1. It’s March—Happy New Year, ancient Romans!
Welcome to the third month of the year—or, if you were born before 150 B.C., the first! According to the oldest Roman calendars, one year was ten months long, beginning in March and ending in December. It may sound crazy, but you can still see traces of this old system in our modern calendar: because December was the tenth month, it was named for the number ten in Latin (decem), just like September was named for seven (septem). So, what about January and February? They were just two nameless months called “winter,” proving that winter is literally so awful it doesn’t even deserve a spot on the calendar. Check out these vintage photos that prove winter was way worse in the past.
2. It’s the best month for basketball (but worst for productivity)
For civilians, on the other hand, March is known for one thing above all others: brackets. March Madness, as the NBA calls it, runs from March 11 to April 2 this year, and the safest bet you can make is that lots and lots of people will be distracted. One number-crunching firm predicted last year that American companies would lose $1.9 billion in wages paid to unproductive workers spending company time on betting pool priorities. (Suffice it to say, March is not a productive month—this is the single most productive hour and month of the year.) How to recoup these costs? Go into gambling. According to the American Gaming Association, fans wagered more than $2 billion on March Madness brackets for the 2015 tournament. Each one of those 70-million-or-so brackets has a one in 9.2 quintillion (that’s 9 followed by 18 zeroes) chance of predicting the correct winners of every game. Good luck!
4. March was named for war—and lives up to its title
So, if so many months were named for their Latin numbers, why wasn’t March called… unumber? Firstly, because that sounds ridiculous, and secondly, because the Gods had dibs on it. March was actually named for the Latin Martius—aka Mars, the Roman God of war and a mythical ancestor of the Roman people via his wolf-suckling sons, Romulus and Remus. With the winter frosts melting and the ground becoming fertile for harvest again in the Northern hemisphere, March was historically the perfect month for both farmers to resume farming, and warriors to resume warring.
5. Beware The Ides of March unless you’re a cat
We’ve all heard it uttered, but what does “beware the Ides of March” actually mean? On the Roman calendar, the midpoint of every month was known as the Ides. The Ides of March fell on March 15th. This day was supposed to correlate with the first full moon of the year (remember, winter didn’t count then) and marked by religious ceremonies, but thanks to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar we know it for another reason. Supposedly, in 44 BC, a seer told Julius Caesar that his downfall would come no later than the Ides of March. Caesar ignored him, and when the fated day rolled around he joked with the seer, “The Ides of March have come.” The seer replied, “aye, Caesar; but not gone.” Caesar continued on to a senate meeting at the Theatre of Pompey, and was summarily murdered by as many as 60 conspirators. Ironically, the spot where Caesar was assassinated is protected in today’s Rome as a no-kill cat sanctuary.
So, if someone tells you “beware the Ides of March,” they are probably just being a jerk, or letting you know they’ve read Shakespeare. Don’t miss more facts about the Ides of March you should know.
6. March 1: As the saying goes, March comes “in like a lion, out like a lamb.” That was certainly true on March 1st, 2007, when a detachment of 170 Swiss infantrymen accidentally invaded neighboring Liechtenstein when they got lost on a training mission.
7. March 2: NASA astronaut Scott Kelly returned from space after one full year, setting a new record for the longest uninterrupted trip to space.
8. March 5: Thirsty bros observe Cinco De Marcho, initiating a 12-day drinking regimen for anyone who wishes to “train one’s liver for the closing ceremonies on St. Patrick’s Day.” By the way, this is why we wear green for St. Patrick’s Day.
9. March 6: The Day of The Dude encourages participants to honor The Big Lebowski by takin’er easy all day, man.
10. March 13: Daylight saving time begins, freeing American city-dwellers from the constant refrain of “it’s dark before I even leave work.” Don’t miss these other daylight saving time facts you probably didn’t know.
11. March 14: Pi Day celebrates the annual occurrence of 3/14 with math jokes, pi-reciting competitions, and (of course) freshly baked pie.
12. March 17: St. Patrick’s Day turns the Chicago River green, and too many livers cirrhosis-damage-brown. (You’ll want to check out these St. Patrick’s Day “facts” that are actually false.) And on this day in 1973, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of The Moon” first hits the Billboard Top 200 chart at number 95. A mere 14 years later (736 chart weeks, to be exact), it finally leaves the top 200 for the first time, setting a still-unbroken world record. (You’ve got a long way to go, Adele.)
13. March 20: The sun shines on the equator for the Vernal Equinox, giving us a near 50-50 split of day and night.