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Cultures Meet in Canada

The first Syrian refugee family to land in Toronto (9 Dec 2015). Photo by Domnic Santiago, via flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The U.S. government recently decided to end temporary protected status of 2,500 Nicaraguans living in the United States and is deciding whether it will do the same for tens of thousands of refugees from Haiti, El Salvador, and Honduras. As a result, Canada is receiving a new wave of immigrants from those communities and expects these numbers to grow.

In contrast to its southern neighbor, Canada’s government is planning to increase its already generous immigrant acceptance policies and the majority of Canadians are on board. One went so far as to sponsor 50 Syrian refugee families, and others have participated in family-to-family sponsoring programs.  Such programs have largely been successful, but the struggles they do face often point to the importance of cultural education and understanding. And the more diverse Canadian society becomes, the larger the need becomes for refugees and Canadian citizens alike to learn about the other.

CultureGrams can provide a starting place for groups encountering each other for the first time, including a framework for exploring questions such as the following:

  • What ethnic groups are present in a country?
  • What languages do people speak?
  • What are the most prominent religions? And how might someone’s religious belief affect their daily behavior?
  • What common attitudes and values are shared by people in the country?
  • What do people in the country commonly wear?
  • How do people greet each other?
  • What gestures are potentially offensive?
  • What foods are typically eaten in the country? What customs are there that accompany eating?
  • What games and sports are popular?
  • What family structures and gender roles are common?

Explore these questions in relation to countries like HaitiSyria, and Canada today, in addition to delving into the history, culture, and society of specific Canadian provinces.

CultureGrams: Faces of the World Interviews

Gabon Interview via ProQuest CultureGrams

Our Faces of the World Interviews are one of the most popular features in CultureGrams. Users enjoy learning about how ordinary individuals–both adults and children–within a particular country see the world, what they do each day, what they worry about, what matters to them, etc. The interviews provide an intimate glimpse into what daily life is like for these people. Occasionally, however, users have questions about some of the content in the interviews. So we would like to clarify our editorial policy as it relates to the Faces of the World Interviews.

  1. The interviews represent the views of native inhabitants of various countries around the world. They are a reflection of how those individuals see their lives and the countries and cultures they live in. We don’t edit the interviews for content unless there is something that is incomprehensible or unless they say something that would be inappropriate for our users. As much as possible, we try to preserve the original voice and thoughts of the interviewees, only editing for clarity’s sake, as needed.
  2. Although our collection of interviews is growing, the total number is still relatively small (400+), so we make no claims that the small number of interviews we offer per country are necessarily representative of majority views within a particular country. These people speak for themselves. We expect that there will be greater variety as we add more interviews, but there is no way that a small number of interviews can adequately represent the whole or capture the diversity of opinion and experience within an entire country.
  3. In a few rare instances, users have suggested that some of the opinions represented in the interviews are overly negative. However,  as noted above, the goal of these interviews is to have real people tell us what their daily lives are like and what matters to them. It is their opinions that count when it comes to the interviews, not ours. Also, our goal with CultureGrams more broadly isn’t about promoting any particular country.  Instead, we aim to capture some of the diversity of human experience and to do so honestly. And we attempt to present this information as fairly and objectively as we can.

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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CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Palau

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

Flag of Palau, via CultureGrams

The new Palau report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Palau:

  • Palau includes around 250 islands, but only about 10 of them are inhabited.
  • Palau does not have a military force of its own. The United States is responsible for its defense under an agreement between the two countries.
  • Bachel are stone disks or beads with a hole carved in the middle. They were traditionally used as a form of money in Palau and are now passed between families for important events, such as funerals, weddings, or births.
  • Palau gained its independence in 1994.

Read about life as a kid in Palau, holiday celebrations, and typical meals, all in this colorful new report.

What are you celebrating today?

Christopher Columbus photo via Wikimedia, indigenous Guatemalan girls photo via CultureGrams.

 

Today, or on a day soon to come this month, countries throughout the Western hemisphere will mark some aspect of the European encounter with the Americas. Which aspect they choose to celebrate depends on their perspective. And in fact some cities within the same country (namely the U.S.) will be celebrating under different titles.

