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Posts Tagged ‘CultureGrams’

12 Summer Solstice Celebrations Around the World

Today, June 21, is the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. The Summer Solstice is celebrated around the world and presents a wonderful opportunity for students to learn about world culture because celebrations often incorporate history, folklore, food, clothing, and music.

What Is the Summer Solstice? 

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice occurs between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year. Also known as the June Solstice, this is the time of year when the sun reaches its northernmost point from the equator. It is the longest day of the year and considered the beginning of summer. After the solstice, the days start getting shorter, the nights longer.

In ancient times, the Summer Solstice was used to establish calendars and to plan farming cycles. Throughout history, the solstice has been a day of celebration to mark the change of seasons and celebrate the beginning of summer.

12 Summer Solstice Celebrations Around the World

Have your students explore the world through learning about these 12 Summer Solstice celebrations:

Copenhagen, Denmark
Danes celebrate Sankt Hans Aften, also known as St. John’s Eve, during the Summer Solstice. This is a mix of pagan tradition and the celebration of the birth of John the Baptist. On St. John’s Eve, Danes meet with family and friends to have dinner. Then they light a bonfire and throw a straw effigy of a witch on the fire before singing Holger Drachmann’s Midsommervise (1885). The tradition of the bonfire started due to a myth that there was a special power on this night as the witches flew on their broomsticks on their way to Bloksbjerg. The bonfires were lit to keep the evil forces away.

Krakow, Poland
In the city of Krakow, Poles celebrate the midsummer tradition of Wianki. “Wianki” means “wreaths” in English. The holiday originates from the pagan Summer Solstice tradition of floating handmade wreaths down the river. Women wear garlands to celebrate midsummer. Crafts, food, and fireworks are enjoyed as part of the festivities. There is also a Fete de la Musique (Festival of Music) with many performances by artists of various genres of music.

Menorca, Spain
The Festival of St. John combines the Summer Solstice with the birth of Saint John the Baptist. The festivities last a few days and involve bonfires, fireworks, music, and dancing. People drink and celebrate and slap the backsides of large black horses with riders that go up and down the streets. At night people throw sackfuls of hazelnuts at each other as a sign of love.

Mount Olympus, Greece
For 2,500 years, people have been ascending Mount Olympus in Greece on the Summer Solstice. The Summer Solstice is the first of the year according to some Greek Calendars. This trek is considered a mythical pilgrimage where participants walk amidst the “home of the gods.”

New York, New York
In Times Square, the Summer Solstice melds with International Yoga Day for a special Solstice in Times Square event. Termed “Mind Over Madness Yoga,” thousands of yogis with their mats descend on Times Square for meditation and stretching throughout the day. The event was created as a way to draw energy from the sun to reenergize participants through stillness. It is also a counterpoint to the winter event of New Year’s Eve.

Porto, Portugal
Thousands gather in Porto for the Sao Joao Festival to celebrate Saint John the Baptist’s birthday and also to mark the Summer Solstice. The festival lasts over one month but has its pinnacle on the Summer Solstice. The streets are filled with people, music, parties, and food and drink and decorated with St. John’s balloons made of multi-colored paper. Churches are also decorated. People hit passers-by on the head with soft squeaky plastic hammers. At midnight there is a fireworks display along the Douro River to honor the sun.

Riga, Latvia
Jani Day is the year’s most festive holiday. Held on the Summer Solstice, it marks the beginning of the summer’s “white nights,” when the sun sets for only a few hours. Food is prepared weeks in advance. Businesses close for two days. Huge bonfires are lit, and revelers attend parties, dances, and concerts. They sing songs and many stay up all night.

Reykjavik, Iceland
The Secret Solstice Festival. This is a music festival where bands entertain for 72 hours straight. For the fourth year in a row, concerts and parties take place in interesting locations including an ice cave, volcano crater, glacier, and a lagoon heated by volcanic fires.

Santa Barbara, California, United States
The Summer Solstice Parade began in 1974 as a birthday celebration for Michael Gonzales, a popular artist and mime. Since then it has expanded to include a music festival and is now the largest arts event in the area, drawing over 100,000 spectators. There is a large parade with floats, puppets, and fantastic costumes. The festival in Almeda Park has music, food, arts, crafts, and a drum circle.

