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Audiences who come to see the Holiday Pops can usually expect jaunty chestnuts like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” or “The Polar Express.”

But this year conductor Keith Lockhart was stirred by a bittersweet episode from history: an impromptu and unsanctioned ceasefire that took place during World War I.

“The particular thing about this story is that the uniting force, the thing that brings people together, is music,” Lockhart explained.

Did you know that the city with the highest concentration of young workers in the U.S. is Provo, Utah? And the city with the most minorities is McAllen, Texas?

This information is all available in a new census bureau report and interactive tool. it’s called “census explorer,” and it’s geared towards young adults between 18 and 34 years old who may be deciding where to live.

The father of a Jordanian pilot taken by militants of the self-declared Islamic State is urging his release.

As we reported on Wednesday, Jordan said Flight Lt. Moaz al-Kaseasbeh was captured by ISIS after his plane crashed over northern Syria.

Starting Christmas day, audiences can see a new version of Stephen Sondheim’s nearly 30-year-old musical fairy-tale mash-up, “Into the Woods” — this time, on the big screen.

And as the production moves from stage to screen, the high-budget Hollywood version comes with the requisite star power, including Johnny Depp as the iconic big bad wolf, Emily Blunt as a baker’s wife and Meryl Streep as the wicked witch who sets the whole plot in motion.

There's nothing traditional about an immigrant Christmas

Dec 25, 2014

Every year the same question crops up to a growing handful of us who are the children of non-Judeo-Christian immigrants: "Do you celebrate Christmas?"

It's a tricky question. Christmas is unavoidable and usually less about Jesus's birthday than the fact that many of us have days off and a hankering for hot cocoa and Bing Crosby.

Yet co-workers, friends and teachers tread lightly around us, hesitant to send us Christmas cards or hand us a candy cane. They safely wish us a "Happy Holiday" rather than the usual "Merry Christmas."

Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

On a holy day of rest and joy for millions of Christians worldwide, Pope Francis issued a somber reminder about the desperate situation of some of the oldest Christian communities on earth.

Tami Chappell/ Reuters

On again. Off again. Threats. Accusations. And now finally a happy ending.

Could be the treatment for a romantic comedy. Alas, it's not.

It's The Interview, the film starring Seth Rogen and James Franco, which opened in limited release across the US on Christmas Day as originally planned. You may have already seen it streaming on YouTube or elsewhere.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Merry Christmas. Today, we begin a week-long series of some of our favorite interviews of the year.

As night fell recently over the Spanish city of Toledo, Hanukkah candles lit up empty streets outside the medieval El Transito synagogue.

Folk songs in Ladino — a blend of Spanish and Hebrew — wafted across the garden of the synagogue, which is now the Sephardic Museum.

Sefarad means Spain in Hebrew, and the term refers to Jews of Spanish descent.

All I want for Christmas is Oxford's Out of The Blue

Dec 25, 2014

If you're as tone-deaf as I am, you're doing a lot more listening to Christmas carols than you are singing. And one of my favorites is the modern classic "All I Want for Christmas is You". 

Mariah Carey and her writing partner, Walter Afanasieff, penned this musical Christmas confection in 1994, and it's been covered by hundreds of artists since.

Come along on a tasting tour of some of Boston's best international cuisine

Dec 25, 2014

It often takes a guest coming to town to encourage you to explore your own city.

When food critic Steve Dolinsky told me that he was coming to Boston, I asked him if we could take a tour around the city to check out some of the culinary trends that represent three of the city's big immigration waves: from Armenia, Brazil and Vietnam.

Yes, this was going to be more exotic than North End pizza.

Our first stop was the Armenian and Market Bakery where we tucked into Armenia's version of a pizza, called Lahmajun.

Sierra Leone, the country hardest-hit by an ongoing Ebola outbreak, has imposed a lockdown in the country's north in an effort to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

The BBC quotes local officials as saying that shops, markets and non-Ebola related travel would be shut down. Many public Christmas celebrations had already been banned, according to Reuters.

A vigil and a march in Berkeley, Mo., were largely peaceful overnight after confrontations between police and protesters Tuesday in the wake of the fatal shooting of an 18-year-old black man by a white police officer.

Antonio Martin was shot and killed on Tuesday after police say he pointed a gun at the officer.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

It's just not Christmas without the curry chicken. At least, that's the case at the Sheppard house.

Pat Sheppard, whose parents are originally from Jamaica, says curry chicken, ox tail, rice and peas cooked in coconut milk, rum punch and — on very special occasions — black cake make up her Christmas dinner spread. 

Pope Francis, in his Christmas Day blessing in St. Peter's Square, denounced the "brutal persecution" of religious and ethnic minorities and condemned conflicts in Ukraine, Libya and elsewhere.

It was his second "Urbi et Orbi" ("to the city and to the world") message since becoming pope last year, the pontiff also lamented the deadly Taliban attack on a school in Pakistan that killed 149 people, mostly children, and the deaths of thousands due to Ebola in West Africa.

"Truly there are so many tears this Christmas," he said.

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