Airs Monday, December 24, 2012 at 9:00 AM on 90.3 WCPN
Christmas may be the Big Kahuna of American holy days but it wasn’t always so. For many centuries, it was a time of drunken rowdiness, when the poor would aggressively demand food and money from the rich. Little surprise, then, that the Puritans banned Christmas altogether. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1820s that the holiday was re-invented as the peaceful, family-oriented, and yes, consumeristic ritual we celebrate today.
BackStory’s year-end special takes on the fascinating history of the holiday season in America. Beginning with contemporary debates over the proper role of religion in the public square, the History Guys move backwards in time, searching for the roots of the holidays we celebrate today. Has Christmas grown more or less religious? When did gifts enter the picture? Was Hanukkah always as important to American Jews as it is today? What does the history of holidays have to do with the history of the American economy? These are just a few of the questions on the table as the History Guys explore the history of the winter holidays.
Historian Stephen Nissenbaum (The Battle for Christmas) describes how in the 1820s, Christmas changed from a raucous street fest into a domesticated, gift-centered holiday.
Fox News Radio host John Gibson explains why he thinks there’s a “war on Christmas.”
Rabbi Laura Baum (ourjewishcommunity.org) explains how the Hanukkah story came into being, and why telling kids the truth about its origins doesn’t diminish the holiday.
Tyrone Jones talks about what it’s like to be a Santa Claus who doesn’t look like the Norman Rockwell prototype.
BackStory listeners phone in with their questions about the history of the holiday season.