Measuring Time in Different Cultures

01.12.2016 Measuring Time The obelisk and Pylon at Luxor / Photo by Steve F-E-Cameron, Wikimedia Commons Scientifically, the year is a complete cycle of seasons. A year is when the earth completes one full orbit of the sun. Its length is measured from one spring equinox to the next spring equinox. Measuring the time of year[…]

An Anthropologist Explains Why We Love Holiday Rituals and Traditions

Working together on a once-a-year project feels festive and special. Flotsam/Shutterstock.com By Dr. Dimitris Xygalatas / 12.12.2017 Assistant Professor in Anthropology University of Connecticut The mere thought of holiday traditions brings smiles to most people’s faces and elicits feelings of sweet anticipation and nostalgia. We can almost smell those candles, taste those special meals, hear those[…]

What Kwanzaa Means for Black Americans

Kwanzaa celebrations. Black Hour, CC BY-NC By Dr. Frank Dobson / 12.20.2017 Associate Dean of Students Vanderbilt University On Dec. 26, millions throughout the world’s African community will start weeklong celebrations of Kwanzaa. There will be daily ceremonies with food, decorations and other cultural objects, such as the kinara, which holds seven candles. At many Kwanzaa[…]

The Holiday-Suicide Myth and the Intractability of Popular Falsehoods

James Stewart and Donna Reed in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA By Dr. Dan Romer / 12.21.2017 Research Director Annenberg Public Policy Center University of Pennsylvania For years, the media have reported that more suicides occur during the holidays than at any other time. Many of these stories, no doubt, are meant to help people cope[…]

Seven Global Christmas Food Traditions

Japanese Christmas cakes in production in Nagoya, Japan. (Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images) By Kevin Pang / 12.21.2017 Editor-in-Chief The Takeout Certain dishes are obligatory on the American Christmas dinner table—ham, mashed potatoes, pie, gingerbread. But why not baby back ribs? Battered shrimp? Why isn’t there Christmas chili mac? Tradition comforts, but tradition[…]

During the Holidays, Giving Gifts to the Dead Can Help You Cope with Grief

A toy truck left at a tombstone in a Montreal cemetery. Marc Bruxelle/Shutterstock.com By Dr. Jenna Drenten / 12.20.2017 Assistant Professor of Marketing Loyola University Chicago Every December, my family decorates two Christmas trees: one for our living room and one for the cemetery, where my sister is buried. She died when she was 15 years[…]

Why Do We Wrap Presents?

Buppha Wuttifery/Getty Images Wrapping paper is a striptease that hides and reveals, transforming otherwise ordinary objects into gifts. By Chip Colwell / 12.19.2017 The holiday season is here. That means presents under Christmas trees, next to menorahs, accompanying Kwanzaa candles, traded at white elephant parties. All of these gifts, despite the sweeping breadth of beliefs[…]

A Candid History of Christmas: First There was Winter

Ave, Caesar! Io, Saturnalia! (1880) by Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1880, with the Praetorian Guard hailing Claudius (veiling himself in a curtain) as the new emperor after the assassination of Caligula. / Akron Art Museum, Wikimedia Commosn By Dr. Bruce David Forbes Chair, Philosophy and Religious Studies Department Morningside College To understand what Christmas has become, first we should consider winter. For the moment,[…]

How Advertising Shaped Thanksgiving as We Know It

Libby’s continues to fiercely compete with pumpkin pie peddlers Borden’s, Snowdrift and Mrs. Smith’s for a place on the Thanksgiving table. Jean Beaufort By Dr. Samantha N.N. Cross / 11.20.2017 Associate Professor of Marketing Iowa State University I have always been intrigued by Thanksgiving – the traditions, the meal, the idea of a holiday that is[…]

How the Dead Danced with the Living in Medieval Society

Detail of figures from the Dance Macabre, Meslay-le-Grenet, from late 15th-century France. Ashby Kinch, CC BY By Dr. Ashby Kinch / 10.29.2017 Professor of English The University of Montana In the Halloween season, American culture briefly participates in an ancient tradition of making the world of the dead visible to the living: Children dress as skeletons, teens go[…]

Tricking and Treating has a History

Halloween parade in New York. AP Photo/Andres Kudacki By Dr. Regina Hansen / 10.25.2017 Senior Lecturer in Rhetoric Boston University Over the past few decades, Halloween celebrations have gained in popularity, not only with children and families, but with all those fascinated with the spooky and scary. As a scholar of myth and religion in popular culture, I look at[…]