A Christmas Reading List

BY Molly Finnegan  December 24, 2010 at 1:35 PM EST

Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/ AFP/ Getty Images
Workers in Santa Claus and reindeer costumes clean windows outside a building at the Odaiba shopping mall on Tokyo’s waterfront on December 23, 2010. The costumes were worn as part of a Christmas promotional event to attract shoppers. Photo by Kazuhiro Nogi/ AFP/ Getty Images

The Rundown took a spin around the web to bring you some holiday reading this Christmas Eve.

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Christmas services have mostly been canceled in Christian communities in Iraq, who fear violence after a Baghdad bomb attack back in October, via BBC.

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Do you usually wish others a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? The Wall Street Journal uses Google’s new handy Ngram Viewer to crunch the well-wishers’ data.

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Was Jesus a common name two thousand years ago? So wonders Slate.

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What can we learn about that shadowy figure Santa Claus from the recent SantaLeaks scandal? The New Yorker sums it up.

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Were some of our most common Christmas conventions born from the the psychedelic effects of a red and white Siberian mushroom? NPR talks to a Harvard professor who makes that hypothesis.

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Seen the new film “The King’s Speech?” Now listen to the Queen’s speech — the first Christmas Day communique ever made by Queen Elizabeth at the age of 14 in 1940, addressing all of the young children who had to be evacuated to the countryside during the war.

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This year, hundreds of letters to Santa were mysteriously addressed to a random apartment in Manhattan. The New York Times follows two obliging impromptu elves as they figure out how to fulfill the kids’ Christmas wishes.

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The Boston Globe reports on one teenager’s simple and inspiring act of service for a family in need.

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No other holiday in America has such a rich tradition of literature and poetry, so we give you a few standbys to enjoy. If you don’t feel like reading these classics aloud to a room-full of relatives, you can always listen to them on YouTube:

—Clement Moore’s Twas the Night Before Christmas, courtesy Perry Como.

—Dylan Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” read by the author (Click for Part 1 and Part 2.)

—Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory, the 1966 Emmy-winning television special that features Capote’s narration.

—There are too many versions of “A Christmas Carol” to keep track of, so here’s one personal favorite from childhood, the animated Disney film starring Scrooge McDuck.

—Or have a very-Sedaris Christmas and listen to this special Christmas episode of This American Life.

And finally don’t miss the NewsHour’s own global mash-up of Handel’s “Messiah.”