Culture & Traditions

Cultures and Traditions takes a look at how people interact with each other. This might be through sub-cultures, relationships, fads or religion and spirituality.

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The hamsa, a depiction of a human hand, often with a central eye motif, is a protective symbol meant to ward off evil.

By Robert Lamb

Just a few people have gotten married at the White House in the last 200-plus years. Who were they and what's required to score a wedding there?

By Alia Hoyt

When you hear the word "Samaritan," you might think of a hospital or charity or the Bible story about the Good Samaritan. But "real" Samaritans still exist in Israel, though their numbers are small.

By Dave Roos

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To be "on the lam" means to be on the loose or on the run, but what does "lam" mean and where does this colorful phrase come from?

By Kristen Hall-Geisler

Smudging, or the creation of sacred smoke, for the purpose of cleansing energy and promoting healing and wisdom, has become increasingly popular, but what is it exactly?

By Katie Carman

You've probably seen Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, but what do they symbolize and who should hang them?

By Tara Yarlagadda

Seemingly everywhere in the barrage of photos out of Ukraine is the letter 'Z' – on tanks, T-shirts, signs and buildings. But how did it become a political symbol?

By Philip Seargeant

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The pink and white blooms of the cherry blossom tree often herald the arrival of spring. But in Japan, the cherry blossom is also a well-loved symbol of fleeting beauty, nostalgia and loss.

By Dave Roos

Why have numbers like 2/22/22 been fascinating humans for more than 2,000 years? It has a lot to do with our brains' desire to find meaning and connection.

By Barry Markovsky

John Calvin is best known for his doctrine of predestination, a controversial belief that continues to be popular in some churches. But what who was he, and what is predestination?

By Dave Roos

Hoboes were a widely displaced brotherhood who illegally hopped trains and journeyed across the country, taking odd jobs wherever they could find them. The hobo code helped them survive.

By Carrie Tatro

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Ancient Greeks and Romans used thin strips of lead to vent their frustrations or write messages to the gods.

By Joanna Thompson

The Bible doesn't say exactly when Jesus was born but a close reading of the text gives us clues to a more correct date than Dec. 25. And why was that date chosen away? It has nothing to do with pagan religions.

By Dave Roos

In 1957, a woman named Frances Kipps Spencer invented "Chrismons" to decorate her church's sanctuary and to remind parishioners of the true meaning behind the Christian celebration of Christmas.

By Carrie Tatro

Step aside, St. Nick. Butt out, Rudolph. In this special Yuletide quiz, we're saluting another beloved member of the Christmas character pantheon: the one and only Missus Claus.

By Mark Mancini

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Interfaith families exist all over the world and this is the time of year when discussions focus on how to celebrate the holidays.

By Samira Mehta

Buddhist nuns and female scholars are gaining new leadership roles, in a tradition that began with the ordination of Buddha's foster mother.

By Jue Liang

President Biden's menorah lighting promises to prioritize ritual over reception, focusing on the lighting of the traditional Hanukkah candelabrum itself.

By Jonathan D. Sarna

Papa Legba is a figure that stands as a mysterious link between the human and spirit worlds in the religion of Vodou, but who is he and what's his story?

By Tara Yarlagadda

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News headlines predict dire shortages of goods for the holiday season. But there are tons of gifts out there that don't depend on the supply chain from overseas.

By Alia Hoyt

Prayer apps are not new — they've been around since 2010. But how effective are they and can they replace the value of a religious community?

By Dorian Llywelyn

It's a phrase appropriate to Thanksgiving as well as other times of the year. But the most popular origin story has a disturbing explanation.

By Alia Hoyt

You may experience sticker shock at the funeral home when you see the price of caskets. Why do they cost so much and is there anything you can do about the price?

By Dave Roos

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The biblical King Solomon is depicted as being very rich, very wise and very married to hundreds of women. But there is little evidence outside of the Bible that he existed. So what has been found so far?

By Dave Roos

If you travel to the small Island of the Dolls in Xochimilco, near Mexico City, listen closely. You may hear the whispered conversations of the dolls that hang around.

By Patty Rasmussen