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All Saints’ Day & All Souls’ Day

These teenagers in Belgium are celebrating the upcoming All Saints’ Day with improvised ghost costumes. [via CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

These teenagers in Belgium are celebrating the upcoming All Saints’ Day with improvised ghost costumes. [via CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

While most people are familiar with Halloween, not as many are familiar with the holidays that fall on the following two days: All Saints’ Day (1 November) and All Souls’ Day (2 November). All Saints’ Eve (Halloween), All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day are traditionally Christian holidays and together are known as Allhallowtide. They are celebrated in countries around the world.

All Saints’ Day, like its name implies, is a holiday that honors all Christian saints. It is a national holiday in many predominantly Catholic countries. All Souls’ Day commemorates loved ones who have passed away. The distinction between All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day tends to be fluid, since both revolve around remembering the dead, and celebrations of both holidays can include visits to cemeteries.

CultureGrams is a great resource for learning about holidays around the world. Each World and Kids edition report has a Holidays section that discusses major holidays in each country. Here are a few examples of what students can learn from CultureGrams about how different countries celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day:

Austria
“All Saints’ Day, called Allerheiligen, […] is a time for remembering the dead and visiting graves. Many families decorate the graves of their relatives. Some people attend public services for victims of the two World Wars.”

Chile
“All Saints’ Day is an important traditional holiday. On this day, people across the country make a point of visiting cemeteries, where they pay homage to their deceased loved ones and leave flowers on their graves. Families may travel long distances to spend the first and second days of November in their towns of origin, visiting relatives and going to local cemeteries in a group.”

Guatemala
“On 1 November, Guatemalans celebrate Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead, or All Saints’ Day). It is believed that the spirits of the dead are allowed to visit the living on this night. Celebrations combine traditional beliefs with Catholic traditions. Families cook special meals, visit cemeteries, clean family members’ graves, and decorate the graves with flowers. In Santiago, people build and fly large kites with messages for the dead written on both the kites themselves and on the tails.”

Ecuador
“On All Souls’ Day […] people visit cemeteries, eat bread-dough dolls, and drink colada morada (a thick drink made with berries, sweet spices, and purple flour).”

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Learn More about Hurricane-Stricken Areas

Debris from Hurricane Maria in Dominica

Debris from Hurricane Maria in Dominica [via Wikimedia Commons]

The devastating effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria have been making headlines over the past few weeks. Help your students learn more about the nations, territories, and states hit hardest by these natural disasters with help from CultureGrams.

For instance, a recent poll1 revealed that almost half of Americans were unaware that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens, making Hurricane Maria’s destruction in Puerto Rico a domestic disaster. But from the History section of the World Edition Puerto Rico report, students learn that “In 1917, Puerto Rico officially became a U.S. territory, and its people were granted citizenship” and that “Puerto Rico became a commonwealth of the United States with its own constitution in July 1952.”

Each of the CultureGrams reports also discusses topics such as Land and Climate and Population, which—along with the other report sections—can help students learn more about the conditions, demographics, and culture in the areas hit hard by recent hurricanes.

Hurricane-hit areas you may want your students to study include:

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1. Dropp, Kyle, and Brendan Nyhan. “Nearly Half of Americans Don’t Know Puerto Ricans Are Fellow Citizens.” The New York Times, 26 Sept. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/upshot/nearly-half-of-americans-dont-know-people-in-puerto-ricoans-are-fellow-citizens.html.

CultureGrams: New Dominican Republic Interviews!

Boca Chica beach, Dominican Republic

Boca Chica beach, Dominican Republic [via CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

We’ve added three new interviews from the Dominican Republic to our CultureGrams Interviews collection! Each interview captures different viewpoints about life in the Dominican Republic from people of various ages living in the northern coastal city of Puerto Plata:

These interviews by country natives are not only interesting and fun to read, but they also give students insider knowledge into what life and culture in the country are really like.

