The great Christmas classics are all like fables. David Sedaris contributes his own, about barnyard animals who decide to play "Secret Santa." David is the author of many books, including a collection of Christmas stories, Holidays on Ice.
A brand new Christmas carol gets its world premiere: A song about both Christmas and American history. With lyrics by Sarah Vowell.
Jonathan Goldstein retells the classic Christmas story, trying to understand what exactly goes through the mind of a man about to become surrogate father to The Lord. Jonathan's the author of Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!.
It seems apples for the teacher is a bygone tradition. Host Ira Glass talks to Mindy, a first-grade teacher, about the rather racy gifts her students give these days at Christmas.
Host Ira Glass goes to a busy Target store one week before Christmas. Most shoppers he talks to don't think any of their gifts will be returned.
Ian Brown tries, after decades of failure, to give his mother the perfect Christmas gift. He and his brother attempt something they haven't done since they were kids: Rehearse and sing her a program of Christmas carols.
We play a 1959 original recording of Truman Capote reading his holiday story A Christmas Memory—and sounding eerily similar to David Sedaris.
Caitlin Shetterly reports on a true-life holiday fable from rural Maine, complete with a misunderstood recluse with a heart of gold, a deserving family in need, and a very special Christmas tree farm with secrets of its own.
Chuck Klosterman talks about the time he MacGyvered his way out of one of the worst situations a boyfriend can find himself in.
Trinity Church in Texas puts on something called Hell House every Halloween. It's like a haunted house, but each scene shows teenage church members acting out scenes of things the church considers sins.
David Rakoff discusses the world of birthdays and other holidays, as they're celebrated on the job... and what happens when you call yourself an editorial assistant but the editor you're assisting calls you a secretary. He read this story before a live audience at Town Hall in New York City, during a This American Life live show.
David Sedaris reads a new story about what "they" do at Christmas. And by "they" of course, we mean the Dutch.
The story of several huge companies that accidentally got put into the babysitting business in a big, big way because of snow on December 26, 1988. Every year on the day after Christmas, divorced kids all over America fly from one parent to the other.
We hear the story of a disastrous birthday party and how it's hard not to see these kinds of moments as symbolic of something bad.
Regular TAL contributor Sarah Vowell takes over the family Thanksgiving dinner by bringing everyone to New York. What results is a series of milestones and family firsts.
On a commemorative day, it can be hard to feel a real sense of the past and of how time has moved forward. Russell Banks has a story demonstrating what it might take to do just that.
Every year, the Emerald Society, an association of Irish Chicago police officers, flies in policemen from New York City for Chicago's two big St. Patrick's Day Parades.
Beau O'Reilly and his mother Winifred, who had 14 children, discuss her secret feelings about Johnny Cash and other matters on Mother's Day.
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.
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.
Sarah Vowell explains why so many popular songs portray Santa as a ladies man.
Riz Rollins tells a story about himself, his brother, his grandmother and a guy in a Chicago department store they hope has some pull with Santa.
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.
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.