Episode 62: Christmas 2017

Friday, April 6th, 2018

“What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”   (Dr Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, (1957))


Welcome to Histories of the Unexpected where you will discover the history of things you didn’t know even had a history, like the history of hands or the history of dust.

For this episode let us join our very own Saint Nicholas of the national past, Dr Sam Willis, and the unexpected ghost of Christmas past, Professor James Daybell, as together they wrap the presents, stuff the turkey and boil the sprouts ready for the unexpected history of Christmas, 2017.

Our jolly Christmas elves will lead you on a journey of Christmas excitement and discovery, from the letter to Father Christmas written by Alfred and Hannah Howard in 1911 and their hopes for toffees and treats to Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas, first published in 1823, from Washington Irving’s Knickerbocker’s History of New York, published in 1809 to scare cats bricked into chimneys and Greek Kallikantzaros, from Befana, the Italian Christmas witch to the gold coins dropped down chimneys by the sixteenth century Dutch St. Nicholas, and from Robert Louis Stevenson’s Christmas at Sea, 1888 to Samuel Pepys and his actual Christmas Day in 1662.

James and Sam discover that this Christmas cracker is actually all about; preservation and renovation, hopes and nostalgia, invention and magic, social anxiety and otherworldly fears, innocence and peril, family and mortality, oh and chimneys, definitely chimneys, there may be a lot of chimneys!

Listen out as James relives a childhood Christmas scene, which features chimneys, and Sam reveals a particular interest in posed dead cats, historical dead cats we hasten to add!


‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!’

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