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.