For the holidays this year, we're presenting a two-part Radiotopia feature with friend of the show (and host of The Allusionist podcast) Helen Zaltzman, each tackling a different aspect of this festive season.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars. You'd. Have I mean You better days today today, at Christmas Day, of course, No, you haven't missed it it's Christmas day and were celebrating with two funds to ways from the illusionist show. Language from Hellenes Ottoman delusional. Is what my item Beirut, podcast I'm just saying that, because Hellenes Oarsmen is one of my all time, favorite people, it is about language, but is absolutely not just for words. It is ninety nine p I style storytelling using language as the airlines to be culture rather than design, and if you have discovered a yet you're going. To love it with two festive He's no favourites from the illusionist. Here's hellenes Ottoman the war on Christmas. When did that start upon the birth of Jesus Christ himself
when King Herod ordered all the baby boys in and around Bethlehem be killed in one thousand six hundred and forty four, when Oliver Cromwell Puritans passed an ordinance prohibiting Christmas celebrations in England in one thousand six hundred and fifty nine, when the Massachusetts Bay, colony, Puritans managed to get Christmas banned for twenty two years for being a pagan festival or was it in nineteen. Ninety eight in Britain's second largest city Birmingham. If you picked up practically any newspaper at the time, you would have read the Birmingham City Council
had renamed Christmas winterbourne. Birmingham will celebrate the festive season as usual this year, with Carol singing fairy lights and street and payment, but don't call at Christmas. Council officials have renamed it winterbourne in the hope of creating a more multi cultural atmosphere in keeping with the city's mix of ethnic groups, a politically correct decision to call Christmas festivities weight of all council Christmas call at winterbourne. Birmingham council claiming it was anxious not to offend those in other fates, renamed Christmas Winterbourne, mythical correctness, gone back, please, Council, Jean. Provoked outrage last night, often naming Christmas festivities, winter political, correct, political correctness, political correctness, gone churchmen, believe the winter will name is intended to avoid offending Muslims and other minority political correctness gone mad.
Municipal brainwave, cold winter, renaming the annual holiday likening it to shopping rather than the shepherd political correctness gone mad would winterbourne, has a nasty of communists who band any christian connotation in these turbulent typical correctness. And verily in Britain Christmas was banished, now we sing winterbourne corals and, where ironic, interval sweaters, we hung up a wonderful stockings for father Winterbourne to fill with winter will gifts, and when we turn on the radio we rock around the winter will treat these festive tunes went of all
Winterbourne, winterbourne, winterbourne, winterbourne, point of yeah, that's exactly what happened! Well, it's about his true is most things that have been said about winterbourne which came about thanks to one MIKE job. I money was my job. You could say that I was the one that has caused you already that its principle in the late nineteen nineteen my job was the head of events for Birmingham City Council. From our point of view from might refer for some marriage, This huge events had done the council and my team. Also like thirty, we We came up with tell you principle: ass luck upon a portmanteau work,
for wind and on festival. I thought there was a portmanteau of winter and interval. I must say to some suggest this hiatus in the air nor its approach between Winter festival, but it is a good portmanteau. Quite elegant until it became shorthand for war on Christmas, with a sight of political correctness, go mad. It started well enough with Birmingham First Winterbourne in ninety ninety seven events run over several weeks and were attended by hundreds of thousands of people without complaints from the press or the populace is not clear why the following is: Winterbourne became the winter bought it in November. Ninety. Ninety eight, then Bishop of Birmingham Mark Santa Claus issued his Christmas message to the clergy of the diocese. It. But I wonder what madness is in store for us this Christmas, I confess I laughed loud when our city Council came out with Winterbourne as a way of not talking about Christmas, no doubt
The well meaning attempt not to offend not to exclude but ready to say anything at all. And soon the papers got hold of it? the eighth of November. Ninety ninety eight, the Birmingham Sunday Mercury, reported that the Bishop of Birmingham had condemned the city councils attempt to re brand Christmas. What happened then was of course, Baldos So I did a good way using up. Not much means christmases there. Let's use at an interesting story. Did you know both to the Council of Council Christmas or the naval Christmas Winslow? thereafter, when nationwide and worldwide pretty much the only person who didn't notice was might tub guy. Why would I was so busy at the time I didn't taking any of the year the media fury at the time. It just didn't touch me talk that unless we forty one days nonstop day and night, busy work waging war on Christmas? It sent that wasn't
Really? What my can the council with doing during the war on the wall on Christmas, in this war only one side turned up to the battlefield. It's a media. Clearly that actually took it, took me on people like the daily mail just going to do Google whimsical and just look at the organised Patients who are up in arms about it european arms, because they ve been led to believe that that's what various council intended it wasn't it now it was we ve never off.
