Information saved from our year-long immersion in European Cultures

Countries in Europe:

Countries in the European Union

US Government's Link to information about all European Countries

Websites and Databases

The Waltham Public Schools Databases, such as Culture Grams, Grolier, and World Book have excellent information and maps for learning about European countries; See Ms. Paradis for passwords

Plympton's Destiny Quest Catalog has resource lists with library materials for:

  • European Countries and Cultures
  • European Folk and Fairy Tales

Teacher resources from the official European Union Website

National Geographic Kids: Kid-friendly website with lots of good information and photography about many countries and cultures of Europe (and the rest of the world)

Sheppard Software: European geography games

Community Agencies:
Boston Irish Heritage Trail:
Irish Center at Boston College:
French Library (Alliance Francais Boston):
Boston Scottish Fiddle Club:
Scandanavian Living Center:

European Arts and Crafts

ttp:// Leonardo and the Renaissance etc. Mosaics and other stuff for kids illuminated manuscripts, middle ages paper mache bowls from Italy ('cartapesta') Carnevale masks from Venice How the term"china" for dishes came to be from U.K. more examples of British ceramics history of art and architecture of GREECE

European Holidays:


Rosh Hashanah

Culture/Country: Jewish/Throughout Europe
Time of Year: Early Autumn
Key Events: Jewish New Year: people attend services at synagogue; families share a large meal with a special menu (apples dipped in honey is traditional)
A Sweet Year: A Taste of Jewish Holidays by Mark Podwal
Jewish Festivals by Angela Wood
Festivals of the World: Israel by Don Foy

Yom Kippur

Culture/Country: Jewish/throughout Europe
Time of Year: Early autumn
Key Events: The day of "atonement"--people gather in synagogue to think about their lives and determine to correct what they have done wrong; people fast; people wear white clothing
A Sweet Year: A Taste of Jewish Holidays by Mark Podwal
Jewish Festivals by Angela Wood



Culture/Country: Jewish/throughout Europe
Time of Year: December; lasts 8 days
Key Events: celebrates defeat of a great army by small group of Israeli soldiers; light special candles or oil lamps each night; play with top called dreidel; special foods are eaten, including potato latkes, doughnuts, and candy coins; small gifts are given
All about Hanukkah by Judith Groner and Maeline Wikier

Nikolo and Krampus in Austria

In Austria, Nikolo (similar to Santa Claus) visits on 6 December. Children put their shoes out the night before, and Nikolo fills them with treats. But Nikolo also has a counterpart named Krampus, a little devil who comes on 5 December. Krampus visits bad children. He carries a bundle of sticks to hit them with and has chains and bells he rattles.

St. Nicholas Day

Culture/Country: Christian/The Netherlands
Time of Year: December 5 and 6
Key Events: St. Nicholas (called Sinterklass) and his companion Black Pete (Zwarte Piet) come to the Netherlands by boat from Spain. Sinterklass rides into town on a white horse and he and Black Pete call on all the children of the country. If children are good, they will find small gifts and chocolate candy from Sinterklass in their shoes. If they are not well behaved, Black Pete leaves them coal or a small bag of salt.

Lucia Day in Sweden

On 13 December, Swedes begin the Christmas season with Lucia Day. On this day, a girl plays the part of St. Lucia, or the “light queen.” She dresses in a white robe and wears a crown of candles in her hair. Lucia leads a procession. Girls dress in white robes, have tinsel in their hair, and carry a candle in one hand. Boys wear white robes, carry sticks with stars on them, and have tall paper cones on their heads. The procession sings Lucia songs and brings light to people during the darkest time of the year. Every school and every town have their own Lucia processions. On Lucia Day, traditional sweet rolls called lussekatter (Lucia cats) are served.

Christmas Around Europe

Portugal- In the early hours of Christmas day, there is a special feast called consoada. In some rural areas, extra places are set at the table for “the souls of the dead,” called the alminhas a penar, in hopes that they will bring good fortune in the year to come.
France- For Christmas (Noël), children leave their shoes by the fireplace for Le Père Noël (like Santa Claus) to fill with candy and gifts.
Ireland- Candles are lit and placed in the windowsill, a symbolic welcome to Mary and Joseph since there was no room for them at the inn in Bethlehem. It’s also a time when families return home to share a traditional meal of turkey and ham.

