There's a popular saying that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Huh? How can that be? I believe there is an element of truth to this because so many people celebrate St. Paddy's Day, regardless of their ethnic heritage. Many of the day's customs have evolved into mainstream rituals. Let's take a look at the roots of a few of the traditional practices associated with St. Patrick's Day.


Although historically a religious holiday in Ireland, Timothy Meagher, a history professor at Catholic University in D.C., contends that Americans turned it into a celebration. The first parade was in New York City in 1762 and popularity grew as this became a way for Irish-Americans to demonstrate their heritage. The day was also commemorated with banquets at society clubs.



Wearing, Drinking and Going Green

Did you know the blue was originally the official color of St. Patrick's Day? Eventually green gained dominance. Ireland is known as The Emerald Isle, after all. There is also the green shamrock, a symbol used by St. Patrick, the holiday's namesake, to represent the Holy Trinity. Green is now reflected in the clothing worn on March 17, the beer and food consumed, and even the waters of the Chicago River.


Corned Beef and Cabbage

This is another example of how St. Patrick's Day has gone mainstream. Many consider corned beef and cabbage a traditional meal, but not so for the Irish. The likely inspiration for this Americanized meal is that cabbage and corned beef were cheap commodities 19th century Irish-Americans could afford.


What is your favorite St. Paddy's Day tradition? However you celebrate, I leave you with this Irish blessing:

May you always have
Walls for the winds,
A roof for the rain,
Tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire!

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Reading Celebrations Help Kids Discover the Joy of Books

In the last week, there have been two national and international reading celebrations. March 2 was Read Across America Day, and March 3 was World Book Day.

As part of its Read Across America reading program, the National Education Association (NEA) sponsored Read Across America Day, which coincides with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. More than 45 million teachers, parents and students were expected to participate in events geared toward "getting young people excited about reading."

World Book Day was celebrated in the UK and Ireland. Like the Read Across America program, the goal is to help children develop strong reading habits. Tokens for books are given to school children as one way to encourage reading.

Parents, especially mothers, are influential in helping children develop reading skills and in becoming lifelong readers. Consider these facts about children's literacy from the NEA:
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a divison of the U.S. Department of Education1, children who are read to at home enjoy a substantial advantage over children who are not.
  • According to NCES, only 53 percent of children ages three to five were read to daily by a family member (1999). Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read to aloud everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above poverty.
  • The U.S. Department of Education found that, generally, the more students read for fun on their own time, the higher their reading scores. Between 1984 and 1996, however, the percentage of 12th grade students reporting that they "never" or "hardly ever" read for fun increased from 9 percent to 16 percent.
How inspired you to read when you were young? What was your favorite book? What's your favorite way to teach kids about the benefits and pleasures of reading? Share your ideas! #amwriting #amreading