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.
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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.
Sarah Vowell explains why so many popular songs portray Santa as a ladies man.
Riz Rollins tells a story about himself, his brother, his grandmother and a guy in a Chicago department store they hope has some pull with Santa.
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.
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.
As the number of female prisoners climbs, visiting rooms are packed on Mother's Day. Eighty percent of female inmates have children at home.
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.