Austria- Christmas Eve (Heiliger Abend, or “Holy Evening”) on 24 December is perhaps the most important part of celebrating Christmas. Families gather to share a meal and sing Christmas carols. Children receive their presents, which are thought to be put under the tree by the Christ child when the children are out of the room. Christmas Day is a day for visiting family.

Germany- Christmas Eve is called Heiliger Abend (meaning “holy evening”), which is the night children receive their Christmas presents. Christmas Day is a day for family, and the day after is for visiting others.

Norway-On Christmas Eve (Julaften), bells ring and families gather to share a big meal, sing around the Christmas tree, and give gifts. Unlike Americans, Norwegians exchange gifts on Christmas Eve. Christmas parties continue until the New Year.

Poland- Christmas Eve is when most of the celebrating occurs. When the first star appears in the night sky, the family gathers to exchange presents and to eat a 12-course meal that doesn’t include meat. This meal usually includes fresh fish, dishes featuring poppy seeds or mushrooms, a special dessert of fruit cooked in syrup, and other traditional foods. Many people also attend midnight mass on that night to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christmas Day is a quiet day for people to spend time with immediate family. On 26 December, Poles visit friends and relax. Nativity scenes and caroling are popular throughout the season.

Ukraine- During the Christmas season, children go door-to-door to receive candies and cookies in exchange for performing koliadki (Christmas carols) and jokes.

Finland- Christmas is a special family time in Finland. Some traditions include giving gifts, leaving candles on the graves of family members, and having a sauna (steam bath). Usually, a nice ham dinner is served with pickled herring (which many kids hate) and joululimppu (Christmas bread).

Italy- Christmas is an important family time in Italy. It’s also a holiday with lots of eating, including a two-day feast that begins on Christmas Eve. You may not know that Christmas carols originated in Italy with St. Francis of Assisi. He and other friars (similar to monks) composed songs in Italian about the birth of Jesus. At Christmastime, many churches display beautiful presepi (nativity scenes), which show the birth of Christ. People also participate in live presepi, in which actors play the characters in the nativity.

Russian New Year:

New Year’s holiday is one of the most important holidays in Russia and other countries of the former USSR. Christmas celebration was banned in Russia after the 1917 Revolution along with other religious rituals. Russians, however, did not want to give up their traditions, instead reinventing the New Year’s holiday tradition to include what had previously been associated with Christmas: a decorated tree, a Santalike character called Father Frost, known as Ded Moroz in Russian and his granddaughter Snowgirl, known as Snegurochka in Russian. Today, even though religious observance has experienced resurgence in post-Soviet Russia, New Year’s remains the bigger event.

Many Russians believe that the way you meet the New Year sets the tone for the whole year ahead. The most common dishes on the holiday table include olivye salad (similar to American potato salad that in addition contains meat, pickles, and peas); a fish salad known as selyodka pod shuboy (literally, “herring in a coat” — that is, under a crust of spices mixed with boiled vegetables and beets). The celebration is impossible without champagne. The next couple of days are spent partying, visiting family members, and exchanging gifts. Grandfather Frost travels around the country on New Years Eve and leaves gifts for the kids. Children usually find their gifts under the New Year’s tree on the morning of January 1st. Holiday celebrations continue up until January 13th, called “Old New Year” in Russia, Ukraine, and some other Orthodox countries. New Years’s holiday is one of the most fun and favorite holidays for Russian children. Most kindergarten classes and schools have children dress up as snowflakes and other characters from traditional Russian fairy tales and have them dance around the pine tree and get presents. They sing a traditional Russian New Year’s song along with Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter Snowgirl. It is a folk song in which the lyrics tell a story about a small pine tree that was born in the forest and has now come to the children and brought them lots of joy. Many theaters have New Year concerts for kids where Grandfather Frost is a guest of honor. Children who come to the concert receive gifts from the Grandfather Frost that usually include many different candy and chocolates.

Hogmanay in Scotland

New Year’s Eve is Scotland’s biggest holiday. It is called Hogmanay and is a night for long parties. Scots also honor the Scottish poet Robert Burns each January with special dinner parties where they eat haggis, the Scottish national dish (made of sheep intestines and oats, which are cooked in the sheep’s stomach).

Ukranian New Year

The main winter holiday for most Ukrainians is New Year’s Eve, not Christmas. This is when kids expect Grandpa Frost (the Ukrainian Santa) to bring gifts and leave them under the Christmas tree (not in stockings). New Year’s Eve is a big family holiday that starts with a huge feast around 10 p.m., after which young children are put to bed. Then adults ring in the New Year with champagne. The celebration continues until dawn. All the presents under the Christmas tree are opened on the morning of 1 January.

