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.

The History of Boudica for Kids

When you think of Great Britain, what do you think of? A modern country with a prime minister, democratic elections, and people from all over the world? Or maybe you think of the kings and queens who ruled for hundreds of years; or the royal family of today, with Queen Elizabeth, Prince Edward, and Prince Harry. Or maybe you think of it as your home! 

Today, we’re going to travel to Britain, but it will be the Britain of almost 2,000 years ago. This was before the kings and queens we think of as being a major part of England’s history, before the modern country with a prime minister and parliament.  We are going to meet a queen though. This queen ruled an ancient tribe called the Iceni (eye-seen-eye). She inspired her people and made great sacrifices for them when they needed it most. They needed an inspiring leader, because this was a troubling time for them. This was a time when their island was becoming part of the Roman Empire. 

But wait, isn’t Rome in Italy? Yes, it is, you don’t need to check your atlas. Although the city of Rome is in Italy, and has been for thousands of years, in ancient times, Rome was also an empire. This meant that they went out and conquered, or took over control of many areas far from their original city and surrounding region. By the first century before the common era, the Roman empire had reached Britain’s doorstep, and they didn’t plan to knock politely and ask to be let in. 

Before the Romans came along, much of England was inhabited by people called Celts (Kelts). There were many Celtic tribes with many names. They shared a similar culture and similar languages. Together, these tribes were often called the Britons, and you’ll hear me use that term as well today. Sometimes the tribes fought with each other, but they had a thriving and complex society. They worked both iron and bronze to make tools, jewelry, drinkware and other items. They worshipped their own gods, built houses and forts, farmed the land, and issued their own coins. The Iceni (eye-seen-eye) were one of these tribes. 

The Celtic people had followed this way of life for centuries, but things started to change when Julius Caesar invaded Britain in the first century BCE. At that time, Rome didn’t take over completely. They let the Celtic tribes live pretty much as they always had, but they did force many of the local rulers to pay tribute to Rome. This meant they were expected to send money or gifts to Rome, and support the Romans against their enemies. These local kings were now ruling over client kingdoms. Being a client kingdom of Rome often meant they’d eventually try to make you part of the Empire officially. Later, in the middle of the first century CE, that’s exactly what happened. The Roman Emperor Claudius conquered the southern part of Britain, and made it an official Roman province in 43 CE. 

The Roman conquest meant big changes for the Celtic tribes who lived in the area or nearby. The Romans sent a governor to run the province and set up a capital city. They brought along many new luxuries from the continent as well, such as food and drinks, glassware, and jewelry. The Romans wanted to teach the Celtic people how to live like Romans, but they also needed places for their retired soldiers to live. The Roman empire had made a promise that if you joined the military, they would give you a piece of land to farm when you completed your service. Many poor citizens thought this was a great offer. Most of the land closer to Rome, in Italy, belonged to a few very wealthy nobles, who used slaves to farm it. This left very little land for the poor to live on or farm. So part of the reason Rome conquered so many other tribes and kingdoms was to give their poorer citizens, especially soldiers, someplace where they could own land. 

There were still many independent tribes in Britain, even after Claudius set up the Roman colony. The Iceni were one, and they lived in the eastern part of England. After Claudius set up the Roman province of Britain, he let the Iceni live as a client kingdom under their own king. His name was Prasutagus. Prasutagus had a wife named Boudicca and two daughters who lived with him. The Romans allowed him to keep control over his small kingdom. When Prasutagus passed away he left his home and land to his two daughters and to Rome.

But Romans acted as though he had left it to Rome alone. They treated his widow, Boudicca (Boo-DI-kuh) and his daughters very badly, even beating them. They also took away all the land, possessions, and money he had wanted his daughters to have. 

The Roman veterans had also begun treating the local British people very poorly, stealing their land and even forcing some of them into slavery. This made them angry. When they saw how Boudicca and her daughters were being treated, they became even angrier and began to rebel.

The tribes in Briton decided to join forces. They chose Boudicca to lead them. She was a powerful woman. A later Roman historian describes her as very intelligent and strong-willed. She was tall, with fierce eyes and long hair the color of a lion’s mane. She led the Britons in an attack on the capital of Roman province, Camulodunum. The Romans thought it was very strange and inappropriate for a woman to lead an army. At first, they may have thought she couldn’t do a very good job. The Roman leader didn’t send enough troops to defeat the rebels. The governor himself was with his army in another part of England, trying to win even more new territory for Rome. 

