For hundreds of years, on February 2, people have wondered if the groundhog would awake to see his shadow.
The day probably started with the feast of Candlemas, which celebrates the Biblical story of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. On February 2, exactly 40 days after Christmas, people hoped for the end of the dark days of winter but perhaps were loathe to be too confident. The saying was, “If Candlemas be fair and clear, there will be two winters in the year.”
So, curiously that saying morphed into a groundhog or badger or some other creature who, when awakened on February 2, sees his shadow, and thus predict six more weeks of winter. Or doesn’t see it. Thus we start spring.
The date of February 2 is also thought to correspond to hibernation patterns. German farmers thought that if a badger emerged from his burrow and saw his shadow there would be six more weeks of winter. By 1841, German farmers in Pennsylvania were again marking the day, this time with a groundhog’s shadow.
As it turns out, both the groundhog and the badger have not been very good weather predictors. According to the National Climatic Data Center, groundhog predictions have been correct 39 percent of the time since 1887.
New day honors Vietnam veterans
March 29 is National Vietnam War Veterans Day, marking the third year the observance is held on the same date nationwide.
Although most states celebrate “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” each year, it hasn’t always fallen on the same day, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states observed it on the 29th and some on the 30th.
However, March 29 is the date in 1973 that the last combat troops were withdrawn from Vietnam, the website noted, along with the date that President Nixon chose for the first Vietnam Veterans Day in 1974.
The holiday became official when President Trump signed the “The Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act of 2017,” which encourages Americans to display the U.S. flag in honor of Vietnam veterans.
A similar holiday was observed on March 29, 2012, via a proclamation signed by President Obama, according to military.com, which said the year marked the start of a 13-year-long celebration honoring Vietnam War veterans that runs through Veterans Day 2025.
And of course the observance should not be confused with Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11 each year and honors veterans of all wars and conflicts. That holiday was originally established to mark the end of World War I and was initially referred to as Armistice Day.
Four great ways to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with your kids
Looking for something fun to do with your kids for St. Patrick’s Day? Get into the spirit of the occasion with these four fun activities.
1. Adopt a green diet. Put green food dye in the pancake batter in the morning. For dinner, mix avocado in with your mac and cheese. And for dessert? Consider lime Jell-O or chocolate mint ice cream.
2. Explore Irish traditions. Listen to traditional Irish music, write your own limericks and read up on Irish folklore and legends, including those about leprechauns, banshees and giants. Get crafty by making a St. Brigid’s Cross, sate your appetite with a hearty bowl of Irish Stew or discover Irish dancing by taking a class or watching a performance.
3. Attend a parade. Gear up in green clothing then head to your local dollar store to buy St. Patrick’s Day themed accessories. Be sure to bring hot cocoa in a thermos to sip while you watch the floats go by.
4. Make a leprechaun trap. Leprechauns are said to hide pots of gold at the end of rainbows. Legend has it that if caught by a human, these trickster-like fairies must hand over their treasure. See if you can catch your own leprechaun by building a trap the night before St. Patrick’s Day.
The easiest way to make a leprechaun trap is to decorate an empty box and place it upside down. Use a stick to prop up one end and leave a few shiny coins as bait. Leprechauns can’t resist the lure of gold and, in their excitement, may knock down the stick and get caught in your family’s trap. If they’re quick, they might get away. But leprechauns are known to leave treats for crafty kids who make impressive traps.
You don’t have to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick’s Day with your family — you just have to be willing to have a little fun.
What have the Irish ever done for us?
As we celebrate Ireland and all things Irish this St Patrick’s Day, there is no better time to also reflect on the Irish contribution to the wider world. In his new book, What have the Irish ever done for us?, author David Forsythe does exactly that. The book from Currach Books features wonderful illustrations by Alba Esteban and details the achievements and contributions of numerous Irish people all around the world. Here we get a sneak peek at a few of those included in the book.