Greek Holidays (St. Basil's Day and Ochi Day)

On 1 January, Greeks celebrate St. Basil’s Day to mark the New Year. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, a special cake (vasilopitta) with a coin in it is cut into pieces. Whoever gets the coin is supposed to have good luck during the coming year. Other holidays include Independence Day (25 Mar.) and Ochi Day (28 Oct.). Ochi Day commemorates the day in 1940 that the country’s leader said Ochi (No) to Mussolini, the Italian dictator, when he wanted to put Italian soldiers in Greece. It is considered a brave decision because the German and Italian armies greatly outnumbered the Greek army.

Carnaval in Portugal

Carnaval (which means “goodbye to meat”) is celebrated right before Lent, a time when many Catholics give up meat on Fridays and Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent) to prepare themselves for Easter. Each town celebrates Carnaval a little bit differently, but they all have colorful parades, costumes, dances, and street parties called arraiais. Carnaval is a noisy time with fireworks going off throughout the day. Each year a Carnaval Queen is chosen, and she gets to start the festival the next year. After Carnaval, Portuguese celebrate Easter.


Shrovetide in Russia

A favorite holiday is Shrovetide, when Russians celebrate the beginning of spring. Shrovetide comes a little before Easter and lasts an entire week. People eat blini (stuffed, thin pancakes), make a lot of noise, dress in costumes, and play tricks on each other.

May Day in England

The first of May was an ancient Celtic holiday celebrating the start of summer. Later on, the May festival became a time for farmers to celebrate the coming season. Today, people in England celebrate May Day with traditional dancing by the Morris Dancers. They wear bright clothing, flower hats, and bells on their legs. Maypole dancing is also an especially popular tradition on May Day

St. Patrick's Day in Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day (17 Mar.) is Ireland’s national holiday. St. Patrick is the nation’s patron saint. He is credited with introducing Christianity to the Irish. St. Patrick’s Day features street parades in every city. The largest is in Dublin. In honor of St. Patrick, the Irish wear shamrocks (St. Patrick used the shamrock to remind people of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit) and organize big feasts. Of course, people outside Ireland celebrate St. Patrick’s Day as well.

Constitution Day in Norway

Constitution Day (17 May), which commemorates Norway’s independence, is celebrated a lot like the Fourth of July in the United States, with parades, flags, and family gatherings.


Bastille Day In France

The biggest national holiday is Bastille Day (14 July), which celebrates the French Revolution and French democracy (government by the people).

European Drama

Commedia del Arte
Ancient Greek Drama

Curricular ideas
St. Patrick's Day story/play
Constitution Day (17 May)- Norway's July 4th
December 13th- St. Lucia day in Sweeden
Puppet Theater
Stories of different Santas from around the world
Madeline series
Spanish play about ogre (name?)
Stone Soup play
Tommie dePaola stories
Strega Nona series

Folk Songs
Ms. DePaoli has sheet music for these songs

Silent Night
Joyful Sing Ye, Christian People
Christmas Lullaby

Shepherds Bring Candy/Milk

We All Go To Bethlehem
Come All Ye Shepherds

Christmas Is Coming
Friendly Beasts
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Greensleeves (See Recordings section too)
Joy To The World
Once in Royal David's City
Here We Come A-Wassailing
Masters In This Hall
Gather Around The Christmas Tree
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
I Saw Three SHips
O Come All Ye Faithful
A Child This Day Is Born
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
Good King Wenceslas
Twelve Days of Christmas

Ding Dong, Merrily On High
O Holy Night
It Took Place on Christmas Eve
The First Noel
Nouvelles agreables
Saw You Never In The Twilight
One Elephant
Come, Let's Dance
Au Claire de la Lune

O Tannenbaum
Christmas Lullaby
Come Little Children
A Child Now is Born in Bethlehem
Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming
Good Christian Men Rejoice
O Come Little Children
Echo Carol

Sinter Claus

Christmas Day is Come
Paddy Works on the Railway (Irish immigrants in America)
Cockles and Mussels
Einini (Little Bird)
Molly Malone
O Danny Boy

