Category Archives: Learn

Merry Christmas Quotes

Merry Christmas! If you’re celebrating, have a wonderful holiday full of the true spirit of the season.

The only blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart. ~Helen Keller

Christmas is a time when you get homesick even when you’re home. ~Carol Nelson

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ~Washington Irving

Instead of being a time of unusual behavior, Christmas is perhaps the only time in the year when people can obey their natural impulses and express their true sentiments without feeling self-conscious and, perhaps, foolish. Christmas, in short, is about the only chance a man has to be himself. ~Francis C. Farley

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Christmas Carols: Understanding What You’re Singing

If you’re like me, you’ve been chirping along happily for years to Christmas carols that you don’t understand at all.

From wassailing to that partridge in a pear tree, our most beloved Christmas songs don’t make a lot of sense to the modern warbler. So here’s some information from KidCulture to help you understand – and explain – the importance of figgy pudding and why three ships came sailing in on Christmas Day in the morning.

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Advent Begins

The season of Advent begins today as Christian families prepare for Christmas by reflecting on the circumstances around the birth of Jesus Christ through prayer, repentance, and fasting.

Advent originally began in the 4th century to anticipate the Epiphany, the Christian holiday when the wise men came to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. This tradition was changed by Saint Gregory the Great in the 6th century to reflect anticipation over Christmas.

Many families mark the season of Advent by lighting candles on their own Advent wreath. Each week, beginning on November 27 this year, people light one of four candles on the Advent wreath and say special prayers at dinner after they have blessed their food.

This Christian tradition is very similar to the Jewish Hanukkah menorah and the African kinara that is lit during Kwanzaa.

The Advent wreath has four candles and a new candle is lit during each of the four weeks of Advent. The first candle to be lit is purple. This color is meant to symbolize prayer, repentance, and royalty since Christians are anticipating the coming of a king.

The second week, a different purple candle is lit along with the first purple candle.

During the third week, a pink candle, symbolizes joy or rejoicing, is lit along with the first two purple candles. This is Gaudette Sunday, the midpoint of Advent, and a time when Christians turn their thoughts to celebration and rejoicing over the coming of Christmas.

During the final week, a purple candle is again lit, along with the other three candles.

On Christmas Day, a fifth, white candle in the center of the wreath, can be lit. This white candle represents Jesus and the idea that through Jesus sins are forgiven.

In many Protestant churches, four red candles are used instead of the three purple and one pink candle.

The wreath itself is round, symbolizing the fact that God has no beginning or end. The wreath is made from evergreen trees, which stay green year-round and mean continuous life. The holly in the wreath symbolizes the suffering of Jesus on the cross when he was given a crown of thorns.

For more information about the history of the Advent wreath in the Catholic church, read this.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s a round-up of KidCulture posts about Thanksgiving to help you celebrate the day.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy!

Thanksgiving Around the World

Canadian vs. American Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving Books

Giving Thanks with Turkey Cupcakes

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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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Millions Travel to Mecca for Annual Hajj

On November 5, millions of Muslims began the five-day hajj, an annual trip to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that is one of the five pillars of Islam.

The hajj, which draws about 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims to sacred sites in and around Mecca, is the largest religious gathering in the world.

Muslims who are physically able and can afford to make the trip gather from around the world to pray and practice their faith together.

The ritual goes back to Abraham, the common ancestor of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths. Abraham had a child with his servant, Hagar, a baby named Ishmael. Many of the rituals are based on a story in which Hagar, left alone in the desert with the baby, finds food and water to keep them both alive.

The hajj rituals are deeply important to Muslims. They are very well explained here and here. But the best way to learn about the hajj, and Islam, is by becoming friends with Muslims you may know and asking them questions about their faith.

In learning more about Islam, it’s interesting to note what an important role the number five plays in Islam. There are five pillars of Islam, which includes proclaiming that there is only one God, promising to donate generously to charitable works, fasting during Ramadan, daily prayer, and performing the hajj pilgrimage.

The hajj lasts five days and has a number of activities that must be performed or the hajj is invalid.

Finally, Muslims pray five times each day.

In other faiths, different numbers and rituals take on important meaning. Learning more about other religions helps us understand our beliefs even better.

Here are some great resources geared toward children to help them learn more about Islam.

Islam for Kids

BBC Schools, Islam: An Introduction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Halloween Round-up

It’s finally here!

Whether you’ve had your costume ready for months or are still scrambling to put something together, the big day has arrived.

Hopefully, you and your family will have a safe and happy Halloween.

While you’re digesting your Halloween candy, you might like to read some past KidCulture posts about Halloween.

From learning about the cultural origins of Halloween where it is celebrated around the world to learning about some Halloween-themed kids’ books you might like to read, there’s still plenty to learn about the holiday.

Halloween Celebrations Around the World

Halloween Book List

Most Popular Candies Around the World

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Superstitions Around the World

At Halloween, it’s fun to explore the things we don’t understand and examine the steps we take to control the things that just can’t be controlled. For example:

When you spill salt, do you throw a pinch over your left shoulder for good luck?

Do you believe black cats are unlucky?

Do you think that if you break a mirror, you’ll have bad luck for seven years?

Do you avoid the number 13?

These are all superstitions with which most Americans are familiar.

Even if we don’t believe in them, we pass this information on to our children because it’s part of our collective cultural heritage. We feel they should be aware of these beliefs.

But what other superstitions do people believe around the world? How are they different? Here’s a brief look at superstitions around the world to help you understand other cultures.

The Spooky Numbers 4 and 17

In Japan, it’s the number 4, not 13, that makes hearts race. In Italy, it’s the number 17. In these cultures, many hotels and hospitals avoid using these numbers to prevent their guests and patients from unnecessary pessimism. Of course, these buildings still have fourth and seventeenth floors, they just aren’t listed as such.

The Broken Dish

In the Netherlands, a broken dish is believed to bring bad luck in much the same way a broken mirror does.

More About Cats

In the Netherlands, private matters should not be discussed when a cat is in the room. People believe that cats are untrustworthy and spread gossip.

Tuesday

Tuesdays hold a special place in superstition. Tuesday the 13th is considered a particularly bad-luck day in many cultures in much the same way that Friday the 13th is bad luck to many Americans. In India, you cannot get a hair cut on Tuesdays because it’s believed to bring bad luck.

Bad Dreams

In Romania, if you dream about dark water or that you are carrying a newborn baby in your arms, you can expect bad luck. In China, dreaming about teeth or snow means that your parents have died.

More About Mirrors

If you thought breaking a mirror was bad, then you definitely do not want to place a mirror anywhere near the foot of your bed. If you do, Italians believe it permits the devil to watch you sleep. And if you wake up in the night and catch a glimpse of your reflection in that mirror, it means that evil owns you.

Watch Out For the Evil Eye

Many cultures believe in the evil eye which brings big-time bad luck. In Guatemala, parents can protect their children from the evil eye by dressing the kids in red; even a red bracelet will help.

Don’t Get Swept Away

In Venezuela, some people believe that if someone pushes a broom over your feet while they are sweeping, they also sweep away your chances of ever getting married. In many parts of Africa, you are never supposed to sweep your house at night. It is believed that you will sweep your good luck away.

Respect the Moon

In China, if you point to the moon with your finger the tips of your ears will fall off.

Whether or not you’re superstitious, it’s good to be aware – and respectful – of other people’s beliefs. When you visit people in their homes or travel to different countries, you need to respect these beliefs in order to be a considerate guest.

 

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