But, having Boudicca as their commander wasn’t that unusual for the Britons. Women from the Celtic tribes often did lead soldiers in battle. This allowed the Britons to win their first victory at the Roman capital easily. Next, they went on to attack and raid the towns of Verulamium and Londinium. You might know Londinium by its modern name, London.

As the Britons continued their march, the Romans finally decided to take Boudicca’s rebellion seriously. The Romans returned to the area with an even bigger army. 

Boudicca encouraged her troops before each battle, riding among them with her two daughters in a chariot. She told them she was with them not as a queen, but as one of the people who had lost her freedom and been mistreated just like them. She told them it was better to live a simple, poor life with freedom, than to give up their freedom and have all the luxuries the Roman had brought to the island. Her plan was that they would either win their freedom, or fall trying.

Unfortunately, though Boudicca led her people valiantly, they fell trying. The Britons lost the battle with Suetonius’ army. Boudicca died alongside many of her people. Their part of Britain was now Roman. Over the next 20 years, the Romans would expand their territory in Britain almost all the way to Scotland, in the north of the island.

But although her rebellion wasn’t successful in the end, Boudicca left a legacy that people have looked to for inspiration for thousands of years. Artists and poets, especially many from Britain, have found inspiration in Boudicca’s story. Poets like Alfred Lord Tennyson and William Cowper wrote poems celebrating her story, and many artists have memorialized her in paintings and sculpture. A bronze sculpture of Boudicca stands near the Palace of Westminster in London, where the British government meets. It shows Boudicca and her daughters riding in their chariot as she rallied the soldiers. Boudicca also helped inspire women in England to fight for the right to vote in the early twentieth century. These women, called suffragists, would carry a banner with Boudicca’s name on it as they marched in the streets, demanding that they be allowed to vote.

Standing up for what you believe is right isn’t always about winning. And you don’t have to win every time in order to inspire people and make progress. Boudicca stood up not just for her family, or her tribe, but for her entire culture. She stood up for ideals like freedom and self-determination, even when it was clear that she would most likely not succeed. Standing up for what is right, even if you don’t win, is always worthwhile!

Poems:

https://www.bartleby.com/41/320.html

https://allpoetry.com/poem/8473297-Boadicea-by-Alfred-Lord-Tennyson

Sources

Cassius Dio Roman History  Bk 62 https://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/e/roman/texts/cassius_dio/62*.html

Tacitus Annales Bk 14.29-37

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roman_conquest_of_Britain

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prasutagus

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/celts

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/british_prehistory/overview_british_prehistory_ironage_01.shtml
https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095617744
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boadicea_and_Her_Daughters

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 Charlemagne for Kids

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a king? Would it be an easy life for a hard one? Would you just do whatever you please, or would you work to make your kingdom a better place for the people living in it? Today we’re going to learn about Charlemagne, one of the most powerful kings of Europe. 

Charlemagne was born around the year 742 C.E. He lived during what is known as medieval times. Think of castles and knights and ladies. That is the medieval times. Charlemagne was a Frank. The Franks were a Germanic people who lived in what is now known as Belgium, France, Luxemborg, the Netherlands and Germany. The Franks became very powerful at the time the Roman Empire was losing power.  France is named after the Franks. 

Charlemagne’s father was Pepin the Short who was the king of the Franks. Pepin led the Franks in war and won many battles. His kingdom grew as he won battles for his people. This made him and his family very powerful. Very little is known about Charlemagne’s childhood to this day, but it is known that he grew tall and strong, he had light hair, and was good at learning languages. He became a powerful warrior and later in battle carried a large sword with a gold hilt, which he named Jway-uze.

When Charlemagne’s father died in 768, his kingdom was divided between Charlemagne and his brother, Carloman, who didn’t get along very well. But once his brother died, Charlemagne became the only ruler of the kingdom. He was also known as Charles the Great, which is what Charlemagne translates to. 

