The air is filled with carols, the city trees threaded with glittering white lights. And just about every ballet company in the land is performing its version of "The Nutcracker."

It wasn't always a Christmas tradition, but it has come to be so in the United States since -- well, you'll find out in a moment. In any case, the number of balletomanes who trace their lifelong love of dance to childhood memories of "The Nutcracker" is incalculable.

To add to your store of "Nutcracker" lore and legend, here's the 1990 Nutcracker Quiz -- best enjoyed with popcorn and hot chocolate by a comfortable fire. Answers follow. 1. The writer of the story on which "The Nutcracker" is based is:

(a) W.E.B. DuBois.

(b) M.F.K. Fisher.

(c) E.T.A. Hoffmann.

(d) C.D.B. Bryan. 2. Another story by the same writer also was made into a ballet, which has this in common with "The Nutcracker":

(a) "Coppelia" -- A mechanical toy that comes to life.

(b) "Cinderella" -- A supporting cast of mice.

(c) "Swan Lake" -- Brightly costumed national dances.

(d) "Sleeping Beauty" -- A mysterious godparent to the rescue. 3. The first production of "The Nutcracker" was in 1892 by:

(a) Bolshoi Ballet.

(b) Ballets Russes.

(c) Maryinsky Ballet.

(d) Paris Opera Ballet. 4. Choreography for the first production of the ballet was by:

(a) Vaslav Nijinsky.

(b) Marius Petipa-Lev Ivanov.

(c) Mikhail Fokine.

(d) Serge Diaghilev. 5. The first American production premiered in what year? 6. The first American "Nutcracker" was performed by:

(a) Ballet of the 20th Century.

(b) New York City Ballet.

(c) Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.

(d) San Francisco Ballet. 7. "The Nutcracker" is part of a trilogy of ballets by Tchaikovsky. The others are:

(a) "Romeo and Juliet"-"Cinderella."

(b) "Swan Lake"-"Sleeping Beauty."

(c) "Coppelia"-"Giselle."

(d) "Don Quixote"-"Raymonda." 8. After his ballets, Tchaikovsky is best known for his:

(a) String quartets.

(b) Operas.

(c) Symphonies.

(d) Songs. 9. The "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" features a solo instrument invented in the 1880s. It is:

(a) The harmonica.

(b) The harmonium.

(c) The arpeggione.

(d) The celesta. 10. This instrument is:

(a) A carillon played from a keyboard.

(b) A clarinet mouthpiece attached to a brass body.

(c) A cello with a fretted fingerboard.

(d) A small electronic organ with a wah-wah pedal and other special effects. 11. The heroine of "The Nutcracker" is Maria. In some productions she is called:

(a) Katrina.

(b) Alice.

(c) Clara.

(d) Pollyanna. 12. The grand pas de deux in Act II is traditionally danced by:

(a) Maria and the Nutcracker Prince.

(b) The Mouse King and his Queen.

(c) The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier.

(d) Maria's parents. 13. George Balanchine's 1954 "Nutcracker" introduced:

(a) Waltzing snowflakes.

(b) A toy cannon.

(c) Dancing cookies.

(d) A Christmas tree that grows. 14. The first New York City Ballet "Nutcracker" featured two of Balanchine's wives. Who were they, and what were the parts they danced? Choose two:

(a) Vera Zorina, narrator.

(b) Maria Tallchief, Sugar Plum Fairy.

(c) Suzanne Farrell, Clara.

(d) Tanaguil LeClerq, Dewdrop Fairy. 15. In addition to Russia, Spain, China and other countries, Balanchine also included dances in the divertissement for:

(a) Caramel and Taffy.

(b) Coffee and Tea.

(c) Sugar and Spice.

(d) Bagels and Lox. 16. An angel in the 1954 New York City Ballet production later became a photographer noted for dance portraits. Who was it?

(a) Judy Dater.

(b) Richard Avedon.

(c) Martha Swope.

(d) Imogen Cunningham. 17. Who is Mother Ginger?

(a) The mother of Maria and Fritz.

