Saturday, March 03, 2012

Forward March: Facts, Trivia, and Folklore

March! For some of us it’s an unsettling month: no longer winter, not quite spring, even though the official First Day of Spring usually falls around March 20th with the vernal equinox. As we march into March, entertain your brain with some fun facts about our third month.

First of all, March was not always the third month. For the ancient Romans, it was the first month of the year and was named after Mars, the god of war. This could go a long way toward explaining some of the fierce weather that can occur in this month and the familiar saying that “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” It might also explain why one of the traditional birthstones for March is the bloodstone, marked by red flecks against its green surface and sometimes referred to as the martyr’s stone. It symbolizes courage and endurance. But the alternate birthstone is the more tranquil aquamarine with its distinctive seawater blue coloration. Said to confer safety during sea voyages, this could be the stone for you if you’re daydreaming of taking a cruise or simply can’t wait for spring break.

But why stop with a birthstone? The official March flower is the daffodil, better known locally as the jonquil. It’s one of the first flowers to bloom as spring draws near, making it the flower of rebirth, along with other meanings such as friendship and respect. Its traditional sunny yellow color makes it the perfect cheerful flower for celebrating the end of winter.

If you were a March baby, you’ll be sharing your month with a number of famous personalities such as bluegrass musician Doc Watson, authors Tom Wolfe and John Irving, rock star Jon Bon Jovi, and actress Bryce Dallas Howard. And these are all just March 2nd. Pick and choose from the entire month and you could put together quite a guest list for an ultimate dinner party.

But if you’re planning a dinner party in March, never leave the weather out of your calculations. For many Alabamians, March will be remembered for generations as the month of our worst snowstorm, the legendary Blizzard of 1993. Despite warnings from various weather services that something huge was brewing, many were caught unprepared as March 12, 1993 went in a matter of hours from mild and rainy to freezing cold with “thunder snow” and blizzard conditions. Seemingly wild predictions of 12 to 18 inches of snow came true, leaving no part of the state of Alabama untouched.

So enjoy your March. Celebrate your birthday, or the end of winter, or the first of spring, or all of the above. But be ready for anything!

For more information, try the following websites:

March Facts: http://projectbritain.com/year/march.htm

Flowers of the Month: http://www.proflowers.com/flowerguide/birthdayflowers-month/

Almanac/First Day of Spring: http://www.almanac.com/content/first-day-seasons

Birthstones: http://www.about-birthstones.com/marchbirthstone.htm

Birthstones: http://www.americangemsociety.org/march-birthstones

Historic Birthdays: http://www.brainyhistory.com/birthdays.html

Blizzard of 1993: http://www.wbhm.org/News/2003/Blizzard_of_93.html


Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department
Central Library

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