Christmas

NORAD Tracking Santa: A Cold War History

The story that circulates about how NORAD started tracking Santa is pretty heart-warming, but doesn’t completely hold up. So there’s some myth-busting here, and maybe the tiniest bit of bah-humbug.

The Historical Roots of Holiday Treats

Tasty treats associated with winter holidays - candy canes, wassail and gingerbread - have some slightly hazy origins, because the evidence of their histories was eaten. What do we actually know about these foods and their place in the holiday menu?

The Krampus and Friends Holiday Special, Part 3

Since last year's episodes on non-Santa holiday figures were so popular, there's another installment for 2016! This time around, Frau Perchta, Olentzero, Mari Lwyd and Ded Moroz get the spotlight.

The Whiskey Rebellion

Resistance to excise taxes levied against U.S. whiskey distilleries in the 1790s led to violence and rebellion. Tensions finally came to a head on Christmas day in 1794. Read the show notes here.

The Krampus and Friends Holiday Special, Part 2

In addition to the characters we talked about on our last episode, there are even more colorful holiday traditions that may be a bit surprising to people who didn't grow up with them. That includes the ogress of Iceland and the Catalan pooping log. Read the show notes here.

The Krampus and Friends Holiday Special, Part 1

Krampus has become really popular in recent years, but there are many holiday characters from various cultures around the world that all have fascinating histories. For example, Italy's La Befana and the Netherlands version of St. Nick, Sinterklaas. Read the show notes here.

The Disappearance of the Sodder Children

The Sodder family's West Virginia home caught fire on Christmas Eve, 1945. Five of the children were never seen again, though their bodies weren't recovered from the rubble.

Eggnog Riot

In 1826, liquor was forbidden at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. Cadets smuggled alcohol into the barracks anyway, and a defiant Christmas party turned into a riot when two officers attempted to break up the festivities. Read the show notes here.

Christmas Tree Ship

It's a Christmas episode, a shipwreck and a ghost story rolled into one! It's the story of the the Rouse Simmons, which sank in Lake Michigan while hauling a load of Christmas trees to Chicago.

The Iroquois Theater Fire

In 1903, Chicago's newly-opened Iroquois Theater burned, killing at least 600 people. The horrible, incredibly tragic incident was the result of multiple code violations and wrongdoings.