In many Latin American countries, this October holiday is called Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in an effort to highlight the indigenous cultures Columbus encountered when he arrived in the Americas. However, some indigenous groups, such as those in Chile, find nothing to celebrate on this day and instead call it Día de la Resistencia Indígena, or Indigenous Resistance Day.

Within the United States, the federal holiday is called Columbus Day, a title that, according to the New York Times, has been controversial from the start. Formally made a recurring holiday in 1934, Columbus Day began as a celebration more significant to Italian-Americans than the general population, and Italian-American groups today still advocate for the holiday to be called Columbus Day. As the figure of Columbus broadened to represent general European settlement of the Americas, resistance to the holiday deepened. As one Christian Science Monitor article (available via SIRS) put it, “For many native Americans, Columbus is a symbol of European colonialism, enabling widespread destruction of indigenous cultures and its people and paving the way for rampant oppression and forced relocation.” In response, many states with high native populations stopped celebrating Columbus Day and some cities and states added “Indigenous People’s Day” to the holiday name or changed the name entirely. Today only 25 states in all observe the holiday.

However, shifting the celebration from Columbus to the people he and other Europeans colonized is not itself without controversy. Last month an opinion piece (available via eLibrary) in The Weekly Standard argued that “up until fairly recently the European discovery of the Americas was regarded as a milestone in Western civilization . . .” The author also likened Columbus Day to other U.S. holidays that are outdated but “represent the great American habits of adaptation and historical amnesia.”

So what is the holiday called where you live today? Or is it considered a holiday at all? And do you agree with that status or name? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. In the meantime, check out more Columbus Day/Día de la Raza/Indigenous People’s Day articles and information in CultureGrams, SIRS, and eLibrary!

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 Provinces Edition Scavenger Hunt

CultureGrams Provinces Edition

And now for the final installment in our series of fun scavenger hunts to help students learn more about the resources available to them in CultureGrams. The first hunt was designed to familiarize users with the World Edition. Then we created a hunt for the Kids Edition and another for the States Edition. Now, last but not least, we have this Provinces Edition scavenger hunt. By working through these twenty questions, either in groups or individually, students will not only learn more about the provinces and territories of Canada, but also about the Provinces Edition of CultureGrams and the variety of content it offers. When students have completed the scavenger hunt, they will be much better prepared to do their own research in CultureGrams, whether to prepare a presentation, create a poster, or write an essay.

CultureGrams Provinces Edition Map

Provinces Edition Scavenger Hunt

*The information in parentheses after each item indicates where the answer can be found.

  1. How many total province and territories are there in Canada? (edition landing page)
  2. What are the three oceans that border Canada? (Canada Political or Physical Map)
  3. What is the name of the northernmost island of Canada? (Canada Physical Map)
  4. What are three ways to navigate to a specific province/territory report from the Provinces Edition landing page? (Provinces Edition landing page)
  5. What is Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump? (Alberta Landing Page)
  6. Quebec is the world’s largest producer of what? (Quebec Resources and Industries)
  7. What is a “potlatch”? (Yukon First Nations)
  8. What unfortunate event happened in the capital of Newfoundland in 1892? (Newfoundland and Labrador Time Line)
  9. Why is salmon farming an environmental issue in British Columbia? (British Colombia Environmental Issues)
  10. After the War of 1812, many immigrants moved to Nova Scotia. Where were most of them from? (Nova Scotia Responsible Government)
  11. Where is “Canada’s Chocolate Town” and how did it get that name? (New Brunswick Cultural Notes)
  12. What are the average seasonal high and low temperatures (Centigrade) in Nunavut in winter? (Nunavut Climate)
  13. What are some key issues facing the government of the Northwest Territories? (Northwest Territories Government)
  14. List a famous baseball, basketball, and hockey team that make Ontario their home (link to Major League Sports Teams from Provinces Edition landing page)
  15. Name three animals found on the provincial coat of arms for Manitoba. (Manitoba Official Emblems)
  16. What is a “saskatoon” that is used to make Saskatoon Pie in Saskatchewan? (Saskatchewan Recipes)
  17. What province/territory has the highest percentage of high school graduates age 15+ (Graphs and Tables)
  18. How far is it from Kensington in Prince Edward Island to Pelly Crossing in Yukon? (Distance Calculator can be accessed from any province/territory landing page)
  19. What is the motto for Prince Edward Island and what does it mean? (Prince Edward Island landing page)
  20. Which province or territory would you most want to visit and why?

