacrifice (red stripes) and the purity (white stripes) of Christ c) the body of Christ when it is broken and shared d) all of the above
17. The Mexican Christmas tradition of going house to house looking for room at the inn is called Las ___.
a) Piñatas b) Casas c) Posadas d) Quesadillas
18. Hanukkah is the Jewish version of Christmas.
19. The Blessed Virgin Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel to prepare her for the birth of the Son of God. Who else received an angelic visit?
a) Elizabeth b) Joseph c) John the Baptist d) Herod
20. Which saint is closely associated with Christmas because of his generosity to a needy family?
a) Nicholas b) Pius X c) Clement d) Polycarp
1. d) …[T]he Holy Spirit completes in Mary all the preparations for Christ’s coming among the People of God. By the action of the Holy Spirit in her, the Father gives the world Emmanuel, ‘God-with-us’” (Mt 1:23) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 744).
2. b) The Western Church’s liturgical year has begun with Advent since the tenth century. The year ends with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.
3. a) The early Advent Scripture readings focus on the final judgment, Christ’s return as Lord of all creation, and how to prepare for Christ’s Second Coming (see CCC, n.1040-1041).
Although Advent is a time to repent and prepare spiritually for the (second)
coming of Christ and the final judgment, Canon Law states, “The penitential
days and times in the universal Church are every Friday of the whole year and
the season of Lent” (n. 1250).
Early Christians lived without electricity and recognized the power of light.
Even one candle in the catacombs could light up the entire cave. Likewise, the
light of Christ conquers sin and invites us out of our darkness (see John 1:5; 12:46).
6. False. Scholars say that no one knows the date of Jesus’ birth. The Church assigned Christmas to December 25 around 330 a.d. to counteract the pagan feast of the sun god.
7. b) “The Epiphany is the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Savior of the world. The great feast of Epiphany celebrates the adoration of Jesus by the wise men (magi) from the East, together with his baptism in the Jordan and the wedding feast at Cana in Galilee” (CCC, n. 528).
8. d) The prophet Isaiah’s poetic writings (see 9:1-5), read at the four different Christmas liturgies, were used in Christmas favorites such as Handel’s Messiah and A Charlie Brown Christmas, based on the comic strip “Peanuts” by Charles M. Schulz.
9. a) Christ’s birth alerts us to the fact that this Child, born in a feedbox for animals, will one day feed the world with his Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
10. False. “The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man” (CCC, n. 464).
11. c) Following
Christ’s command “to love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12),
Christians make gifts of their lives to each other at Christmas and all year.
12. d) Saint Boniface cut down the sacred tree of the pagan god Thor to stop the sacrificing of humans. He told the people to take an evergreen tree, which pointed to heaven, into their homes, saying: “Call this the tree of the Christ Child. Gather about it, not in the wild woods but in your homes. There it will shelter no deeds of blood, but loving gifts and lights of kindness” (The Catholic Source Book, Our Sunday Visitor).
13. c) Secular Christmas songs like “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “White Christmas” are often listed as “carols,” but Christmas carols were traditionally songs of joy about the birth of Jesus.
14. a) Francis believed the Incarnation was the most profound revelation of God’s love. Not surprisingly, he was the first to re-enact the birth of Christ through a living manger scene.
15. b) Saint Bede (seventh century) said the three magi came from Asia, Africa, and Europe, symbolizing how Christ would unite all nations in himself.
16. d) Before people could read, most Christians were taught the faith through art and symbols, especially during the great seasons like Christmas and Easter.
17. c) Mexican children process with lit candles, dress up like Mary and Joseph, enjoy piñatas, and pray the Rosary from December 16 to 24 in preparation for Christmas.
18. False. Christmas, along with Easter, are the two central feasts for Christians. For Jews, Hanukkah is a minor feast compared to the feasts of Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover.
19. b) See Matthew 1:19-20.
20. a) Saint Nicholas provided a poor family with the dowries for its daughters’ weddings. His charity became a model for Christians.
David O’Brien served as Associate Director of Religious Education-Lay Development Division for the Archdiocese of Mobile, providing theological education and pastoral formation for lay ministers. He taught as an adjunct faculty member at Spring Hill College in the theology department and currently is a graduate fellow at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of There’s a Beer in My Handbag: Unusual Thoughts about Everyday Faith (CreateSpace, 2012).