Why do we hang oversized socks on our mantels on Christmas Eve? The answer involves marriage dowries, competition for with Christmas trees, and jolly old Saint Nicholas.
Where does gingerbread come from, and why is it called that? The answer involves the crusades, witchcraft, and taxation without representation.
Who was St. Patrick? The answer involves pirates, snakes, and revelatory dreams.
We celebrate Valentine’s Day in honor of Saint Valentine every year on February 14th—but who is the legend behind the holiday? The answer is uncertain, really, but it involves miraculous healing, secret marriage ceremonies, and beekeeping.
Where does pie come from, and why do we eat it on Thanksgiving? The answer involves a certain bird known for collecting miscellaneous objects, Queen Elizabeth I, and elaborate dinnertime entertainment.
Where does Halloween come from? The answer involves community bonfires, ritualized hospitality, and visits from the Otherworld.
Why do we blow out candles on birthday cakes? The answer involves Egyptian theocracy, the moon goddess, and (as for many holidays) the mixing of Christian and pagan tradition.
Why does a rabbit leave colored eggs, candy, and nonedible novelties for children on Easter morning? The answer involves little ones leaving out an item of clothing overnight with the expectation that it will be filled with gifts, families providing a favorite snack for the mythical bringer of presents, and naughty children receiving a lump of coal . . . sounds familiar.
Why do we cut down evergreen trees and decorate them with glittering ornaments and lights during the Christmas season? The answer involves the sun god, the Garden of Eden, and Charlie Brown.