The Madness of March

March is the third month of the year in the Julian and Gregorian calendars and the second of seven months to have 31 days. In the northern hemisphere, March 1st is the meteorological beginning of spring and, in the southern hemisphere, the beginning of autumn.

In the northern hemisphere, the astrological beginning of spring is marked by the March/spring/vernal equinox on March 20th/21st. In the southern hemisphere, this equinox marks the astrological beginning of autumn.

The March equinox has long been celebrated as a time of rebirth in the northern hemisphere. Many cultures celebrate spring festivals and holidays around the equinox, including Easter and the Passover.

The name of March comes from Martius, the first month of the earliest Roman calendar. It was named after Mars, best known as the Roman god of war, but he was also a god of fertility and agriculture.

As the god of war, his month (March) marked the beginning of the season of warfare, which lasted until October. Chariot races, horse races and dressing and dancing in battle armour were just three of the ways in which Romans celebrated the skills of battle during this month.

In his role as god of fertility and agriculture (which he shared with other gods/goddesses like Ceres and Cybele) Mars oversaw the new growth of spring and the continuation of life through the fertility and procreation in people, animals and plants.

The Anglo Saxon names for March were Hlyda or Lide monath (stormy or loud month) or Hraed monath (rugged month). The ‘loudness’ reflected in these names refers to the March winds, which were considered very noisy – as described in this little rhyme:

March brings breezes loud and shrill,
Stirs the dancing daffodil.
~Sara Coleridge (1802–1852), “The Months,” Pretty Lessons In Verse, For Good Children; With Some Lessons in Latin, In Easy Rhyme, 1834

Another Saxon name for March was Lentmonath which is named after the March equinox and the gradual lengthening of days. This name gradually became simply, Lent – the 40 days leading up to Easter in the Christian Church, during which people traditionally fasted.

The birth flower for March is the daffodil (narcissus) – also known as the Lent Lily as it blooms throughout that period:

The astrological signs for March are Pisces until the 20th and Aries after that:

The birthstones for March are aquamarine and bloodstone:

The month of March has long been associated with ‘madness’, which is largely based on the hilarious pre-mating rituals of hares at this time. ‘Boxing hares’ can be seen across the countryside during spring. My first image on this post shows a couple of wicker-built hares at Harlow Carr in Yorkshire doing just that.

Below is a video I found which shows mad March hares in action – part of it in slow motion. It is titled Mad March Hares Boxing and is by Stephen de Vere:

There are several special days celebrated in March and these are just five of them:

  1. Saint David is the patron saint of Wales and his feast day (St.David’s Day) is celebrated on March 1st, the date of his death in 589 AD. David was a Welsh bishop of Mynyw during the 6th century, and was later regarded as a saint. A number of miracles are attributed to him and a white dove (which became his emblem) is said to have settled on his shoulder after one of them.

St. David’s Day celebrations, Cardiff Bay, 2008. Creative Commons

2. In Cornwall, March 5th is St. Piran’s Day. Piran is the patron saint of Cornwall, said to  have discovered tin in the county. Saint Piran’s flag is also the flag of Cornwall and it symbolises the discovery of tin in Kernow (Cornwall).

St. Piran’s Day parade in Penzance, Cornwall, 2007.
Public Domain

3. Mothers’ Day in the U.K. can be either March or April as the date varies according to the date of Easter that year. It always falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This year it was March 11th – and a pleasant day I had, too. I wrote a post about the history and celebrations of this day three years’ago, which can be found here.

4. Pi Day is something I’d never heard of until this year when blogging friend Joy Pixley from the U.S. kindly mentioned it to me in a comment on my February post. It’s a celebration in the United States and sounds like a fun-filled day. This is how Wikipedia describes it:

Pi Day is an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 (3/14 in the month/day date format) since 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day.

Pi Day has been observed in many ways, including eating pie, throwing pies and discussing the significance of the number π, due to a pun based on the words “pi” and “pie” being homophones in English and the coincidental circular nature of a pie.”