To find the correct answers, check in the comments area. And be sure to let us know how the scavenger hunt works for your classes.

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Montserrat

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids edition country report!

Flag of Montserrat, via CultureGrams

The new Montserrat report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this country.

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about Montserrat:

  • Montserrat is one of the smallest island nations in the world. It covers just 39 square miles (101 square kilometers).
  • Goat water is the national dish of Montserrat. It is a goat meat stew cooked in a metal or tin pot over a wood fire and often served at weddings, funerals, and other special events.
  • The highest point on the island is the dome of the Soufrière Hills volcano. The volcano began erupting in 1995 and went on to destroy the southern half of the island, blanketing it in ash and making it uninhabitable.
  • English is the official language of Montserrat because the island was settled by Irish colonists in the 1600s.

Read about life as a kid in Montserrat, holiday celebrations, and the eruption of the Soufrière Hills volcano, all in this colorful new report.

CultureGrams States Edition Scavenger Hunt

This is the third in a series of fun scavenger hunts that our editorial staff has created to help students learn more about the resources available to them in CultureGrams. The first hunt was designed to familiarize users with the World Edition. Then we created one for the Kids Edition. Now this newest scavenger hunt is for the States Edition. By working through these eighteen questions, either in groups or individually, students will learn about the state reports in the database, what categories of information are available, what supplemental features there are, how to cite CultureGrams as a source, and much more. And when students have completed the scavenger hunt, they will be much better prepared to do their own research in CultureGrams to prepare a presentation, create a poster, or write an essay because they will know what information the product has to offer them to do their work.

States Edition Scavenger Hunt

*The information in parentheses after each item indicates where the answer can be found.

  1. List four of the rivers shown on the USA physical map (States Edition landing page – USA Maps)
  2. What are runza or bierocks? (Nebraska Recipes)
  3. What are the states that have the five highest populations of American Indians & Alaska Natives as a percentage of their total population? (Build-Your-Own Comparison Tables)
  4. What animal is at the center of the Wyoming flag? (Flag Gallery)
  5. What two famous astronauts came from Ohio. (Ohio – Famous People)
  6. What happened in 1853 in California? (California – Time Line)
  7. What is the state bird of Rhode Island and where in CultureGrams can you hear its song? (Rhode Island – State Symbols)
  8. What are the average high and low summer temperatures in Mississippi? (Mississippi – Climate)
  9. On what holiday did Nevada become a state in 1864? (Nevada landing page)
  10. Who was “the Wizard of Menlo Park” and what is he famous for? (New Jersey – The Wizard of Menlo Park)
  11. How many counties does South Dakota have? (South Dakota Government)
  12. What were the first four states to be added to the Union? (Graphs and Tables – Statehood)
  13. Where would you find a printable outline map of Illinois to label? (Illinois landing page – Map)
  14. How far is it from Seattle, Washington to Miami, Florida? (Washington – Distance Calculator)
  15. Hawaii is the only U.S. state where _________ are the largest racial group and __________ are a minority. (Hawaii – Population)
  16. What made Model T cars more popular than previous cars? (Michigan – The Model T and Motor City)
  17. If you were compiling a bibliography of sources for your report on Vermont, and you needed to create a correct MLA citation for the information on Vermont’s maple syrup, what would it look like? (Vermont – Maple Syrup)
  18. Which U.S. state would you most like to visit on vacation and why?

To find the correct answers, check in the comments area. And be sure to let us know how the scavenger hunt works for your classes.

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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