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Ancient celebrations of March 1st

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Originally wrote on March 1st, 2021. Updated 2023.

March, spring month par excellence, marked the beginning of the Roman year, which did not end in winter, like ours.
Nothing gives the idea of a new beginning better than the blooming of the first flowers, used to adorn the altars of Juno Lucina, the goddess who protected childbirth and brought light and fertility.
March is named after the god Mars: according to the legend, Romulus chose to call the first month of the year this way in order to honor his divine father.
The first day of March in Rome was celebrated the New Year (before the reform) which was called “anni sacri initium” because it was a sacred moment to celebrate.
During the day there were several parties that remained fixed on this date even after the New Year was moved to January 1st.

Matronalia (or Matronales Feriae), for example, was a festival celebrating Juno Lucina, the goddess of childbirth (“Juno who brings children into the light”), and of motherhood (mater is “mother” in Latin) and women in general.
In the original Roman calendar traditionally thought to have been established by Romulus, it was the first day of the year. On this day, women would participate in rituals at the temple, although the details have not been preserved other than the observation that they wore their hair loose (when Roman decorum otherwise required them to wear it up), and were not allowed to wear belts or to knot their clothing in any place.
At home, women received gifts from their husbands and daughters, and Roman husbands were expected to offer prayers for their wives. Women were also expected to prepare a meal for the household slaves (who were given the day off work).

Festum Vestae was instead a celebration in honor of Vesta and in her temple the eternal Sacred Fire was ritually extinguished and rekindled to symbolize the transition to the new year.
As the first day of March (Martius), the month of Mars, it was also the Feriae Martis.
The date of the festival was associated with the dedication of a temple to Juno Lucina on the Esquiline Hill circa 268 BCE, and possibly also a commemoration of the peace between the Romans and the Sabines.
As already mentioned above, the month of March takes its name from the god Mars and for this reason in Rome it was celebrated from 1st to 24th in honor of him. On 1/9/23 there was a procession called Ancilia Muventur with which the sacred shields were brought in procession. March also began the war campaigns, and this celebration had a propitiatory function.

In Scandinavian tradition, this month is linked to the legend of the first settlements in Norway. During this time, Gói, daughter of King Thorri, disappeared, and therefore a great sacrifice was made to receive help from the gods in finding her again.
The ritual was repeated for several years and became part of the tradition, so the month of Góa was born. Her brothers Nór and Gór did not rest until they found her, and this long research led to Nór’s foundation of Norway.
In the Anglo-Saxon calendar, it was known as Hrēþmōnaþ, the month of Hrethe, a mysterious goddess whose name means Victorious.
It was also known as Lentmonat, meaning Spring Month, although the term Lent, in the Christian area, indicates a purification period, which usually happens during this period.
In Finland, it is called maaliskuu, as the earth is finally seen again under the snowy mantle.
Athenians celebrated Anthesteria, a festival in honor of Dionysus, so this month was called Anthesterion.
In Japan, the traditional name is Yayoi (弥生), New Life, as nature returns to live in the spring.
In India, it was Kumbha, corresponding to our Aquarium zodiac sign while the Jewish calendar had the month of Adar, in which the exile of Jewish people in Babylon was remembered.

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