As king, Charlemagne’s main goal was to unite all of the people of his kingdom under one rule and one religion, which was Christianity. Charlemagne was a skilled military leader and used his talents and his army to bring other people under his rule. Over the years he fought in 53 military campaigns to enlarge his kingdom. The people he fought included the Avars (what is now Austria and Hungary), the Lombards (what is now Italy) and Bavaria, along with other peoples. One of his most difficult opponents were the Saxons, the people of what is now Germany. They wanted to be free and control their own lands, not be part of Charlemagne’s kingdom. They resisted him fiercely, but Charlemagne was determined to bring them under his rule, even though it required a great deal of violence and cruelty. Charlemagne was known for doing whatever it took to reach his goals of growing his kingdom. Even if it meant hurting others. But whenever Charlemagne conquered the Saxons in one place, they’d start fighting him in another place. It took him over 30 years to finally bring the Saxon’s under his rule, they were a very independence people. Because Charlemagne was Christian, anyone forced into his kingdom was required to adopt the his religion as well. Charlemagne also fought very hard to take control of Italy, which finally ended in 777 C.E.

Charlemagne had a very large family! It was very important to him that his children became educated. At the time only monks knew how to read and write, but Charlemagne believe it was important for kings and their families to be educated. This was very out of the ordinary for his day. He loved books and often had someone read to him while he was eating. Even though he was a kind and very rich, he dressed very simply and ate simple food. He believed this made him stronger. He also saw how many kings became rich and then became lazy, spending all of their time enjoying their money, good food, big castles, and nice clothes. Instead, Charlemagne focused on staying strong and smart. He built libraries in his homes and stayed active. He also made sure his children didn’t grow lazy with all of their wealth. He hired tutors to make sure his many children learned how to read and studied good books. 

Charlemagne once said to his sons, “You think because you are rich and are the sons of the great men of my kingdom that your birth and wealth will protect you in my favor. I will let you know that you stand in need of learning more than those who are poor and dependent. You think only of your pleasures and of your dress and play, but I attach no importance to your wealth and to your station, and if you idle your time when you are young you will be worthless when you are old.”

During the time of Charlemagne’s reign, the Christian church based in Rome was concerned about being taken over by its enemies. Because Charlemagne was Christian, he gave much of his money to support the church in Rome. The leader of the church in Rome was called the Pope, and at the time his name was Pope Leo III. In order to create a strong alliance between Rome and Charlemagne, so he could protect them, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne emperor of the Romans in 800 C.E. on Christmas Day at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. This gave people and leaders throughout Rome even greater respect for Charlemagne. 

After taking control of much of Europe, and even though he did it in a very violent way, Charlemagne did a good job at taking care of the lands he had conquered. He allowed people to keep most of their laws and customs and let them rule themselves. Because he believed in education, he had schools built and used his money to pay for teachers. He also pushed for schools to use an alphabet that was the same, so people could communicate better within his big empire. 

He also wanted the economy to be strong in his empire. An economy relates to how people buy and sell things. He worked to have common money used throughout his empire, to make it easier for people to buy and sell goods. He ordered the construction of a great canal, the Fossa Carolina, to connect the Rhine and Danube Rivers. A canal is a man-made river. The uniting of these lands and the result of his reforms are called the Carolingian Renaissance. He also became known as the “Father of Europe.”

Charlemagne often moved throughout his empire, living in different lands in order to help govern them and push his reforms. He was also known to be very athletic. He liked hunting, horseback riding, and swimming. 

Because of his activity, Charlemagne was known to be very healthy most of his life, but during the last four years he had fevers and started to limp. In 813, he crowned his son Louis the Pious as a co-emperor. In 814 when Charlemagne died Louis became the emperor. He was buried in a cathedral in Aachen, ending a reign of more than 40 years. It is incredible to think of all that was accomplished during his reign. 

Like many people in history, Charlemagne’s character is a complicated one. Like many military leaders like Julius Caesar or Napolean, he was very driven by power to conquer all of Europe. This led him to do many terrible things and attack people who just wanted to be left alone. When Charlemagne did finally conquer, he did his best to make his kingdom a good one.

Thanks for listening to this episode about Charlemagne. We also have a video on YouTube about Charlemagne if you want to check it out. Thanks again and be sure to tune in next week for a brand new episode!

The Story of Grace Hopper for Kids

Has your curiosity ever gotten you in trouble? Maybe you took something apart or made a mess while you were trying to find out how it worked, or maybe you’ve asked a grown-up a question they didn’t know how to answer. If so, don’t feel bad about yourself! You have something in common with some of the smartest and most innovative people in history, including the subject of today’s episode, Grace Murray Hopper. 

