Why We Hunger for the Holiday Special

Every December, an Age-Old Format Warms the Winter Night

’Tis the season.

The season for television shows to chug too much eggnog, forget their earthly cares for an hour or so, and jump the proverbial yuletide shark.

The result, whether it’s treacly sweet, outrageously theatric, or capable of bringing an audience to tears, comes like clockwork each December, when—for good or bad—television cuts away from its regularly scheduled programming to tap into the spirit of the season.

I’m talking stars. I’m talking spectacle. I’m talking, more than likely, somebody dressing up as Santa.

I’m talking, if it’s not clear, about the holiday special.

I …

to us in early winter

when it is time
the sun sets pink on the birch
and it will be winter
we are no stranger than we were
gingered joy will have melted after
icicles …

Christmas, ’Tis the Season for Scary Stories | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Christmas, ’Tis the Season for Scary Stories

The Spectral Tales We Tell Respond to Our Deepest Desires—Especially on a Long, Dark Winter’s Night

Popularized by Charles Dickens in his 1843 A Christmas Carol, as well as in the yuletide editions of his literary magazine, All the Year Round, ghost stories were regular Christmas …

tktk | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Squirreled Away

Artist and illustrator Giulia Donati works under the moniker Pennepasta. Born in Italy and now based in London, she creates her pieces with calligraphy brush and India ink. For her …

Manifest Destiny, That Atrocious Ideal

A Wintertime Visit to a Onetime Nuclear Test Site Reveals the Lengths Americans Go to Own Whatever They Please

On the outskirts of Tularosa, New Mexico, I drove among sacred mountains. It was three days before Christmas, 2014, and it was over 70 degrees. With the A/C cranked, I …

Why Californians Should Believe in Snow Days

They’re Fun. They Fuel Our Nostalgia. They Remind Us of Our Obligation to One Another.

I’m sitting here in Maine having a snow day. I can only see about 30 feet in front of my cabin; everything beyond is obscured by white frosty particles, which …