History of Babe Ruth for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a stadium with crowds of people all around you. You smell buttery popcorn and freshly cooked hot dogs. “Peanuts! Popcorn!” A vendor yells from across the aisle. “Get your peanuts, popcorn!” As everyone gets seated there is a feeling of excitement in the air. The loudspeakers start playing, “Take me out to the ballgame!” The crowd sings along. You hear the crack of a baseball against a bat. The game has begun! 

If you’re familiar with baseball do these nicknames sound familiar? The Sultan of Swat? The Great Bambino? The Colossus of Clout? These are all nicknames for one of the most famous baseball players to have ever lived, Babe Ruth!

Babe Ruth’s real name was George Herman Ruth Jr. and he was born in Baltimore, Maryland on February 6, 1895. His grandparents were immigrants from Europe, so the first language he spoke was German. Growing up, his dad owned and ran a saloon. There, Ruth really did whatever he wanted. He didn’t have many rules and just ran wild with his friends through the streets of town. And with his dad being busy with the business, Ruth got into a lot of trouble. In fact, he got into so much trouble and his parents couldn’t control him that they put him in St. Mary’s Industrial School. This was a special school for boys who needed more structure than their parents were able to give them at home. At the school, one of his teachers, Brother Matthais, loved baseball. He taught the boys how to play and Ruth got into the game, too. Ruth ended up living at the school for 12 years and there got a basic education and learned some life skills. He used these skills and became a shirtmaker and could make things out of wood, known as carpentry. 

Ruth kept playing baseball and when he was 19 tried and made the minor league team for the Baltimore Orioles. The other players teased Ruth because he was the favorite or “darling” of the owner, Jack Dunn. Because of this they started calling him “Babe”!  This is how Babe Ruth’s famous nickname was born! Even though Babe Ruth was a big success with the Orioles, the owner ran into money trouble and he was forced to sell his best players to the Major Leagues.

From there Ruth was sent to play for the Boston Red Sox. When Ruth first started playing, he was a left-handed pitcher but really wanted to bat more, so he started playing outfield and first base. Ruth tried to hit almost everything, and because of that, he struck out a lot! But he was very determined and never gave up. He even said that “Every strike brings me closer to the next homerun”. And the Red Sox fans loved him, because he did hit a lot of homeruns! One year he hit home runs in 4 games in a row. The next year, he helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 1918. 

In 1919 Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees. The Red Sox sold him because the owner wanted more money and Babe Ruth was worth a lot. And the New York Yankees wanted him because they hoped he could help them win a World Series. There were lots of mixed reactions to him being traded. Some Boston fans were devastated to lose Ruth, while others thought he was too much trouble. While he wasn’t playing baseball, he spent a lot of time partying and sometimes getting into trouble. But the Boston fans who liked Ruth, believed that trading him started an 84 year “curse”, during which the Red Sox did not win a World Series. It was called “The Curse of the Bambino”. Before he was traded, the Red Sox had won 5 of the 15 World Series that had been played. But after they sold Ruth they didn’t win another World Series until 2004. 

With Ruth, the New York Yankees did very well! In fact, they won the World Series 4 times, and they won the American league title 7 times! When Ruth was traded to the Yankees he became a full time outfielder, and was now able to bat all the time. He hit home run after home run and the New York fans loved him! During his first year, the Yankees had a record number of people at the stadium, 1.2 million people. It was the first time that any Major League Baseball game attendance had reached 1 million. During his 13 years with the Yankees, he became the highest paid player up to that point, making 2 ½  times more than any other player in the league. At the time, Ruth even made more than the president of the United States! On the team he was part of a group of players called Murderers Row. They got that name from the power of the hitters. The players were Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, Tony Lazzeri, and Babe Ruth. 

Sadly, Ruth spent many years of his life drinking too much alcohol and not taking care of his health. He also spent most of the money he made on things he didn’t need and that didn’t help better his life. Because of his poor health choices, he began to have trouble running the bases and catching the ball. He played his last full season with the Yankees in 1934. 

Ruth wanted to become a manager of a team himself but didn’t have any luck finding a position. But like hitting home runs, Ruth was never one to give up. He once said “you just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”  

Eventually he was traded to the Boston Braves as a “gate attraction.” This means he was hired not necessarily because he was good anymore, but because he’d been famous and would cause people to pay to come to the game to see him. 

He retired early that year in 1935. The next year he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. 

Babe Ruth became popular at a time when baseball became very popular in the United States and known as “America’s Pastime.” One reason was because the world had just gone through the first World War and then the 1918 flu pandemic, which were very tragic times and many lives were lost. America needed something good and positive to focus on. Baseball and sports figures like Babe Ruth became a symbol of that optimism and fun pastime. He also symbolized an American Dream that someone who came from very little money and didn’t have a well-known family could become famous. His life also showed us that it’s important to take care of yourself and set rules for yourself. If we want our bodies to work well we need to take care of them by eating good foods and exercising.

Babe Ruth worked very hard and took risks to become one of the greatest home run hitters of all time. He once said, “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” This means there are many things you can worry about in life or fears that may keep you from acting. But like Babe Ruth said, if you worry too much about “striking out,” you’ll never get those things done and “swing the bat” and make the moves you need to take the next step in life. For you this might mean trying out for a sport or learning how to draw or some other skill. Don’t worry about what others might say or do, don’t worry about “striking out” and just act like Babe Ruth! 

The Origins of the Olympics and the First Modern Olympics for Kids

Have you ever been in front of a crowd? If you have, what did it feel like? Can you imagine thousands of people watching you, waiting to see what you do? Also imagine if you were competing in your favorite sport. That sounds really intimidating, doesn’t it? This is what it feels like for someone participating in the Olympics, which will be held again this month! 

Believe it or not, the Olympics are a tradition that have ancient roots, all the way back to 7th century BCE Greece, over 2,500 years ago! They happen every 2 years and switch between the Winter and Summer games. Usually around 200 countries come together to participate. It is an amazing show of worldwide unity and putting aside differences to celebrate sport and achievement.

The Ancient Olympics were part of a festival to honor the Greek god Zeus, who was the father of all the other gods and goddesses in Greek mythology. They were held every 4 years at Olympia, which was named after Mt. Olympus, the home of the Greek gods. The competitors came from everywhere in the Greek world. From Iberia, present day Spain, to the Black Sea, near Turkey.

Although some sources say that it’s possible that the Olympics began in the 9th or 10th century BCE, the agreed upon year the Olympics started is 776 BCE. It is said that the only event for the first 13 festivals was the stadion, a foot race 600 ft long. The first recorded person to win the race was a cook from the city of Elis. I thought it was pretty cool that a cook won the first race. Eventually other sports were added which included running races, jumping, wrestling, boxing, horse-related events, discus, and so on.

The Olympics were held in Ancient Greece for almost 1200 years. The Olympics became less frequent starting in the 2nd century BCE when the Romans invaded Greece. Sometimes they would interfere by trying to declare themselves the winner. Not very fair, right? The Olympics came to an end in 393 CE when Emperor Theodosius I declared an end to all pagan festivals. Pagan began festivals that celebrated the Greek gods.

