The Ides of March

My wife and daughter are pretty smart and I am seldom surprised with some of the things that they will come people, up with.

"Beware of the Ides of March" smirked my daughter.

"What's an ide?" I asked

"The ides are the middle of March," answered my daughter. "There is an ides of January and February as well, in fact, there is an ides of every month."

"So I am supposed to beware of the middle of the month?"

"Not you, Dad; Julius Caesar was supposed to be careful. That was the day, Shakespeare and history tell us that Brutus stabbed him."

"Ohkaaay," said I, somewhat curious as to where this conversation was going.

"March is a good month Dad, and the middle of March is a good time for most of us."

"'Cept for Caesar," I replied.

"March is a pivotal month," said daughter. "It's a month when things change. The Spring Equinox begins. Snow starts to melt, plants start to grow. In March, cold dark times start to become lighter and brighter."

"So, where did the name March come from?"

My daughter looked quite pleased with herself. "March is named after Mars, the God of War. It was the first month of the year in the Roman calendar. The English changed it to January when they adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1752."

"Why would the Romans name March after their God of war?"

"You've studied history Dad; Spring was an ideal time for armies to travel. Most of the bad winter weather is over and snow, particularly in mountain passes, normally starts to melt. It was also a time when food could be more easily foraged.

"I will remember that, next time I decide to start a war."

I picked up an Almanac. "I am sure that there are a lot of important dates in March. let's see: March 1, 1872-Yellowstone National Park; March 2, 1904- Dr. Seuss born; March 3, 1847-Alexander Graham Bell; March 4, 1789-First meeting of Congress; March 5, 1770-Boston  Massacre; March 6, 1912-Oreo Cookies; March 7, 1849-Luther Burbank; March 8, 1775-Thomas Paine calls for emancipation of all slaves; March 9, 1454-Amerigo Vespucci born; March 10, 1862-first paper money issued;  March 11, Johnny Appleseed Day…"

My wife walked into our living room and asked what we were doing.

I looked up and said "Just looking though an old Almanac…"

My daughter chirped: "We were discussing the Ides of March, but Dad hasn't made it to the Ides yet." 

"I am working on it. Have you looked at some of the designations that they have for march?

The first week of March is Returning your Borrowed books week, and the second week is National Procrastinators week, followed by clean your closet week."

My daughter grinned "Dad, you made that up."

"No I didn't." I replied. "Look, it's right here in my Almanac, along with March's designation of National Craft Month, National Umbrella Month, National Frozen food Month, National Noodle and National Sauce Month."

My wife took the Almanac away from both of us and looked with amazement at some of the designations. "Youth Art Month, National Peanut Month, Women's History Month, Music in our Schools Month, March madness…the list seems to go on and on. Who in the world makes up these National Month Designations?"

I grinned. "Different groups; last month a Pizza chain declared February National Football Month. Sometimes different media publicans will make a declaration, other times Congress, or even the President will make a special declaration. They will proclaim a day, a week or a month special. It can be a one-time thing or an ongoing event. It can be done to honor an idea, an act, a person, or just for fun. Hey, a lot of things happened in March. The rubber band was invented, the pencil eraser was patented, the first map of the US was published, Uranus was discovered, The Barbi doll invented and every March the Swallows return to San Juan Capistrano.

My daughter looked at me "I am not sure that the whole world knows about the Swallows returning to Capistrano."

"That may be so, but National Geographic once did a story about them."

My Irish wife brightened. "St. Patrick's day is celebrated in March."

I interjected: "So is St. Urho's day. St. Urho is the patron saint of Finland."

"Please Dad." Replied my daughter. "St. Urho isn't a real Saint he's fictitious."
"So? I read a story that he originated in Northern Minnesota in the 1950's, I also heard another story that the Ketolla brothers invented him while they were eating liverwurst sandwiches and drinking home brew. It doesn't matter, if he's real or factitious, what matters is what he stands for."

"What's that? Asked daughter."

"Uuh, Finnish willingness to get right in there and do things?"

My wife glared at me: "Like What?

"Ravenous grasshoppers besieged the Finnish grape crop. St. Urho fearlessly waved his pitch fork and said: '
Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen', (which means something like Grasshoppers grasshoppers get the hell out of here) and all the grasshoppers fled to Russia, Latvia and elsewhere. Poisonous frogs plagued Finland. Urho lifted his pitchfork, drove them into a lake and let the lake freeze. Then he instructed the Finns to cut the ice out of the lake and ship it all to France. From that time on, French have always liked frogs legs.

There are statues of Urho all over the world. St. Urho's day is always one day before St. Patrick's. This is by design. By having his birthday one day early, the Fins can get to the beer well before the Irish."

My daughter grinned "Urho's day is pretty close to the Ides of March. I think you had better beware…"

"Okay, then let us all beware of the Ides. 

Have a great month."

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