Here’s an example from the interview with Alfonso, in which he describes what being a citizen of the Dominican Republic means to him:

AlfonsoBeing a citizen of the Dominican Republic means living in an amazing country. You get to enjoy the beautiful scenery, food, and people. The views are amazing. There is a little bit of everything for everyone. If you like the beach, there are amazing beaches all around the country. If you like the mountains, there are gorgeous peaks in the north and center of the island. If you like hot and dry, the south and west areas are just the right place for you. Also, the food is amazing. The seasoning and ingredients used in the variety of traditional dishes are amazing. Whether its eggs for breakfast or a five-course meal, it’s always amazing. And the people are amazing and kind—always happy and ready to have a good time. Being with Dominican people is never boring.

Find more interviews from countries all over the world in the CultureGrams Interviews gallery!

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How Well Do You Know the G20?

2017 G20 logo

2017 G20 logo [via Wikipedia]

This past Friday and Saturday (July 7-8), many eyes were on Hamburg, Germany, as it hosted the 2017 G20 summit. The G20 is an international forum composed of 20 of the world’s largest economies—19 countries, plus the European Union. Formed in 1999, it serves as an economic council to address issues of global financial stability. G20 summits are often the target of major protests, and this year was no different, with tens of thousands of activists staging protests, some of which turned violent.

In addition to heads of international financial and other organizations, G20 summits are attended by the leaders of member nations, plus the presidents of the European Council and European Commission to represent the European Union.

How well do you know the leaders of the nations in the G20? Test your knowledge here! Can you get 10/10? Tweet us @CultureGrams with your results! Or learn more about the economies of the countries of the world with CultureGrams!

 

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Ramadan Traditions around the World

A boy reads from his Qur’an at a mosque in Mogadishu, Somalia, during the holy month of Ramadan. [Photo by Ilyas A. Abukar via Flickr]

Last Friday, May 26, was the beginning of Ramadan, a holy month during which many Muslims worldwide fast from sunrise to sunset. Ramadan is holy because it is believed to be the month in which the Qur’an (Koran) was revealed to the prophet Muhammed. It is a time of faith, reflection, peace, and charity, during which Muslims visit the mosque, abstain from physical excesses, and spend time with family and friends. Food is eaten before sunrise, and then after fasting during the daylight hours, Muslims break their fast with iftar, the fast-breaking meal. The fast is commonly broken by eating dates, and then an evening meal is eaten with family and friends. Food is also given to the poor.

Ramadan is celebrated in countries around the world. Check out these Ramadan traditions explained in our CultureGrams reports!

Morocco
During Ramadan, Moroccans awake before dawn to share a light breakfast, and some people begin with prayer in the mosque. Children attend a shortened day of school, and work hours are altered to accommodate the missing lunchtime and to allow people to rest in the afternoon. In some neighborhoods, young men organize daytime soccer matches to show off their agility even while fasting.

The fast ends each day at sundown, when participants break their fast by eating dates and drinking some water or milk, followed by a traditional soup called harira. Special breads and sweets are also served. Select prayers are offered each evening in the mosque, so that the entire Qur’an is recited by the end of the month. The streets fill with people after these prayers, and people enjoy staying up late to visit with each other.

Ramadan treats in a Morocco market [via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

Ramadan treats in a Morocco market [via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery]

Brunei
During Ramadan, government employees have a short workday of six hours, and all entertainment and sport activities are suspended. Each evening, Muslims are encouraged to attend prayers at the mosque. Non-Muslims are encouraged not to eat, drink, or smoke in public. While everyone is encouraged to avoid wearing clothing that reveals arms or feet, it is especially emphasized during Ramadan.

Iraq
Before dawn during Ramadan, families wake up and eat a meal called suhur, their main meal before fasting for the day. In most neighborhoods, a man is designated as a caller that goes through the streets banging on a drum and shouting for people to wake up, eat, and pray. On the last day of Ramadan, the drummer will go around to people’s houses and collect tips and treats. In the evenings, family and friends gather to celebrate and eat. During Ramadan, most government offices and businesses work shorter hours. In the middle of the month of Ramadan, children celebrate Qarqe’an Majina by going door to door and asking neighbors for treats.

Oman
At night during Ramadan, families break the fast with traditional meals, prepared by the women of the family, of rice served with beef, mutton, chicken, or fish; a wide variety of pastries are also served. Ramadan is a time for praying and reading the Qur’an. In some parts of Oman, people gather in a mosque to complete their reading of the Qur’an as a sign that Ramadan is about to end. Most civic centers and women’s associations hold Qur’an recitation nights, where prizes are given to those who are able to recite the most scriptures from memory without making mistakes.

