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CultureGrams—Christmas Around the World

ColombiaChristmas

A Colombian nativity scene
Image credit: Salym Fayad

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.

ArmeniaBecause 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.

SwedenAn 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.

CultureGrams Extremes Tables

Can you list the ten largest countries in the world? What about the smallest? Can you name the ten most populous countries? The ten countries with the youngest or oldest populations? Do you know which countries have the most women in parliament or the fewest internet users? What countries have the largest number of airports or the smallest number of physicians per 10,000 people. For answers to these and many other questions, check out CultureGrams Extremes Data Tables. These fascinating tables list top and bottom ten countries in a variety of categories. Links to the tables can be found in the lower portion of the left navigation bar on our Graphs and Tables page.

Extremes Table via ProQuest CultureGrams

But these top ten and bottom ten tables aren’t included merely as a source of geographical  and cultural trivia. They can also foster discussion and critical thinking. Students might be asked to think about why particular countries are on a specific Extremes table and what those countries have in common. For example, what do countries with a low population density have in common? What factors might result in certain countries having high or low life expectancy?

Also, they could discuss the impact of a country being very high or low in a particular category. What impact does it have on a country if it has low public school enrollment or high life expectancy? What effect might an aging population have on a country? What about a very young population?

And another option might be to look at some of the tables and consider how certain data in the tables might be misinterpreted. If one looks at the countries with the highest public spending on education, does that mean that those populations are the best educated? Why or why not?

Although they make up only a small part of the CultureGrams database, the Extremes tables are a tool that will  yield valuable insights to those who are able to think critically about what is revealed in the numbers.

Training for Your ProQuest Resources

Libraries see surge in e-book demandDon’t forget that ProQuest provides free training.  Our Training and Consulting Partners team is available at any time to meet with you via a privately scheduled webinar.  Just email us to make an inquiry.  We also provide regularly scheduled public webinars.  You can contact our team to discuss your questions about ProQuest resources, and we are also happy to focus privately scheduled sessions on topic areas of particular interest to you. 

This is just one of the many benefits you derive from licensure to your ProQuest resources!

 

CultureGrams Scavenger Hunt

Are you looking for an engaging way to help your students learn about the countries of the world? We just want to remind you that we’ve put together a scavenger hunt that will help them do that, and students will become familiar with some of the content and features available in the CultureGrams World Edition as well. The activity requires students (either individually or in groups) to answer a series of questions on an assigned country by “scavenging” through the product. And in the process, they learn about some of our standard CultureGrams categories, plus features like the Currency Converter, Data Tables, Famous People, Photos, and Recipes.

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CultureGrams World Edition via ProQuest

Most of the questions are factual in nature, but there are critical thinking questions as well. The scavenger hunt can be an activity that you use on its own or it can be a way to teach students how to use CultureGrams for country research as preparation for working on their own.

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CultureGrams Scavenger Hunt via ProQuest

Check it out by clicking here. Enjoy!

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!

CultureGrams—Where in the world?: Transportation

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?

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Photo 2

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uae

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uk

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vietnam

Photo 12

We’ve posted the answers in the comments section of this post. Check them out and tell us how well you did!

Don’t forget that CultureGrams has thousands of pictures gathered from around the globe. Each image in our slideshow gallery and photo gallery is downloadable and available for personal use.

CultureGrams: Critical Thinking

A great way to foster critical thinking and engaged learning in your students is to help them learn to ask good questions, to push beyond the obvious, to see purely factual data points in a broader context. Asking good questions promotes independent thinking, stimulates curiosity, increases understanding, and helps people see how seemingly disparate ideas connect.

We encourage teachers to use CultureGrams to promote critical thinking in their classrooms. There are many ways to do so. You might ask students, for example, why many major metropolitan areas are often located in coastal areas or near major waterways. Take Australia, China, Canada, or Brazil, for example. Look at where many of the largest cities are concentrated. Why aren’t the cities scattered more evenly across these countries? The answers to these questions may vary, depending on the country. You could discuss the significance of trade and access to foreign markets; the importance of water to sustain life and as a means of travel; the influence of history, geography, and climate on settlement and growth; etc. Encourage students to ask why things are the way they are. This can lead them to insights they may not have had previously.

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Brazil Map via ProQuest CultureGrams

You could also ask students to think about what countries in a particular region have in common besides just occupying a particular part of the world. Have students think about the many of the island nations of Oceania, for instance. Do they share common geographical features or similar climates? Are there common languages, a common religion, or similar cultural attitudes? How do their economies compare? What common challenges do countries in Oceania face? Also, what differentiates countries in the region? And what is the impact of these similarities and differences on the region as a whole?