It was 1,500 years until the Olympics finally returned. A man from France named Pierre de Coubertin was visiting the ancient Olympic site in Greece when he had an idea. He was very interested in physical education and wanted others to be, too. He thought that starting the Olympics games back up would inspire others to be physically fit, too! 

He shared his idea to start the Olympics in November 1892. Two years later he got permission to create the International Olympic Committee, which is the same group in charge of the Olympics even to this day! A Greek man named Demetrius Vikelas was elected to be the first president. Through Coubertin and Vikelas’ hard work, and many people across the world donating, enough money was raised to help Greece host the Olympics. Two years later in 1896 they held the first modern Olympics in Athens, Greece. People from all over the world came to watch the first modern Olympics and over 80,000 people filled the stadium during opening ceremonies! More people attended this event than any sporting event in history. There were 280 people participating from 14 different countries. Some of the different sports were cycling, fencing, gymnastics, shooting, swimming, racing, weightlifting, tennis and wrestling. 

During the first modern Olympics winners were awarded silver medals and the runners up were awarded copper medals. As you may know today the medals are gold, silver, and bronze. The United States won 11 silver medals and Greece won the most medals overall, 46. Runners up were Germany, France and Great Britain. A highlight of the Olympics was Greek marathon runner, Spyridion Louis, winning the marathon and the most competitive participant was German wrestler, Carl Schumann, who won 4 events. 

The first winter Olympics were held in 1924. For 70 years, both the Summer and Winter Olympics were held during the same year. It wasn’t until 1994 that they were split and began switching every 2 years.

There are many symbols around the Olympics, like the flag and the motto that have deep meaning.

The Olympic flag was originally created by Coubertin in 1913. It is a white background with five rings: blue, yellow, black, green and red. The five rings were to represent the 5 continents: Europe, Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. Coubertin chose those colors because together they represented the colors of all the countries participating. He took the rings interlocking from the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, interlocking rings symbolized to Jung continuity and the human being. It was a flag created to represent everyone, truly an international symbol.

The Olympic motto is “Citius, Altius, Fortius”, which is Latin for “faster, higher, stronger” It was suggested by Coubertin at the original International Olympic Committee meeting. It was a saying that a friend of his, Henri Didon, who was a priest and a teacher came up with. Coubertin said “These three words represent a programme of moral beauty. The aesthetics of sport are intangible.” It was officially introduced at the 1924 games. 

The Olympic creed was said by the Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, Ethelbert Talbot, in a sermon during the 1908 Olympics. He said, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

The Olympic Anthem is played when the Olympic flag is raised and even though it was performed at the first modern Olympics in 1896, it wasn’t made the official anthem until 1958. It was composed by Spyridon Samaras; the words are from a poem by the Greek writer Kostis Palamas. The poem is a celebration of the Olympics, and the sense of a worldwide friendship that comes with Olympics. A small part of it says, “As now we come across the world/To share these Games of old/Let all the flags of every land/In brotherhood unfold   Sing out each nation, voices strong/Rise up in harmony/All hail our brave Olympians/With strains of victory”. The anthem shows just how much the Olympics are meant to unify us.

Anciently, the prize for winning (only first place was recognized anciently) was a kotinos, a wild olive branch intertwined to form a circle. The kotinos was made from a sacred olive tree by the temple of Zeus near Olympia. But of course now first, second and third place are awarded medals. The front of the medal shows an image of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory and the back shows the host country of the games. Olympic diplomas are then given to fourth through eighth places. 

There is a modern Olympic tradition that was introduced at the Berlin Games in 1936. Months before the games are held, a torch is lit at the site of the ancient Olympics in Olympia, Greece. To do this the Sun is used to light the torch using a parabolic reflector (kind of like a giant mirror shaped like a bowl). The torch is then taken out of Greece to the host country and travels around before the games, staying lit the entire time. Sometimes on it’s way to the host country it is taken to really exciting places. The flame has gone underwater, to the North Pole and even to Outer Space! It has been carried by both famous people and ordinary people. The first day of the Olympics is called Opening Ceremonies. The day of Opening Ceremonies it is taken to a cauldron that is used to light the ceremonies. Here all of the participants parade around the stadium carrying flags representing their different countries. It’s an exciting day for the participants and for the world!

Today the Olympics includes many more sports than the first modern Olympics which beyond the traditional sports include basketball, baseball, volleyball, BMX, diving, soccer, hockey, karate, skateboarding, surfing, and trampolines.

The Olympic games come from the desire to be a part of something more, and while no country is perfect, it is incredible to see what we can accomplish when we work together, instead of apart. As we go into this exciting worldwide tradition this month and next, think about what you can do to contribute to unity in your world. Unity or to unify means to come together, to work together, to be one. Think about what this means as a family, friends, in your school and community. Our small efforts always have a bigger effect than we think they will. How can you make a difference?

Also, as you watch the Olympics, think about sports you are interested in, or might be interested in! Physical activity is good for your body and mind. Studies show that exercising makes you happier! When you move about and play and exercise chemicals in your brain are released that make you feel better and feel less stress. Isn’t that cool? I know for me it feels to get out and run or ride my bike or swim with my kids. It clears my mind and it gives me added strength or energy. Spend some time thinking about how you might add more physical activity to your life, and maybe by watching the Olympics you’ll be inspired to try a new sport.

Siddhartha Gautama Buddha For Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you’re a prince or a princess, living in a giant, luxurious palace. There your parents make sure that you have everything you could ever want or need: lots of toys, fine clothes, the best education. You’re surrounded by beautiful gardens and expensive things. You have servants to clean up after you, bring your food, and help with everything. When you’re not learning from private tutors, you spend your days swimming, practicing archery and swordsmanship, and riding horses. The palace is so massive, it’s your entire world and you never even need to leave. 

Now imagine you decide to give that all up. You’re not happy with that life. You wonder if life has a greater meaning. You wonder if possessions can ever make people truly happy and content. This was the life Siddhartha Gautama found himself in. You might have heard of him: now, we call him Buddha. 

The story of how Siddhartha became Buddha begins even before his birth. Siddhartha’s father was king of a small kingdom in northern India in the sixth century BCE over 2,500 years ago!  Several years before Siddhartha was born, the king was visited by sages, or wise men, who told him his son would be either a great king, or a great holy man. Of course, Siddhartha’s father wanted his son to follow in his footsteps and be a great king.  So when Siddhartha was born in 567 BCE, his father decided to shelter his son from the world, so he wouldn’t know about suffering and death. He thought that if Siddhartha never saw bad things in the world, he wouldn’t want to fix them, and so he wouldn’t want to become a holy man. 

So Siddhartha grew up surrounded by all the comforts and privileges money could buy. When he became a young man, he married a woman named Gopa. He seemed to have it all, but the plan Siddhartha’s father made for him to become a great king was about to fall apart. Instead of accepting the life of luxury that he was given, Siddhartha grew restless living in the palace. One day, he asked his father to let him go on a chariot ride to see the city around the palace. His father agreed, but told the chariot driver to stay in the richer parts of the city, close to the palace, to avoid letting Siddhartha see people who were poor or suffering. 

Siddhartha set out in the chariot with his driver. Before long, they saw an old man, slowly hobbling along the road, looking as if he might fall over at any moment. Siddhartha had never seen such an old man, and he asked his driver what was wrong with him. 