What part all thought you one day with Life festival of events but people, so we try to rebranded Christmas. Yes, they said political correctness gone mad. Actually, political correctness had not gone mad. Political correctness had not even being in fact, because the council's events team was not trying to re brand Christmas. It was trying to bundled together a whole lot of events occurring in the weeks before and after Christmas. Birmingham is Britain, second largest city, with a very culturally and ethnically diverse population. There's a lot of stuff going on, particularly at that time of year. Hence they decided to use the marketing ban, a winter if you like it, that's what it says on the tin markets, a major festival at a time of the year, cold winter and the roles of the things are happening. Wings devolving happens, evince a baby children need happens in winter,
The chinese year happens in winter, New year's Eve happens in winter Hanukkah aid and Christmas Christmas lights, Christmas market Christmas trees, Christmas carols. It will still called Christmas particular event which included the Christmas switch on. He was about a month for the events of the Christmas, but came under Christmas. It was termed Christmas had its own browser Christmas. Unfortunately, people decided not to see that the big decided that, The council dates show the off to the warm Wentzville erupted in the papers. The council actually issued a statement that they would not rename and Christmas and Christmas was very visibly a major part of the winterville lineup, but which story six more.
The true one that winterbourne was a marketing an admin umbrella. While the lie that winnable had come to kill Christmas, nobody out, she could see the simplicity of the way. So abroad, but we're ready to what we want to you not to give voice to their own aspirations and prejudices. Not personally, I fainted significantly more opera about the war on Christmas than actual evidence that that war is being waged. Some people seem very eager for there to be a war on Christmas, so they can lead to christmases defence, though Christmas has achieved cultural dominance way beyond religious lines, to cost it as an underdog provides a cover for taking a pauper
thought is and to create and maintain divisions in society. But Christmas is a pagan roman christian Festival, celebrated by people from all sorts of cultures, with all sorts of beliefs in creating me and ethnically jewish atheist. Christmas is not threatened by multiculturalism. It is multi cultural put out, might change the scared of change and, to a certain extent, when smoke is used as an example of a change. That's gone too far. They misread what the organizers are trying to do and they continued to misread it after ninety? Ninety eight, Minimum didn't run, went to again, but in the following is the winter? Will myth was repeated dozens of times in Britain's national newspapers.
In fact, in twenty eleven after running another such peace, the daily mail had to print retraction, saying that winterbourne did not rename or replace Christmas, but too little too late, wouldn't have all had already become the by word for political correctness, go mad still continues. Just a few weeks ago in the british Parliament, China fairer the conservative MP for North West Cambridge, a toll Prime Minister Teresa, may that minority communities should respect the views and tradition of Mainstream Britain, that that means Christmas is not winterbourne on Christmas. Trees are not tested. Freeze, I do very well, we can all agree with him that Christmas is not winterbourne, since it never was winds of all tat is so simple. It's not it's. Not not difficult is just some people. Just to say what they want to say. Maybe we want to create a bit of a stir itself papers, the anyway
marketing story. It is very successful because the brand really clung on, if you just called it Birmingham Winter holidays, no one with a yak yeah. I mean the absolutely just unfortunate that the brand had been so misinterpreted. That's right, I thought, if you had to time again, would ye do differently now? Get me a full of got to experiment. There's got to be got to encouraging some. Public needs to be introduced, a new, exciting initiatives, otherwise we're just gonna live in a very dull society. Do you wanna go by that prize Turkey in the window and settlement for another story from the illusionist between a couple
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happening at the same time says welcome patriots. We are here for the Dickens use me. Haiti, mingle and Avery Trough. Woman of ninety nine percent. Invisible are about to enter Victorian London in the cap. Unless arena in daily city, just south of San Francisco, California legs me yes, degrees skills, not christmassy at a great Dickens Christmas, fair, entrails, giant portrait of Santa Claus? you walk in the Dickens Christmas. There has been an annual event in the Bay area since nineteen, seventy founded by husband and wife team run and Phyllis Patterson, who previously had started the renaissance Fast in the backyard of their home, in LOS Angeles, their kids round the Dickens fair? Now it's held on five weekends prior to
Smith and is a hundred and twenty thousand square feet and victorian. London festivity well my view a good job, so its nose like apple cider or something spice sightsee it sort it set up to look like an old English like Mars. Limiting rather like store France and right here, there's a big old timing that's the champagne and there like barmaids, serving champagne and has left the bridge. Oh my God, Helen, their british flags everywhere. All along the ceiling, it looks like a film set.
