Somebody has really ticked you off. You're all steamed up inside and you want to vent that rage using words, but you don't want to confront them directly because you're either too polite or too cowardly. So do you:
A. Subtweet them.
B. With your finger, scrawl an insulting message into the dirt on their car.
C. Get a small sheet of lead, scratch into it a message cursing your enemies, roll it up and throw it into your nearest sacred spring?
Oh, I forgot to mention that it's 1700-2000 years ago and you're living in the Ancient Roman Empire, so the answer is C.Read More
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CONTENT WARNING: Be wary of listening to this episode around young children, as there may be life spoilers.
Historian Greg Jenner traces the origins of that mythical beardy man who turns up in December with gifts. And I ensure my permanent removal from everybody's Christmas card lists.
- The history of Christmas is very interesting and knotty. For a summary, read Greg Jenner's three pieces about it: when and why; who or what Father Christmas is; and odd traditions.
- Behold: some of the bonkers Victorian Christmas cards! Who says giant wasps can't be festive?
- A lot of the most familiar Christmas tropes in the present day were concocted by the Victorians. Read some snippets about Victorian Christmas here and here.
- 1843, the same year as the first Christmas card, was a seminal year for Christmas: Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol was published. Read it here, if you don't have a suitably dusty hardback version to hand.
- Want to become fluent in the language of flowers? Here are floriography links to start you off.
- Mentioning Theseus, here's the labyrinthine history of labyrinths.
- Over at my other podcast, we made a whole album about Christmas history and practice. The Answer Me This! Christmas is available here.
- Here's the transcript of this episode. Transcripts of most of the episodes can be found at theallusionist.org/transcripts.
MAILCHIMP'S RANDOMLY SELECTED WORD FROM THE DICTIONARY:
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- Greg Jenner is the chief nerd at Horrible Histories. His excellent book One Million Years In A Day is out now at the usual book-selling places. Follow @greg_jenner on Twitter.
- This episode was produced by me, Helen Zaltzman. Thanks to Radiotopia's new executive producer Julie Shapiro.
- Martin Austwick provided all the music.
- Send me the electronic equivalent of Christmas cards at facebook.com/allusionistshow, twitter.com/allusionistshow and twitter.com/helenzaltzman.
Please return in a fortnight, for the final episode of 2015.