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AN ENGLISH ROSE IN GEORGIA –

By Lesley Francis

MARCH MUSINGS

Mid-March has arrived, with the wonderful longer light evenings brought by daylight saving. Here in Coastal Georgia, that means St. Patrick’s Day mania when everything is green – except our cars and our yards which are greenish-yellow because of pollen season! Personally, I don’t mind that because it means spring and summer are on their way.

Everyone knows that March 17th is the big Irish festival, being celebrated in Savannah on Saturday, a day early for the 200th anniversary of the city’s St Patrick’s Day party. However, did you know that March 14th is National Potato Chip Day, National Celebrate Scientists Day and in Japan, China and South Korea they celebrate love on White Day? This is a kind of second Valentine’s Day designed for the ones who received gifts a month ago to give gifts back to the one they love to return the favor. The kicker is that on this day, custom requires you to give three times the number of gifts you received on Valentine’s Day.

“March” is named for Mars, the Roman god of war, because it was the time of year to resume military campaigns that had been interrupted by winter. In the early Roman calendar, March (or Martius) was the first month of the calendar year, although the Roman King Numa Pompilius introduced January and February into the calendar pushing March to the third month, where it continues to sit in the Gregorian Calendar we use today. Tomorrow, March 15th was known as the Ides of March in the ancient Roman calendar and is associated with misfortune and doom. It became renowned as the date on which Roman dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BCE and was further immortalized in the tragedy Julius Caesar by English dramatist William Shakespeare. In the play, a soothsayer warns Caesar to “beware the Ides of March.”

As March brings the first day of spring with the vernal equinox on March 21, it makes sense that it is the start of new beginnings and is still the first month of the year for millions of people around the world. For instance, New Year is celebrated on the Hindu calendar in India and the Persian calendar in Iran, the Middle East, the Black Sea and Central and South Asia. The orthodox Jewish calendar starts the New Year with the month of Nisan which normally falls in March.

The birth flower for those born in March is the daffodil which symbolizes new birth, beginnings, happiness and joy. I do miss the sight of hundreds of daffodils growing in the English countryside as they remind those living in this northern European climate that the harsh winter is over with the end of freezing temperatures.

The birthstones for March are aquamarine and bloodstone, symbolizing courage, strength and perseverance. Aquamarine gets its color from small amounts of iron in the gemstone and can range from blueish green to deep blue. The word “aquamarine” is derived from the Latin words aqua, meaning “water,” and marina, meaning “of the sea.” According to legend, aquamarine stones would create a calm sea for those during travel. Due to a belief that the aquamarine’s reflective properties could unearth things deep within a person’s soul, it was quite popular among healers and mystics across the ages. Aquamarine is not only a March birthstone, but it is also the celebratory stone for a 19th wedding anniversary.

Bloodstone is known for its dark green color with flecks of red spots. The red spots, which can resemble drops of blood, are due to the presence of iron oxide in the stone. Because of this odd look, bloodstones have long been associated with blood. At various times in human history, the stone has been believed to help with hemorrhages and blood disorders. The Aztecs used bloodstones to help regulate blood flow, and the gem has been a symbol of bravery through its link to blood and vitality. Christians in the Middle Ages associated bloodstones with martyrdom and the crucifixion of Christ.

March has also been a busy month in American history. Yellowstone became the world’s first National Park in 1872, and the Hoover Dam was completed in 1936. Mount Rushmore was established and work started on the giant presidential face carvings in 1925. Maine and Florida became the 23rd and 27th states in 1820 and 1845, and in 1867 the US agreed to buy Alaska from Russia for $7.2m. And, for a final bit of March Americana historical trivia, in 1959 Ruth Handler, whose husband was the founder of Mattel Toys, launched a doll fashioned after her own daughter. Her daughter’s name “Barbara” and nickname “Babs” were already trademarked, so she had to settle for her third choice: “Barbie”. The book Timeless Toys describes this as “the biggest selling toy in the history of proprietary toy manufacturing”.

There is more information on the month of March at timeanddate.com, britannica.com and history.com.

I will leave you with a traditional English proverb: “March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.” God Bless America and enjoy the rest of March!

– ENDS –

Lesley grew up in London, England and made Georgia her home in 2009. She can be contacted at lesley@francis.com or via her full-service marketing agency at www.lesleyfrancispr.com