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Aerial View, Tahiti, French Polynesia (photo by Peter Stone via the CultureGrams Photo Gallery)

Another fruitful area of exploration might be to ask students how the content in one CultureGrams category impacts the content in another. How does the land and climate in a particular country influence the economy? How has a country’s history shaped its linguistic or religious development? How do a culture’s attitudes about family affect how they view dating and marriage?

And lastly, you could ask students to compare statistical data between two or more countries. What does the data reveal? How can the differences in data be explained? For example,  below is a customized table that provides data related to health and life expectancy for Belgium and Uganda. What does the data reveal? What might be some of the root causes for the differences in the numbers?

Belgium Uganda Comparison

To be clear, teachers will need to monitor these kinds of activities/discussions to make sure that students are coming to sound conclusions and not speculating wildly about cause and effect. But that process in itself can be useful in teaching students how to analyze factual information.

Of course, there are many other areas in CultureGrams that you could use to foster critical thinking, but we hope this gets you started thinking of some of the possibilities. Please let us know if you have any great ideas on this topic or if you come up with interesting activities that foster critical thinking.

CultureGrams: Eid al-Adha

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Livestock bazaar in Kashgar (Xinjiang, China) ahead of Eid al-Adha, by Keith Tan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr

Today marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha celebrations for over 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. The holiday, meaning “Festival of the Sacrifice”, commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son and is celebrated during the twelfth month of the lunar calendar. People visit friends and family and exchange gifts. Many families slaughter a sheep on this day as a symbol of the story of Abraham. Tens of millions of animals are sacrificed around the world in the first two days of the celebration. Families who cannot afford their own animal may join other families and pool their money together to buy an animal. The meat from the sacrifice is shared with family and friends, but a portion must also be reserved for the poor.

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A street vendor makes food at the livestock bazaar in Kashgar (Xinjiang, China) ahead of Eid al-Adha, by Keith Tan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr

The holiday takes place following the the Muslim Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca. In Saudi Arabia, the government declares a 12-day holiday that includes the days of the Hajj and the following Eid al-Adha holiday. Traditionally, Eid al-Adha festivities lasted about 4 days. Today, celebrations range in length between different countries–ranging from as little as 3 days (in the Philippines), 9 days (in Gulf states) and 12 days (Saudi Arabia). Learn more about some of the different countries that celebrate Eid al-Adha with CultureGrams: see Egypt, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Albania, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.

CultureGrams: One Religion, Many Practices

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Mir-e Arab Mosque, Bukhara, Uzbekistan by Robert Wilson (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr

Did you know that there are over 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide? Across this massive group, there is a considerable range of religious practice and doctrinal interpretation. Catholicism and Buddhism have similarly large and diverse populations whose adherents can be found in very different geographic regions and societies. To better understand how religious belief impacts people, students need to understand that most religions have a range of beliefs and practices. The following activity from the CultureGrams Activities PDF helps students to explore differences within one religion across different cultures.

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Mosque in Isfahan, Iran by Babak Farrokhi (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr

Teaching Activity: One Religion, Many Practices

Time requirement
Preparation: 10 minutes
In-class : 1 hour and 30 minutes, two different days

Research and Writing
Grade level: 6–8; can be modified for other age groups
Objective: Students will compare the practice of a single religion across multiple countries and interviews.

Materials: CultureGrams Online Edition—Interviews

Instructions
1. Have students read three interviews with people who practice the same religion. Some options are Islam (Qosimov: Uzbekistan, Djiba: Senegal, and Joud: Jordan), Catholicism (Javier: Bolivia, Trina: Costa Rica, and Petrosse: Mozambique), and Buddhism (Sai: Cambodia, Dawa: Nepal, and Chhun: Cambodia).
2. What differences do students notice in the way the interviewees practice their religion? Differences may be found in how often a person attends worship services, how important they consider religion in their life, ways they worship, and holidays they celebrate.
3. Now have students read the Religion section of each interviewee’s country in the World Edition report. What do these sections say about the religion? How does the information in the report compare to the information in the interviewees’ answers? How does the practice of the religion vary between countries?
4. Have students write a short essay on their observations about the ways a single religion varies in different areas and between individual observers of that religion. They may also speculate on why this could be.

*See pg. 55-56 of the CultureGrams Teaching Activities PDF  to view the education standards that are targeted in this activity.

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Mosque in Bahrain by Denise Krebs (CC BY 2.0) via Fickr

CultureGrams: Faces of the World Interviews

 

Interview Page

Faces of the World Interview Page 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.

Kenya Interview Page via ProQuest CultureGrams

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