How the American Civil War Cemented Modern Christmas Traditions

Alena Kuzmina/Shutterstock.com Christmas tends to assume a strong sense of its own significance in times of protracted conflict. By Dr. David Anderson / 12.22.2016 Senior Lecturer in American History Swansea University Shortly before Christmas Day 1864, Abraham Lincoln received an extraordinary Christmas present – Savannah, Georgia. Union General William Sherman presented the captured city to the president[…]

Schnapps, Whipping, and Sacks: How Christmas Traditions Evolved around the World

In the Netherlands, the tradition goes that Sinterklaas lives in Madrid, wears a red clerical robe and a bishop’s mitre, and has servants called ‘Zwarte Pieten’ (Black Peters). from www.shutterstock.com The celebration of Christmas has distinct variations around the world, with many of these local traditions arising from particular historical circumstances. By Dr. Carole Cusack / 12.21.2015 Professor of Religious Studies University of Sydney Christmas[…]

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 History Really Tells Us about the Birth of Jesus

The nativity scenes celebrated each Christmas bear little resemblance to history. skepticalview/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND By Dr. Robyn J. Whitaker / 12.21.2017 Bromby Senior Lecturer in Biblical Studies Trinity College University of Divinity I might be about to ruin your Christmas. Sorry. But the reality is those nativity plays in which your adorable children wear tinsel and angel[…]

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[…]

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[…]

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,[…]