Street the streets, a name things like Nickleby Road, crotchety aren't Pickwick place, fuzzy wigs dance party, we do have a map, given that there were a nickel, be road right now by Charles Dickens. How The streets are throwing with people in different interpretations of the tens in costume compulsory for attendees, but encouraged. That baby is like wrapped in a potatoes like that man actually taken his baby. What their next is the mother potatoes and brought him to the Dickens fares. London is also inhabited by schools of volunteers and well research period, costumes before the event they ve been taught relevant history given vocabulary.
Guidelines and chosen names from a selection of approved two kinsmen names. I tell us in our yet or tens, never lacking the theatrical family, never lackeys, oh and there, in the actions which were right, you got strike down until you get the docks and if you go any further you're gonna get the Thames. I don't wanna hear the Thames attempts will, of course, is at times were in London. You silly light, How do you know where they give me down the concerns? You could have been a little too much. Lord nomadic tumescent laudanum was not a controlled substance in Nineteenth Century Britain, but it is now so that
doesn't sell it, but there are lots of places to by tee and ale. There are performance, stages, offensive, ketamine shocks, lots of shops, news, fine hats and bonnet I've been wanting. Really short selling victorian, such as course its jewelry pies and once hang on once right. Ok, what I, though, I don't really know with them. Come from historian, Gregg Jenna has visited the illusion as before in the episode Exodus Man, he talked about the history of Santa Claus and Victorian Christmas guards with dead mice and bacon on them. Great knows: a lot about and a lot about the history of Christmas. So I also to check a few things at that conspired to see whether or not they are dickensian. I don't think magic wands, particularly dickensian, but I may be wrong on that. So the fifteen dollars each year. I guess that's: that's just Harry Potter rolling!
over him to some other things and isn't that right we got a lot of one's left. What else is british dickens that'll? They will perhaps someone just mixed up there, David Copperfield Melodic. Let it is interesting to see that many people go there. You know I play make believe unless grander scale like all it is. Wonderful, really is a man tat, yes, top had no problem at all. I mean this is also the era of both dickens and Abe, Lincoln, both of whom were top hat aficionados No, it's a merry Christmas. That's an Americans owning a big Christmas break, a happy Christmas to contain merry Christmas, non dickensian season greetings were very varied. Victorian times is a merry Christmas and a happy Christmas and a seasons, greetings and happy you tied in biblical mutations in lines from carols so far
there's no real wrong way to say, happy Christmas or Merry Christmas. Torreon fat other than saying Calabaca Christmas, which would be obviously completely inappropriate alike. Well, I just wondered like that was by there's one guy, the bought the bullets, not well. It's guy, you know, he's a sign that says: you're, either molecule not March, and an even people are going to your colleagues what's mine. Is that your box in the baby's not Gregg the word bullocks? Well, That's a good old English swear word. I don't know of my head. If, if Dickens ever used in his novels, perhaps he did but a menace it's got a long. History goes all the way back to Anglo Saxon English Box. So if you or if your, if your festivals, all about that of quaint british ness than Pollux, is our stand, it go to english insult though quaintest swear, I think so.