Stockholm, Sweden
Swedes’ celebration of the Summer Solstice is a national holiday called Midsommar (Midsummer). Celebrations are held in late June (usually around the 20th) when the summer days are much longer than the nights. Most people try to celebrate outdoors in the countryside, where festivities include traditional music, dancing around the maypole, and barbecues and picnics of fresh potatoes, herring, salmon, and strawberries.

Tirol, Austria
Tirol marks the Summer Solstice in town and villages throughout Tirol. After sunset, torches and bonfires are lit on mountaintops all around the country. These fires are a sight to behold illuminating the mountains and creating a beautiful, mystical effect.

Wiltshire, England
Yearly on the Summer Solstice, people gather at Stonehenge to catch the sunrise above the stones. Stonehenge is a prehistorical monument that has associations as an ancient burial ground, astrological observatory, and a general sacred site. On the morning of the Summer Solstice, thousands gather dressed in flowers, glitter, and Druid costumes to gaze at the sun, dance, and drum. If you stand at just the right place, you will see the sun rise above the Heel Stone.

Point your students to CultureGrams for more information on the holiday and seasonal traditions of the countries of the world.
Don’t have CultureGrams? Free trials are available.

CultureGrams Kids Edition Scavenger Hunt

In order to be successful in using a research database, students need to learn how that database works, of course–what content it offers, how the database can best be navigated, and what tools and features are available to help them in their research. And with all the databases and other online resources out there, it is a real challenge to find the time to train younger users on how to use the wide array of resources that are available to them.

But all is not lost! We’ve come up with a new scavenger hunt to help students become familiar with the CultureGrams Kids Edition. This is in addition to the scavenger hunt that we already developed for CultureGrams more broadly. By working through these twenty questions, either in groups or individually, students will learn about the country reports in the database and what categories of information are available, what supplemental features there are, how the data tables work, what multimedia resources they can access, 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.

Kids Edition Scavenger Hunt

*Each of the questions is followed by parenthetical information that suggests where the answers can be found.

1. What tree is a national symbol of Haiti? (Haiti country landing page)
2. What is a smorgasbord in Sweden? (Sweden Food category)
3. What are the 5 largest and 5 smallest countries in the world? (Extremes Data Tables or Build-Your-Own)
4. The Netherlands has twice as many __________ as cars. (Netherlands landing page/Did You Knows)
5. How do you say (Can You Say It)
a. “Let’s have a barbecue” in Aussie English? (Australia Can You Say It)
b. “Hello” in Hindi in India? (India Can You Say It)
c. “No” in German? (Germany Can You Say It)
d. “Please” in Somali (Somalia Can You Say It)
6. What are some of the chores that kids in Madagascar do each day? (Madagascar Like as a Kid category)
7. Find a recipe from three countries on three different continents. (Recipes)
8. Find two interviews of children from two separate countries. List two things you have in common with the children and two things that are different. (Interviews)
9. What is the average life expectancy of a Brazilian compared to the average life expectancy of someone in the world as a whole? (Brazil landing page/Infographic)
10. What percentage of New Zealand’s population is Hindu? (New Zealand Religion category/pie chart)
11. What happened in 1219 in Afghanistan? (Afghanistan History category/Time Line)
12. Name one famous person from Mexico and tell what made them famous. (Mexico Famous People)
13. According to the Money and Economy category for Chile, Chile is the world’s largest producer of what? (Chili Money and Economy category)
14. Which country has the highest percentage of women in parliament? Spain, Thailand, or the United States? (Country Data Tables)
15. How far is it from the capital of Ukraine to the capital of Nicaragua? (Distance Calculator)
16. Find the photo “Cowboy” in the Myanmar photo gallery. What is the cowboy in the photo herding? (Myanmar Photo Gallery)
17. What type of vehicle is used to retrieve children from school in the video “School Pickup” from Vietnam. (Vietnam Video)
18. Create an MLA citation for the flag of Togo. (Flag Gallery or Togo landing page)
19. Of all the countries in the world, which one would you most like to visit? Explain why.
20. If you could live in any country in the world other than the country where you currently live, what would you choose 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.

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.

