Why "Mad" in March?
Does "March Madness" affect you in ways you don't know?
Posted Mar 14, 2012
March has long been linked with madness. It was named for the Romans for Mars, the god of war because spring was a good time to start military campaigns. Just as the world was springing back to Life, men's thoughts turned to new conquests, not the ensuing Death—a paradoxical kind of madness that permeates human history. Since Caesar's assassination, the Ides of March has cast its sinister shadow across the ages marking a leader's murder by his friends because they feared his power and mistrusted their democracy—madness or justifiable treason? And what is the Ides of March? It's simply the fifteenth day, half way through the month, a day dedicated to Mars.
For Christians, March marks the ending of Carnival and the beginning of Lent. Best known as Carnival or Mardi Gras, beginning in February and extending into March, this period of "madness," of eating, drinking, and partying, often to excess, is the final splurge before the coming forty days of fasting in Lent. Costumes are worn, often with masks, to protect the wearers from "evil spirits" (or from possible transgressions of social decorum). Carnival allowed the budding Christian church to absorb the pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Bacchanalia. After this blast, Christians begin Lent, which means Spring. Lent commemorates Christ's fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, which led to visions of temptation by the devil. The Eastern Orthodox Church calls Lent "the Bright Sadness," a mystical and paradoxical union of joy and sadness.
Lent ends with the celebration of Easter, which may be either at the end of March or the beginning of April. The date of Easter changes following a maddingly complex system complicated by the fact that the churches of Western Christendom and the Eastern Orthodox Christian churches celebrate Easter on different dates. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, Easter always falls after Passover because the Crucifixion and Resurrection occurred after Christ entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. In the Western church, Easter sometimes occurs before Passover. Easter and Passover have always been closely linked, not only by the calendar, but also by their symbolism-seeking freedom, be it from persecution or from sin and death. The word Pasch, meaning Passover, also refers to Easter. Christ is sometimes called the Paschal lamb. Once again, we see the merging of different religions.
The March equinox (when day and night are the same length because the earth is at its closest alignment with the sun at the equator) reminds us that we are on a globe wobbling through space, much as we spin through our lives, not always totally in synchrony. The crazy wobble provides us with the delightful change of the seasons and a reminder share with others as we share the sun.
March has some intriguing dates. Pi Day because today, March 14, is 3.14—the first three digits of Pi, a constant, irrational, transcendental fraction—a definition that speaks for itself. International Woman's Day is also in March—as was the Bacchanalia, a sacred rite originally only for women, which was maligned and desecrated. Of course there's the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, which is usually in March, and a better month for madness is, perhaps, not to be found. Why? March is mad by it's very nature. It marks the changing of the seasons from winter to spring with weather that is unpredictable from one day to the next. It roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. The sap begins to rise. Even the March hare is known for its madness, for March is the season for mating, which leads to all sorts of madness, as we all know.