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Prologue

It seems apples for the teacher is a bygone tradition. Host Ira Glass talks to Mindy, a first-grade teacher, about the rather racy gifts her students give these days at Christmas.

Act One: Make A Joyous Noise Unto Your Mom

Ian Brown tries, after decades of failure, to give his mother the perfect Christmas gift. He and his brother attempt something they haven't done since they were kids: Rehearse and sing her a program of Christmas carols.

Act Two: A Christmas Memory

We play a 1959 original recording of Truman Capote reading his holiday story A Christmas Memory—and sounding eerily similar to David Sedaris.

Act Three: Secret Santa. Very Secret Santa.

Caitlin Shetterly reports on a true-life holiday fable from rural Maine, complete with a misunderstood recluse with a heart of gold, a deserving family in need, and a very special Christmas tree farm with secrets of its own.

Act One: Pilgrim's Progress

Regular TAL contributor Sarah Vowell takes over the family Thanksgiving dinner by bringing everyone to New York. What results is a series of milestones and family firsts.

Act Three: Birthday Present

On a commemorative day, it can be hard to feel a real sense of the past and of how time has moved forward. Russell Banks has a story demonstrating what it might take to do just that.

Prologue

Host Ira Glass talks with Stephen Nissenbaum, author of a history called The Battle for Christmas, which explains when people started believing in a Santa who arrives Christmas Eve carrying presents. It was in 1822, and incredibly, the poem that created our modern idea of Santa is still around, known by heart by tens of millions.

Act One: The Red Velvet Underground

We begin our show with the most idealistic notion of Santa. Mike Paterniti heads on a quest across the country, looking for something we've lost, when it comes to Santa.

Act Four: Santa In Handcuffs, Prometheus In Chains

What if do-gooders patrolled department stores, keeping tabs on the Santas? We hear this story, of The Most Fantastic Crimefighter The World Has Ever Known: Chickenman. Recorded for This American Life by Dick Orkin, Christine Coyle and Rod Roddy at the Radio Ranch in Los Angeles.

Act Five: Santa Claus Vs. The Easter Bunny

Students in a French language class in Paris try to explain holiday customs to a woman from Morocco, and somehow everything they describe sounds utterly improbable. A true story from writer David Sedaris, recorded before a live audience at a reading for City Arts and Lectures in San Francisco.

Act Four: Open Your Big Mouth

What happens when you go into a place—in this case a prison—where there are all sorts of codes about what you're never supposed to say...and you say every one of them. Rick Reynolds tells a story from his one-man show (and CD) All Grown Up and No Place to Go, about performing stand-up comedy at a maximum security prison just before Christmas a few years ago.