Brain Game: Two Boys

Today's Brain Game is a riddle. The solution doesn't involve any real trickery; just a keen mind and careful reading. Good luck!

You and your twin brother were the only two children of your parents. (Your brother lives alone, never married, and never had kids.) When you graduated high school, you married your childhood sweetheart. Like your parents, you and your wife had twin boys. Neither you nor your wife ever wed anyone else, had children with anyone else, or adopted any children.

When your two sons turned five years of age, you and your wife decided that you wanted a third son. Unfortunately, tragedy struck before she could become pregnant. While up north at a skiing lodge, an avalanche rumbled down the mountainside and swamped the hotel where you were staying. You were the only survivor; your father and mother, your wife, and both of your sons died in the accident.

It's been a difficult time since then, but you're really looking forward to some fun this Christmas. That's when your two kids' grandparents plan to come to your house and visit them for the very first time.

Since both your parents and your twins are no longer alive, how is this possible?

Here is the SOLUTION.


If you read the text carefully, it says that you and your brother were the "only two children of your parents." But when it refers to your kids, it says that "like your parents, you and your wife had two sons" and that you "wanted to have a third son."

You and your wife DID have only two sons - the twins - but the two of you also had two daughters. They were too young to ski, so they stayed home with a neighbor during the fateful trip. They're the "children" awaiting their "grandparents" this Christmas.

And yes, while your daughters' grandparents (your parents) are no longer with us, the girls do have another set of grandparents - your late wife's parents, who are alive and well and looking forward to seeing the girls for the first time ever this December.

Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?

Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.


More from mental floss studios