This is one area where everyone is dressed up as like a beggar or a prostitute, or I guess what is it powerful dodger is a pickpocket, pickpockets and chimney sweeps. I got a lot of people think more on their faces here, which is kind of a weird thing: a port workers. It wouldn't be my chosen form of escapism on the weak, ensure but being wretches expensive in the new deploring things, and when your scam, you get to gamble and drink in Screamer really part, but I think we completely under estimate the terrifying daily stress. And strains of of not having a food of having sexual violence? If Europe of a woman who was about sex workers of the disease, is you know the infant mortality rates? The fact that Chile
working in factories and now pig on the streets at the latter, educational reform, There is an enormous, a canvas of of sadness, of human sadness, which Dickens pick upon, but there's a strange Romans to which we seem to revel in and I don't quite know, why that is yet what was the life expectancy all incredibly poor, really poor average life expectancy in eighteen twenty, was perhaps something like forty years old and now what two eighty, the fact. Of course this can get into that is massive infant mortality rates? You have a really heights of having at least two children die on you. If you have a family of six or seven kids, women put frequently have very soon is illnesses in childbirth. More often than not the thing that would kill a woman would be Complications from childbirth, for men, of course,
Have the military military service being particularly dangerous in the age of The british empire, which is off traveling the world, an com, bring things in a ruthless fashion, but also of course, you have terrible diseases and no understanding of germ theory until the eighteen, fifty and Sixtys. So there are horrible cholera outbreaks. The people then understand what spreads cholera. There is a skirt VIII. There is dysentery, there is a typhoid, just terrible deprivation, they're dead people unable to feed themselves unable to have healthy diets. There is talk in the bread in oh it's. This is a period of history where you can die of an ear infection or even die of it. A scratch on your rest. Anything can get infected, so really not very nice time to be living. If you dont have quite a lot of money, anything if you do have money, you might still die young, as happened to several of Dickens, is closest relatives
ok, let's go in. If we, where we're getting close to the House of Charles Dickens. Where he's writing you can see in the window how Raina Goodness, what? Why is he raving could be one of his twenty novels and the fellows dozens of short stories articles and pays, but the environment. There is quite a high possibility that he's writing something about Christmas. The Christmas Carol wasn't his first Christmas story, but it was such a hate that like you, I carry releasing all I want for Christmas. Is you each year afterwards, there was pressure for Dickens. To keep supplying festive material has other Christmas stories. The chimes the cricket on the half the battle of life, the haunted man and the ghosts bargain he also rights.
Household worlds, which is his sort of magazine, he'd, be working on stories for the Christmas Edition of the magazine from July of each year. There's the Christmas tree a Christmas dinner, there's a very sad essay written in eighteen. Fifty one the year in which four of his family members die called what Christmas is as we grow older which is a kind of tribute to them, but also a calling out in defence of christian person, saying christmases about looking forward and hope and hoping for a better future while at the same time remembering those who ve gone before so he returns. Christmas many times in Korea, and indeed a great expectation starts with a Christmas scene. But none of those matched the success of a Christmas Carol A Christmas Carol is by far and away his best is most defiantly popular and most influence
sure, Christmas story how many other books have been adapted, hundreds of Times Fulfilment TV. The popularity of the Christmas Carol has never waned. It was an absolute smash hit straight away. It was published on the nineteenth of December. Between forty three and by Christmas Eve. It was already sold out the next year. The book was adopted several times for state and reprinted reprinted. It has never been out of print dickens, did public readings of the book in Britain and the? U S until his death in eighteen, seventy and beyond our at Whereat, Charles Dickens House, and where he will be doing a meeting of aerial about how I can set up like a whole interior.
And there's like swooning couch and a fireplace and a bookshelf Ceausescu's all over the place. Pictures on the wall rugs full full many ISIS Exterior painted like stone, Sir Charles Dickens, wearing a long black coat standing at podium reading dramatically from a Christmas Carol, a crowd that has got accustomed and non costume sitting in his house. Enthused he's going beyond the podium he's winning into the audience is using his hands is gesticulating through sharing clapped him on the back a merry Christmas. All my good fellow
giving you what do you know that Charles Dickens, Katy mingle, so at all, I was in a production of Oliver once but Dick is one of those authors whose work he kind of no, without even having read it. Some authors work stick so marching cultural consciousness. That name becomes an adjective kafkaesque well in the Kenyan, while the candy and is a very, very broad idea, there's an incredibly a vast canvas of what we think of his dickensian and even though we use it as a word that word itself has so many different interpretations and meanings men with mountaintop sideburns and stove pipettes women with hearts of gold and, tragically short lives orphans vending themselves, while menacing don't look around every corner, please our once more and Christmas. Merry Christmas Christmas, Goose Christmas Ghosts, God bless us everywhere.
