Category Archives: Europe

Is the Easter Bunny French?

The origins of the Easter Bunny – that long-eared rabbit who generously leaves candy in the baskets of good boys and girls and hides brilliantly colored eggs for them to find – can be traced to Alsace, a region that is now located in France but which was for many years part of Germany.

The first written mention of the Easter Bunny came in a book by Germany’s Georg Franck von Frankenau called De Ovis Paschalibus (About Easter Eggs).

The Easter Bunny came to America in the 1700s when German immigrants came to Pennsylvania and brought with them the legend of the Osterhase, an egg-laying hare. Children made nests for the rabbit to lay colored eggs.

Eventually, the Osterhase, or Easter Bunny, began to deliver chocolate, jelly beans, and other candy and gifts.

To thank the Easter Bunny, children left out carrots to help him keep his energy up!

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French Islands in North America

You’ve heard about the French-speaking Canadian province of Quebec, but have you heard about the French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, located off the coast of Canada at the entrance of Fortune Bay?

Amazingly, hundreds of years after France relinquished its hold over other North American territories, it maintains the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

Equally amazing is the history of the islands, which transferred back and forth between England and France several times since Europeans took notice of them in 1520. At that time, they were held by the Micmac Indian tribe.

Today, the islands are a French territory. Located close to the Grand Banks, fishing is a major industry for the residents of the islands, although many also work in the public sector.

Approximately 6,300 people live on the two islands; more than 5,700 of them live on the island of Saint-Pierre.

Since the islands are so small, there are no street names. Residents give directions using landmarks, nicknames, and people’s residences as markers.

The only time the guillatine was used in North America was on a man convicted of murder on the island of St. Pierre. The guillatine had to be shipped from France. It was never used again and is now in a museum on Saint-Pierre.

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The Best Countries for Women & Girls

Photo courtesy of DoSomething.org

Happy 101st International Women’s Day!

In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re sharing some news about women from around the world.

The British newspaper, The Independent, reviewed data from around the world to evaluate how women are faring.

Studies show that by focusing on education for women in developing countries and providing them with the means to support themselves and their families, the rates of poverty and child mortality decrease dramatically.

Working together, we can create a world where every child has access to a quality education, health care, and enjoys their human rights and liberties.

Politics

In Rwanda, women hold 45 out of 80 parliamentary seats. This is the only country in the world where there are more women than men at this level of political prominence. Belize, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia have no female members of parliament.

Photo courtesy: AlmostAllTheTruth.com

Business & Work Place

Thailand has the most women managers in the work place in the world. Forty-five percent of senior managers in Thailand are women. In the US, only 20 percent of women hold senior management positions. In Japan, only 8 percent of senior management jobs are held by women.

In Jamaica, almost 60 percent of the high-skilled jobs are held by women.

Life Expectancy

Japanese women have the longest life expectancy in the world – 87 years.

Sports

The United States is the best place in the world to be a female athlete. Five out of the ten best-paid female athletes in the world are from the US. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has never sent a woman to the Olympics.

Literacy

Lesotho has the best female literacy rate compared to the men’s rate in the world. Ninety-five percent of women in Lesotho can read and write. Only 83 percent of the men in Lesotho can read and write.

Best Overall

Taking political participation, education, health, and employment statistics into account, Iceland has been named the best country in the world for women.

In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s do our best to encourage and inspire the girls and young women in our lives so that we can make every country the best country on earth for them.

To read the entire report, click here.

For more facts about the status of women and girls around the world, check out DoSomething.org’s website and Almostallthetruth.com.

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Holiday Cookie Countdown: Belgian Christmas Cookies

These Belgian Christmas cookies remind me of Scottish burrebrede in some ways. Both are delicious bar cookies but these Belgian treats have a little something extra that makes them worth trying.

Belgium is one of those lucky countries that has both a French-speaking Pere Noel and a Walloon-speaking St. Niklaas. Walloon is a dialect of French that is spoken in parts of Belgium.

Pere Noel visits children twice, first to identify who is naughty and nice and second to actually deliver the presents to the deserving children. He is accompanied by his friend, Pere Fouettard. While Pere Noel provides presents to good children, Pere Fouettard is known as the “Whipping Father” who punishes the naughty children with spankings.