His driver replied, “He is very old. His body has grown weak with age. You too will grow old someday. All people do.”

Siddhartha was disturbed, but asked him to drive on. Later in the ride, they saw a sick man lying by the side of the road. He was groaning and looked very unhappy. Again, Siddhartha asked what was wrong with the man. 

His driver replied, “He is sick with a terrible disease. Everyone gets sick sometimes. Someday, you will get sick.”

Siddhartha felt terrible, seeing this man suffering, but they continued their ride through the city. 

On their way back to the palace, they came across a funeral procession. People were crying and moaning. For a third time, Siddhartha asked his chariot driver what was happening.

Again, his driver replied. “Someone has died, and these people are his friends and family. They are mourning for him.”  

When Siddhartha returned home, he could not stop thinking about the old man, the sick man, and the funeral. He thought about these things happening to his father and mother, to his wife, and to himself. He realized that all the treasure in the palace, all the servants waiting on him, all the beautiful things surrounding him, could not prevent him or anyone else from the sad things he sad. He realized that he wanted to find a way to help people overcome suffering. 

Once he realized these things, Siddhartha knew he could no longer live an easy life in the palace. So one day, he said goodbye to his family, and set out to find the cause of suffering. He cut his hair and lived as an ascetic – someone who chooses to live in poverty and simplicity. He studied meditation with great holy men and discussed the problem of suffering with them, but after many years of living this way, he still didn’t know why it happened, or how he could prevent it.

Finally, he decided to sit and meditate under a bodhi tree. He vowed not to leave until he had the answer to the problem of human suffering.  Siddhartha sat meditating day and night, still and calm as a statue, for six days. On the sixth day, he opened his eyes and realized he understood the nature of suffering. He became enlightened and from then on was known as Buddha, which means awakened one. 

For the rest of his life, Buddha travelled throughout India, teaching others about what he had discovered. He taught people the four noble truths he had realized about suffering. The first truth is that everyone suffers and has hard things happen to them. It’s just part of life. 

The second truth is that we suffer because we are always wanting more, and trying to hold onto what we have. This might sound surprising. Didn’t he start his quest because he saw people who were suffering because they were old, sick, and dying? Buddha thought that the real reason we suffer is not because bad things happen to us, but because we allow negative feelings and desires to take over our thinking. If we’re sick, we lie around feeling sorry for ourselves, and wishing we were well. But then when we’re healthy, we think of other things we want, but don’t have, and we still suffer. 

Think about a time when you really wanted a new toy or game. It probably felt very unfair that you didn’t have it, and then, if you did get it, you might have been happy for a short time, but then you were just back to normal and wanted something new. We become attached to things, or even ideas of things, and those things are not permanent. This keeps us spending all our time wanting things we don’t have, and worrying we’ll lose what we do have. He taught that things like toys and games and other things we might buy don’t really make us happy deep down and any happiness we do feel doesn’t last.

The third truth is that we can overcome suffering. Once we overcome suffering, Buddha thought, we could reach a state of nirvana, or perfect peace and happiness, just as he did when he meditated under the bodhi tree. 

Finally, the fourth truth tells us how to overcome suffering. The way Buddha thought we overcome suffering is by following what he called the “eightfold path.” I won’t go over all eight parts of the path, but basically, to follow the eightfold path, we must always try to improve ourselves: this means being kind and honest; try not to harm anyone or anything; and act with compassion. We must also learn to pay attention to their own thoughts. As we pay attention to our thoughts we can better understand the thoughts that make us feel sad. This helps us think in a new way. This paying attention to our thoughts is called meditation.

Buddha taught that following the eight-fold path creates good karma.  Karma is the idea that everything you do has a consequence, whether good or bad. Kind actions tend to have positive consequences, and unkind actions, negative consequences. This isn’t a consequence like a reward or a punishment – it’s just a thing that happens as a result of an action. He taught that by building up a lot of good karma, you can reach nirvana, a state of true enlightenment. 

Buddha spent the rest of his life travelling around India, teaching what he had discovered to anyone who wanted to learn. He encouraged his followers to try out the practices he taught for themselves, to see how well they worked, and to gather in communities to learn and help each other. Community was important, because Buddha knew that to be truly happy, people need to feel compassion and kindness for both themselves and others. This is called metta in Buddhism.

After its beginnings in India, Buddhism spread throughout South and East Asia, and was practiced widely in Tibet, Bhutan, Thailand, China, and Japan, among others. Today, people around the world practice Buddhism in different forms. For some it’s a religion, but for others it’s simply a way of looking at life.

Like Buddha taught, you can take the time to meditate each day. Meditating is a good chance to breathe deeply and slow your thoughts. It can also help you look closely at your thoughts. Your thoughts often lead to how you’re feeling. So if you have lots of negative thoughts those may be causing negative feelings. Breathing deeply and clearing your mind can give you the positive energy you need to help yourself and help others. There are a lot of great ways to start meditating. You can find videos, podcasts and apps, that can get your started. But the simplest way is to just set a timer and try and sit and relax during that time while breathing deeply. 

Also, like Buddha taught, remember that things that we buy won’t always make us happy. Toys eventually break, or they go out of fashion, and we’ll always want something new. Think about how you might turn your attention to more important things like spending time with your family and friends, learning something new, or doing good for others. These are things that last longer and will give you greater, deeper joy.   

I hope you enjoyed this episode about Buddha. Be sure to check in next Monday for a new episode!

Sources

Fields, Rick. “Who Is the Buddha?” in: Tricycle, Spring 1997. https://tricycle.org/magazine/who-was-buddha-2/

Meyers, Rachel. Curiosity Chronicles: Snapshots of Ancient History. Little Monster Schooling, 2017.

Nagaraja, Dharmachari. Buddha at Bedtime.Watkins, 2016.

The History of Memorial Day for Kids

Have you ever heard of Memorial Day? Memorial Day is an American holiday honoring men and women who have died while serving in the military. It takes place on the last Monday of May every year. Most kids and adults get this day off work and school, so usually the day is filled with parties and vacation time. I know growing up most of my memories of Memorial Day involved pool parties and barbeques with family and friends. And while it’s good to spend time with those we love, it’s also important to understand why we have Memorial Day. Growing up, I also remember visiting the cemetery to place flowers on the wreath of my grandfather. My grandfather served in England during World War 2. He had to leave his wife and daughter and while he was away his job was to guard the bomber planes at night. He didn’t die during that war, but we still honored him for his service. I also had a younger brother who passed away, so we always visited his grave as well. 

Memorial Day is a special time to remember those who are no longer with us. If you notice the word “memorial” sounds kind of like “memory” and that means on this day we remember our family and friends who have passed away. 

Memorial Day was first known as Decoration Day and originally started during the years after the American Civil War. The Civil War was a time when many lives were lost, so many families around this time of year were thinking about their brothers, husbands, and sons and wanted to remember them by decorating their graves.

One reason Memorial Day is during the Spring is when flowers are in bloom and often families decorated the graves with flowers. No one is exactly sure when Decoration Day started, there are many different theories and ideas, but after the Civil War and World War 1 and World War II Decoration Day became more and more popular. 