The Keynesian is quite a tricky word actually, and I think we don't always necessarily know we mean what we say it as a word: a kind of conjures up. Poverty, perhaps Assent the squalor sense of people trapped in this the brutal society where there is no safety net. There is no full back plan where children and young women can suddenly be cast into a life of poverty or crime or violence but the Keynesian also really should some up some of the beautiful things. Some of the wonderful things he harnesses you know when we look at a Christmas Carol, the way he depicts the street scenes and such children and people singing and saying hello to each other, the sense of community, the the shop. When those filled to the bridge with delicious goods, and treat the weight on Christmas day and toys in the window, and this is also a bountiful visual iconography dickens,
hundred up both quite alarming and also quite in rupturing entrancing, visions of what a city in a community could be so dickensian tends to be quite negative break. It really should, I suppose, apply to all of the different worlds, Dickens, created and, and some of those were other pleasant and lovely, and some of those were rather cruel and dark against yeah. A knot of authors have written about Christmas, but dont have festive funds devoted to them. My dear dickens get to be the answer, Why is he given credit for Christmas in it? One thing people often say is Dickens invented Christmas, which is absolute nonsense. Of course he didn't else. Thickens is christmases, are not brand new in eighteen, forty three, he perpetuated some traditions, hee hee, reinvigorated others. There had been Christmas for centuries. There had,
traditions that he had grown up with as a child, the he perpetuated and shed and his books singing he's doing charitable donations? That's all medieval, to the steward Georgian. Whatever you call it so Dickens is not the architects he's a cheerleader, very different professions that was maybe maybe Sammy they both build large struck. Suddenly, the Christmas Carol landed at a time when there was a trend for nostalgia. The nineteen, trees, an era where you have many folks, arrests and he clarions taking an interest in the old ways there is. In the nineteenth century. This idea of a mythologized past of the Tudor era being the subhouse you just as we have a dickensian festivals and San Francisco, and we looked at the victorians. The victorians looked back to the Saxons and the Normans and the chewed is
as a kind of glory days of simplicity where the good old days of Christmas were were much more pleasant and because in some ways the victorian Christmas is a reaction to industrialization the trauma of enormous economic thrust of people moving from the countryside into the cities of communities being broken up of dark, satanic, tonic males of factual, piece of trains and industry of the British Empire expanding and people being separated by huge geographical distances, not only a Christmas Carol, was riding away by renewed interest in Christmas. So, along with the revival of all the festive customs that will new ones, imagine that the K2 Christmas cards or something need logistically viable with the invention of the penny post in eighteen. Forty Christmas trees also became popular
then King George, the third german wife, had introduced into Britain in the late seventeen hundred, so they went completely knew what they were newly fashionable when in eighteen. Forty eight Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children, posed in front of this for the illustrated London new and like when, whatever Kate, Middleton where's cells out Christmas tree, became older age. So quietly of traditions. What we think MRS traditions. Now, though, we assume Dickensian they're not Kenzie, and they just arrived at exactly the same time through pure coincidence, and it's all much together and this Victorian festival suddenly feels like it's this brand new thing, but it's not it's a continent tea with some extra additional elements and the cap Listen ramps, it all up Christmas is a commercial economy with power that leads incredibly capitalistic had been for a while, but in the nineties, Entry becomes more so, and you see the emergence of Christmas magazines, Christmas books, Christmas
toys for children, which is a new market. This just sort of opening up, but Dickens, is made attention wasn't to cash. In on Christmas, I mean aided need the money, though he had had considerable literary success. The previous decade, late The serious allegation of his novel Martin Chuzzlewit haven't been to popular and his income was looking dicey. Patsy had a growing family to support and was often holding out his parents and siblings to an Dickens. Sincerely love Christmas. His children wrote about the relish with which their father approach the festivities each year, but that wasn't the price Ray motivation either. Instead, his heartwarming Christmas fable was the cover story. Free pilot commission. He was a man who had a tremendous political appetite and who was of the middle classes and, of course, before did the upper classes, but was always on the side of the working classes and they