Larry Shaw, the founder of Pi Day, at the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Author Ronhip (Ron Hipschman). Creative Commons

5. Saint Patrick’s Day is on March 17th. Patrick is the patron saint and national apostle of Ireland. He was a 5th century Romano-Christian missionary and is considered responsible for bringing Christianity to Ireland, as well as driving snakes out of the island. His day is celebrated in many countries worldwide, i.e. wherever Irish people travelled to and settled over the years. Green is the colour of the day as it represents the ‘Emerald Isle’.

There are many historical events and birthdays in March, but this post is already long enough. However, I can’t finish without quoting this well known saying about March, and contemplating whether it was actually true this year.

March comes in like a lion …

and goes out like a lamb.

There seem to have been lions and lambs wandering about in no particular order this past month. We’ve had some lovely days mixed up with wet and windy and even cold and snowy ones. We’ll just have to wait and see what April brings (tomorrow!).

To really, really, really finish, here are a few more photos taken at Harlow Carr in Yorkshire on March 5th this year. We were amazed by the colourful displays in the flower beds so early in the year – but it was lovely to see, even in the rain.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

***

I hope to be back on my blog a lot more often very soon. I’ve missed many posts from much loved followers, but so many things have taken my time this past year. I’ll be glad to get back to normality. My next Month-by-Month post will be that last – meaning, I will have done all twelve months. I can only say that I’ve learned a lot myself in doing them. Millie.

About milliethom

I am a reader and writer of historical fiction with a keen interest in the Earth's history and all it involves, both physically and socially. I like nothing better than to be outdoors, especially in faraway places, and baking is something I do when my eyes need respite from my computer screen.
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20 Responses to The Madness of March

  1. arv! says:

    There you are again, Millie with all info related to the month of March. To us, March is when the days started becoming hot and fiery. It’s also the month of playing Holi- the festival of colours, here in India. 🙂

    • milliethom says:

      Yes, Arv, it’s me again. 🙂 April will be the last post I do about the months, as I will have done the whole year then. It’s been fun finding out about the history and traditions associated with each month, but the posts have been time consuming.
      Holi sounds a delightful festival and one I’d dearly love to see! I’m not sure I’d cope with the temperatures you get over the next few months, though. Thank you for reading. 😀

      • arv! says:

        I know Millie that It’s a time consuming activity. So what’s next?
        I’m hoping you are aware of what goes in Holi celebrations. I have created a post on it some two years ago. Yes, it’s going to be even more hot in coming days.

  2. Joy Pixley says:

    Happy Pi Day, Millie! I ended up having a St. Patrick’s Day party this year instead, for purely pragmatic reasons, given that it fell on a Saturday this year. We didn’t even have pie! What a fun photo of the founder of Pi Day, with all those pies!

    I enjoyed the video of the boxing hares – especially the slow-motion parts — and the statue of the hares at the top of the post. I don’t think I’ve ever seen hares doing that, how interesting!

    • milliethom says:

      So you didn’t get to bake your spinach pie after all. It sounded so good, too! But St. Patrick’s Day is huge in the US, so I can imagine what a great time you had celebrating that. I enjoyed finding out about Pi Day, so thank you for introducing me to it. Not being a mathematically minded gal, I can’t imagine sitting around discussing Pythagoras’s theory, but eating pies sounds excellent. 😀
      The hare species generally associated with the ‘boxing’ is the European hare, so perhaps you won’t see this funny behaviour in the US. I’ve no idea whether other species do it, so I’ll have to look that up. This mating ritual can actually be seen throughout most of spring, but I suppose the phrase ‘mad March hares’ is easy to remember.
      Many thanks for visiting my almost non-existent blog, Joy. Hope to be back soon.

      • Joy Pixley says:

        We have a lot of bunnies of the cute & hoppy type around here (they love to eat the landscaping in our neighborhood), but I’ve never seen a hare out in the wild.

        I was horribly sick the week before St Patrick’s Day, so I really scaled back on what I cooked for the party (and almost canceled it). So, no spinach pie shaped like a sun this time. But I still made a whole table worth of delicious green appetizers, and we had fun, and that’s the important thing!