Teaching Activity: Tracing the Effects of Slavery

Frear’s Silk Dept (circa 1882), via Wikimedia Commons

This activity comes from the CultureGrams Teaching Activities PDF, which features more than 70 activities to help teachers make the most of our country, state, and province reports.

Grade level: 9–12

Objective: Students will understand the geographical scope of the slave trade. They will be able to trace some of the lingering socioeconomic and cultural effects of slavery across the world. See the Teaching Activites PDF for Common Core and other national curriculum standards met by this activity.

Time requirement

Preparation: 30 minutes

Monument of the Four Moors, Livorno, Italy, via Wikimedia Commons

In-class: 50 minutes, less if students read selections at home

Materials

CultureGrams World Edition

Helpful maps from UNESCO

Understanding Slavery Initiative (timelines, maps, paintings, and images of artifacts)

Instructions

  1. Explain to the students how, besides being a general atrocity and a personal tragedy for the millions of Africans who were sold as slaves, the African slave trade has had a major effect on the history of the world. Slavery has influenced the historical development and current cultural and socioeconomic conditions of many nations: African nations from which individuals were captured and nations in the Americas to which Africans were brought as
  2. Divide the class in half to form two groups. Have each group read from these selections in class or at home:
Group One Group Two
United States (History) Angola (History)
Antigua and Barbuda (History, Arts, Holidays) Botswana (Religion)
Barbados (History, Language, Arts) Malawi (History)
Haiti (History, Population) Mozambique (History)
St. Lucia (History, Population, Holidays) Senegal (History)
St. Kitts and Nevis (History, Flag description) Sierra Leone (History, Population, Religion)
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (History, Holidays)
  1. Ask the students in Group Two to discuss the circumstances surrounding the African side of the slave trade, in addition to any long-lasting effects it has had on populations or
  2. Ask the students in Group One to discuss the history and cultural impact of slavery in those countries. What did it take to end slavery? What types of economies were created as a result of the slave trade? How did it influence the arts and languages of the Americas?
  3. Have each group prepare a short presentation to share their findings with the other group.
  4. As a class, analyze the Country and Development Data for all of the countries. Which statistics might slavery have influenced and how?

Carving of slave caravan, alternate, Lake Malawi Museum ,by Tim Cowley via Wikimedia Commons

Extension activity

For background information, read the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) report on modern-day slavery (summary of facts below).

  • Almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys.
  • Almost 19 million victims are exploited by private individuals or enterprises and over 2 million by the state or rebel groups.
  • Of those exploited by individuals or enterprises, 4.5 million are victims of forced sexual exploitation.
  • Forced labour in the private economy generates US$ 150 billion in illegal profits per year.
  • Domestic work, agriculture, construction, manufacturing and entertainment are among the sectors most concerned.
  • Migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to forced labour.

Explain to the class that slavery still exists and briefly discuss the various forms it takes (i.e. child and bonded laborers, sex slaves, domestic servants, agricultural workers, etc.). For homework, instruct students to look up a current event dealing with a form of modern-day slavery, then do a write-up that summarizes the event and analyzes the laws and circumstances that result in continued slavery; they might also compare the effects of modern-day slavery with those of the African slave trade.

In this article, students can put a face to modern descendants of the African slave trade and hear their perspectives.

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: American Samoa

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

Flag of American Samoa, via CultureGrams

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

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about American Samoa:

  • American Samoa is home to only three kinds of native land mammals, all of which are bats.
  • American Samoa is the southernmost territory of the United States.
  • American Samoa uses the U.S. Postal Service for mail delivery and is small enough to have just one zip code.
  • One of the traditional symbols of American Samoa is the fue (coconut fiber fly whisk) crossed with a to’oto’o (staff). The fue stands for wisdom, while the to’oto’o represents authority.

Read about life as a kid in American Samoa, traditional foods, and the role religion plays in American Samoan culture, all in this colorful new report.

A Taste of Morocco: Recipe from CultureGrams

One of the best (and definitely the most delicious) ways to experience a new culture is by sampling the local cuisine! On a recent trip to Morocco, I seized every opportunity I had during my short stay to experience the many sights, smells, and flavors of Fez. My first stop was at a little restaurant where I was served a little bowl of spiced heaven, called harira. Many people have heard of Morocco’s famous chicken tagine and couscous but harira, a traditional Moroccan soup made from lamb, lentils, and chickpeas, is equally authentic and delectable.