St. Niklaas hands out presents in early December in honor of his feast day on December 6. This is a much more religious feast than other December holidays, so people spend most of the day in church and religious observation.

Some children receive presents on Christmas Day, as well. With all this gift-giving, it’s important to take a break from time to time and enjoy a restorative cookie. So try this recipe from Cooking Clarified and see if you don’t agree that the Belgians are some of the luckiest people during the month of December.

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Holiday Cookie Countdown: Pastel de Navidad

Pastel de Navidad are a delicious Spanish dessert that you and your family are sure to love.

If you want to celebrate Christmas in Spain, you’re going to have to take a nap first. Christmas dinner is traditionally eaten at midnight on Christmas Eve after the family has attended mass together.

The festivities, which include singing, do not end until very early in the morning. According to a Spanish song, “This is the good night, it is not meant for sleep.”

The next day, Christmas Day, the family again returns to church. Presents are not exchanged until the Feast of the Three Kings, when the three wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus.

But you don’t have to wait until January to enjoy these delicious treats. Try this recipe from Cooking Clarified and see if these don’t become one of your new favorites. Feliz Navidad!

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Holiday Cookie Countdown: Burrebrede

One of my new favorite Christmas cookies is Scottish Burrebrede. It’s got a delicious flavor and flaky texture that is unlike many of the cookies you’re likely to encounter this holiday season – all the more reason to bake up a batch!

The Scottish today celebrate Christmas in much the same way as others do around the world. They decorate their homes with Christmas trees and many people like to use Scottish tartan ribbons as a garland on their tree.

On Christmas Day at 3 o’clock, many Scots gather to watch Queen Elizabeth II make her annual Christmas address.

Since the days are so short in Scotland at this time of year – the sun does not rise until nearly 8:30 a.m. and sets at 4:30 p.m. – Christmas  is a great way to break the gloom of winter.

You can break the gloom of winter wherever you are by baking up a batch of burrebrede from Cooking Clarified. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

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Holiday Cookie Countdown: Russian Tea Cakes

Russian tea cakes are a delicious cookie that are commonly eaten at wedding and Christmas celebrations.

Many Russians celebrate Christmas on New Year’s Eve when Grandfather Frost arrives with his daughter, the Snow Maiden, to listen to children sing songs and recite poems before giving them presents and bags of candy.

Russian families decorate their homes with Christmas trees and pine leaves.

Orthodox Russians celebrate Christmas in early January. On Christmas Eve, they do not eat or drink until the first stars appear in the sky. Once the star is sighted – a reminder of the star that led the Magi to the Baby Jesus – the family eats a meatless dinner together, called the “Holy Supper”. The meal typically includes 12 dishes, which represent the 12 Apostles.

After dinner, the family does not wash the dishes right away (good idea!). Instead, they open presents and prepare to go to mass, which lasts several hours. Families usually do not return home until 2 or 3 in the morning.

It’s interesting to note that Russians had to adapt their religious traditions to New Year’s Eve after the Russian revolution in 1917 when religion was outlawed. So they moved their Christmas traditions to New Year’s Eve and re-characterized many of their customs in order to maintain their faith.

But since 1992, Russians have been free to celebrate as they wish. So, like them, you can enjoy some Russian tea cakes whenever you would like. Try this fantastic recipe from Cooking Clarified.

 

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International (& Inspirational) Thanksgiving Quotes

If you’re struggling for conversation around the dinner table or just really want to make sure your children understand why we celebrate Thanksgiving – and why so many cultures around the world set aside a day for gratitude – here are some quotes from around the world about Thanksgiving Day and the importance of giving thanks (and a few food-related proverbs!).

Thanksgiving comes to us out of the prehistoric dimness, universal to all ages and all faiths. At whatever straws we must grasp, there is always a time for gratitude and new beginnings. J. Robert Moskin

Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. Theodore Roosevelt

On Thanksgiving Day we acknowledge our dependence. William Jennings Bryan

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. Native American proverb

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues. Cicero

If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself. Native American proverb

Who does not thank for little will not thank for much. Estonian proverb

After lunch, rest; after dinner walk a mile. Arab proverb

A guest sees more in an hour than the host in a year. Polish proverb

Fear less, hope more,

Eat less, chew more,

talk less, say more,

Hate less, love more,

And all good things will be yours.