  3. draliman says:

    I love how these gods had so many seemingly conflicting responsibilities. “Ah, lads, it’s March at last. Finally we can have babies, grow stuff and go to war…”

    • milliethom says:

      Oh yes, the Roman gods (and Greek, Norse – and any other you could name) liked to share themselves with the whole community. They also loved to party … and procreate … and play out war games. What fun they had. I imagine Mars couldn’t wait for March each year. Thanks Ali. 😀

  4. March is gone! Thanks for your interesting information. I hope you are okay? I moved house on March 8. It was a stressful time to get everything packed and moved to the new place. I’m now in my son’s old house because they bought a bigger place. My place is going to be rented out. First, it has to be painted and cleaned. Hope you had a good Easter weekend.

    • milliethom says:

      Yes, I was late doing my March post and by the time I actually ‘posted’ it would have been April in New Zealand. I’ll try to do April a bit sooner. I’m OK but still finding it hard with the many family commitments and health problems – and all while I’m attempting to finish off my book. Some days all I manage to do on my laptop is retweet a few tweets! Not good.
      It’s always stressful moving house, Ineke, but hopefully your son’s house will suit you well. Good luck with renting out your old house, too. I hope you have a good tenant, once all the hard work of getting the house ready is done.
      Thanks for visiting again, Ineke. I really appreciate it, even though I’m a virtual stranger to Blogland nowadays. 😀

      • I’m much the same with visiting Blogland. Everything takes time and if you have so much to tend to some must wait or just be moved on to the next time. I’m glad to hear that you are still busy with your book. You put so much effort in it, you can’t give up now. I’m digging deep in my memories at the moment. I’m starting my second part of my memoirs- the primary school time which were happy days. After part two no three will be more difficult to do because that’s where all the trauma started. With all this writing I feel a much better person already. Hoop you had a good Easter weekend and look after yourself. Lots of love my dear friend.

      • milliethom says:

        I do miss you, Ineke. We used to have regular chats, especially when we were both doing flash fiction (which I haven’t done for a year or so now). Good luck with your memoirs. I can understand how some memories can be difficult, even traumatic to dig up. Hopefully, one day in the next few years, we’ll manage to get out to New Zealand. It’s top of our list for ‘far-away’ countries. One of our sons will be out there (for work) sometime this summer. He’s got South America to do first, though. I just wish I fitted into his suitcase for all his business trips! ❤

  5. Ohh, Millie, we have also learnt a lot from your fascinating posts! Happy Easter to you, my dear!

    • milliethom says:

      Thank you, Ann. I hope spring is arriving in Ukraine and that you had a lovely Easter. How is your book coming along? It will be wonderful to see it published one day.

      • Yes, dear Millie, it did arrive! So warm and so quickly! Hope to post some spring photos soon! My book editing is ready, Doug is the wonderful person, I owe him a lot, and you too, my dear Millie! However, my illustrations are not ready yet, it takes time, but I am planning to give my baby a go in May! Crossing my fingers!

  6. Sheila says:

    I love the Mad Hares Boxing and the wicker statue. It’s so funny that what looks like boxing is a mating ritual. Beautiful garden photos too – it’s amazing to see so many colors from photos taken in March. There isn’t much blooming going on here yet but it shouldn’t be much longer once the snow stops! 🙂

  7. milliethom says:

    Yes, the boxing is pretty odd, Sheila, and very funny to watch. The video shows it so well. In the fields, we may manage to catch a quick glimpse of them from the roads and footpaths. I can imagine how you might be fed up with snow, now that it’s April. I hope spring finds its way to you soon. 🙂
    ps. Looking forward to your next book! 😀

  8. DG MARYOGA says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post on March,Millie!I always appreciate all the cultural and folk details you share with us.Hope you’re keeping well.Have a brilliant springtime 🙂
    PS:I know,your 2018 winter has been very stubborn …

  9. MG WELLS says:

    Great post, Millie. Wishing all is well in your world, MG XXOO

  10. inesephoto says:

    I am always enjoying your posts, Millie. Have been away myself, and hope all is well and you will be back when you are ready xx

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