1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/March (month)

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19977711911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 17 — March (month)

MARCH, the third month of the modern calendar, containing thirty-one days. It was the Romans’ first month until the adoption of the Julian calendar, 46 B.C., and it continued to be the beginning of the legal year in England until the 18th century. In France it was reckoned the first month of the year until 1564, when, by an edict of Charles IX., January was decreed to be thenceforth the first month. Scotland followed the example of France in 1599; but in England the change did not take place before 1752. The Romans called the month Martius, a name supposed to have been conferred on it by Romulus in honour of his putative father, Mars, the god of war; but Ovid declares the month to have existed before the time of Romulus, though in a different position in the calendar. The Anglo-Saxons called March Hlyd-monath, “loud or stormy month,” or Lencten-monath, “lengthening month,” in allusion to the fact that the days then rapidly become longer. There is an old saying, common to both England and Scotland—which has its equivalent among the Basques and many European peoples—representing March as borrowing three days from April; the last three days of March being called the “borrowing” or the “borrowed days.” As late as the end of the 18th century the first three days of March were known in Devonshire as “Blind Days,” and were deemed so unlucky that no farmer would sow seed then.

The chief festival days of March are the 1st, St David; the 12th, St Gregory; the 17th, St Patrick; and the 25th, Lady Day, one of the quarter days in England.