Daylight Savings Time: Turn clocks ahead one hour as DST begins

Close-up of clock with two smaller clocks inside

Photo courtesy of Pexels

SUNDAY, MARCH 8: It’s time for spring—or, at least, to “spring” clocks forward by one hour, as Daylight Savings Time begins. First proposed by New Zealand’s George Vernon Hudson in 1895, the concept of Daylight Savings Time was originally proposed to utilize after-work hours for leisure activities with extra daylight. In a practical sense, Germany and Austria-Hungary used DST in 1916 to conserve coal during wartime; Britain and many of its allies soon followed suit. Though DST has fallen in and out of favor for decades, it is still widely used today throughout Europe and most of the United States. (Wikipedia has details.)

Care to start a debate with friends? Americans like to name Benjamin Franklin as the first proponent of Daylight Savings Time, because of a satirical essay he published while serving as an American envoy to Paris in 1784. Among other things, he urged the ringing of church bells and the firing of canons to get Parisians out of bed earlier each morning. However, historians now say that’s not the same as proposing Daylight Savings Time, which refers to a public shift in timekeeping. The 18th-century world had no concept of nationally standardized timekeeping, as we do today. Thus, many contemporary scholars don’t credit Ben with this particular innovation. (Want more ammunition on this point? Wikipedia offers more.)

Still, many question its value in 21st century society, and arguments are made for the disruptions it causes in sleep patterns, traffic accidents, health issues and business.

Not all states in America practice Daylight Savings Time—Arizona and Hawaii have both opted to keep standard time—and currently, several states are in the midst of deciding whether or not to keep Daylight Savings Time. A bill in Washington is proposing the end of DST in that northwestern state, and five other states have similar pending legislation. (Check out the story, here.) Around the globe, Europe still relies heavily on DST, while Asia, Australia and Africa largely use standard time.


MARCH: Irish-American heritage, 50 years of ‘Music,’ women’s history & spring

Cluster of green three-leaf plants, some with drops of water on them

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MARCH 2015—Sprigs of green are popping up as the first signs of spring emerge—and just in time, as spring officially begins on March 20 in the Northern Hemisphere. Seeing green won’t be hard in even the coldest regions this month, though, because St. Patrick’s Day brings its revelry and accompanying Irish-American Heritage Month in March. The saying goes that March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, so early this month, stay indoors with something creative for National Craft Month; later this month, go outside to stretch your legs for Kite Month.

Ireland may take center stage through most of March, but this year, hop over a few countries to Austria—it’s the 50th anniversary of the film release of The Sound of Music, and the movie will be re-released in March. Even for those who can’t make it to the year-long extravaganza in Salzburg can pay homage to their local music programs, as March is Music in Our Schools Month. Also in March, encourage children for Youth Art Month and the birthday of the famous Dr. Seuss—on March 2.

Women’s history makes its mark in March, and don’t forget to recognize the American Red Cross, too. Plant seedlings for a garden and kick-start better health this month, because March is Nutrition Month.

Check out these month-long highlights …


Corned beef, shepherd’s pie and St. Patrick shape just a portion of the Irish culture honored this month, as the United States commemorates Irish-American Heritage Month. Proclaimed yearly by the United States President or Congress, Irish-American Heritage Month honors the achievements and contributions of Irish immigrants and their descendants: Nine signers of the Declaration of Independence, more than 20 of George Washington’s generals and 253 Medal of Honor recipients, just to name a few. Surveys show that the number of U.S. residents who currently claim Irish ancestry is approximately 34 million—more than seven times the entire population of Ireland. On St. Patrick’s Day at the White House, the Shamrock Ceremony and St. Patrick’s Day Reception honor the many contribution of Irish Americans to United States culture and history.


Sheet music booklet with page being turned

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

The role of music in education takes center stage in March, with Music in Our Schools Month. In Wayne Baker’s recent series, Kids & Success, he asked: Could music be the key skill for success in today’s world? When budget cuts threaten school music programs, the National Association for Music Education points out the incredible value of music—and ways to incorporate it across the curriculum. For 30 years, March has been deemed Music in Our Schools Month, but this year’s celebration incorporates another landmark anniversary: the 50th anniversary of The Sound of Music, the film that nabbed five Oscars and two Golden Globes and became a cultural phenomenon. With a yearlong tribute taking place in Salzburg and a 50th Anniversary Festival in June, The Sound of Music will be re-released into theaters in April. This month, 20th Century Fox will re-release the home entertainment version.


The United States, the United Kingdom and Australia highlight the contributions of women during the month of March, as part of Women’s History Month. Globally recognized on March 8—International Women’s Day—women’s impact on history and world culture are recognized at events, in schools and by municipalities. International Women’s Day draws back to 1911, but the U.S. did not observe a month-long commemoration until 1987. This year, the theme for National Women’s History Month is: “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.”

JANUARY: Weight loss, winter sports, blood donations, poverty awareness

Skiiers on flat snow ground with tall pines to side and snow-covered mountains in background

JANUARY 2015—Across much of the Northern Hemisphere, snow drifts and blustering winds are blowing—but, at ReadTheSpirit, we also welcome our readers in the Southern Hemisphere who are in the midst of summer!