John Boyd Dunlop & William Harvey Du Cros
It was a Belfast vet by the name of John Boyd Dunlop and a Dublin cycling enthusiast named William Harvey du Cros who came up with the innovation that would make the age of the motorcar possible. Dunlop created an early pneumatic tyre to make his son’s bone-shaking tricycle rides along the cobbled streets of Belfast more comfortable. The design was soon taken up by racing cyclists where Du Cross first spotted it. He took Dunlop’s idea global with the Dunlop Rubber Company.
As unlikely as it may seem the modern submarine is indeed an Irish invention, developed by the talented John P. Holland from Liscannor in County Clare. The US Navy purchased Holland’s design in 1900 where the USS Holland became the first commissioned submarine in history. Its success led to other navies also purchasing the designs including Japan and the United Kingdom where five ‘Holland Class’ submarines were commissioned.
Engineer James Martin from Crossgar in County Down made the first successful test of an aircraft ejector seat in January 1945 when Bernard Lynch successfully ejected. The Martin-Baker ejector seat went into production soon afterwards and to date has saved more than seven thousand lives around the world.
Inventive tattoo artist Samuel O’Reilly did much more than come up with artistic tattoo designs. It was O’Reilly who patented the first electric tattoo machine in New York in 1891. O’Reilly’s invention made tattooing much safer, much quicker and cheaper to do. Without him the modern popularity of tattooing would not have been possible.
Cork woman Cynthia Longfield became known as “Madame Dragonfly” thanks to her adventurous career as a globetrotting entomologist. She collected specimens all around the world discovering several new species and became a leading authority on Dragonflies. She became an honorary associate of the Natural History Museum in London where much of her work is cataloged.
Eileen Marie Collins
Proud Irish American Eileen Marie Collins became the first female space shuttle commander aboard the space shuttle Columbia in 1999. Eileen also piloted the space shuttle Discovery in 1995 and the Atlantis in 1997. During her final mission in 2005 on Discovery she became the first pilot to manoeuvre a shuttle through a 360-degree roll.
Ninette de Valois
Ninette de Valois was the stage name of Edris Stannus from Blessington, County Wicklow. When injury cut her career as a ballet dancer short she formed her own ballet company performing in Dublin and London. The company she formed at the Sadler’s Wells theatre in London would go on to become the England’s national ballet company, the Royal Ballet.
An image created by Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick in 1968 is among the most recognized by any artist from any era. The black-on-red image of Che’s face has since become one of the most recognized images in the world, a symbol of protest and rebellion, and now appears on everything from mugs to posters and t-shirts.
Dublin-born writer Bram Stoker will forever be remembered for writing Dracula, first published in 1897. It was immediately successful and has continued to grow in popularity ever since its publication. Dracula has become the most successful horror novel in history and one of the most adapted and influential works of any genre.
Irish American Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, better known by her pen name of Nellie Bly, was a pioneering investigative reporter. She became world-famous in 1889 when she successfully embarked on a round-the-world trip with the aim of beating the fictitious Around the World in Eighty Days achieved by Phileas Fogg.
What have the Irish ever done for us? Is available in all good bookshops or online at www.currachbooks.com.
Old, new, borrowed and blue: a fresh take on the long-held custom
You’ve probably heard the 19th century bridal rhyme: “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, and a silver sixpence in her shoe.” Are you thinking about incorporating the associated traditions into your wedding but want to do so in a modern way? Here are some fresh ideas.
• Create a display of vintage photos of loved ones
• Incorporate your grandmother’s pearl necklace into your hairdo
• Find some cheeky lingerie to wear under your dress — it can be your little secret
• If you’re not the type to wear jewelry, have rings tattooed on your fingers
• Have a custom perfume blended just for your special day
• Rent a designer gown instead of buying a dress you’ll only wear once
• Borrow your parents’ wedding song for your first dance
• If a married friend has a similar style to you, ask to borrow her veil
• Forget a French manicure and paint your nails bold blue
• Wrap your bouquet with a blue handkerchief or ribbon
• If you’re wearing a ball gown, add a layer of blue tulle
Given how the rhyme ends, why not tape a quarter to the bottom of your shoe for extra luck? Be sure to choose one minted the year you’re getting married. Afterwards, you can save it as a memento and someday lend it to a loved one as their own something borrowed.
