Category Archives: Learn

How Did Easter Get Its Name?

It is believed that Easter actually gets its name from an Old English word, Ēastre, that was given to the month of April in honor of a pagan goddess,  Ēastermōnaþ.

This goddess is believed to have been the deity associated with spring and fertility and some Easter symbols that we would recognize today – eggs and rabbits, or hares – were used during this celebration.

In addition, feasts were held in her honor, but by the 8th century, these had given way to the Christian festival of Easter, which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Most of the information on this theory of how Easter got its name comes from Bede, a monk in what is today England.

Jacob Grimm, one of the two brothers famous for their collection of old stories and myths, supported Bede’s claims on the origin of the name Easter although scholars dispute this theory.

However – and wherever – Easter got its name, it is celebrated by more than one in three people in the world.

 

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Why Is There an Easter Bunny?

My five year old nephew asked the other day, “Why is there an Easter bunny that brings eggs if only birds can lay eggs?”

It’s a great question – and one countless other children have asked.

Here are five reasons why the Easter Bunny – and not the Easter Birdie – brings those eggs around on Easter Sunday morning.

  1. Rabbits are a traditional symbol of spring because they are known for their fertility.
  2. Rabbits – and their ability to have so many offspring – encourage hope in a better, brighter future that is abundantly fruitful.
  3. An egg-laying rabbit speaks to people’s desire for something mystical and magical in their spring celebrations. It’s a little like magic when flowers break through the frozen ground and free people from the long, hard winter.
  4. Rabbits symbolize innocence and wonder, childlike qualities that correspond with the rebirth and rejuvenation people feel when spring returns.
  5. Like the lamb, rabbits are associated with religious sacrifice; Easter is a time when Christians celebrate the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus.

I’m not sure if any of these reasons will satisfy my inquisitive nephew, but it may satisfy the curiosity of some adults who have often pondered the same question.

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Holi: The Indian Festival of Color

Wouldn’t you love to celebrate the coming of spring with a wild and exuberant festival where you didn’t have to behave and got to throw colored powder and perfume on people? Sounds like fun!

That’s the festival of Holi, an Indian holiday that is believed to commemorate the faithfulness of a young man, Prahlada, who continued to worship the god, Vishnu, even after he was ordered to stop by his father. His father commanded him and his aunt, Holika, into a fire that burnt up the aunt but spared Prahlada. The name Holi comes from the unlucky aunt.

Followers of Hinduism offer prayers on Holi and light bonfires to commemorate the story of Prahlada, as well.

The festival can last for a few days and it is generally seen as a time where people do not have to adhere to the strict social code in India but can relax and celebrate.

Although celebrations may vary by region, Holi is an important holiday in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

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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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Read About Purim With Kids

The story of Purim is very meaningful for Jewish people for religious and cultural reasons, and it can have special significance for anyone whose faith uses the Old Testament. But it also is a great example of a story where a young woman is the hero who saves her people.

Not only is it important for girls and boys to hear stories where a woman is the hero, but it’s also important to provide children with examples of real people exhibiting courage and conviction. These are two character traits that most adults would like to see children develop and maintain throughout their lives, so why not start by encouraging them to find role models, such as Queen Esther? Here are some book recommendations to help you share the story of Purim with the children in your life.

The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale by Eric A. Kimmel and Jill Weber

Cakes and Miracles : A Purim Tale by Barbara Diamond Goldin and Jaime Zollars

The Purim Costume by Peninnah Schram

The Queen Who Saved Her People by Tilda Balsley and Ilene Richard

When It’s Purim (Very First Board Books) by Edie Stoltz Zolkower and Barb Bjornson

To learn more about Purim with KidCulture, read The Festival of Purim and discover how to make the famous Purim cookie hamantaschen when you read our post on Purim Cookie: Haman’s Ears.

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Happy Birthday, George!

Since 1879, Americans have been celebrating George Washington’s birthday.

As the first president of the United States and the general of the Continental Army during the War for Independence, George Washington plays a very important role in American history.

But most people do not know that Presidents Day was originally intended – and some argue is still intended – to celebrate his achievements alone. They believe that Presidents Day celebrates George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. And some argue that it is a holiday to celebrate the achievements of all US presidents.

But the fact remains that – officially – the Presidents Day holiday is for George Washington alone. Here are some book suggestions to help you learn more about the man who helped create America.

