Sundays Are Lazy Daze I am not expecting much of anything to happen today to inform you of, so I thought I would take this opportunity to educate you on the Euro conversion. For those of you who have relatives in a member country or who may plan on visiting one of the member countries, it could be of importance. Others of you may just be curious as I am. To me, the whole thing is fascinating. The twelve countries which will be involved initially will be: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands (Holland), Portugal, and Spain. The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, and Wales), Denmark, and Sweden have not joined yet, but may do so later. Euro coins will be in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and yes, the cents word is used. They will also be in 1 Euro and 2 Euro coins. One side of the coins will all be identical regardless of the country. They will have a map of the EU countries in different forms and backgrounds of lines and stars. The other side of the coin will have twelve stars to symbolize the twelve participating countries and the year of minting, plus a national symbol reflecting the country where it was minted. In Ireland, the symbol will be the ‘harp’ its national symbol along with the word Eire. Regardless of the national markings, the coins will be usable in any Euro country. Euro notes will be in 5 (grayish blue), 10 (rusty red), 20 (blue), 50 (brown), 100 (green), 200 (yellow), and 500 notes (purple). I knew purple was my favorite color for a reason. They will be the same regardless of the country that has produced them. On one side of each note will be pictures of windows and gateways to symbolize the openness and cooperation of the European countries and on the other side will be bridges to symbolize communication among the people of Europe with each other and the rest of the world.All coins and notes go into circulation on January 1, 2002 and all national currencies must be turned in by February 9, 2002. The national currencies of these countries will not be considered legal tender after this date. If you are hoarding extra cash from a previous trip for use in the future, you will be out of luck. As of January 1, 2002, you may still use your national currencies, but will receive Euros back in change. Postage stamps will be changed to Euro pricing as well as vending machines, public phones, parking meters, toll plazas, cash registers, and on and on. The magnitude of the changes is quite incredible. National currency postage stamps must be used as soon as possible, but will be honored until December 2002. That means postage metering machines have to be converted over as well. Euro checks need to be used starting January 1, 2002 and the old national checks will be valid for six months only. All bank machines will be converted to Euros on January 1st, so that is the only currency it will dispense.For Ireland one euro is equal to .787564 pound, thus one pound is equal to 1.27 euros. For a while, this will mean a great deal of confusion for each country’s citizens deciding what the worth of various items is based on the new currency. For us, it will only mean converting our dollar value into euros rather than twelve different currencies as we hop from country to country. I still have not found the answer to the question I had above about the restaurant prices. Here is one more piece of education for you jewelry buffs out there. I am sure most of you have seen the Claddagh ring and never knew the name for it, what it symbolized or where it came from. The ring is composed of two hands, which are coming together to hold a heart, and on top of the heart is a crown. If this does not ring (pardon the pun) a bell with you, try pointing your browser to www.claddaghring.ie . Once you see the ring, I am sure you will remember seeing it a million times at craft fairs, street vendors of jewelry, and other places where rings are sold. If you did not know the history or symbolism, now is your chance to add to your trivia bank for when you are called as a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” Irish historians believe that the Claddagh ring is associated with a group of ‘fede’ or faith rings, which date back to medieval times. Fourteen tribes of Welsh-Norman families ruled Galway during the 14th to 17th centuries. As the Irish are famous for their legends, one such goes like this. Margaret Joyce of the 16th century and a member of one of these tribes married a Spanish merchant, who died and left her a fortune (the rich get richer?). Being a generous lass, she used her bundles of money to build bridges throughout the Providence of Connacht. As a reward for her good deeds, an eagle dropped the ring from the sky into her lap. The hands symbolize friendship, the heart is a symbol of love, while the crown symbolizes loyalty. According to the Irish professor of Archeology, Etienne Rynne, in the areas of the Claddagh, or an Cladach in Irish, which means a ‘flat, stony shore’ it was forbidden to use a spade or a hoe, by ancient law. The people of the Claddagh were fisherman who spoke Irish and were ruled by their own elected king. The last king was Eoin Concannon who died in 1954. These people lived in mud walled, thatched roofed homes, but were declared unsafe in 1934 and the government made the people convert to more traditional housing. The Claddagh rings were handed down from mother to daughter as both betrothal ring and wedding rings. When betrothed, the ring would be worn with the crown toward the wrist. After marriage, the ring would be turned around to have the crown toward the nail. You will see this design all over Ireland on rings of all metals as well as necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and pins. Happy Halloween!!!