Tweet us @CultureGrams to share your own Ramadan traditions! Or learn more about Ramadan traditions from CultureGrams Kids and World edition reports! You can also explore our Photo Gallery for images of Ramadan around the world.

Identifying Patterns: Why Do Some Flags Look Similar?

Flag map of the world

Flag map of the world [via Wikimedia Commons]

If you look at any image gallery of the flags of the world (such as the one provided by CultureGrams), you’ll notice that while there are a wide variety of colors and symbols on the flags, there are also some obvious similarities, especially among flags from the same region. These similarities in flag design often reflect a common cultural, political, or religious heritage among the countries with those flags.

Help Students Understand 6 Common Patterns and Themes in World Flags
Use the CultureGrams Flag Gallery to get students started exploring similarities among the flags of the world. Can your students spot any patterns or themes in world flags? What do they think the reasons are for those similarities? (Tip: If students need help understanding the meaning behind the colors and symbols of world flags, check out the helpful explanation on each CultureGrams World and Kids country landing page.)

While there are many patterns to be found in world flags, here’s a quick overview of six common themes:

  1. The Union Jack. The Union Jack is the name of the flag of the United Kingdom, and variations of the Union Jack appear on the flags of some countries and territories that were formerly (or are currently) associated with the United Kingdom. These include Australia, Fiji, Montserrat, New Zealand, Tuvalu, and Niue.
  2. A star and the color red. Many current communist countries include a star/s and the color red on their flags. The star/s typically represent ideas associated with communism or socialism, and the color red stands for revolution. Countries whose flags incorporate this symbolism include China, North Korea, and Vietnam.
  3. The star and crescent. The star and crescent became common during the Ottoman Empire and are now considered traditional symbols of Islam. Flags that use these symbols include those of Algeria, Azerbaijan, Comoros, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives (crescent only), Mauritania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
  4. The Pan-Arab colors. The Pan-Arab colors are green, red, black, and white. These colors first came from the 1916 flag of the Arab Revolt. A subset of the Pan-Arab colors are the Arab Liberation colors (red, white, and black, with green less prominent), which came into use in the 1950s. Flags with Pan-Arab colors are those of Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Sudan.
  5. The Pan-African colors. There are two sets of Pan-African colors: (1) red, green, and gold, based on the Ethiopian flag, and (2) red, black, and green, based on the 1920 Pan-African flag. Countries may incorporate one or both sets of Pan-African colors into their flags. Not all countries that use the Pan-African colors in their flags are in Africa; some are countries elsewhere with strong African heritage. Flags with Pan-African colors include those of Ghana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Benin, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, and Guyana.
  6. The Pan-Slavic colors. The Pan-Slavic colors are red, white, and blue. The colors were decided on at the 1848 Prague Slavic Congress and were based on the colors of the Russian flag. Countries whose flags use the Pan-Slavic colors are Croatia, the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

What themes and patterns did your students find in the flags? Did they notice the six mentioned above? Did they find others? Let us know on Twitter how your students did by tweeting us at @CultureGrams!

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CultureGrams: International Women’s Day (March 8)

Women in Kenya (photo via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8 (this Wednesday) around the world. Learn how it’s observed in various countries from CultureGrams:

  • Burkina Faso: On International Women’s Day, official celebrations are held in cities. Many Burkinabè, especially women, dress up in a fabric designed each year for the event. People also celebrate by going to bars to drink, eat, and dance.
  • Kyrgyzstan: On International Women’s Day, men give gifts to the women in their lives, including grandmothers, mothers, sisters, aunts, classmates, co-workers, and wives or girlfriends.
  • Mauritania: International Women’s Day is celebrated in each regional capital with a fair at which women’s cooperatives from the surrounding area display and sell their goods. A ceremony is held and includes speeches by government leaders. Many development organizations present awareness campaigns.
  • Ukraine: On International Women’s Day, everyone gets the day off work. Women receive flowers and gifts, as well as household help from their husbands. Special attention is paid to mothers, and girls are congratulated as future women.
  • Madagascar: International Women’s Day is celebrated across Madagascar, even in small villages. The day’s events typically include a gathering at the mayor’s office, where women’s groups perform traditional dances for the town’s officials in return for a small monetary gift. Women in the northeastern part of the island commonly wear matching blouses and lamba (long cotton wraps). They often make noise using whistles and condensed-milk cans fashioned into rattles.