of course, was largely because he'd experienced poverty is a child. Dickens was the second of eight children in a pretty close family and had what he considered to be in. It Elect child it until he was aged eleven, whereupon his father, who regularly had financial problems, was sent to prison for debt and, as was customer the time Dickens his mother and younger siblings moved in there with him for a year. Charles Dickens lived alone. He had to quit. School, work. Ten, our days six days a week at a boot blocking factory, though the, did reunite the experience stayed with Dickens, informing much of his work and political attitudes he's a man whose always championing those who had a less fortunate life. He campaigned against. Public occasions. He thought they were vile and grim. You know he campaign for for women who campaign for better Schooling for children he's a man who who uses his voice campaigning
tool, though, in the victorian era, for ten year old, the waves, colored, the glow, pink, etc at home. Many people are destitute. Industrial revenues Natasha did such huge societal and economic changes that century, but welfare and health services had not been instituted yet, and Dickens was horrified by the poverty. So many people are stricken by in eighteen, forty particularly the conditions, children we're living in on the streets in schools for the impossible. Working down mines or in factories ass. He had done himself and it was desperate to make a palpable difference. As a journalist, he plans to write a political pamphlet about it, entitled an appeal to the people of England for the benefit of the poor man's child, but he realized that not many people would read a political pamphlet. They would, either read his fiction and as a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Dickens coated his plea for social justice with a feel good Christmas, ghost story and said Dick ends in later on, but right, many
journalistic paces in editorials, and he would he would you his power as a journalist, Vanessa. Yes, but with a Christmas Carol, he's using his power as a sentimental novelists to move people to action to inspire them to be better Christians, to be better british people to be better neighbours, family members, lovers, friends, coworkers colleagues, etc. It's a book about charity the book about community and about what happens when the ravages of capitalism erode the human spirit and they they corrupt the heart Scrooge. You know he was a man who, once felt, who wants cared, who once loved and ultimately over the is he's been sort of ground Lee worn down by this Victoria, and urge to make profits near economy, industry,
progress moving forward and he's lost his humanity to the point that his own family I mean I don't really want to hang out with him. There were no he's lost all his empathy for his fellow man, so a Christmas Carol is an alligator A very Christiana agree, a deeply spiritual book about a man who has become lost. Finding his way back to his humanity and Dickens is mission, did succeed somewhat. The book was credited with causing arise and charitable, giving and greater generosity to your fellow humans and employees at Christmas, but it couldn't totally transformed society. Literature can move us better. Ultimately, structural systems are very hard to shift and the victorian period had many many years of moving forward.
A very small steps being taken with their children's rights or educational reforms, since under the rights of women in particular, the Christmas aspect may have overwhelmed the political message, though the sentiment to become The fellow humans hasn't been lost its there in all the screen, adaptation, even the ones river. On the story like scrooged overrun looking further away with inspiration like bad center. But I tell you what you re ready this week and the original still works a treat, because it's really readable book. The characters, leap of the page it's really moving and inspiring, and you ve desperately hope that Scrooge stays reformed its really funny as well. I think one of the disadvantages to the word Dickensian is that it makes his work. Sound like it's gonna be stodgy is a Christmas pudding boiled rate hours, but it's not a cosy period,
his book, is a reaction to the economic situation in the eighteen forties. So his book is deeply Martin and yet his outlook, his attitudes, his sense of nostalgia. Whimsy is, of course, in many ways, deeply traditional. So he is bringing a kind of fusion between hyper modernity and old fashioned. I'll timey lovely nostalgia days of your and when we look back, dickens. We do. The same be is produced by Hellenes oarsmen, with music and production by Martin asked work. It is a man, of Radio Tokyo and you should subscribe to it immediately, and thank me for the suggestion by the link on the website in the show nuts.
Ninety nine percent invisible as a product of ninety one point: seven k a w in San Francisco and produced on radio row in beautiful Down Town Oakland, California. We are proud member of Radio Tokyo from Pierre acts, a collection of fiercely independent and fascinating podcast, fundamental radio, Tokyo, Donovan, We had a really good year of Shows- and I hope you heard a moment if you didn't you can subscribe and listen to them all ninety nine p, I dot org radio. Do.
Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.