One of the highlights of my recent trip to Italy—in addition to the daily, ahem, twice-daily gelato runs—was actually not part of Italy at all. It was the sovereign state of Vatican City (or the Holy See). I have been interested in the world’s smallest independent nation since helping to create the World Edition CultureGrams report on it (we have a Kids report too!).
It did not disappoint. Located in the heart of bustling Rome, The Vatican feels like a different country once you’re inside its walls. It’s still very busy, of course, as one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but the presence of Swiss Guards (a small security force comprised of Catholic Swiss men), the magnitude of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the concentration of masterpieces in such a small area make the Vatican a truly unique place.
The culmination of any tourist’s visit to the Vatican is, of course, the Sistine Chapel. And though you’re allowed to take all the photos you want in the huge complex of museums you must (get to) pass through on the way to Michelangelo’s crowning work, once you enter the chapel you are greeted with several Italian guards booming out the words “No foto! No foto!” I have to admit I didn’t fully comply with the rule, though no one yelled at me for looking down in a sea of people looking up.
As cool as it was to see in person, you can actually get a much better view of it on an official virtual tour. In addition to being able to see the chapel completely empty (in person it’s shoulder-to-shoulder), you can zoom in on different pieces of the artwork or just contemplate it in silence, without anyone yelling at you.
And in case you thought I was kidding about the gelato . . .
If you’re familiar with CultureGrams, you know that one of the things that makes our product stand out is the “native perspective” of much of the information in our country, state, and province reports. CultureGrams goes beyond statistics to explore not only the history of a place, but also the culture and day-to-day lives of residents of that location, including topics like dating and marriage rituals, eating habits, life as a kid, and much more.
CultureGrams is able to capture this unique perspective because we work with native reviewers and other country experts to portray what life is really like for people living in the locations covered by our reports.
For instance, did you know that in Sierra Leone, a baby’s umbilical cord is placed under a new tree before it is planted? Or that in Kazakhstan, newlyweds visit local landmarks after the wedding ceremony? This is the type of unique information CultureGrams can provide its customers because of the perspectives native reviewers share with us.
Because we’re continually updating, reviewing, and expanding our country, state, and province reports, we’re always looking for reviewers to help us make sure the reports and other features (like photos and recipes) are up to date with the latest and most accurate information.
If you’re a native or country expert for any of the places below, and are interested helping us review our reports, please visit our website to learn more about the project and qualifications and fill out an application.
|Armenia||Ghana||Mali||Slovakia||West Bank and Gaza|
|Cape Verde||Iran||Moldova||Sri Lanka|
U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
|Alaska||Kansas||New Mexico||Northwest Territories (Canadian territory)|
As Christmas approaches, people all over the world are preparing for the holiday in their unique ways. Read about some distinctive Christmas traditions from Europe, Africa, Oceania, and Latin America below and visit CultureGrams holiday sections to find out more!
Argentina: Extended families gather on Christmas Eve for dinner, music, and often dancing. Candy is served just before midnight, when the fireworks displays begin. Gifts from Papá Noel (Father Christmas) are opened on Christmas Eve, while all other gifts are exchanged on Christmas Day. The singing of traditional Christmas carols by family members features prominently in Christmas celebrations.
Mozambique: Christmas is celebrated only by Christians. Church meetings are held in the morning; the afternoon is spent with family. A special meal is served and usually includes meat, fish, fried potatoes, rice, and cake. People celebrate with music and dancing. Some families exchange presents, but this is not a major part of the holiday. Family Day falls on the same day as Christmas and is celebrated by all Mozambicans. Celebrations intertwine with Christmas celebrations; the main difference is that non-Christians do not attend church on this day.
Armenia: Because Armenia was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as the official state religion, many Armenians celebrate Christmas (Surb Tsnund) with a special solemnity. Christians attend church and participate in the Divine Liturgy (a church service) conducted by the chief bishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church. On Christmas Eve, families bring lit candles from the church into their homes to purify the homes from the power of darkness. A typical Christmas dinner for families includes fish and rice, served with raisins, dried fruits, and Armenian red wine.