One of the towns where Decoration Day was celebrated was Waterloo, New York. In Waterloo they held a large event where businesses closed and the entire community came out to decorate the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags. The first time they celebrated it was May 5th 1866. Over time many other states started holding their own Decoration Day. Often these holidays have a parade which include those in the military and veterans. A veteran is someone who served in the military, but was no longer serving. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. 

Finally in 1967 the United States government decided to make Memorial Day a holiday all across the country and placed it on Monday so it could be a three day weekend. Because of the time of the year it also unofficially marks the beginning of summer, which is one reason families use it to go on vacation, spend time outside, have pool parties, go to the beach and have barbecues. 

While Memorial Day is an American holiday, many other countries have days set aside to honor those who served in the military. South Korea has their Memorial Day on June 6th, the same month the Korean War began. The United Kingdom, Canada, France and many other countries celebrate Armistice Day on November 11th, when World War 2 ended. Each country has their own celebration that tends to correspond to the end of a war where they remember those who were lost. 

How do you plan to celebrate Memorial Day this year? Is there someone in your family who you will remember? Spend some time thinking about all that you have and the freedoms you enjoy because of others who came before you and were willing to sacrifice their time and even their lives. Memorial Day is also a good time to spend with your family. Take the time to think about how fortunate you are to have friends and family in your life and to not take them for granted.

The History of Easter for Kids

Have you ever heard of Easter Island?  Many movies talk about it and some even say that is where the Easter Bunny lives.  But in fact, it is a real place that has nothing to do with the holiday of Easter. But many people know of Easter Island from the large famous face statues that are often seen in pictures of the place.  So why does Easter Island have this name?

Easter Island is a large island that covers nearly 65 square miles.  It is located in the South Pacific Ocean, far off of the west coast of the country of Chile in South America.  It is also an almost equal number of miles to the east of Tahiti.  

Many people have been confused about the name “Easter Island” and have wondered whether the island has something to do with the holiday of Easter. Is this where the Easter Bunny lives when he is not hopping around the world delivering eggs?  Let’s find out. 

The first people to live on Easter Island arrived on the island around the year 400 A.D. They were from another Polynesian island close by and they came to Easter Island looking for a new place to live.  These first people called the island “Rapa Nui”.  Because of its remote, or far away, location, the first peoples of Rapa Nui lived there on their own for hundreds of years before there were any other visitors from other countries. 

The traditions and stories of the Polynesian people say that the first king of Rapa Nui was named “Hoto-Matua”.  He was a ruler of a group of people that traveled around many islands in the area.  The group of explorers led by Hoto-Matua was searching for a new place to make their home. The story says that after traveling thousands of miles, the exploring group landed at a sandy beach on the island.  The island of Rapa Nui is actually quite rocky on the coast, or edge of the land near the water.

The traditional Polynesian story says that the group, led by their leader, Hoto-Matua, landed on the sandy beach, which was one of the only sandy spots on the coast. The group explored the island and found that it was a great place to live.  It was abundant, with many fish and other types of food, and had a good climate or weather.  They decided to stay and build their home on this newly found island.  This is the start of the first peoples living on Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. The first peoples learned how to harvest food and fish on the island, including native fruit and plants.   They grew in size over time and developed a long and rich culture over the hundreds of years since the first group arrived.

One of the best pieces of evidence ot the early people that lived on the island is the giant stone statues that have been found around Easter Island.  These statues are called “moai” and are part of what makes Easter Island famous.  You may have even seen pictures of these statues before.  They look like giant stone heads sticking out of the ground. 

There are over 900 moai statues all over Easter Island.  The statues are all around 13 feet (or 4 meters) high, with a weight of 13 tons!  They are huge faces and chests carved out of a type of rock called “tuff”.  Tuff is a light and porous rock, or rock with holes in it, that was made from volcanic ashes.  One thing that many people don’t know about the statues is that they actually go into the ground and continue at least partly underground.  They are a mystery that no one can really solve. 

No one today knows why these statues were made and why there are so many.  It is also a mystery why they were built so big and how they were moved around the island.

One thing is for sure: the statues show that their creators, the early people of Easter Island, were very good craftsmen and engineers, or people who design and make strong structures.  And while the early people who lived on Easter Island were partly Polynesian, the statues on Easter island are distinct, or different only to them, so their culture was different than the Polynesian culture.

In modern times, researchers have determined that there were three different cultural phases, or separate times in human history there.  During the early and middle periods, statues were built and torn down and then rebuilt in the same places.  In the later period, the statues were built even bigger than before and are the statues that we see pictures of today. 

The first European person to visit Easter Island was a Dutch explorer named Jacob Roggeveen.  He came exploring the area in the year 1722. Captain Roggeveen and his crew arrived on the island on the holiday of Easter.  To help remember the day and celebrate it, the Dutch named the island Paaseiland, which means “Easter Island” in Dutch. 

In 1770, the Spanish government in Peru sent a group of explorers to Easter Island. The explorers spent four days on the island.  They found that there were about 3,000 native people living on the island. 

Unfortunately, as more and more explorers started visiting the island, they also had diseases that the local islanders had not been around before.  As a result, many of the native islanders died and by 1877, there were only 111 native people living on the island. 

By 1877, Catholic explorers had come to the island to convert, or teach and change the local people to, Christianity.  By the late 19th century, almost all of the people living on the island were Christians. 

In 1888, Chile started using the land to raise sheep.  The government of Chile also appointed a governor to be in charge of Easter Island in 1965, and the island’s people all became Chilean citizens. 

Easter Island is the shape of a triangle and measures 14 miles long by 7 miles wide. It was formed by a series of volcano eruptions over time.  The island has many hills and caves within the rocks that go way back into the mountains.  Because much of the rock on the island is made of volcanic rock, it is easy for the rock to form caves and holes over time. 

Easter Island’s largest volcano is called Rano Kao.  It has a highest point that its called Mount Terevaka that reaches 1,665 feet (or 508 meters) above the sea.  

Easter Island is a sub-tropical, which means it is located below the mid-point of the Earth called the equator and has sunny and dry weather. 

Easter Island does not have any natural bays to form harbours that are places for boats to be parked away from the harsh weather of the ocean. The island’s largest village is called Hanga Roa. It was made into a World Heritage site in 1995, so it will not be developed into a tourist place full of hotels and other developments. 

Today, Easter Island is home to a mixed group of people.  Many of the people living on the island have Polynesian ancestors, or older relatives. The locals now mostly speak Spanish and there are some tourists that visit during the year.

The History of Chocolate for Kids

With Easter just around the corner, many kids are getting very excited for one of the treats that often comes this time of year: chocolate!

Chocolate is a delicious treat and comes in many colours, flavours and forms including milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate and hot chocolate.  But have you ever thought of where chocolate comes from?  

The history of chocolate began with the ancient Olmec and Mayan peoples of Central and South America.  The Mayan people were a large group of Indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America and the ancient Olmecs lived in southern Mexico before that. 

Back then, chocolate was very different than it is today.  It was a drink that people enjoyed. But it was not sweet.  It was bitter, which means having a sharp taste and was not sweet. 

