Why do we put candles on a birthday cake?

The Greeks borrowed celebrating birthdays from the Egyptian pharaohs and the cake idea from the Persians. Then early Christians did away with birthday parties for a while until the custom re-emerged with candles in Germany in the twelfth century.

Awakened with the arrival of a birthday cake topped with lighted candles, which were changed and kept lit until after the family meal, the honoured child would make a wish that, it was said, would come true only if the candles were blown out in a single breath.

What is school like in other countries?

Schools are different in every country in the world. A school may have lots of classrooms, books, play equipment, and a playground, or lessons may take place under trees or in an open outdoor space. A temple, a tent, or a building on stilts may serve as a classroom for some children. In poor places that have no money to build schools, children may learn their lessons outdoors. In isolated places—such as the Australian outback or the Alaskan wilderness—where families live hundreds of miles apart and far from cities or towns, children may get their lessons from teachers over two-way radios or the Internet. All around the world, schools are a reflection of the culture in which they are formed.

In Japan, as students enter school, they remove their shoes and put on slippers, a Japanese custom. They do not write with pencils; instead, each child has his or her own ink well, brush, and ink for writing the kanji (Japanese characters). Children often clean their classrooms (including dusting cubbies and mopping floors), and at the end of each class the students thank their teacher and bow. In schools in Brazil and other South American countries, children often go to school barefoot. In India, children practice yoga in school. And many children that go to public schools in European countries, such as Germany and France, ride their bikes to school or take public transportation, rather than school buses.

What’s unusual about the music to the American national anthem?

In 1814, after a night in a pub, Francis Scott Key was taken prisoner during the war between Canada and the United States. When he saw the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry he was inspired to write his famous lyrics with one particular barroom song, “To Anacreon In Heaven,” still in his mind.

TAMPA, FL – JANUARY 27: Whitney Houston sings the National Anthem before a game with the New York Giants taking on the Buffalo Bills prior to Super Bowl XXV at Tampa Stadium on January 27, 1991 in Tampa, Florida. The Giants won 20-19. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)

And so “The Star Spangled Banner” was written to the tune of a traditional old English drinking song.

What are carnivorous plants?

Carnivorous plants are plants that receive some or most of their nutrients from trapping and eating insects, other arthropods, and sometimes small frogs and mammals. (They are sometimes called insectivorous plants because insects are the most common prey.) Like other plants, carnivorous plants need sunlight, soil, and water to grow.

Carnivorous plants generally grow in places where the soil is thin or poor in nutrients, especially nitrogen, such as bogs. Today, there are more than 600 plant species around the world that attract and trap prey, produce digestive enzymes, and absorb parts of the insect as its nutrients.

Why do we call the perfect world “Utopia”?

The word Utopia was created by the English philosopher Sir Thomas More in 1516 and was the title of his book that compared the state of life in Europe at the time with an imaginary ideal society. Utopia is from Greek meaning nowhere.

The thrust of More’s message was that an ideal world, or Utopia, will never exist, and that our only choice is to improve the standards of our existing society.

Why when someone tells a secret do we say he’s “spilled the beans”?

As a system of voting, the ancient Greeks placed beans in a jar. They called these small beans or balls “ballota,” which gives us the word ballot. A white bean was a “yes” and a brown bean was a “no.”

The beans were then counted in secret so the candidates wouldn’t know who voted for or against them. If the container was knocked over, and the beans were spilled, the secret was out of the jar.

Why do we call wealthy members of society “the upper crust”?

In the days of feudalism, when noblemen gathered for a meal in the castle, those of higher rank sat at the head of a T-shaped table, and the rest sat in order of diminishing importance away from them.

For such occasions a yard-long loaf of bread was baked, and the honour of making the first cut belonged to the highest-ranking person at the head table, who would then pass the bread down in order of rank, but always keeping for himself the “upper crust.”

Are there certain fish that can live without water?

Yes, for a period of time. The mangrove killfish spends several months of every year out of the water, living inside rotting branches and tree trunks. The 2-inch- (5-centimeter-) long fish normally lives in muddy pools and the flooded burrows of crabs in the mangrove swamps of Florida, Latin America, and the Caribbean. When their pools of water dry up, they temporarily alter their gills to retain water and nutrients, while they excrete nitrogen waste through their skin.

These changes are reversed as soon as they return to the water. The mangrove killfish is not the only fish able to temporarily survive out of water. The walking catfish of Southeast Asia has gills that allow it to breathe in air and in water. The giant mudskippers of Southeast Asia breathe through their gills underwater and breathe air on land by absorbing oxygen through their skin and the back of the mouth and throat.

Why is the ladybug considered good luck?

Called either “ladybird” or “ladybug,” the little red beetle with the black spots is the well-known and beloved subject of a nursery rhyme and is called a “lady” after the Virgin Mary because it emerges around March 25, the time of the Feast of the Annunciation, which is also known as Lady Day.

Called the “Mary bug” in German, the ladybug brings good luck to a garden by eating unwanted pests.

How do plants get their nutrients?

Green plants get nourishment through a chemical process called photosynthesis, Which uses sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to make simple sugars. Those simple sugars are then changed into starches, proteins, or fats, which give a plant all the energy it needs to perform life processes and to grow. Generally, sunlight (along with carbon dioxide) enters through the surface of a plant’s leaves. The sunlight and carbon dioxide travel to special food-making cells (palisade) deeper in the leaves. Each of these cells contain a green substance called chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll gives plants their green color and traps light energy, allowing food making to take place. Also located in the middle layer of leaves are special cells that make up a plant’s “transportation” systems. Tubelike bundles of cells called xylem tissue carry water and minerals throughout a plant, from its roots to its outermost leaves. Phloem cells, on the other hand, transport the plant’s food supply sugar dissolved in water—from its manufacturing site in leaves to all other cells.