What is it about a mistletoe that says “smooch?” And what the heck is figgy pudding anyway? The holidays are here again, and with them come songs, foods, and rituals so familiar we may not think to ask where they come from ... until now! In this holiday special, we track down the origins of some puzzling Christmastime traditions, jingling all the way from Norse mythology to Victorian home cooking, the Emancipation Proclamation, and even out of this world.
- Margaret Weitekamp, chair of the Space History Department of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum; curator of cultural and social history of spaceflight
- Ashley Rose Young, food historian at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
- Teddy Reeves, curator of religion at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture
- Jim Deutsch, curator at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
- See the jingle bells and accompanying harmonica that were heard from space from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.
- Explore the history of Watch Night with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
- While mistletoe is most associated with our kissing custom, the propagation and ecological role of this parasitic plant are fascinating in their own right.
- If you’d like to try the Victorian Christmas Pudding we made in this episode, you can follow the recipe as written in Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book or download this helpful one-page printout from the British historical food blog, Miss Windsor’s Delectables.
- Get a slice of figgy pudding’s history over the past millennium or so from Smithsonian magazine.