Chocolate is made from cacao fruit, which comes from cacao trees which grow in hot places like Central and South America. This is why chocolate first came from these areas.  The beans from inside the cacao fruits are called cocoa beans after they are dried and roasted.  This is one of the first steps in the process of making cacao fruit beans into chocolate. 

Historians think that ancient Olmec and Maya people ground cocoa beans into powder and used it to make a chocolate flavoured drink.  The reason they think this is that there are traces of this type of powder found in old pots from ancient Olmec times.  This was around 15,000 B.C., which is a very very long time ago.

However, there is no written history from this time.  So it is not clear whether Olmec people made these drinks just for their flavour, or if it was part of a ceremony.  

The Olmec people passed their love of cacao on to their neighbours in Central America, the Mayans.  The Mayan people loved chocolate so much that they used it in their drinks and in their food.  They often made it into a thick, sweet and spicy drink, using honey to sweeten it.  And they sometimes added chilli peppers to make the drink spicy.  Have you ever tried spicy hot chocolate?  If not, it is something that you can find in some cafes today and is quite delicious, if you like spicy things.

After the Mayan people, the Aztec people came to live in the Central American and Mexican area.  They also developed a love of chocolate.  The Aztec people loved chocolate so much that they believed that cacao plants had been given to them by the gods.  They used cacao in some of their religious ceremonies.  They felt very lucky to have this drink. 

One of the things that people probably liked about cacao in the old days and that people still like about it today is that it contains caffeine. Caffeine is an ingredient that is found in tea and coffee plants that is a stimulant and makes people feel more awake and perky.  It is one of the main ingredients in coffee, and is one of the reasons why adults drink coffee, too. 

Aztec people liked to drink chocolate as a drink, either hot or cold.  They also added spices to their chocolate drinks and draft them out of special, decorated containers.  The Aztec people treated cacao beans like money.  They considered the beans to be more valuable than gold!

One famous Aztec chocolate lover was Montezuma II.  He was the ruler of the Aztec people in Mexico from 1502 to 1520.  Legends say that Montezuma II drank a gallon (or almost 4 litres) of chocolate drink per day!  He loved the taste and also believed that drinking it would make women fall in love with him. 

When Spanish explorers from Europe first arrived in Central America, they learned about chocolate.  These explorers included Christopher Columbus.  The European explorers loved chocolate as well once they tried it.  When they returned to Spain and other countries, they brought cacao beans with them.  In Spain, the Spanish people loved the drink and by the late 1500s, it had become a very popular drink throughout the country. 

As other European countries explored Central America, they also learned about cacao and brought beans back to their home countries.  That is how chocolate came to be popular across Europe in countries such as France and Italy. Europeans loved chocolate so much that a demand grew for cacao beans.  A demand is the desire of large groups of people to buy something.

Back in Central America, the European demand for chocolate meant that cacao plantations were growing in size and number.  The farmers that worked at these plantations were mostly local people who were treated as slaves.  A slave is a person who works very hard without proper pay or appreciation. The life of a slave cacao farmer was a very difficult life.  They worked hard from early morning to late at night picking beans for the European people.

The European explorers and traders continued to bring the beans back to Europe.  As European people continued to enjoy chocolate, the popularity spread.  Europeans started creating their own recipes for cacao beans as well.  Instead of just using the Central American recipes, they created different types of hot chocolate, using sugar, cinnamon and other spices.

About 150 years later, in 1828, a Dutch chemist named Coenraad Johannes van Houtan discovered a new way to make cacao powder. It was an easier way to create powder that would mix easily with hot water to make hot chocolate. The process through which van Houtan did this was later called “Dutch processing”.  The cacao powder that he made was similar to what we think of as hot chocolate powder today.  At the time it was called “Dutch cocoa.” 

Dutch cocoa powder made processing chocolate easier and cheaper than in the past.  As a result, even poor people could afford chocolate. This meant that chocolate grew even further in popularity.

Up until 1847, chocolate was primarily consumed in Europe and America as a drink, mixed with water or milk. However, in that year a company called J.S. Fry and Sons created the first chocolate bar in Britain.  They molded a paste made out of sugar, butter and chocolate and put it together into the shape of a bar. It was delicious and they knew they had a hit. Everyone who tried the solid chocolate loved it.  And a new form of chocolate was born.

By the late 19th century, family chocolate companies such as Cadbury, Mars, Nestle and Hershey were all making a variety of chocolate treats.  People across the world loved eating chocolate as well as drinking it.  There were therefore lots of customers to buy chocolate from these companies. 

Today, chocolate is still enjoyed by people around the world.  It is still available to drink, but it is more often eaten as a treat or dessert or in baking. It has changed a lot since the earliest versions of the bitter Olmec drink.  But the root of the treat is still the same. 

It is still very hard work to farm and produce chocolate however. While it is now easier than it was in the days of slaves and colonists, many cacao bean farmers still have to work very hard to produce their beans.  And they do not always get paid very much money for them. This has inspired many people throughout the world to focus on “fair trade” chocolate.  Fair trade means chocolate that is created in an ethical and sustainable way.  This means farming in a way that treats farmers fairly and without putting the environment at risk so that future generations can also meet their own needs.

Do you love eating chocolate as a treat?  Or drinking hot chocolate on a cold day? What are some of the types of chocolate that you like to eat or drink.  What would you try if you were challenged to come up with a new type of chocolate?  It is fun to think about they ways we can enjoy something so delicious and historic today.

The History of St. Patrick’s Day for Kids

Imagine you are in Boston and it is March 17.  You are walking down the street with your family, when suddenly you hear a marching band in the distance.  It sounds loud and fun, with fiddles and pipes and drums.  What is that noise?  It is getting closer and closer and you stand by and watch as around the corner come hundreds of people dressed in green.  They are laughing and playing music.  Some are wearing red wigs and fake beards.  “What is going on?” you ask your parents.  “Why, it’s St. Patrick’s Day of course” they reply. 

St. Patrick’s Day is a special day that is celebrated around the world each year on March 17 to celebrate Irish culture and history.  It is also a date meant to remember the death of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick’s day has become a large celebration around the world of Irish culture and pride, with parades, special foods, dancing, music and people wearing all things green!

But what is the history of St. Patrick’s Day and why do we celebrate it? 

St. Patrick’s Day started as a day to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. St. Patrick was born in Roman Britain in the 5th century and grew up with a father who was a deacon of their local church.  So even though St. Patrick became the patron saint of Ireland, he was not actually Irish but actually British. 

When Patrick was 16 years old, Irish raiders came to his village and he was kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave.  A slave is someone who is held captive and has to do work for another person for no money.  Patrick spent 6 years living in Ireland as a slave herdsman, taking care of cattle.  He was sad living as a slave and turned to prayer and religion to keep his spirits up.  He prayed regularly to escape so he could return home. 

One night when he was 24, Patrick snuck away from his master and got onto a ship headed back to Britain.  It was a difficult journey and Patrick didn’t have anything to eat on the way, so he nearly starved to death.  However, Patrick made it successfully to the other side of the sea to his own country of Britain. 

