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Month of March

The month of March was named for the Roman God of War1. This may have been because after the winter, this was the first good campaign season and armies would begin to march. Although the word for tramping along in formation and the word for the month are the same, they have very different roots. The marching of soldiers derives from the Old French marcare which means to stride or tramp. This word in turn may come from the Latin marcus for "hammer" reminiscent of the sound of feet as they pound the Earth in unison2. A favorite children's riddle reveals the close association the two words have taken on:

Question: "What is the Army's favorite day?"
Answer: "March fourth (forth)!"

Since its inception as a month, March has always had 31 days. Yet originally it was the first month of the year. This was probably because of its association with the first day of spring. The vernal equinox falls during this month - the 20th or 21st. (This is the day that the northern half of the Earth begins to tilt toward the sun.)3

March 17 is Saint Patrick's Day. This is the feast day of the Irish Saint who was reputed to have driven all the snakes from Ireland. It was first celebrated in the United States in 1737. The tradition of a St. Patrick's day parade began in New York City in 1766. The holiday is closely associated with the color green. It is not a national holiday in the United States (there are no national holidays in March) although it is generally observed.4 March also contains the feast day of St. David, the patron Saint of Wales, which occurs on the first of the month.

March finds some favor in our literature. Emily Dickenson penned a poem about the month:

March is the month of expectation,
The things we do not know,
The Persons of Prognostication
Are coming now.
We try to sham becoming firmness,
But pompous joy
Betrays us, as his first betrothal
Betrays a boy.5

Spring has inspired much wit and perhaps a bit of wisdom. E.B. White made the following observation:

The first day of spring was once the time for taking the young virgins into the fields, there in dalliance to set an example in fertility for nature to follow. Now we just set the clocks an hour ahead and change the oil in the crankcase. (From "Hot Weather," One Man's Meat, 1944)

An old saying about March goes, "In like a lion, out like a lamb". This, of course, refers to the weather. Because of the variable elements of this month it is often described as a battle between old man winter and the young warrior of spring. Inevitably, the young defeats the failing, but still powerful old man. Youth will have its day.

The flower for March is the violet and the birthstone is the aquamarine.

Next Page: Month of April

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