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Santa Helpers; Christmas Tradition

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 25 December 2013

A Thinking Allowed special on our construction of Christmas tradition. What does Christmas mean to you - a visit to Santa's grotto with the little ones, the opening of presents before breakfast, a house festooned with sparkly lights and wreaths of ivy? Or is your Christmas an understated and low key affair? Perhaps you don't even recognise it for cultural or religious reasons.

Professor Philip Hancock discusses his study into the 'elite' squad of Santa helpers who dispense seasonal cheer and gifts to children in department stores up and down the country. How do they maintain their 'ho, ho hos' in the face of 500 length queues? What special challenges does this unique branch of interactive service work present? Also, Professor Jennifer Mason talks about her research into how people create the Christmas experience, drawing on the rituals of their childhoods and negotiating conflicting traditions. The writer, Antony Lerman, joins the discussion.

Producer: Jayne Egerton.

  • Philip Hancock

    Professor of Work and Organisation at the University of Essex Business School



    Find out more about Dr Philip Hancock



    Abstract: ‘Being Santa Claus’: The Pursuit of Recognition in Interactive Service Work’

    Work Employment and Society April 15, 2013

    doi: 10.1177/0950017012461836

  • Jennifer Mason

    Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Morgan Centre for Study of Relationships and Personal Life, University of Manchester



    Find out more about Jennifer Mason



    Abstract: Conjuring up traditions: atmospheres, eras and family Christmases

    Jennifer Mason, Stewart Muir

    The Sociological Review

    Volume 61, Issue 3, pages 607–629, August 2013

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-954X.2012.02138.x

  • Antony Lerman

    Writer and former Director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research



    Find out more about Antony Lerman



    A very Jewish Christmas
  • Ethnography Award

    Thank you for all your entries.


    These are now being reviewed by the judges for the Award, Professor Dick Hobbs, Professor Henrietta Moore, Dr Louise Westmarland, Professor Bev Skeggs. The Chair is Professor Laurie Taylor. (Please do not contact any judges directly).


    The judges will be looking for work which displays flair, originality and clarity, alongside sound methodology. The work should make a significant contribution to knowledge and understanding in the relevant area of research.


    The panel of judges will select six finalists, and from that shortlist the judges will select an overall winner who will be awarded a prize of £1000.


    The finalists will be contacted by telephone early spring of 2014 and the winner of the Award will be announced at the BSA Annual Conference in April 2014.


    Please see the Terms & Conditions for all the rules.



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