Patrick lived in Britain for a short while again.  But one day while reading about the Irish people, he felt called to return to Ireland and teach the Irish people about his religion, Christianity. Although he had doubts about whether it was a good idea, he decided to return to Ireland, this time as a free man. 

Patrick returned to Ireland and traveled broadly throughout the country, teaching people everywhere he went about his religion. It was a dangerous time to be traveling alone as a foreigner and trying to convert people.  To convert means to change people’s thinking so that they believe the same things as you.  However, Patrick had great faith in his mission and carried on, despite being arrested, put in chains, and threatened with death.

As Patrick traveled around Ireland and became more well known, myths and legends started to grow about him.  Myths and legends are imaginary stories. One of these legends was that Patrick scared all of the snakes in Ireland out of the country and into the sea where they died.  Some people believed that Patrick was also able to bring people back from the dead and that he was able to create food out of thin air. 

One of the most well known legends about St. Patrick is that he explained the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity to Irish people by using the three leaves of an Irish clover or shamrock.  Shamrocks have since become symbols of St. Patrick’s day. 

St. Patrick died on March 17, 461 A.D.  However, he did not actually become a saint until many years later, which is the normal process for Catholic sainthood.  March 17th became celebrated around the world as “St. Patrick’s day” at first to celebrate him, and later to celebrate Irish cultural heritage generally.  Cultural heritage means traditions and ways of life that have passed down through generations.

In Ireland today, St. Patrick’s day is celebrated as a religious holiday.  Irish families celebrate by going to church in the morning and having a party in the afternoon.  Irish people will usually dance and drink in their afternoon parties and eat a meal that includes meat, such as Irish bacon and cabbage. 

In America and other places with many Irish immigrants, St. Patricks day is celebrated on March 17, but with different traditions. In these countries, people of Irish descent hold large annual parades featuring bagpipes and drums. Many people wear green and dress up. 

The tradition started in America in the 1840s, when many Irish people left Ireland due to the Great Potato Famine of 1845.  A famine is an extreme shortage of food. In the 1840s, nearly 1 million poor Irish people moved to America to escape starvation in Ireland.  With so many Irish people now living in New York and other American cities, the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations grew in size and popularity. 

In 1848, many New York Irish societies decided to join together to form one big St. Patrick’s Day Parade.  Today, that parade is the largest parade in the United States with over 150,000 people participating each year and 3 million people watching on the side of the road.  There are also very large St. Patrick’s Day parades held in other cities, including Boston and Chicago.

As Irish immigrants spread out over the United States and around the world, cities and countries developed their own traditions.  This is especially true in the United States, Canada and Australia.  Some common traditions include wearing shamrocks, which represents St. Patrick’s teachings to the Irish people.  Many people like to plan Irish music, including fiddles and pipes, on St. Patrick’s day.  There is a tradition of people carrying a snake staff in St. Patrick’s day parades to represent St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland.  

In Chicago, the city even dyes the local river green for St. Patrick’s Day!

While Irish people eat bacon and cabbage on St. Patricks, Irish Americans now celebrate by eating a meal of corned beef and cabbage. This is because the first Irish immigrants to America were very poor and couldn’t afford the traditional bacon and cabbage that they ate back home. Instead they had corned beef and cabbage, having learned about this cheaper meat from their new Jewish neighbours in America. 

Many listeners will likely have heard about the small Irish imp called a “leprechaun”.  Leprechauns come from old Celtic belief in fairies, which were tiny, magical men and women. In old Celtic fairy tales, leprechauns were cranky little people that were responsible for mending the shoes of the other fairies. Leprechauns were also believed to be hiding gold and would use trickery to protect their hiding places. Today, many people like to dress up as leprechauns on St. Patrick’s Day. 

One tradition that many children are familiar with is the practice of pinching people on St. Patrick’s day if they are not wearing green. Because green came to be seen as the color of Irish pride amongst Irish people in America, pinching those who were not wearing green started as a gentle way of reprimanding those who were not showing Irish pride.  To reprimand means to scold or criticize someone.  However, now-of-days, kids do this mostly just for fun.  So don’t forget to wear something green on March 17th!

Have you ever seen and participated in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations?  What are some of the ways that your family celebrates their cultural heritage?  

If you do leave a comment or message on the Bedtime History Facebook or Instagram pages.  We’d love to hear more about your family and cultural celebrations.  And for those who celebrate, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

The History of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for Kids

Close your eyes and picture that you are sitting in a grand concert hall.  The year is the 1762 and the hall is a large and beautiful hall in Europe.  It is full of wealthy people dressed in beautiful and fancy clothes. On the stage is a large orchestra of musicians, playing the most beautiful music you have ever heard.

You can’t believe how beautiful the music is.  After the orchestra is finished, everyone jumps to their feet and claps with loud applause, including you.  It is a magnificent show!  Then, to your surprise, the composer of the music comes on stage.  He is a young teenager and is only twelve years old!  His name is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Wolfgang Mozart was an Austrian composer who wrote many operas, concertos, symphonies and sonatas that shaped classical music in a very significant way.  He was one of the most talented and productive musical composers of all time.  

Wolfgang was born in the year 1756.  He was very gifted and was able to play a number of different instruments from a very young age. Wolfgang’s father Leopold was a successful composer, violinist and assistant concert-master. Wolfgang’s father introduced him and his older sister Nannerl to music at an early age.  When Wolfgang was three, he watched his seven year old sister learn piano.  He started to copy her playing and at a very young age, he started to show that he understood music and could play himself.  

Wolfgang’s father started teaching both his children how to play, even though Wolfgang was so young.  However, Wolfgang and his sister practiced a lot and worked on perfecting their playing.  Wolfgang soon showed signs of excelling beyond his father’s teachings.  He wrote his first piece of music at age five and learned how to play the harpsichord, the violin, the piano, organ and the viola.

When Wolfgang was young, Europe was divided into many small city-states which were run by the wealthy aristocrats.  Aristocrats means someone who is related to the king or queen of a country and is usually rich.  The aristocrats were so wealthy that they would pay artists and musicians to entertain and inspire them and their guests. When Wolfgang was six, his father took him and his sister across Europe to play music in these different cities for the aristocrats who paid to hear them play. Wolfgang’s first show was for the court of Bavaria in Munich.  He was only six years old! 

The Mozarts travelled to many cities and played in Paris, London, the Hague and Zurich.  These trips were long and difficult. They rode in vehicles like wagons and it was very uncomfortable.  Many times Wolfgang and other members of his family became very sick.  However, there were many good things about the time that Wolfgang spent touring as a child.  During the many tours his father took him on, Wolfgang met many musicians and got to know their music.  This included Johann Christian Bach in London, who had a big influence on Wolfgang. 

When Wolfgang was thirteen, he traveled from Salzburg to Italy where he lived with his father.  On this trip, Wolfgang’s sister stayed home with their mother, as she was at the age that she was supposed to get married.  The custom of the time was that when a girl was at the age to get married, she was not allowed to perform music in public anymore.  A custom is a traditional way of doing something.

Wolfgang and his father travelled to many cities and put on many shows during their time in Italy.  They were there for two years because they were trying to build the largest audience they could for Wolfgang’s talents.  One time, when Wolfgang was in Rome, he visited the Sistine Chapel and heard a song/concert called Miserere composed by Gregorio Allegri.  He later wrote out the entire score from memory and only had to go back and make a few small edits.  A score is the written version of music.

During the time that Mozart was in Italy, he also wrote a new opera, Mitreidate, re di Ponto for the court of Milan.  It was so beautiful that other aristocrats in Italy hired Wolfgang to write other operas. He wrote two more during that trip: Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772).  He was only a teenager at the time.

In March 1773, Mozart and his father returned home.  When they got there, Mozart was appointed assistant concertmaster of the church and he was paid a small salary.  A salary is an amount of money that someone gets paid regularly for doing a job. During this time, Mozart worked with many different types of music and wrote many amazing symphonies before he was even 21 years old. 

Even though he was successful in writing a lot of music, Mozart started feeling like he wanted to leave his hometown of Salzburg and do something greater.  He believed he could do that better somewhere else. Wolfgang traveled with his sister to Mannheim, Paris, and Munich, three large cities in Europe at the time. Unfortunately while they were on the trip, the got word that their mom had died and they returned home.

Wolfgang took on another job and continued writing a lot of music.  He also taught music and played several concerts. Around this time, Mozart met a young woman named Constanze Weber and they fell in love.  They got married and later had six children.  However, it was not a healthy time in history and only two of their children survived being babies. 

Wolfgang admired the works of other famous composers Johannes Sebastian Bach and George Frederic Handel and became obsessed with their music.  Around this time, Mozart also met another famous composer named Joseph Haydn and the two composers became friends. When Haydn visited Vienna, they sometimes performed impromptu concerts with string quartets. Between 1782 and 1785 Mozart wrote six quartets dedicated to Haydn.

Mozart was making a lot of money from his concerts and music and he was becoming even more famous throughout Europe.  He and Constanze had a very expensive lifestyle. However, because they spent so much money, they eventually found themselves poor again. Mozart decided that he wanted to get the job of court appointed musician, as it would pay him well.  However there were others that wanted this job, including his rival Antonio Salieri.

Mozart wrote two operas during this time, one called The Marriage of Figaro in 1786 and one called Don Giovanni in 1787. They were both very popular and they helped him to get the job he was seeking.  In December, 1787, Emperor Joseph II appointed Wolfgang as his “chamber composer”.

Mozart died on December 5, 1791 at age 35. He had gotten sick with rheumatic fever and did not recover.  Wolfgang died very young, even for that time period. At the time of his death, Mozart was considered one of the greatest composers of all time already. His music continues to be popular and his work has influenced many great composers that followed, most notably Beethoven.

Mozart may have been gifted, but it was his love of music and dedication to it that made him improve as a composer and musician.  Mozart’s love of music shines through his pieces, which are still loved around the world today.  

We can also learn from Mozart about the power of persistence.  He exercised persistence throughout his life and did not give up as he worked to build his fame and later to support his family through his music. 

Mozart’s life also teaches us about the importance of prudence.  Mozart became very wealthy but did not take good care of his money and so he soon found himself poor again. If you work hard to achieve something in life, make sure that you take care of it.  Be careful to save money and not spend too much so that you can enjoy your money throughout your life. 

But most importantly, Mozart demonstrates the power of loving an art form like music and dedicating your time and energy into something that you love.  Is there something that you love as much as Mozart loved music?

The History of Halloween for Kids

Every year around this time in North America, the nights get longer and darker.  Children start to visit pumpkin patches and plan their costumes all in the hopes of getting ready for Halloween.  People decorate their yards with scary scenes and decorations.  And families fill large bowls with candy to hand out to children on Halloween Night. 

Have you ever wondered where the tradition of Halloween comes from?

Halloween began as an ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (“sow-in”).  Celtic people were northern European people that lived in the United Kingdom and Ireland 2,000 years ago.  The Samhain festival was celebrated on the Celtic peoples’ new year, which was on November 1st.  

The festival marked the end of summer and the beginning of dark cold winters.  The Celtic people believed that on the night before the new year, the ghosts of the dead returned to the earth for one night. 

During the festival of Samhain, people would light bonfires and wear costumes. The purpose was that they thought that it was one night a year that they could also predict the future.  They thought that the bonfire and costumes helped them to tell each other’s fortunes.  The Celtic people thought of these spirits as friendly, after all they were ghosts of their relatives.  They set places at the dinner table, left treats on doorsteps and lit candles along the side of the road leading up to their houses to help their loved ones find their way back home and then back to the spirit world.

Usually, the night after the Samhain festival, people would use fire from the sacred bonfire to re-light the fires in their home fireplaces.  They thought that this would help to protect them during the winter.  

Many years later, Roman people invaded the area and Christianity spread to the Celtic people that lived there.  By the 9th century, Christian traditions blended together with Celtic traditions, including the Samhain celebrations on November 1st.  

The Christian church called November 1st “All Souls’ Day” and it became a day that was blended together into one festival to honour the dead.

The newly titled, “All Souls Day” was celebrated in a way similar to what had been done to celebrate Samhain. People made big bonfires and dressed up in costumes and had parades.  The costumes that most people dressed up in at the time were of saints, angels and devils. The Middle English word Alholowmesse meant “All Saints’ Day” and later became “All-hallows”. The night before that, October 31st, became known as “All-Hallows Eve” and eventually, Halloween.

When immigrants travelled from the United Kingdom to America in the 1500s and 1600s, they brought Halloween with them. On the east coast of America, new Americans from Europe and Native Americans already living there, started to interact.  Eventually Halloween began to become a blended event again.  This time, it was version of the European version and American version brought together — also called a hybrid.  A hybrid means a thing that is made by combining two different elements.  And so Halloween changed again as it became a new version in America.

People began to hold plays to celebrate the harvest season and they would act out and share stories about the dead and dance and sing.  Some of the practices came from the Celtic Samhain festival and some were Native American practices.  People also told each other’s fortunes, played tricks on each other and told stories about the dead.  

Halloween started to spread from the east coast of America across the country.  Many new immigrants started coming to the United States from Ireland and other places.  As the Irish people, who were ancestors of the Celtic people, spread across the country and the tradition of celebrating Halloween came with them.

In England and Ireland, the celebration of All-Hallows Eve involved dressing up in costumes and going from house to house to ask for money or food.  In America, this became the tradition of trick-or-treating.  

The tradition of dressing up in costumes on Halloween began in old England as well.  In the olden days on All Hallows Eve, people thought that ghosts came back to earth for one day.  They generally tried not to leave their homes on that day, but if they did have to for some reason, they would dress in a costume of a ghost or spirit so that if they did come across a ghost, it would think they were a ghost too.

Another tradition of Celtic people on All Hallows Eve was to leave bowls of food outside their houses so that ghosts would find it and be happy.  As a result, they wouldn’t try to get in the house.  This was the start of the tradition of “Trick-or-treating.”

Trick-or-treating today is a very popular activity.  But in the old days it was not the same activity as it was in Celtic times.  Back then, there were a lot of poor people.  Because so many people were hungry, the government encouraged families who had enough food to put out bowls on Halloween to give the food to the poor instead.  People started doing this and once it became a common practice, more and more people started going door to door to beg for food on All Hallows Eve.  One type of food that people would commonly give out was called “soul cakes”.  People started handing these out to people who knocked on their door in exchange for the poor person making promises that they would say prayers for their dead relatives. 