Grace was born and raised in New York City, and she was a very curious child. Her family had a large summer home, which they shared with her many cousins. Each of the seven bedrooms in the house had an alarm clock, and every evening, Grace’s mother would set each alarm clock. This was the early twentieth century, so these weren’t the kind of alarm your parents might have on their phone, or even a digital alarm clock. These were old-fashioned clocks with gears in them and two bells on top. When the alarm rang, a small hammer would go back and forth, quickly hitting the bells and making a loud, high-pitched ring. This kind of ringing was impossible to sleep through! If you imagine what an old-fashioned fire alarm might sound like, it would be similar to that. 

Grace was fascinated by the alarm clocks, and wanted to know how they worked. So she took one apart! But looking at the pile of gears, springs, and hands, in front of her, she still wasn’t sure. 

So she took apart another. 

Then another. 

Eventually, Grace took apart all seven alarm clocks, trying to figure out how all the tiny, complicated pieces worked together. Her mother wasn’t exactly happy about all the alarm clocks in the house being broken, but she was understanding, and she let Grace keep one clock to study.

Grace’s father also supported Grace’s curiosity. He encouraged her and her sister to get as much education as they could so they could support themselves. This was not common for girls in the early 1900s. Grace especially loved math and geometry. She used geometry to draw pictures. This is a fun way to use math – try to see what you can draw some time just using the basic shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. If you look around, you’ll notice these shapes, along with angles, lines, curves, and other things that can be described with numbers, in many things you see every day.

Grace worked hard in school, and was almost able to start college when she was sixteen! Why almost? Her test scores in math were very high, but her scores in Latin were too low. But, just as she had done with the alarm clocks, Grace didn’t quit trying after one failure. She tried again, and was able to start college the next year at seventeen. She graduated with degrees in math and physics in 1928. She went on to get a PhD in math at Yale in 1934. Eventually, she became a math professor at Vassar College.

When World War II started, Grace tried to join the Navy, which had just started accepting women. Her grandfather had been in the Navy, and she wanted to follow in his footsteps. But the Navy wouldn’t take Grace! Their reasons for rejecting her were not what you might think: they said she was valuable to the war effort as a math professor; she was too thin for her height; and she was too old at 34. This shows us another important lesson: people often don’t say no to you because they don’t like you. They might say no because of rules they have to follow, or because you’re too important! Not a bad reason to be rejected, right?

But knowing Grace, you can probably guess that this rejection didn’t hold her back. She tried again. Grace took a leave of absence from her job as a professor and volunteered for the Naval Reserves. She had to get special permission due to her weight being too low, but she got to serve in the Navy and support the war effort, just like she wanted. Not only that, she was at the top of her class in the training program! The Navy sent her to Harvard University to work on the first computer made in the United States, the Mark I.

Grace worked on programming the Mark I to help the navy solve problems on their ships. Programming a computer means giving it instructions so it will do what you want it to do. You might be wondering why Grace was given a job programming computers. But, have you ever thought about why a computer is called a computer? Well, it’s because their original purpose was to compute things, to do complex math that humans can’t do quickly. The navy used the Mark I to help them track the location of enemy ships and submarines. It could perform math quickly, and never made mistakes like human mathematicians sometimes do. But, the Mark I did need humans to tell it exactly what math to do, and that was Grace’s job. 

Early computers were programmed using numbers and symbols. You had to understand a lot of mathematics to program a computer, which is why many early programmers like Grace, had degrees in math. Programming was complicated and it was easy to make mistakes, even for an expert. So Grace would save pieces of programs that did specific things so she could use them again in new programs. She also developed a system that allowed the computer to find these pieces of code without her having to input all of it again.

After the war, in 1949, Grace went to work at Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation. Here, she worked on Univac, the first computer in the United States to be sold to businesses for general purposes. This got her thinking about what people were trying to do with computers, and she realized not everyone could get their job done using only the language of math, numbers and symbols. Grace thought there should be computer programming languages that were based on the English language. This would make it easier for more people to learn to program and use computers to help them do their jobs. But, in order to create this kind of programming language, she also needed to invent the technology to translate English-based commands into the mathematical language that computers understood.

And that’s exactly what Grace did! She called her translator a compiler. If you want to imagine what a compiler does, think of all the word problems you’ve seen in your math books. You might have a problem like:

“Dan has seven apples. He gives three of them to Isaac. How many apples does Dan have left?”

