Holiday Traditions – March

St. Patrick’s Day: March 17
Purim: March 14
First Day of Spring: March 20
Easter: March 23

St. Patrick’s Day: March 17

resources_cloverSt. Patrick’s Day honors Patrick, the patron saint and national hero of Ireland, who promoted the Christian faith for 40 years until his death on March 17, 493.

The shamrock, the traditional icon of the holiday, stems from St. Patrick’s use of a three-leaf clover to explain the meaning of the Holy Trinity. Pointing to each leaf, St. Patrick conveyed that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit could all exist as separate parts of one entity.

The traditional “Wearin’ O’ the Green,” a central theme for St. Patrick’s Day, is rooted in an ancient Celtic ritual that honored a triad of fertility goddesses. During this ritual, the ashes of burnt green leaves were scattered over the fields to ensure a fruitful harvest.

Originally an Irish Catholic holy day, St. Patrick’s Day and was first publicly celebrated in Boston in 1737. Today, over 100 cities across the United States and Canada hold Saint Patrick’s Day parades. The largest “showing of the green” occurs during New York City’s Great Fifth Avenue Parade. Here, paraders wear green hats, ties, shirts, and ribbons and carry green carnations as they march through “The Big Apple.”

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Purim: March 14

Beginning at sundown on March 14, Purim is one of the liveliest of all the Jewish festivals. The Feast of Purim honors the execution of the Persian Haman, who attempted to eliminate the Jewish people. Queen Esther, with the help of her uncle Mordechai, risked her life to abort Haman’s plot, and Haman was later hanged by Esther’s husband, King Achashverosh.

During Purim, Jews in Israel and many other parts of the world go to synagogue and read the Meglliah Esther (Esther’s book). Special noisemakers called gragars are used during the reading of the Meglliah. Every time Haman’s name is mentioned, everyone boos, hisses, and twirls their gragar. Children dress up in costumes and many imitate the main characters in the story of Esther.

Parties are held at synagogues and in the streets, and special triangular cookies — symbolizing the three-cornered hat of Haman (the hat of a fool) — are prepared.

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First Day of Spring: March 20

The First Day of Spring — also known as the Vernal Equinox — is the point when the sun crosses the equator from north to south, signaling the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere.

Historically, different cultures and religions have provided myths and rituals that reflected nature’s transformation from winter to spring. Ancient pagan worshippers considered the Vernal Equinox the beginning of the New Year, a time to celebrate the resurrection of the sun god from the prison of winter. Christians celebrate Easter during the spring season, a glorification of Christ’s resurrection and a metaphor for the rebirth of nature — new life arising from death. Modern witches continue to celebrate the ancient Celtic festival of Eostre, whose name is derived from the Teutonic Goddess of the Earth, in recognition of this time of rebirth and rejuvenation.

Eggs — traditionally a symbol of fertility and growth — played an important part in ancient spring rituals. In ancient Greece and Persia, people exchanged eggs in anticipation of a fruitful spring season. According to folklore, the first day of spring is the only time of the year that eggs stand on end.

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Easter: March 23

Easter celebrates Jesus’ resurrection following His crucifixion. Christians celebrate Easter during the spring season, a glorification of Christ’s resurrection and a metaphor for the rebirth of nature new life arising from death. Christians throughout the world attend church services and gather together.

Eggs traditionally a symbol of fertility and growth played an important part in ancient spring rituals. In ancient Greece and Persia, people exchanged eggs in anticipation of a fruitful spring season.

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