By Alex Berger
The mystical month of March is on the march and will invade our world in a few days. I am not superstitious, and I don’t believe in mythology, but nonetheless the month sends shivers up and down my spine (even worse than my shivers on Halloween). “Why?” you ask — because I know the ides of March is a-coming. (It is “ides,” not “eyes.”)
The notorious ides is one of three fixed points in the month in the ancient Roman calendar that appears on the 15th day of March. And the Romans say beware if a full moon is out on that day — strange and mysterious things will happen to you. So readers, forewarned is forearmed.
Why should I worry? I am a levelheaded, rational-minded, commonsensible adult, and I know I shouldn’t fear the ides of March. But rather than risk the horrific possibility that something unimaginable could happen, Gloria and I will wear news host Bill O’Reilly masks from sunrise to sunset on the 15th of March.
I hope Bill will keep Gloria and me out of harm’s way. And readers, I strongly urge you to do likewise. So with that warning, let me tell you about our third calendar month of the year.
March was named after the Roman god Mars, who was known for his notorious sweet tooth and the candy bar bearing his name. He believed that candy was good for his eyes, which was necessary for him to discern between nut-cluster candies with dark chocolate (which he abhorred), and truffles with milk chocolate (which he did not abhor).
Mars was famous for his fiery temper. He would turn as red as his namesake, the planet Mars, whenever he ingested too much candy. His disposition turned from hyper to rage and finally to sheer ballistic asperity. During those awful moments, Mars would wage a two-front war against his sworn enemies, the nutty kingdom of Snickers and the gooey domain of the Milky Way. It was appalling. That is why Mars is commonly referred to as the “God of War.”
As you may not have known, March was the time when the Romans geared up and went off to fight in distant lands. They named this month Martius in honor of the belligerent and disagreeable Mars. It is a good thing that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t around back then. He surely would have had the honor of the month named after him. Imagine people trying to wrap their mouths around the month of “Schwarzeneggerius.”
Skipping right along, 200 years ago, March 25 was New Year’s Day in England and America. It was not long before they adopted a new calendar and January became the first month of the year. The English called March “Lencten-monath,” meaning “Lengthening month,” because after the first day of spring (March 20 or 21), the days became longer.
March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Just last year it was so windy in Queens that, like the old jokes said, one chicken laid the same egg six times and at the zoo I saw a zebra gluing on his stripes.
Early March is cold and brisk in the northern half of the world, but by the end of the month the weather is placid. Did you know that in the southern part of the world the weather is completely opposite, and March marks the beginning of autumn? You knew that, eh?
Gritty Mars’ nasty disposition left its mark on March. The month contains many fretful and violent occurrences. “Name one,” you say. Well, on March 1 in Wales “The Mark of the Welshman” is celebrated. The country was fighting Saxon’s invading army and not doing too well. David, a Welsh monk, noticed that soldiers from both sides were wearing identical garments. Who was friend; who was foe?
The pants also were so tight that the soldiers couldn’t get them on unless they trimmed their toenails first. And a four-star general was lost for six months when he crossed his legs and had to be sent to the hospital.
So David, remembering that the skirt his wife was wearing on the dance floor on the eve of his departure for war allowed her to move around freely, thought it might do the same for his battered countrymen and relieve the pain caused by the tight pants.
Despite intense opposition from the macho Welsh soldiers, kilts were issued and became the uniform of the day. Luckily, the Saxons failed to grasp the moment and decided not to wear the skirts, I mean kilts.
How could the Welsh further distinguish themselves from the Saxons? David mused and mused this dilemma, and suddenly it came to him. Why not pin a wild leek plant on the kilts? Those fighters not wearing a leek plant on their kilt would be Saxons. And so, the Welsh prepared for battle. They charged the non-kilted and unleeked invaders and defeated them.
What was the result? David became the patron saint of Wales. St. David’s Day (the day of his death) became a national and religious holiday, and the leek became the national flower of Wales.
March has many other interesting dates. Here are a few: On March 3, 1894 New York City passed the first dog license; March 9 is Aunt’s Day; March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day — Erin Go Bragh; March 20 is Absolutely Incredible Kid Day; March 21 is Fragrance Day; and March 22 is National Goof-Off Day.
Every March I get a voracious craving to eat a Mars candy bar, a desire to wear a kilt with a leek attached and a compulsive urge to punch someone in the mouth. I never worry about these strange impulses, however. They always disappear on March 31 at 11:59 p.m. Have a marvelous March.
Reach columnist Alex Berger by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, ext. 140.