Colombia: The nine nights before Christmas are called la novena, when family and friends gather to take part in traditional Christmas prayers, sing carols, and eat customary Christmas snacks such as natilla (similar to flan) and buñuelos (fried dough balls). Each night the novena is celebrated in a different home, and these events often turn into parties that include drinking and dancing. On Christmas Eve, families eat a large dinner, pray around the pesebre, and sing Christmas carols. At midnight, they exchange presents.
Tonga: On Christmas Eve, Sunday-school children may perform the story of Jesus’s birth for their families and walk around the perimeter of their communities singing Christmas carols. Meanwhile, older Tongans visit family members. Afterward, children go home, where they may receive a gift from their parents—this might be an inexpensive toy or balloons and candy. No matter what day of the week it falls on, Christmas day is treated as a Sunday; people refrain from outdoor activities (other than cooking) and businesses close. On Christmas morning, most people attend a church service. This is followed by a gathering of extended family for a special lunch of yams and roasted pigs.
Sweden: An important part of many Swedes’ modern Christmas celebrations is a television program called Kalle Ankas Jul, which is broadcast on the afternoon of Christmas Eve. Each year since 1959, much of the country has gathered to watch this compilation of clips from different cartoons, whose ratings outperform nearly all other television events throughout the year. Santa Claus is called Jultomte—the “Christmas gnome.” The name Jultomte once referred to a fabled gnome who watched over Swedish homes during the year. In the modern tradition, he brings gifts for the children to the door on Christmas Eve. After Jultomte delivers the gifts, the family dances around the tree and sings carols.
Did you know that CultureGrams offers almost 80 free teaching activities to its subscribers? If you don’t have access to CultureGrams, enjoy this free teaching activity today and sign up for a free trial of the product to access more.
Understanding Election Results
Grade level: K–5
Objective: Students will learn about the Electoral College while understanding the numerical basis for election results and
practicing various computations.
Common Core State Standards Initiative: Anchor Standards for Reading: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7. Integrate and evaluate content presented
in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
Preparation: 40 minutes
In-class: 2 hours, two different days; less, if some is done as homework
Materials: CultureGrams States Edition
1. Begin by handing out a printout of the PDF outline map of the U.S. to each student, along with coloring utensils. Give the students a list of which states voted for Mitt Romney (color red) in the
2012 presidential election and which states voted for Barack Obama (color blue) and have them color in the map accordingly.
2. When the students are done, tell them that the country was split fairly evenly in this election, with 51% of the nation voting for Obama and 47% voting for Romney. Yet, from looking at the amount of red on the election map, they might think that far more people voted for Romney. Talk about how the Electoral College works, explaining that each state gets a number of electoral votes based on its total number of senators and representatives, the latter of which is based on population.
3. Using this formula (senators + representatives = electoral votes), have the students use the information in the Government section of the CultureGrams States Edition to fill in their map with the numbers of electoral votes each state has. Compare the sum of the blue states’ electoral votes and those of the red states. Are they closer than the map makes them appear?
4. Explain to students that, typically, it is thought that states that are home to large urban populations (and are therefore more densely populated) tend to be democrat, while those home to rural populations (and therefore more sparsely populated) tend to be republican. Have students test this assumption using the Create-Your-Own-Table function in the States Edition. Have students create tables that display the population densities (population per sq. mi.) for both red and blue states. Using this data, have them create and compare averages for each group. What do their findings prove?
Questions for further discussion
1. Why might more densely populated states vote democratic, while more sparsely populated ones vote
2. The Electoral College has come under fire as being out of date and unfair. Do the students agree?
Why or why not?
Provide electoral maps for several past presidential elections. As they compare the maps, they should note which states should be classified as “swing states”; that is, which states alternate between voting for republican and democratic candidates.
