On this week’s Past Present podcast, Nicole Hemmer, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, and Neil Young discuss the war on Christmas, food politics, and political spouses.
Here are some links and references mentioned during this week’s show:
- The “war on Christmas” has become a regular part of the holiday season. The conservative website Newsmax has catalogued the big offenders of 2015. Neil argued the “war on Christmas” is largely a media phenomenon, noting that many religious leaders have chosen to ignore the controversy or to argue that the real war on Christmas is the holiday’s over-commercialization. Neil also observed that the Puritans outlawed Christmas because the holiday had such decadent celebrations. To read more about the controversial history of Christmas, see Stephen Nissenbaum’s The Battle for Christmas.
- A new grocery store venture, Daily Table, seeks to provide low-income consumers with more affordable food by selling about-to-expire foods from farmers and wholesalers. Natalia noted that dates used for food expiration are largely made up and contribute to high rates of food waste. Natalia recommended the book, We the Eaters, and the documentary, A Place at the Table, for thinking more about the politics of food.
- The New York Times’ profile of Marco Rubio’s wife, Jeanette, is the latest example of our culture’s fascination with political spouses. America’s First Ladies have played a unique role in national politics, often using their ceremonial functions to extend their husbands’ political objectives. Neil noted that spouses play particularly important roles in political campaigns, but that women like Betty Ford and Nancy Reagan were also sometimes seen as liabilities for their husbands.
In our regular closing feature, What’s Making History:
- Natalia discussed the history of why American Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas day.
- Neil commented on GQ’s profile of the international megachurch, Hillsong.
- Niki explained how in Soviet Russia the Christmas tree became the New Year’s tree.