Did everyone get socks this Christmas? Or maybe a hairy jumper or an ugly bobble hat? If not, you may be overdue for a visit from the Yule Cat. Like the more famous Krampus, the Yule Cat brings a paradoxical element of terror to the festive season by eating people who didn’t receive new clothes at Christmas.

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What could we learn from examining the body of someone who lived two thousand years ago? Not their bones, or even a dry mummy, but a solid, flexible corpse. A corpse that could be autopsied like someone who died weeks ago.

Archaeologists had the chance to find out when the body of Xin Zhui, a Han Dynasty noblewoman, was discovered in China. Her body is the best preserved mummy ever found. However, the most revealing hints about her life are gained from studying her remains in the context of her tomb and historical period.

This article contains descriptions and images of human remains.

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Over a hundred years ago, Alden’s Oxford Guide described “a curious ceremony annually observed at Magdalen College”. This ceremony was the May Morning hymn, and it’s continued (literally) to this day. On the 1st of May, the choir ascends Magdalen Tower to sing the Hymnus Eucharisticus as the sun rises. Beneath the tower, people gather to listen to the hymn and the bells, then head into the rest of the city to celebrate the arrival of spring with dancing, eating and drinking, and the observance of various May Day traditions.

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A black and white drawing of people looking at a man with a comically large nose.
The Nose Man, 1867.
The festive season in Catalonia, an area in Northeastern Spain, is characterised by several colourful characters. Two have became quite well-known because of their scatological humour, the Caganer and the Caga Tió, but there’s a third who I think is just as interesting.

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A small tree pangolin being held.
A tree pangolin, by Valerius Tygart.

This cute Pokémon-like creature is a pangolin. Pangolins are interesting to anthropologists because they tell us something about how we classify things, and how we react to things that can’t easily be classified.

Mary Douglas was anthropologist who wrote about the Lele people of Central Africa in the 1950s. She was particuarly interested in how people classify things and what it says about our cultures. She thought that we felt strong emotions towards things that we couldn’t classify, we could consider them taboo or somehow special.

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