March Madness sets in this month

Saturday, March 8, 2003

"Tossing his mane of snows in wildest eddies and tangles, lion-like March comes in ..."

-- William Dean Howells

January meets us wrapped in a blanket of snow, silent and serene. February speaks to us of peace and joy and love. March arrives in a mad, maniacal flurry, and with good reason.

March was named for Mars, the Roman god of war. For centuries until 468 B.C., March had the honor of being the first month of the Roman year. In that year, Julius Caesar decreed that Jan. 1 be observed as New Year's Day. The third century A.D. saw another change in the calendar. As Christians began to celebrate Jesus' birth on Dec. 25, they assumed that the new year began on March 25, the annunciation of the virgin Mary. So, March was once again the first month of the year. Around 1582, Pope Gregory XIII revised the calendar and re-established Jan. 1 as New Year's Day. Most Catholic countries accepted the Gregorian calendar. England and its colonies, however, continued to observe March as the beginning of the new year until the mid-1700s. No wonder there's a certain madness about March.

"March Madness" continues to this very day. Only now it refers to college basketball. Sixty-four of the best college teams begin their "march" toward the Final Four. It is "madness." Teams that should win don't; teams given a slim chance go on to win.

March is all about vibrant living and adjusting to sudden change. "If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb."

On March 17, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Legend has it that Patrick was born on either March 8 or 9. To keep people from fighting over the date, a wise priest combined the numbers and designated March 17 as "Patrick's Day." Spring is born anew on March 21. New life springs from the deadness of winter. The past is gone; we have the opportunity to begin fresh and new.

March encompasses a variety of life experiences. In March we observe Women's History Month, American Red Cross Month, Listening Awareness Month, Music in the Schools Month, Frozen Food Month, National Craft Month and National Umbrella Month.

March reminds us that there is a certain "madness" to life. Life gets extremely hectic. Life often does not make any sense. Life seems out of our control. Yet, in the midst of life's "madness" and uncertainty, God offers us new beginnings and new possibilities for doing good. We discover that all of life is still under God's control, and that eventually all our experiences will fall into proper place and life will make sense.

The Rev. Dr. Don Kuehle is a retired United Methodist minister from Jackson.

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