Five things I think I know about … March

Once again, I test my capacity to have ingested and assimilated fake news like a fish swallowing micro-beads.

That process began many years before ‘fake news’ and ‘microbeads’ were familiar concepts swimming in a shared soup of consciousness.

Five assumptions about March: 

March is named for Mars, the Roman god of war. 

March used to be the first month of the year.

In March the clocks spring forwards.

March 21 is the vernal equinox.

March marks the beginning of spring. 

Snowy back view March 1 2018.
Spring? March 1 2018. Brrr.

1.  March is named for Mars, the Roman god of war.

So agree the Encyclopedia Britannica and our old friend, Ovid, though Ovid also calls him ‘Gradivus, Marching God’ as if ‘Mars’ was once a nickname, a description that has stuck. The Oxford English dictionary says the origin of the word ‘March’ is ‘Middle English, from an old French dialect variant of ‘marz’, from the Latin Martius. Martius menses, the month of Mars. In more recent times, the name Mars has been shared with a planet and a chocolate bar, but that’s another story.

Mars used to be the first month of the year.

Ovid (again) reminds us that when Romulus, son of Mars (according to myth), founded Rome, his calendar began in springtime with the month of Mars, father of the race. “Mars’ month, March, was the first'”. The Romans later invented January and that became the first month.  

Winter Jasmine March 23 2018In the history of these islands (speaking of what is now the UK), the New Year has moved back and forth between January and March but for a couple of centuries, until we finally adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752, the legal New Year began on March 25.

In March the clocks spring forwards 

This one I know is true, from experience. The way it is currently arranged, the last weekend of the month of March is the time for putting the clocks forwards. Officially the time of the change is 1am on Sunday morning. The clocks go forwards to 2am.  It is sometimes called ‘Daylight Saving Time’ though the span of daylight is the same. It will be lighter in the evenings.

This is one of those occasions when we realise how artificial are the ways in which we measure time. Every year, usually when the clocks are due to go back, and we have all adjusted to what is also called ‘Summer Time’, there is a bit of a to-do about whether we should permanently stay in a state of +1 from where we are supposed to be. Arguments are made and then someone says they’ll miss their ‘extra hour in bed’ and we steel ourselves for increased darkness in the evenings. It feels like it ought to be the other way around, but apparently, that’s only if you live in the south. In Scotland they want a bit of light in the mornings.

Between the snows 16 March 2018
Between the snows 16 March 2018

I am old enough to remember an experiment with staying on a +1 in the winter, and walking to school through dark streets, fascinated by walking over and over my own shadow, which slipped under my feet as I passed under streetlights.

The changing of the clocks can lead to missed appointments, or just some confusion if your digital device has changed the time for you and you don’t know why.

We say things like, ‘We’ll have an hour’s less sleep’ as if the night is really an hour shorter. This is sometimes true when you are on night-duty, though when I was nursing we used to split the difference with the day shift. We also had to use some sleight-of-hand adjusting two-hourly observations and the timing of drips, so that we could all settle back as soon as possible into what passed for normality. 

March 21 is the vernal equinox. 

Red Camellia March 23 2018
Red camellias in March

Yes it is. Except when it isn’t. In 2018, the vernal or spring equinox, took place around 16.15 on March 20. But that is only in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere it is the autumn equinox. 

The word ‘equinox’ derives from the latin for ‘equal night’, but despite what the Oxford English Dictionary says, other sources will tell us this is only roughly true. It is the time when the sun’s rays are perpendicular to the Equator. The equinox marks the passing of the sun over the celestial equator – an imaginary line in the sky above the imaginary line on the ground.

Snowing again March 18 2018
Snowing again March 18 2018

March marks the beginning of spring.

Yes, and no. Once again it depends where you are. In the Northern Hemisphere, astronomical spring (this doesn’t mean it’s highly priced) begins with the equinox. At the same time in the Southern Hemisphere, it is the beginning of astronomical autumn. Meteorological spring in the Northern Hemisphere begins on March 1st. But tell that to the photo at the top.

With every answer come new questions. In time perhaps they will be answered.

What for you is the first sign of spring? 

Last of the March snows melting under primroses
Last of the March snows melting under primroses

7 thoughts on “Five things I think I know about … March

  1. Great post – I’ve never really thought about ‘March’ that much before this year. To be honest, I’m pretty ticked off with March, it’s been a horrible month for me personally. In fact, I’m left wondering when Spring is actually going to start?
    I’m yearning to see Spring blossom and feel the warmth of the sun on my face.

    I’m yearning to see smiles on people’s faces too, as i think we’re all fed up with the ‘glumness’ of everything.

    Let’s hope we can turn the corner very soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cath. It’s nice to know his post has a kind of evergreen value. Once again the primroses here were out in November so cancr rely on them as sign of spring. My violets have not appeared. Looking forward to that.

      Liked by 1 person

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