The English words in this sentence give us clues about what kind of math problem we need to do. We know that the special words seven and three are numbers. We know if someone gives something away, they will have fewer of that thing. This gives us a clue that we need to subtract to find the answer. Once we think it through a bit, we can figure out that we need to write a math problem, “seven minus three equals” and then compute the answer. A compiler does something similar: it has a set of rules it uses to take the commands and translate them into numbers. The rules are more complicated than the subtraction word problem we just talked about, but the idea is similar.   

At first, the men Grace worked with thought this idea was crazy. But she kept working on her ideas for years, and eventually, others who worked with computers accepted them. Grace also reached her goal of inventing the first programming language based on English words, rather than numbers and symbols. This new language became known as COBOL. It was used for decades, and is even still used today. More importantly, COBOL inspired many other computer scientists to invent new programming languages based on human language to solve different types of problems. Today there are dozens of languages, and millions of people who learn and use them everyday. 

Later Grace returned to working for the Navy. After a long career, she reached the rank of rear admiral. At the time, she was one of the highest ranking women in the Navy. She retired in 1986 at the age of 80, but even after retiring, she continued to work. She was always eager to help young people learn about computers and programming, and aside from inventing the compiler, she said this was one of her greatest accomplishments.

Grace used to have a clock on her office wall. It was the kind of clock with hands that tick off the hours, seconds and minutes, just like the alarm clocks she took apart as a child. But this clock was unique: its hands went around in the opposite direction from other clocks. Instead of going clockwise, her clock went counter-clockwise! Even though the clock went backwards, it still ticked off the hours and minutes reliably, and gave the right time. 

Grace said this clock was a reminder that you don’t have to do things the same way everyone else is doing them. If you think you have a different or better way to do something, you should try it, even if others don’t understand at first. And as she showed so many times in her life, don’t just try once. Try over and over again until you get it! If you have a good idea and work hard to make it a reality, other people will eventually notice. 

Grace never gave up when she had a goal or a  great idea, even when others around her didn’t support her. She kept working on her ideas, and showing her work to others, until they had to listen, and, often, had to admit she’d been right all along! She knew that good ideas didn’t always fit the way people had done things in the past. They might even seem a little crazy at first. But without crazy new ideas we wouldn’t make any progress.

Sources

https://stories.vassar.edu/2017/assets/images/170706-legacy-of-grace-hopper-hopperpdf.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Hopper

The History of D-Day: Operation Overlord for Kids

Close your eyes and imagine you are cold and sitting in the back of the boat. The sky is cloudy and many airplanes are flying overhead. The water from the chilly ocean is splashing into your boat and as you look ahead you see a beach which you and your team of soldiers must invade. Bombs explode in the water around you. Your boat tries to navigate through spikes and landmines that are guarding the water leading up to the beach. A boat nearby you is sinking from an explosion. “Out of the boat! Out of the boat!” someone shouts. The ramp to the front of the boat goes down and you rush out with the other soldiers. You are very scared, but you know in order to win the war this beach must be taken back! It is D-Day and you are one of the Allied soldiers preparing to take Normandy Beach in France.

For many years Hitler and the German Army controlled France and many other countries in Europe. The main goal of the Allies was to kick Hitler and his army out of France and take the fight to Germany. The Allies were made up of many countries, but the main ones were the United States, England, France, Russia, and Canada. D-Day was one of the most important missions of the war because it would take place on the beaches of France where the Allies would start taking back Europe from Hitler. 

The United States General Eisenhower was made command of the D-Day operation in January 1944. The Allies knew they wanted to attack, but weren’t sure where. And part of the plan was to trick Hitler into believing the attack would be from somewhere else, so he wouldn’t be able to concentrate all of his forces in one place. The Allies used many tricks to go about this such as spies, secret agents, fake tanks, and fake radio messages. They even put one of their best generals, George Patton, in different area to confused Hitler. Over 3,200 reconnaissance missions were used to prepare for D-Day. Reconnaissance means to to spy on the enemy and do research to decide how to act next. The original name of the mission was Operation Overlord, and only later referred to as D-Day.

The plan was to attack the Germans on Normandy Beach. 5,000 ships and 11,000 airplanes were used during the attack. After the ships brought in the soldiers, the plan was to put them all on amphibious vehicles, move them to the beach, then the soldiers would attack the Germans guarding the beach.

But the morning before they started the attack the Allie’s planes dropped bombs on the Germans guarding the beach. French people living in a town nearby were awoken to the sound of bombs. A French villager lived near a house overlooking the beaches. He said: “I saw light coming from two bombs that exploded at the ridge of the cliff.” The Allies were doing everything they could to make sure the soldiers coming in on the beach would be safe.

The night before the invasion 24,000 soldiers also parachuted out of planes and landed behind the German army to help the troops who would be landing on the beach. These soldiers were called “paratroopers.”

One of the paratroopers was named Bob Nobles. He and his 16-man team flew in a plane across the English Channel. Just after midnight the light inside their plane told them it was time to jump out. They all lined up and one after another jumped out of the back of the plane. He said “By the time my parachute opened, I was on the ground!” He landed in a farmer’s field all by himself and took off his parachute. Then he hurried off on foot until he came across another paratrooper. “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” the other paratrooper shouted. “I’m from Indiana! But I forgot the password!” They were supposed to have a password to know who was on their side and who was the enemy. Bob laughed as they looked for the rest of the teammates. But most of the other paratroopers had missed the drop zone, the place they were supposed to land.

These paratrooper missions proved to be very dangerous and a challenge in some cases where the soldiers landed in the wrong place or were captured or shot as soon as they landed. But in other cases the soldiers were able to regroup and take bridges and help the soldiers who would be landing on the beach the next day. 

The original plan was to attack on June 5th, but the weather was very bad, so it was put off until June 6th. In a message to troops before they left, General Eisenhower told them, “The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory…. We will accept nothing less than full victory!”

On June 6th 1944 starting at 6:30 a.m. the amphibious vehicles took the Allied troops from the ships to the beach. Amphibious means something that works in water and on land. These vehicles were designed to float like a boat and drive like a car!

Over 100,000 Allied soldiers attacked the beach at the same time! They were from many different countries like the United States, England, and Canada. The invasion was the largest amphibious landing and assault in history!

For many months the German Army had prepared for an attack on the beach. They had built many defenses armed with machine guns, barbed wire, land mines, so attacking the beach was extremely dangerous. 

One of the soldiers, Colonel Moulton, was on the amphibious landing craft with his soldiers. He told them to fire smoke bombs into the sky so they would be hidden from the enemy machine guns. It helped some, but their landing craft was still smashed up and some of the soldiers died when they hit the beach. Telling his story many years later, he said that the “Germans built concrete strong points in the villages and we landed right in front of one,” which caused much harm to his fellow soldiers.

Another soldier, Harry Timmins, said that when their landing craft came on the beach “the noise was more than you could possibly imagine. There were explosions all around us in the sea and the shells and mortars were kicking up sand all over the beach. A couple of buildings were on fire and the guns on our boat also joined in the barrage and deafened us.”

Many soldiers lost their lives as they came out of the landing vehicles. In some places the water was too high, so sadly they sank with all their heavy gear on. 

Another soldier, Robert Watson remembered that nothing went quite as planned. Everything took longer than expected and his landing craft was taking on a lot of water. “Landing craft were exploding all around me,” he remembered and got very sick in his boat. He remembered someone yelling “Get to the beach!” Then their craft hit a floating mine and they had to climb onto another craft to get the rest of the way to the beach. After he finally got to the beach he said, “I was scared my ammunition wouldn’t work” because it was wet. But he was able to fire shots without any problem and started firing at the enemy. The company of soldiers he started with had 62 soldiers. Only 36 of them were left after the attack. Many of his friends never made it to the beach. 

The beaches were given different codenames. Omaha Beach and Juno Beach had the most casualties. A casualty is when someone is hurt or dies in battle. By the end of the morning over 4,000 soldiers had died during the intense battle! 

By the time the battle was done the Allies had taken the beach and started moving into France. It was one of the most dangerous battles of World War II, but also one of the most important as well. Now that the Allies were in France they had shown the world and Hitler that they were very strong and would be able to win the war. The war continued on for many more days, but because of the sacrifices made on D-Day there was hope for the people of France and people all around the world that the war would come to an end.

Do you know anyone who has served in the military? Take some time to think about their bravery in deciding to serve and what courage it must take to decide to put your life on the line for your country. Think about those who gave their life on D-Day and how many of the freedoms you have exist, because someone else has given up their own time and sometimes even their life. There is a quote that says “Freedom isn’t free.” Freedom is often something that has to be fought for. Because of this, we shouldn’t take our own freedom for granted. Think about what you might do to keep freedom strong wherever you live. This might mean learning more about government and your local leaders. This might mean learning about different laws and voting when you are the right age. It might also mean serving in the military as well. Whatever you do to help, remember that freedom is a wonderful thing that not everyone has; and something we should never take for granted.