Funiculi Funicula
On The Sea
Isle of Capri
hymns of various saints

I Am So Glad On Christmas Eve

In A Manger

Christmas Song
Troika: Sleigh Bells (folk dance)
Sleigh Song
The Birch Tree
Kalinka (Little Snowball Bush)
Wonderful Rich Dark Brown Land
The Ringing Bell
Dancing Song
Korobushka: The Peddler
Three Girlfriends
Kozachok (folk dance)

Auld Lang Syne
Away In A Manger

Zumba Zumba
Tonight A Child Is Born
Joyfully Dance

Christmas Greetings

Sheperd, Shake Off Your Drowsy Sleep

Deck The Halls

Recordings of this music are available to Plympton teachers from Ms. DePaoli. Please give her at least one week's advance notice.
FYI: Op. = Opus, a term used by the composer for cataloging purposes as his repertoire grew. These numbers may help you if you are getting resources on your own.
Italicized means the piece is very familiar to the average person.

Eine Kliene Nachtmusik by Mozart
Piano Concerto in A major by Mozart
Symphony #40 by Mozart

New World Symphony by Dvorak (connection between Czechoslovakia and coming to America)

Pomp and Circumstance by Elgar (graduation procession music)
Salut d'amour. Op. 12 by Elgar
Voluntary in G, Op. 7 No. 9 by Stanley
Trumpet Tune and Air by Purcell
Sonata in D by Purcell
Concerto Grosso, Op. 6 No. 1 by Handel
Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (Sinfonia from "Solomon") by Handel
The Earle of Oxford's March by Byrd
Music for Roya/ Fireworks by Handel
Fantasia on "Greensleeves" by Vaughan Williams

La Vie Parisienne: Overture by Offenbach
Fra Diavolo: Overture by Auber
Zampa: Overture by Herold
Lady in White: Overture by Boieldieu
Coronation March by Meyerbeer
Coppelia: Festive Dance and Waltz of the Hours by Delibes
Thais: Meditation by Massenet
Joyeuse Marche by Chabrier
Danse Macabre by Saint Saens
Carnival of the Animals by Saint Saens

Rhenish Symphony: first movement by Schumann
Kinderscenen: Von fremden Landern und Menchen by Schumann
Violin Concerto #1: Adagio by Bruch
Waltz in A flat by Brahms
Spring Song Op. 62 #6 by Mendellsohn
Martha: Overture by Flotow
Minuet by Beethoven
Fur Elise by Beethoven
Symphony #5 by Beethoven
Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven
Orchestral Suite No. 3: Air by Bach
Der Freischutz: Overture by Weber
Die Miestersinger: Overture by Wagner (opera, stories)

Hunyadi Laszlo: Csardas by erkel
Zigeunerweisen by Sarasate
Hungarian Dance #5 by Brahms
Hungarian Fantasy by Liszt
Hungarian Rhapsody #6 by Liszt
The Gypsy Baron: March by J. Strauss III
The Blue Danube by Strauss
The Merry Widow by Lehar
The Csardas Princess by Kalmar

The Four Seasons by Vivaldi
The Sicilian Vespers by Verdi
Adagio by Albinoni
The Barber of Seville by Rossini (opera, stories, Paine Estate)
William Tell Overture by Rossini
Nabucco: Overture by Verdi
Manon Lescaut - Intermezzo by Puccini
La Giaconda: Dance of the Hours by Ponchielli (ballet)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo sinfonico by Mascagni
Caro mio ben by Giordano

Ruslan and Ludmilla: Overture by Glinka
Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky
Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky
Chanson Triste by Tchaikovsky
1812: Ouverture Solennelle by Tchaikovsky
March of the Wooden Soldiers by Tchaikovsky
Gayaneh: Sabre Dance by Khatchaturian
Snegourotchka: Dance of the Tumblers by Rimsky-Korsakov
Flight of the Bumblebee by Rimsky-Korsakov
Mlada: Cortege by Rimsky-Korsakov
Peer Gynt Suite: Night on Bald Mountain (Norwegian folk tale) by Mussorgsky
Khovanshchina: Dance of the Persian Slaves by Mussorgsky
Rite of Spring by Stravinsky
Three Pieces for clarinet by Stravinsky
Gavotte by Kabalevsky
The Comedians: Intermezzo by Kabalevsky

Concierto de Aranjuez: Allegro con spririto - Adagio by Rodrigo
Castilla No. 7 by Albeniz
Love the Magician: Ritual Fire Dance by Falla
Espana by Chabrier
Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky Korsakov
Carmen Suite No. 1 by Bizet