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Naughty & Nice: A History of The Holiday Season

On this episode of BackStory, Christmas may be the big kahuna of American holy days, but it wasn’t always so. It used to be a time of drunken rowdiness, when the poor would demand food and money from the rich.

The Puritans banned Christmas altogether. It wasn’t until the 1820s that the holiday was re-invented as the peaceful, family-oriented, and consumeristic ritual we celebrate today.

In this episode, the History Guys examine the history of the “holiday season” in America. Has Christmas grown more or less religious? How has the holiday evolved and changed here? To what extent was Hanukkah a reaction to Christmas, and how have American Jews shaped and reshaped their own wintertime rituals?


Full Transcript

Guests include:
Stephen Nissenbaum, historian and author of The Battle for Christmas
John Gibson, host of Fox News Radio and author of The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday is Worse than You Thought
Rabbi Laura Baum, founder of
Tyrone Jones, Santa Claus impersonator at Cheltenham Square Mall

BackStory is a brand-new public radio program that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each show, renowned U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths. Over the course of the hour, they are joined by fellow historians, people in the news, and callers interested in exploring the roots of what’s going on today. Together, they drill down to colonial times and earlier, revealing the connections (and disconnections) between past and present. With its passionate, intelligent, and irreverent approach, BackStory is fun and essential listening no matter who you are.

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