Mad as a March Hare

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Jackie Hemond

Do you know that March 25 was once the start of the New Year? Julius Caesar abolished the complicated Roman calendar and created a new one. Much like ours, his calendar, called the Julian calendar, had leap years, 12 months and 365 days and was widely accepted throughout the Roman Empire. 

When the Roman Empire fell in the fifth century, the Christian church gradually organized the calendar so that it corresponded with Christian festivals. March 25, nine months away from December 25, was the day in Christian doctrine when Mary learned she would give birth to Jesus. Hence, March 25 became the start of the new year. However, over time, the dates in the Julian calendar became misaligned with the seasons and needed correction. In 1582, Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar, the Gregorian calendar, which was adopted by most of the Catholic countries. 

England, and its colonies, being Protestant, did not adopt it. So, up until 1752, the American colonists used the Julian calendar, marked March 25 as the new year for finance and business transactions, but celebrated New Year’s Day on January 1, the same day as many other countries did. Unfortunately, this confusion of dates can cause headaches for researchers and genealogists.

March, named in honor of Mars, the Roman god of war, is said to blow in as fierce as a lion. The Romans gave us the name for March as well as most of our months. For them, March was the start of melting snows, warmer weather and a good time to start a military campaign. Even in our time, several U.S. military initiatives began in March – Vietnam, Iraq, and Libya, to name a few.

Even if March is, at first, cold and blustery, it often softens as its days march forward. We become giddy during these warmer days; perhaps we become as mad as a March hare. Famously mad in “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” the March hare is based on real hares who court during the month of March by leaping, cavorting and acting rather hare-brained. 

Although not hare-brained, it is fair to say that this month the staff and I are giddy. Expecting to return to 50 North Main Street soon, we are beginning to bounce off the bookshelves. Since it is still too early to pack for our move, we will use our pent-up energy to celebrate some of March’s wacky and wonderful holidays. Come be giddy, wacky or as mad as a March hare with us on Oreo, Happiness, Purple and Pi Days and the rest of giddy March. 

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