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 Marie Curie for Kids

Imagine you are in Europe. The year is 1895 and you live in Poland. Life is changing quickly at this time. Many people have been moving to cities for work or to America to start a new life. But you are a happy child, loving life with your four older siblings. Your father is a math and science teacher and from him, you have come to love math and science as well. However, you do not yet realize that one day you will become one of the most famous scientists in the world. You are Marie Curie.

Marie Curie was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1867. She was the youngest daughter of five children. When she was born, her name was Marie Sklodowska. She changed her name to Marie Curie later when she got married.

Marie had a happy child and she became interested in science at a young age. She was very smart and got good grades in school. Sadly when Marie was only 10, her mother died. She had become sick with tuberculosis. 

Marie was raised by her father and became more and more interested in math and physics. Physics is the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy. Even though Marie got the top grades in her high school, she was not able to go to university when she graduated. The reason was because the university in Warsaw was a men’s-only university at the time.

Marie was very disappointed, but she continued to learn about the subjects she loved however she could. One way was through a secret school that taught university type courses at different locations around the city. Marie’s older sister Bronya also loved learning. Together the two girls dreamed of going to America to study at university there.

However Marie and Bronya were not rich. So they could not pursue this dream of studying in America together. To pursue means to seek to accomplish a goal over a long period of time. Despite this problem, Marie and Bronya did not give up in their hope of going to university. The two girls made a deal with each other. They would attend university in Europe. However, they would not go together. They decided that Marie would work and pay for Bronya to live and attend university in Europe. Afterwards, Bronya would work and pay for Marie to attend. 

For five years, from the age of 19-24, Marie worked as a tutor and nanny for children. She sent most of the money she made to her sister. And in her spare time, Marie would study and read about science and math. 

When she was 24, Marie moved to Paris and started attending university at the Sorbonne, a famous university in France. Marie received money every month from Bronya, however, it was not enough to live and eat well. Marie mostly ate bread and butter. Because she was not eating a healthy diet, Marie got sick often. 

Despite these hardships, Marie finished a master’s degree in physics and a degree in math. 

Shortly after Marie graduated from the Sorbonne, she met a man named Pierre Curie. Pierre was a professor of physics. A professor is a teacher and researcher in a college or university. Marie and Pierre were introduced by a friend of Marie’s in order for Marie to try to find lab space for an experiment she was going to conduct. 

Marie and Pierre fell in love and they were married in 1895. They both loved science and physics. They worked together investigating radioactivity. Radioactivity is a process in which parts of matter break down and create energy.

In 1898, the Curies discovered two new chemical elements, polonium and radium. This was an amazing discovery…

They were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903.

In 1906, Pierre had an unfortunate accident. He was knocked down by a carriage while crossing the road and he died. 

Marie took over his work after his death, including his teaching post at the Sorbonne. In doing so, she became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. She devoted herself to continuing the work that she and Pierre had started together.

In 1911, she received a second Nobel Prize, this time in Chemistry. 

The work that the Curies did was important in the development of x-ray technology. X-rays are electromagnetic wave of high energy and very short wavelength. They are able to pass through many materials that light cannot. X-rays are used for surgeries and other medical procedures, as they are able to help create images of what is inside of our bodies. Doctors can then use these X-ray images to figure out what is wrong with someone and where to operate, if necessary. 

During World War I, Marie helped ambulances have x-ray machines. She also volunteered with the ambulances and drove to the front lines to help wounded soldiers. 

Marie became the head of the International Red Cross’s radiological service. The International Red Cross is an organization dedicated to protecting victims of international wars.

In the 1920s, when Marie was in her 50s, she developed leukaemia, which is a type of cancer.  This was due to her exposure to radiation from her research. She died on July 4, 1934.

Marie Curie’s determination and hard work during her lifetime brought about amazing scientific developments that impact us all still today. As a woman physicist, she was a trailblazer in her field and faced backlash for her participation. But Marie was strong and determined. And she persisted in doing the work that she loved anyways. As a result, our medical and scientific world was changed. 

Is there something that you are passionate about? With hard work and determination, like Marie Curie, you can also make a difference in the world and in the things you are interested in. The key is to carry on despite times that are hard or backlash from others that you face to your efforts. If you believe in something and want to make a difference, you can do it!