Swedish proverb

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It’s Election Day – Learn About Elections Around the World

Today is Election Day in the United States. It’s an important day in which citizens exercise their right to vote for people to represent them at the city, county, state, and national levels.

Elections date back to ancient Greece and Rome. They have been used to elect the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope.

In India, elections were held at the village level.

Ancient Arabs used elections to select their leader, called the caliph.

To be a good citizen, Americans have to educate themselves about the issues, decide which are the most important to them, research the candidates for public office, and cast their ballot on Election Day.

Many Americans also volunteer for political campaigns. They might go door to door with information about the candidates and the issues to educate others. They might make phone calls to voters to provide resources and information. They may work to put together a mailing or help create a website.

Political involvement doesn’t begin when the polls open on Election Day and end when they close. To truly participate in the democratic process, Americans have to stay engaged throughout the year so they can hold their representatives accountable.

Once candidates take office, Americans need to communicate with them to ensure that they continue to support the positions that mean the most to the voters. If a candidate seems to be listening to a minority of powerful and influential people and ignoring the concerns of the citizens who elected them, people have to contact those representatives and hold them accountable for their choices.

Americans are very fortunate to have one of the most responsive systems of government in the world. But many other countries also vote. Here’s a list of nations and how their leaders are chosen.

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

About 112 countries hold direct elections for their head of state. A direct election means that voters directly cast their ballots for the person or political party they want to support. More than 220 countries (including dependent territories) hold direct elections at the local level.

The United States holds indirect elections for the head of state, also known as the president. Indirect elections mean that voters cast their ballots for a representative who will select a candidate for president.

To learn more about elections around the world, check out Elections 101 from PBS Kids and Democracy Around the World from PBS Teachers.

If you’re interested in participating in a vote just for children, check out The Global Vote on issues that affect children around the world.

Happy Election Day!

 

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10 Things Kids Should Know About Greece

With the European debt crisis in the news, children are hearing about Greece only in terms of its economy.

But Greece is more than its headlines. The truth is Greek culture has had an impact on daily life in America and around the world for more than 2,000 years.

While adults struggle to understand the ramifications of the debt crisis, kids should sit back and learn more about Greece, starting with its official name: the Hellenic Republic.

1. Greece, while an ancient civilization, became a modern, independent nation when it won its sovereignty from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. For 2,000 years, Greece had been ruled by non-Greeks, including 400 years when it was governed by Turkey.

2. In 1981, Greece joined what is now the European Union. It gave up its system of currency, the drachma, in 2002.

3. Greece is slightly smaller than the state of Alabama.

4. Made up of mostly mountains and islands, Greece borders three seas: the Aegean, the Ionian, and the Mediterranean.

5. Mount Olympus, the highest point in Greece, is the mythical home of the Greek gods and goddesses. It was also the country’s first national park.

6. Greece has a population of more than 10.7 million people, making it the 76th most populated nation in the world.

7. 61 percent of people live in cities. The two largest cities are Athens, the capital, and Thessaloniki.

8. In 508 BC, the people of Greece created a new system of government. Democracy, the system they created, allows people – not kings or generals – to make decisions about how they wanted to live. Today, Greece’s form of government is a parliamentary republic. That means its citizens elect a prime minister and a parliament to make laws and decisions for the people.

9. The Olympic Games started in Greece in 700 BC. Only men competed in events such as javelin, long jump, and wrestling. The games were outlawed after almost 400 years but were reinstated in 1896.

10. Families are very close in Greece and children often live with their parents even after they get married. Meals are an important part of this family life and their favorite foods, olives, chickpeas, squid, and lamb, are credited with keeping Greeks healthy and able to live long lives.

Although 10 facts cannot give the whole picture of Greece as a country or a culture, it’s helpful to remember it has had an historical and cultural impact on the world that extends beyond its economic impact to the world. Knowing more about any country also helps to understand why they make the choices that they do.

To get more of a taste of what Greek life is like, try making some traditional Greek foods from fish stew to meatballs. Here are some recipes from Good Housekeeping.

If that’s a bit above your skill level, just buy a tub of hummus and some pitas for a fun, Greek snack.

 

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