The Story of George Washington – Patricia Pingry

George Washington – Cheryl Harness

A Picture Book of George Washington – David Adler

Who Was George Washington? – Roberta Edwards

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10 Things Kids Should Know About Iran

Photo courtesy ISNA

Iran has been in the news a great deal over the past several months and the Middle Eastern nation will likely continue to be in the headlines for a long time to come. Here are 10 things kids should know about Iran beyond the headlines.

1. Until 1935, Iran was known as Persia. Persia has had a vast cultural influence on the world in areas such as art, architecture, music, the weaving of rugs, science, and much more.

2. Iran borders the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea. It shares land borders with Azerbaijan, Armenia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.

3. Iran is the 18th-largest country on earth. It is slightly smaller than Alaska.

4. Persian is the official language but more than six other languages are also spoken.

5. 98% of the population practices Islam, with 89% following the Shia Islam and 9% following Sunni Islam.

6. One in four people in Iran are under the age of 14.

7. The vast majority of the population – 71% – live in urban areas.

8. Most children attend school for 13 years.

9. Most Iranians work in the services sector but industry and agriculture are also important.

10. Iranians use money called a rial.

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Cuddle Up With a Book on Valentine’s Day

The one enduring love of my life is books.

I never get mad at books for not making the bed. I’m never upset when books forget my birthday. And the only time I have to compete for books is when I want to read a new title at my local public library.

For all of these reasons – and regardless of how many sweethearts you have in your life – books are a great way to celebrate St. Valentine’s Day. Here are some book recommendations for you to share with kids because one of the best gifts you can give children at any time of the year is a lifetime love of reading.

The Kiss That Missed – David Melling

If You’ll Be My Valentine – Cynthia Rylant

Zombie in Love – Kelly DiPucchio

Guess How Much I Love You? – Sam McBratney

10 Valentine Friends – Janet Schulman

Love, Splat – Rob Scotton

A Giant Crush – Jennifer Choldenko

Happy reading!

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Welcome, Year of the Dragon!

Photo courtesy of China News

While most of us are still working on the New Year’s resolutions we made just weeks ago, it’s already time to say Happy New Year again as we celebrate Chinese New Year.

The Chinese calendar follows no fixed date and the new year is determined by the moon. This year, Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 22 with Lunar New Year’s Eve.

The new year, number 4710 on the Chinese calendar – officially begins Jan. 23 and marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

According to legend, Buddha asked all the animals to say goodbye to him when it was his time to leave the earth.

But only 12 animals showed up for the farewell so to honor them Buddha assigned an animal to each of the years in a 12-year cycle.

The legend states that the rat was the first to arrive and so got the first year in the cycle.

The cat failed to show up at all and that is why there is no year of the cat.

Some people believe that you share personality traits with the animal assigned to the year you were born. If you are born in the year of the dragon, you are thought to be brave, enterprising, and quick-tempered.

For educational activities on Chinese New Year and Chinese culture, check out Apples4theteacher.com.

For a KidCulture reading list about Chinese New Year, click here.

Learn more about how families celebrate Chinese New Year around the world with this KidCulture article, Global Family Fun: Celebrate Chinese New Year.

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We Remember Dr. King

Had he lived, Dr. King would have been 83 years old this year.

And he probably would have been gearing up for an amazing 2013 when the nation will mark 50 years since the historic March on Washington and 150 years since the Emancipation Proclamation ended legalized slavery in the United States.

On a personal note, I was eight years old when Congress established the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday in January.

And this year, my son, at eight years old, is visiting the newly completed Dr. King memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC.

As difficult as it is to talk to children about the harsh realities of our history and about the challenges to equality in our current cultural and economic climate, the Dr. King memorial is a great opportunity to bring these issues to life.

It’s a chance to talk about how precious freedom is, what it means, and why we must be constantly on guard to protect it.

It’s a chance to instill in our children the importance of following their conscience and not the dictates of what society tells us is true or acceptable.

And it’s a chance to remind them of their own inherent self-worth and responsibility to live lives of courage and compassion.

The monument includes quotations from Dr. King’s speeches, including his 1964 speech in Norway upon receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace. You can read the speech in its entirety here. 

Dr. King was only 35 when he received the Nobel – the youngest person ever to receive the award – and he donated the entire amount (about $56,000) to the Civil Rights Movement.

To read Dr. King’s biography on the Nobel website, click here.

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