Modes of transportation are influenced by many factors, including economic resources, population density, geography, climate, and tradition. If you’re from the United States, you probably get around primarily in a private vehicle, but that’s only one of many modes of transportation used every day by people around the world.
The following photos are from the CultureGrams photo gallery.
Can you guess where each photo was taken?
We’ve posted the answers in the comments section of this post. Check them out and tell us how well you did!
Happy Fourth of July! It’s fun to compare traditional American Independence Day celebrations, such as barbecues, parades, and fireworks, with Independence Day traditions from around the world. Enjoy the following descriptions, originating from Latin America, Europe, and Africa and visit CultureGrams Holiday sections to find more details about holiday celebrations around the world.
Bolivia: Independence Day, held on 6 August, is the anniversary of the establishment of the republic in 1825. Two days before, students participate in parades in the cities where they live. Some wear traditional clothing, and some participate in marching bands. The president then chooses one of these cities to be the site of the country’s official Independence Day celebrations and gives an official address to the country. More parades, these ones featuring people from various institutions and indigenous groups, take place as well. Later in the day, families often spend time together at a fair, amusement park, or festival.
Dominican Republic: On Restoration of Independence Day, Dominicans celebrate the restoration of their independence following a short period under Spanish rule (called La Anexion, from 1861 to 1863) less than a decade after gaining independence from Haiti. The holiday commemorates La Guerra de Restauracion (the War of Restoration) fought to regain the country’s independence. On this day, the president gives an official speech in honor of the holiday. Mes de la Patria ends with Independence Day celebrations, which include a military parade and a presidential address to the nation.
Guinea-Bissau: A few days before Independence Day celebrations, major streets are decorated with the country’s flags. Banners, billboards, and flyers depicting patriotic images and the national theme for the year’s celebration are also displayed. A special speech given by the president is broadcast all around the country. Individuals and organizations spend the day reflecting on the country’s challenges and ways to increase national development. Schools organize special programs that feature the heroes of independence.
Poland: Independence Day celebrates Poland’s independence gained in 1918. The holiday was banned under Soviet rule and reinstated after Poland regained its independence. The main Independence Day celebrations take place in Kraków and Warsaw and are broadcast throughout the country by radio and television. The day is celebrated with parades and speeches. Ceremonies honor Poles who died fighting for their country. Homes, businesses, and government buildings are decorated with Polish flags.
South America Quiz
We’ve recently added 102 new videos to the CultureGrams video collection! These unique videos, produced by CultureGrams editors from footage submitted from contributors around the world, highlight many aspects of daily life and culture for 11 countries.
We’re offering two of these in full to non-subscribers via YouTube, so share with your colleagues and friends!
Kids collect water in the Central African Repbulic . . .
and musicians and dancers perform in Ethiopia.
You can also witness scenes from Burkina Faso’s revolution, attend a wedding in Cameroon, watch a dance competition in DR Congo, join the world in commemorating South Africa’s Nelson Mandela, shiver with ice swimmers in Hungary, ride the tube in the UK, and much more.
Special thanks to our prolific contributor Salym Fayad for providing beautiful, culturally important footage for so many of these videos.
All 728 videos in the CultureGrams collection are available for streaming and download. Feel free to incorporate these videos into presentations or use them for other educational purposes. Or watch them just for the fun of it. Enjoy!
How much do you know about the region of Sub-Saharan Africa? Test your knowledge with these tidbits from CultureGrams (if you need help, search the CultureGrams site!):
1. Which country is the world’s fourth largest island?
If you’ve ever explored the CultureGrams Video Gallery, you know that we have great content from around the world, including people cooking, kids working and playing, citizens celebrating holidays, and much more. But you may have noticed that we don’t have very many videos from the USA. We are asking for your help in solving this problem!
If you have digital video of your state, you could get paid for it!
You could film things like
- people (including interviews)
- cultural topics
Leave a comment here or email us at cgeditors<at>proquest<dot>com for more details about subjects to film, technical requirements, and payment.
We look forward to seeing your video in CultureGrams!