FORWARD, MARCH!

Welcome to the third month of the year already. The name comes from Martius, the first month of the earliest Roman calendar. It was named after Mars, the Roman god of war, who also was regarded as a guardian of agriculture. The Old Saxon name for this month was Hreth-monath, which meant “rough month” because of the cold, boisterous winds at this time of year.

If you were born before 150 B.C., according to the oldest Roman calendars, one year was 10 months long, beginning in March and ending in December. It may sound crazy, but you can still see traces of this old system in our modern calendar: because December was the 10th month, it was named for the number 10 in Latin (decem), just like September was named for seven (septem). So, what about January and February? They were just two nameless months called “winter,” proving that winter literally is so awful it doesn’t even deserve a spot on the calendar.

Like Groundhog Day last month, the first day of March is another opportunity to predict the weather. Tradition says if it’s mild and gentle like a lamb, then the last day will “march” in as fierce as a lion. If the first day is harsh with the wind roaring like a lion, then the 31st will be as fair and mild as a lamb.

This month is referred to as “March Madness” because the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments begin mid-month at various sites around the country. The safest bet you can make is that lots of people will be distracted. One number-crunching firm predicted last year that American companies would lose $1.9 billion in wages paid to unproductive workers spending company time on betting pool priorities.

Four United States Presidents were born in March: James Madison (5, 1751), Andrew Jackson (15, 1767), Grover Cleveland (18, 1837) and John Tyler (29, 1790). Lots of other famous people also were born this month. March 3 and 4 are the birthdays of Dr. Seuss (1904) and Alexander Graham Bell (1847), respectively. Wouldn’t Bell be amazed at how his “smart” invention of the telephone in 1876 has grown into a way of life today. But consider this Western Union internal memo from that same year: “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879. This famous genius, when asked for his telephone number on one occasion, had to look it up in a telephone directory. We can’t do that today, however.

We’ve all heard it uttered, but what does “beware the Ides of March” actually mean? On the Roman calendar, the midpoint of every month was known as the Ides. The Ides of March fell on March 15th. This day was supposed to correlate with the first full moon of the year (remember, winter didn’t count then) and marked by religious ceremonies. But thanks to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar we know it for another reason. Supposedly, in 44 B.C., a seer told Julius Caesar that his downfall would come no later than the Ides of March. Caesar ignored him, and when the fated day rolled around he joked with the seer, “The Ides of March have come.” The seer replied, “Aye, Caesar; but not gone.” Caesar continued on to a senate meeting at the Theatre of Pompey, and, was summarily murdered by as many as 60 conspirators. Ironically, the spot where Caesar was assassinated is protected in today’s Rome as a no-kill cat sanctuary. So, if someone tells you “beware the Ides of March,” they’re probably just being a jerk or letting you know they’ve read Shakespeare.

St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 highlights the birthdays of the month when the Irish and wanna-be Irish celebrate the “wearing of the green” with parades and blarney that announces the death of winter and the coming birth of spring. Rejoice on the 19th, too, in the swallows’ return to the old mission of San Juan, another sign that the Spring Equinox is close at hand on March 20 when the sun is directly over the equator. At this time, many animals end hibernation and begin to be seen.

Finally, Easter Sunday occurs on March 27 followed by “Gorge Yourself on Discount Easter Candy Monday.”

Vince LaBarbera

Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library.

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Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer