Rituals and Traditions

“There’s something about these characters,” says department store historian Michael Lisicky. “So many of [them] are so wonderfully regional, and that’s why they’re still so powerful.” Featured characters include Uncle Mistletoe, Billie the Brownie, Christopher Candycane and Mr. Bingle.

Meet a Dozen Lesser-Known Christmas Characters, From Mr. Jingeling to Uncle Mistletoe

Created as department store marketing tools, many of these seasonal figures became beloved holiday traditions

Ancient baboon skulls from the site of Gabbanat el-Qurud, known as the Valley of the Monkeys

Ancient Egyptians Kept Baboons in Captivity and Mummified Their Remains

A new analysis of the animals' skeletal remains reveals a lack of sunlight and an inadequate diet

A stela found at Las Capellanías, a necropolis in southern Spain, is changing conceptions around ancient gender roles. 

This 3,000-Year-Old Stone Slab Found in Spain Is Upending Ideas About Ancient Gender Roles

The newly discovered stela depicts a figure with a headdress, a necklace, swords and male genitalia

A glass of homemade eggnog dusted with cinnamon is a mouthwatering prospect to some—and an abomination to others.

The Uniquely American History of Eggnog, Everyone's Favorite—or Least Favorite—Holiday Quaff

This Yuletide mainstay continues to warm cockles and ventricles everywhere

Hoyma, which means “home” in Syðrugøta’s local dialect of Faroese, has featured 20 concerts by ten different artists who set up in the living rooms of ten different family homes in Syðrugøta.
 

Hoyma Is Bringing Music Home in the Faroe Islands

For one fall night, it is tradition for a handful of houses in Sydrugota, on the island of Eysturoy, to open their doors and host intimate concerts

This turkey, with his impressive wattle and snood, has nothing to fear during the Thanksgiving holiday. He gives thanks every November that he lives the secure life of a beloved pet.

Give Thanks for These 15 Photos Celebrating Thanksgiving

Gather together and commemorate the holiday of gratitude

In recent years, the European perch (Perca fluviatilis) population has been steadily declining due to the combined impact of climate change, pollution and overfishing.

Italian Divers Revive Centuries-Old Tradition to Help Save European Perch

Nurseries built from bundles of tree branches may help conserve the freshwater fish in the age of climate change

In the village of Tautira, Tahiti, the community came together to impose their own set of fishing restrictions to ensure the availability of fish into the future.

How an Ancient Practice Aids Marine Conservation

In French Polynesia, the art of rahui puts everyone in charge of protecting the sea

Archaeologists excavating the Roman-era sarcophagus in Reims

Archaeologists Discover 'Exceptional' Roman-Era Sarcophagus in France

The 40-year-old woman inside the tomb was buried with a ring, a comb and other items

The green gas emanating from this small jack-o’-lantern alludes to the spread of Covid-19. Fittingly, the photographer’s subject dons a beaked mask based on the ones worn by physicians treating bubonic plague victims in 17th-century Europe.

Treat Yourself to 15 Eerie Images Celebrating Halloween

These highlights from the Smithsonian Photo Contest are sure to scare up some smiles

Artist Oscar Nilsson spent 400 hours working on the reconstruction.

See the Face of an Inca Teenager Killed in a Ritual Sacrifice 500 Years Ago

The mummified girl, known as "Juanita," was found in 1995 on Peru's Ampato volcano

The annual Woolly Worm Festival is a fiercely popular local event that’s been going on for nearly half a century.

Groundhogs Are Old News. In This Tiny Town, Caterpillars Predict the Weather

Thousands of people flocked to Banner Elk, North Carolina, this year to watch the nation’s biggest woolly worm caterpillar race

A view of a Zamboni machine at work during a game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks at the Arrowhead Pond in Anaheim, California.

How the Zamboni Revolutionized Fun on the Ice

The story behind the most efficient—and intriguing—piece of hardware in all of sports

The Aztec snakehead was discovered beneath a law school in Mexico City after an earthquake.

Earthquake in Mexico City Reveals 500-Year-Old Aztec Snakehead

The nearly six-foot-long sculpture features well-preserved colors on 80 percent of its surface

Costumed kids hit the streets each year in search of candy.

The History of Trick-or-Treating Goes Back Centuries

From the ancient Celts to medieval English, the Halloween tradition precedes the costumed children who will soon swarm your block

The sword had a bent blade, a straight hilt and an oval pommel. Researchers also found its scabbard.

1,000-Year-Old Sword and Cemetery Unearthed in Finland

Researchers identified eight burials, but they say the graveyard may hold dozens—or even hundreds—waiting to be discovered

A tattooed devotee prays at the annual tattoo festival at Wat Bang Phra in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand.

The Worldwide History of Tattoos

Ancient ink exhibited religious faith, relieved pain, protected wearers and indicated class

Seemingly still waters wind through colorful canopies displaying warm autumn hues on a hazy September morning.

Fall Into Autumn With These 15 Foliage Photos

These highlights from the Smithsonian Photo Contest celebrate the season

The mummified remains of James Murphy, known as Stoneman Willie, which lay in a funeral home in Reading, Pennsylvania, for 128 years before being buried last weekend.

Pennsylvania Mummy Gets a Proper Burial After 128 Years in a Funeral Home

Nicknamed "Stoneman Willie," the man visited the town of Reading for a convention of firefighters in 1895

Inside the restored women's cold room

Stunning 16th-Century Turkish Bath Reopens in Istanbul

The revitalized space will feature a museum and contemporary art in addition to traditional bathing

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