The tradition of handing out treats became more wide-spread over time, and more and more people joined the practice of “trick-or-treating.”  Eventually, people would play tricks on their neighbours on this night to make them think that ghosts were trying to get into their house.  This grew into all sorts of different tricks and jokes.  But some people did not like to get pranked. In order to prevent tricks being played on them, some neighbours started handing out sweets to make them stop.  

Another common superstition that we practice on Halloween is avoiding crossing paths with black cats.  The idea that black cats cause bad luck came from the Middle Ages.  Back then, many people believed that witches were real.  They thought that if a witch was spotted and being chased, that she would turn into a black cats so that she could escape and no one could know where she was.

In the late 1800s, many people because religious.  Some of the most widespread religions in America at the time did not think that it was good to dress up as ghosts or celebrate the dead on Halloween.  They wanted Halloween to be more of a happy celebration about neighbours and getting together.  They started getting together to host parties and had costumes and games and treats instead of the traditional plays and bonfires and pranking.

Community leaders started encouraging people to stop wearing scary costumes.  Kids started to dress in sweet or funny costumes often instead.  Because of these efforts, in the early 1900s, Halloween lost much of its superstitious and religious elements. Superstitious means believing in and celebrating supernatural beings, like ghosts.

In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a “baby boom” in America, which means that a lot of babies were born within a short period of time.  This happened after the second world war because soldiers came home and western countries were safe and happy again.  Because there were so many kids born at that time, the parties that used to be held in the town centre or town hall area in past years were now moved to be celebrated in classrooms and house parties where more people could fit comfortably.

Today Halloween is an American tradition and has become incredibly popular.  People spend millions of dollars each year on Halloween candy and decorations.  Halloween is the second most popular western holiday after Christmas  

Is Halloween something that you celebrate in your neighborhood?  Do you like to get dressed up in costumes in October and attend parties?  Well now that you know the history of Halloween, you will know where some of these interesting traditions come from.  Maybe you’ll also think about how interesting it is that traditions change over time, as different people move to different parts of the world and bring traditions with them and how others adopt them and turn them into their own version over time.  It is cool to think that many traditions of Halloween have lasted over 2,000 years and have become widespread in many other countries than the celebration’s Celtic origin. And it is equally interesting to think about how the celebration has changed over time and why.

Regardless, we hope you have a safe and happy Halloween and that you get a chance to have some fun with some of the old and new traditions that are part of this spooky but fun time of year.  Happy Halloween!

The History of Hedy Lamarr for Kids

Have you ever wanted to invent something?  What if you were someone who enjoyed playing with technology, but everyone expected you to do something else very different?

That is what happened to Hedy Lamarr, one of the most famous actresses during the “Golden Age of Hollywood.” Hedy later became an inventor and helped invent the technology that later became the foundation of wireless communications, like the internet.

Hedy was born in Vienna in Austria-Hungary in 1913.  When she was born her real name Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler.  “Hedy” was her nickname.  

Hedy was the only child in a Ukrainian Jewish family and her father was a successful bank director.  Her mother was a professional pianist and came from an upper-class Jewish family in Budapest, the capital of what is now called Hungary.  

When Hedy was a child, she showed an interest in acting.  She loved the theatre and film.  When she was 12 years old, she won a beauty contest in Vienna.  This encouraged her to pursue her dream of becoming an actress, as she had seen that many women in films at the time were very beautiful.

Hedy started to act in eastern European movies in Budapest.  When she was a teenager, she was discovered by an Austrian film director.  He cast her in a movie called “Ecstasy”, which became a popular movie internationally. 

Hedy decided to continue the momentum of this movie’s popularity and she flew to the United States and signed a contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (or MGM) studio in Hollywood.  Momentum means to speed up and gain force. Sometimes when good things start to happen for you, in your career or otherwise in life, it is wise to take the opportunity to follow this momentum and see how far it can take you.

So Hedy moved to Hollywood and it was at this time that she changed her name from Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler to “Hedy Lamarr”.  She thought it would be easier for Americans to say and remember.

Hedy’s first American film was called Algiers and co-stared Charles Boyer. Everyone who saw the movie loved her and she became immediately popular.  At the time, she was considered to be one of the most beautiful and exotic of Hollywood’s female actresses.  Exotic means unique or from another country.  Americans hadn’t seen other actresses who looked liked her and they wanted to see her in more movies.

She started to star in a number of American movies throughout the 1930s and 1940s, including Lady of the Tropics, Boom Town and Samson and Delilah.  This was later called “the Golden Age of Hollywood” because it was when Hollywood movies grew in popularity and there was a lot of glamour around the idea of working in studios on movies.

But Hedy’s life wasn’t all glitz and glamour.  Hedy lived in Europe before the start of World War II.  When she left for the United States to become a Hollywood actress, she left her family behind.  Unfortunately, later during the war, her home country of Austria was invaded by the Germans and Hedy had to help get her family out of Europe to safety in America.  It was not an easy thing to do, but Hedy was successful and her mother was able to escape. 

Hedy enjoyed acting, but she was not just a beautiful actress.  She was also very smart and after acting on many films, she became bored of just doing that.  She felt frustrated that at the time, women’s role in movies were often to just look beautiful and not to say too much.  So she started to develop her other interest: science and technology.

Hedy worked with her friend, the composer George Antheil, on a radio signaling device or “Secret Communications System” which was a way of changing radio frequencies to keep enemies from decoding messages.  They worked on this to help defeat the German Nazis that had invaded her home country of Austria and other parts of Europe. 

The work the that Hedy and George did later formed the foundation of what is now wireless communications.  This is fundamental to all sorts of technological advances including cell phones and the internet.  Unfortunately at the time, people did not appreciate how important their amazing invention was and so at the time she didn’t get credit for what she had done.

But when she was older, Hedy was recognized for her work on technology and won awards for the work that she and George had done.  

Hedy also had a family, including three children, and after living in the US for many years in 1953 she became an American citizen.

Hedy was reclusive in old age, which means she liked to be on her own and live away from society.  She lived her later years in Florida where she died on January 19, 2000 at the age of 86.

Hedy was an amazing woman and did a lot of remarkable things for someone of her time.  She is an example of someone who worked hard, both at acting and at her passion, science and inventing.  She overcame stereotypes, which means that she went beyond the expectations that other people had for her.

Hedy did not allow herself to be boxed in by who she was.  A lot of people assumed that she was a beautiful actress but probably not very smart.  Hedy proved to be both.  She realized that she could go beyond something that initially interested her and become a scientist as well, despite the fact that this was not common for women at the time.

We can learn from Hedy about the value of following your passion and believing in yourself.  She wanted to work in the science field and she wanted to contribute to the effort of stopping the invaders in the Second World War.  Her hard work and effort paid off, for herself and for the world, who benefitted from her efforts.

Is there something that you are interested in or a field that you would like to contribute to?  Like Hedy, you can make a difference by getting involved in a field that you are curious about, working hard and believing in yourself.  And who knows what importance your contributions will play in the world and in the future.