(b) Tchaikovsky's patron, a wealthy noblewoman who preferred to remain anonymous.

(c) The queen of the Kingdom of Sweets.

(d) The mother of the Nutcracker Prince. 18. In San Francisco Ballet's "Nutcracker," Mother Ginger's skirt is also:

(a) A cottage with a real smoking chimney.

(b) A candy store with goodies spilling out of the pockets.

(c) A cookie jar.

(d) Six skirts layered one on top of the other. 19. Pacific Northwest Ballet's "Nutcracker," which was made into a film in 1986, features sets and costumes by which well-known author-illustrator of children's books?

(a) Garth Williams ("Charlotte's Web").

(b) Sir John Tenniel ("Alice in Wonderland").

(c) Beatrix Potter ("Peter Rabbit").

(d) Maurice Sendak ("Where the Wild Things Are"). 20. The first title of "The Nutcracker" ballet was:

(a) "Casse-Noisette."

(b) "Charcuterie."

(c) "Nussbaum und Mauskonig."

(d) "Sachertortestadt." 21. "The Nutcracker" came to Russia in a French translation by:

(a) Victor Hugo ("Les Miserables").

(b) Alexandre Dumas pere ("The Three Musketeers").

(c) Alexandre Dumas fils ("La Dame aux Camellias").

(d) Victorien Sardou ("Tosca"). 22. In the first production, the Nutcracker Prince was danced by Pavel Gerdt, who also created the role of:

(a) "Le Corsaire."

(b) Prince Desire in "Sleeping Beauty."

(c) Dr. Coppelius in "Coppelia."

(d) Prince Siegfried in "Swan Lake." 23. Tchaikovsky had planned to set "The Nutcracker" as a one-act ballet, paired with a fairy-tale opera whose working title was "King Rene's Daughter." Under what title is this fairy tale better known, and who brought it to the stage?

(a) "Romeo et Juliette" (Charles Gounod).

(b) "Iolanthe" (Gilbert & Sullivan).

(c) "The Cunning Little Vixen" (Leos Janacek).

(d) "Le Corsaire" (Hector Berlioz). 24. In 1934, a girl named Peggy Hookham made her debut as a snowflake in the Royal Ballet's production. Three years later, she danced the Sugar Plum Fairy. She is better known as:

(a) Alicia Markova.

(b) Margot Fonteyn.

(c) Ninette de Valois.

(d) Antoinette Sibley. 25. What is a mirliton?

(a) A lap-size harp.

(b) A gold trumpet, played in C instead of B-flat.

(c) A reed flute.

(d) An electronic instrument best known (outside "Nutcracker") for its use in the sound track of Hitchcock's "Spellbound." 26. Who is "Dance of the Mirlitons" danced by? Choose two:

(a) Two mirlitons.

(b) A bluebird and a princess.

(c) Dresden shepherdesses.

(d) Chinese dolls. 27. "Generally speaking, 'The Nutcracker' was staged mainly for children. For the dancers, it contains very little; for art, exactly nothing." This unkind assessment was written by the dance critic:

(a) Theophile Gauthier, after the first French production.

(b) Edwin Denby, after the first New York production.

(c) Konstantin Skalkovsky, after the first St. Petersburg production.

(d) John Percival, after the first London production. 28. New York City Ballet's Sugar Plum Fairy floats offstage using:

(a) A tiny platform pulled by a wire.

(b) Harness equipment made by Flying by Foy, who also "flew" Peter Pan.

(c) Incredibly fast bourrees.

(d) A Cavalier and four attendants, a combination first used by Balanchine in "Serenade." Answers:

1. (c) 2. (a) 3. (c) 4. (b) 5. 1944. 6. (d) 7. (b) 8. (c) 9. (d) 10. (a). 11. (c) 12. (c) 13. (d) 14. (b) and (d) 15. (b) 16. (c) 17. (c) 18. (a) 19. (d) 20. (a) 21. (c) 22. (d) 23. (b) 24. (b) 25. (c) 26. (c) and (d) 27. (c) 28. (a)