Women in Voloina, Madagascar, celebrate International Women’s Day (photo via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

Learn more about holidays around the world from the Holidays section of World and Kids edition CultureGrams reports!

CultureGrams: Learn about St. Dévote’s Day, January 27

A religious parade passes through the Royal Palace Square in Monte Carlo during the annual celebration for Saint Dévote. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

CultureGrams is a great way to learn about holidays around the world. Each World and Kids edition report has a Holidays section that discusses the traditions and celebrations associated with a country’s most popular holidays. Not only can learning about a country’s holidays be fun, but it’s also an engaging way to learn about a country’s culture and gain insight into what is important to the people who celebrate the holidays.

Some holidays celebrated in other countries may sound familiar, but others may be new to you. For example, are you familiar with St. Dévote’s Day, celebrated in Monaco on 27 January? That’s this Friday! From the World Edition Monaco report Holidays section, we learn:

On 27 January, Monégasques honor St. Dévote, the patron saint of the principality. Dévote was persecuted and martyred for her faith in the fourth century. Her body was eventually buried in Monaco, and several miracles were associated with Dévote. Years later, a group of thieves tried to steal and sell Dévote’s bones, but Monégasque sailors retrieved the bones and set fire to the thieves’ boats. On this holiday, the prince or a member of the royal family sets fire to an old boat in the port to commemorate the rescue of the bones.

Not only can you read about St. Dévote’s Day on CultureGrams, but you can also find photos of the celebration in our Photo Gallery so you can see what the celebration is like:

On the Feast of Saint Dévote, relics are carried in a procession around Monaco. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

 

On the eve of the Feast of Saint Dévote, Monégasques prepare to burn a boat to commemorate the prevented theft of Dévote relics. Via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery.

Find more holidays celebrated around the world in CultureGrams World and Kids editions!

CultureGrams: New Kosovo Interviews Added!

kosovointerviews

In November, we added interviews from Kosovo to our CultureGrams Interviews collection! There are four interviews, and each captures different viewpoints about life in Kosovo from people of various ages living in diverse parts of the country:

These interviews by country natives are not only interesting and fun to read, but they also give students insider knowledge into what life and culture in the country are really like.

Here’s an example from the interview with Blerona, in which she talks about what being a citizen of Kozovo means to her:

kosovobleronaBeing a citizen of my country means that I belong somewhere. I’m from Kosovo, a country that has suffered a lot from wars and poverty. There is a lot to fix here. I still believe that one day I will be truly proud of my country. For the moment, there is a lot of corruption here, and the youth have problems finding jobs. As a future student, I want my studies to not be worthless, and I want to be able to have good work prospects.

Find more interviews from countries all over the world in the CultureGrams Interviews gallery!

CultureGrams: New Interviews Added!

Interviews Gallery

Over the past month, CultureGrams has added 8 new Interviews! And there are even more coming soon! The 8 we added are

These interviews by country natives are not only interesting and fun to read, but they also give students insider knowledge into what life and culture in the country are really like.

Here’s an example from the Thailand interview, in which Saichai, age 51, talks about general Thai attitudes and how she feels about being Thai:

Saichai, ThailandI’m proud of being Thai. I like the way of life here, the way people usually deal with each other, and that everyone tries to be easy going. Of course, that’s not always possible, and there are many problems as well, but it’s the way people deal with that. Sometimes people complain that many things go wrong in this country, but isn’t that the case in every country of the world? Our culture is also a lot about accepting the circumstances and not letting them get you down. Because the only thing that will happen is that you feel bad about things you cannot change anyway. I have never been abroad, but when I see foreigners who come to Thailand, I feel that sometimes they worry too much about little things.

Find more interviews from countries all over the world in the CultureGrams Interviews gallery!