About this podcast

Behind every Christmas tradition is a story, often a forgotten one. Every year as we put up a tree and pour the eggnog, we’re continuing generations-old narratives, while being mostly unaware of their starting chapters.

Join Brian Earl to explore the fascinating stories behind the most wonderful time of the year. It’s equal parts nerdy deep dive and warmhearted celebration. Think: NPR meets Clement Clarke Moore!
Visit the Christmas Past website

  • Backstory — Wishbooks
    by e_xander on December 8, 2023

    Colorful, glossy, enticing. For generations of children, the annual department store Christmas catalog was a field guide, a treasure map, and the fuel for […]

  • Backstory — Stollen
    by e_xander on December 6, 2023

    Stollen is a Christmas staple in German homes. This cake/bread hybrid is packed with flavor and shaped to resemble a swaddled baby. Food writer Luisa Weiss […]

  • Backstory — The Mari Lwyd
    by e_xander on December 4, 2023

    The mostly warm, fuzzy, cozy, sanitized Christmas is mainly a product of 19th and 20th century American influence. In earlier times, Christmas had a spooky […]

  • Backstory — Christmas Seals
    by e_xander on December 1, 2023

    By the turn of the 20th century, tuberculosis was the leading cause of death in America by far. In 1907, when a tuberculosis treatment clinic was in financial […]

  • Backstory — The Twelve Days of Christmas
    by e_xander on November 29, 2023

    These days, the Christmas season is the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Way back when, it was the period beginning on Christmas Day, and […]

  • Backstory — Elves
    by e_xander on November 27, 2023

    The earliest myths involving elves portrayed them as mischievous or even malicious creatures that posed dangers to humans and animals. So, how do we get from […]

  • Backstory — Nutcrackers
    by e_xander on November 23, 2023

    Decorative nutcrackers — most often resembling a toy soldier, but available in countless other characters — are synonymous with the Christmas season. Why? […]

  • Story Time — The Christmas Sing In Our Village
    by e_xander on November 16, 2023

    Listen to this episode of the Christmas Past Author: Brian Earl Title: Story Time — The Christmas Sing In Our Village

  • Interview & Story Time — The Christmas Stories of Mary Wilkins Freeman
    by e_xander on November 9, 2023

    Mary E. Wilkins Freeman was a prolific author in the 19th century. Her Christmas stories showed up every year in newspapers and magazines. Professor Thomas […]

  • Story Time — The Captain of the Polestar
    by e_xander on October 31, 2023

    As we ease our way into another Christmas season, we’re practicing thta somewhat forgotten tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas time! In 1883, […]

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