December 24, 1999

The Angels Wanna Wear My Red Suit

A special Christmas edition of our show, with stories about Santa Claus—me It was in America, in New York, that people started believing in the modern idea of Santa—a guy who comes down the chimney with a sack of goodies. But America has invented a few other Santas as well.


Host Ira Glass talks with Stephen Nissenbaum, author of a history called The Battle for Christmas, which explains when people started believing in a Santa who arrives Christmas Eve carrying presents. It was in 1822, and incredibly, the poem that created our modern idea of Santa is still around, known by heart by tens of millions. (8 minutes)
Act One

The Red Velvet Underground

We begin our show with the most idealistic notion of Santa. Mike Paterniti heads on a quest across the country, looking for something we've lost, when it comes to Santa. (18 minutes)


“Will Santa Come to Shanty Town?” by Eddy Arnold
Act Four

Santa In Handcuffs, Prometheus In Chains

What if do-gooders patrolled department stores, keeping tabs on the Santas? We hear this story, of The Most Fantastic Crimefighter The World Has Ever Known: Chickenman. Recorded for This American Life by Dick Orkin, Christine Coyle and Rod Roddy at the Radio Ranch in Los Angeles. All the various voices are played by Orkin and Coyle—with Roddy announcing. (4 minutes)
Act Five

Santa Claus Vs. The Easter Bunny

Students in a French language class in Paris try to explain holiday customs to a woman from Morocco, and somehow everything they describe sounds utterly improbable. A true story from writer David Sedaris, recorded before a live audience at a reading for City Arts and Lectures in San Francisco. (10 minutes)