With over 1,000 recipes from around the world, CultureGrams makes it possible for users to experience a new culture in their very own kitchens. Feeling adventurous as well as hungry? Try out this authentic Moroccan Harira recipe from CultureGrams and bon appétit! Or as they say in Morocco, Sahten! (صحتين), which literally means “two healths.”

Harira is the traditional meal eaten to break the fast during Ramadan; it usually is served with dates, figs, and special sweets called chabakiya. Photo by Jenni Boyle

 

Harira

Ingredients
Broth:
1 pound lamb, cut in small pieces
1 small onion, minced
1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight (or from a can)
2 pounds canned crushed tomatoes
2 quarts water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
6 to 7 strands saffron (soaked in a few tablespoons of hot water)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon pepper
2/3 teaspoon ginger
1 cube bouillon (optional)
Salt

Other ingredients:
1/3 cup lentils
1/2 lemon
1/4 cup rice
1/4 cup broken up angel hair pasta
1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
Salt
3 tablespoons flour
1 egg

Directions
1. Cook the lentils in salted water. When done, drain them and squeeze the lemon over them. Set aside.
2. Cook all of the broth ingredients in a soup pot over low heat for 50 to 60 minutes, or enough time to cook the meat and the chickpeas.
3. Add the rice, pasta, cilantro, and salt. Allow to simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Mix the flour with a little water to form a paste and then add this to the soup a little bit at a time; stir constantly to avoid lumps.
5. Add the lentils and let cook for another 5 minutes. Harira should be creamy but not thick. If it is thick, add water and cook for a few more minutes; if it is too thin, thicken with more flour-and-water paste.
6. Some break an egg into the soup during the last 5 minutes of cooking and mix it well to keep it liquid.
7. Serve in bowls with lemon wedges on the side for those who want to add it to their soup.

Have you ever tried making a recipe from CultureGrams? Tweet us @CultureGrams and lets us know how it turned out.

Passover 2017: Chag Sameach!

Jews Celebrating Passover. Lubok, XIXth century (image 1850), via Wikimedia Commons.

Jewish communities around the world are currently observing Passover (Pesach, in Hebrew)–one of the most important events in the Jewish calendar. So wish your Jewish friends chag sameach (happy festival)! Passover is a week-long celebration that takes place each year in early Spring, this year taking place between April 10-18th. It commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from ancient Egypt and God’s sparing or “passing over” Jewish homes during the final plague in Egypt. According to the Biblical story, the Israelites had to leave Egypt in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to wait for their bread to rise, taking with them only unleavened bread. As a reminder of the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt, Jews today refrain from eating anything containing leaven (chametz) during Passover, eating unleavened products such as matzah (a type of flatbread) instead. Jews also eat matzah with bitter herbs such as horseradish, in remembrance of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. Learn about Passover traditions in the CultureGrams Israel report.

Test your knowledge of Judaism with this quiz

Demonstrate Your Vexillological Prowess! U.S. State Flag Quiz!

CultureGrams — New Kids Country: Marshall Islands

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

Flag of the Marshall Islands via CultureGrams

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

Here are some interesting Did You Knows about the Marshall Islands:

  • The average elevation of each island is just 7 feet (2 meters) above sea level.
  • Marshallese society is traditionally matrilineal (based on the mother’s family line), and land is passed down from one generation to the next through the mother’s line.
  • Elugelab is an extinct island that was used as a hydrogen bomb test site by the United States military and was blown up in 1954. The blast left behind a crater more than a mile wide and 165 feet (50 meters) deep.
  • Similar to the Hawaiian word aloha, the Marshallese word yokwe means “hello,” “good-bye,” and “love.”

Read about the the Marshallese culture of sharing and caring for one another, life as a kid, and favorite sports, all in this colorful new report.

Virtual Sistine Chapel Tour

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.

A Swiss Guard stands at his post. Photo by Aaron Thompson.

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.

The floor of the Sistine Chapel. Photo by Rachel Ligairi.

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 . . .

Photo by Rachel Ligairi.