How to combat racism in your community
January 21 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a time to honor the leader who inspired millions during the Civil Rights Movement to end racial segregation and discrimination.
In 2019, take this national day of service to think about what you can do to combat racism in your community. Although we’ve come a long way since the 1960s, studies show that Americans of color still face job, housing and social discrimination. Here’s what you can do to help promote racial tolerance:
1. Educate yourself. Read about the history of slavery and racial oppression in the U.S. and keep up with news relating to social issues, especially around where you live. Make sure to consult a variety of sources and seek out different viewpoints.
2. Speak up against racist stereotypes. Don’t stay silent if you hear someone make a racist joke or use derogatory language. Gently point out why the remark is offensive — it’s not “just a joke” if it mocks someone because of their race.
3. Spend time with people of different backgrounds. Participate in activities that introduce you to people from different racial and cultural backgrounds living in your area. It helps foster a tolerant and inclusive community.
4. Volunteer for organizations that fight racism. Support organizations that focus on racial inequality or issues that disproportionately affect racial minorities, such as poverty, voter suppression and police brutality.
If you’re a parent, teacher or manager, talk to your children, students or team about MLK Day and what you can do to fight racism in your home, school or workplace. Having open and respectful conversations about race helps keep Dr. King’s legacy alive.
Wedding planning: your wedding checklist
Wedding planning can get overwhelming. In many cases, there are tasks that should be completed up to a year ahead of the event. This handy checklist will help you stay on top of all of the important details right up to the big day.
Nine to twelve months before
Decide on a wedding budget and track all your expenses accordingly.
Set a date.
Research venues for your ceremony and reception and book the one(s) that you like.
Decide if you want a bridal party and choose who you want to be part of your day.
Start collecting your guest’s addresses.
Eight months before
Shop for and purchase a wedding gown.
Book your vendors for the day: photographer, DJ or musician, florist, cake maker and caterer (if food isn’t included with your venue).
Register for gifts.
Build a wedding website that your guests can visit for extra information concerning your wedding.
Six months before
Choose an officiant.
Shop for and purchase bridesmaid’s dresses.
Order the invitations.
Buy your wedding bands.
Four months before
Reserve transportation to and from the ceremony and reception venues, if necessary.
Have a cake tasting and finalize the cake design.
Schedule hair and makeup appointments and don’t forget to book trial runs for both.
Make a plan for decorating your ceremony and reception spaces.
Three months before
Choose and order the groom’s outfit.
Start thinking about the music and choose songs for the ceremony and the first dance. You may want to make a separate list for party music.
Have a tasting with your caterer to set the menu.
Start planning the rehearsal dinner.
Select wedding favors and order them.
Two months before
Send out the invitations.
Make sure the bridesmaids and groomsmen have their outfits.
Have the first wedding dress fitting.
Shop for and buy gifts for your bridal party.
One month before
Meet with your officiant to go through the ceremony.
Make sure you have your marriage license.
Start making a list of people who’ve confirmed that they’ll be attending.
If another dress fitting is required, do it now.
Two weeks before
Book an appointment to have a manicure and pedicure the day before.
Have the final dress fitting and bring it home.
Book the groom’s suit or tuxedo fitting.
Track down people who haven’t responded yet.
Confirm number of guests with your venue and caterer and don’t forget to order meals to feed your DJ and photographer.
The week before
Make a seating chart.
Delegate any day-of tasks to your wedding party and family.
Supply your photographer with a list of pictures you want and your DJ with a detailed playlist.
Write out checks to pay your vendors.
The day before
Relax while you have your nails done.
Give the payment checks to someone you trust in order to pay your vendors.
At the rehearsal dinner, give gifts to your bridal party.
Your wedding day
Have the flowers delivered to the venue.
Make sure the venue is decorated according to your vision.
Keep calm and enjoy.