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You're Smarter for 10; As the countdown to turkey, chocs and presents begins, MARION MCMULLEN opens a selection box of Christmas facts to dazzle your family and friends.

Byline: MARION MCMULLEN

Who is part of the international festive scene? It's not just Father Christmas who is busy on December 25. Scandinavia has a variety of Christmas gnomes including Norway's Julenisse, Russia has Grandfather Frost and Babouschka, a grandmotherly figure, and Italy has La Befana, a kindly old witch.

What's the big deal about December 25? It was in AD 320 that December 25 was designated Christmas Day when Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified that as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Carol Vorderman was born on Christmas Eve Do you want that gift-wrapped? The people of Oslo have given a Christmas tree to the city of Westminster every year since 1947. The gift is an expression of goodwill and gratitude for Britain's help to Norway in World War II.

Who made their first appearance on December 25? People who were born on Christmas Day include English scientist Sir Isaac Newton, Casablanca film star Humphrey Bogart, former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox and Pogues singer Shane MacGowan. TV presenter Carol Vorderman was born on Christmas Eve.

Who introduced Christmas trees to the UK? Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, brought the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle for the royal family.

Who ordered a tree? How about thinking outside the box? December 26 was traditionally known as St Stephen's Day, but is more commonly known now as Boxing Day. The expression came about because money was collected in alms boxes placed in churches during the festive season. The money was given to the poor and needy after Christmas. The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

Who's crackers about crackers? London sweet shop owner Tom Smith came up with the Christmas cracker. He was inspired after discovering a variety of sweets wrapped up in a twist of paper when visiting France in the 1840s. When did Christmas reach America? Alabama was the first US state to recognise Christmas as an official holiday and the tradition began in America in 1836.

Who put their stamp on Christmas? The first Christmas card was printed in England in 1834 for Sir Henry Cole. He was a busy man who wanted to save time on writing his own Christmas letters, but was also interested in encouraging the expansion of the postal service.

Annie Lennox was

CAPTION(S):

Shane MacGowan, who was born on Christmas Day, with Kirsty MacColl - the duo had a festive hit with Fairytale of New York ? Annie Lennox was also born on the big day
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EXNO
Date:Dec 21, 2013
Words:423
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