One thing is universal in January: a desire to start the new year in a healthy way. This month, take a health challenge in honor of Weight Loss Awareness Month and Family Fit Lifestyle Month. If sports are in the January lineup, warm up with (healthy) hot foods, because January is Hot Tea Month, Oatmeal Month and National Soup Month. Help others get healthy by donating blood—January is National Blood Donor Month. Put clutter in its place for Get Organized Month, and learn more about the cycle of poverty and underprivileged neighborhoods in nearby communities, during National Poverty in America Awareness Month.

Check out these month-long highlights …


Bowl of strawberries, blueberries and fresh bananas on brown tabletop with fork beside the bowl and a glass of orange juice

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Families are encouraged to take more walks together, make meals together and adopt healthier habits during Family Fit Lifestyle Month. The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition offers tips, resources for schools and meal suggestions; Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign targets faith communities, museums, child care centers and other groups with specific goal sheets. In fact—with benefits like a better mood, more energy, reduced stress, reduction in risk for heart disease and diabetes—there’s no good reason not to exercise.

Stuck on how to get started? Try scheduling a family activity that sparks interest, such as a walk in the park or yoga; sign up for a fitness class together; try new activities together; or turn the backyard into anything from an ice skating rink to an obstacle course. Get more ideas from this new interview with scientist, author and nature activist Marc Bekoff.


It’s estimated that someone needs blood every 2 seconds, so help those in need by donating today! (Visit American Red Cross to find a donation location near you.) Blood is usually in short supply during the winter months, largely due to illness in both donors and recipients, and even one donation can make a significant difference. January is National Blood Donor Month, so make a pledge to give blood, raise awareness or support a local donation center. Not sure if you’re eligible? Find out—and learn more about demand for your blood type, or download the Red Cross Blood Donor App, at Get inspired with stories of “super donors,” from the Huffington Post.


Dark skinned man sitting against graffiti wall on street, sullen

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Did you know that an estimated 38 million Americans—one in six children—live below the poverty line? January is Poverty in America Awareness Month (get analyses and more from the National Poverty Center), and all U.S. citizens are encouraged to lend a hand to those in need.

PovertyUSA is a domestic anti-poverty program of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, to raise awareness and education about poverty and its root causes. An initiative of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, offers maps offers inside glimpses of life in poverty, suggestions of ways to get involved, resources and more. Pope Francis has actively challenged all Catholics to live in solidarity with the poor, and many world faiths promote caring for the needy.

DECEMBER: Santa Paws, human rights, 3D prevention & spiritual literacy

Four lit candles, three white and one green

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

DECEMBER 2014—The first month of winter in the Northern Hemisphere is often described as a season of light. That’s an affirmation of faith in a month with the least daylight hours of the year. Christians celebrate Christmas; Jews light candles for Hanukkah; and it’s Yule for Wiccans and Pagans.

This month is also known as the season of giving. Consider some of the programs with special December campaigns …

White dog with head down on couch, wearing Santa hat

Photo by Sean, courtesy of Flickr


Make the holiday season a little brighter for dogs and cats in your community, as December is Operation Santa Paws. A national initiative to supply animal shelters with much-needed items, Operation Santa Paws encourages the donation of everything from pet toys to blankets and towels, money and food. (Find more ideas here.) Businesses, schools and places of worship can set up a box for donations—just email [email protected] for a JPEG version of a poster to post on donation boxes. Toys and blankets help to drastically reduce stress in animals waiting to be adopted.


Following the atrocities of World War II, world leaders began work on a document outlining basic human rights—eventually producing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An agreement adopted by the United States General Assembly in December of 1948, the Declaration was proclaimed as a “common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.” (A simplified version of the document, for youth, is here.) The Declaration touched on rights in areas like politics, economics and culture. Each year, December 10 is kept as Human Rights Day, and that commemoration spans the entire month.


Three keys and keychain on white background

Photo by cocoparisienne, courtesy of Pixabay

Holiday invitations pile up during the month of December—but don’t forget your responsibility to keep the roadways safe! December is National Drunk & Drugged Driving Prevention Month. If you think these issues won’t affect you, consider this: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 3 in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some point in their lives. (For tips, awareness campaigns, resources and more, visit Before heading out to a holiday party, keep these tips in mind: Plan ahead; always designate a sober driver; and take the keys of anyone who has been drinking and intends to drive. Hosts should provide both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks for their guests, and ensure that no guests leave without a safe driver.


Celebrate the unique and colorful characteristics of the world’s religions this month, during Spiritual Literacy Month. Places of worship, communities, libraries and families can promote respect among the world’s spiritual traditions by encouraging learning and reading. This is a good time to reach out to someone of another faith, and greet him or her for a holiday formerly unknown to you. Gain a greater understanding of world cultures. In need of resources? Read through archives or by category of ReadTheSpirit’s Holidays & Festivals column.