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Project Britain
Folklore Calendar
stories, sayings, customs
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A month by month of forgotten legends and pastimes from Britain's folk history
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Facts about March
Customs and Traditions

Gemstone: Bloodstone
Flower: Jonquil


Where does the word March originate from?

The word 'March' comes from the Roman 'Martius'. This was originally the first month of the Roman calendar and was named after Mars, the god of war.

March used to be the first month of the year

March was the beginning of our calendar year. We changed to the 'New Style' or 'Gregorian calendar in 1752, and it is only since then when we the year began on 1st January.

Another name for March

The Anglo-Saxons called the month Hlyd monath which means Stormy month, or Hraed monath which means Rugged month.

All year round Traditional games played in March

All through Lent the traditional games played are marbles and skipping. The games were stopped on the stroke of twelve noon on Good Friday, which in some places was called Marble Day or Long Rope Day.

The game of marbles has been played for hundreds of years and some historians say that it might have been started by rolling eggs. In the past, round stones, hazelnuts, round balls of baked clay and even cherry stones have been used.

All year round Superstition

25If Easter should fall on Lady Day (March 25) then some disaster will shortly follow:

'When my Lord falls in my Lady's lap,
England beware of some mishap.

All year round Borrowed Days

The last three days of March were said to be borrowed from April.

‘March said to April,
I see 3 hoggs (hoggets, sheep) upon a hill;
And if you’ll lend me dayes 3
I’ll find a way to make them dee (die).
The first o’ them wus wind and weet,
The second o’ them wus snaw and sleet,
The third o’ them wus sic a freeze
It froze the birds’ nebs (noses) to the trees.
When the 3 days were past and gane
The 3 silly hoggs came hirpling (limping) hame.”


25All year round The Tichborne Dole
A Curious Custom Folk Story

The Tichborne Dole is one of the eccentric British traditions and dates back to the thirteenth century. It takes place in the village of Tichborne near Alresford in Hampshire every year on March 25th the Feast of the Annunciation (Lady’s Day).

Over eight hundred years ago, there lived a kind and generous women called Lady Maybela. It was custom in those days that if the woman had a lot of money, it all belonged to her husband from the day of their marriage. So, although Lady Maybela had been very rich, she had to ask her husband, Sir Roger de Tichborne, for anything she wanted.

Sir Roger was not the nicest of all people. Lady Maybela had to beg for everything she needed. Most of things she had she gave to the poor.

When she was very ill and dying, she asked her husband if he would still be kind to the poor people after she was dead. She wanted him to give bread to the poor once a year. Sir Roger wasn't very happy about this, for he would have to give up some of the flour that he made from the wheat he grew and he didn't like to give anything away for nothing!

Now, remember that Lady Maybela was very ill! Sir Roger took a burning log from the fire. He told his wife that however much of his land she could get round before the flames from the log went out, he would set aside for the growing of wheat and this wheat would be made into flour for the poor.

Lady Maybela called to her maids and they lifted her from her bed into the grounds outside.

Now, everyone knows that March is a very windy month, but as Sir Roger carried the burning log outside to watch Lady Maybela, the winds dropped and the flames from the log burned brightly with an unflickering flame. Lady Maybela tried to stand up but she was too weak, so she began to crawl on her hands and knees. As she disappeared in the distance, the servants held their breath and watched the flames on the log. Sir Roger was getting more and more angry as he saw how far his wife was crawling - he thought he had set her an impossible task. He saw Lady Maybela turn and start to cross across the land - then, still crawling, she turned again, this time to crawl down back to the house. All the time the flame burned brightly.

As Lady Maybela was nearing the house, the log was nearly all burned out, and when at last she reached the place where she had started, the flame suddenly went out. She had crawled over an area of twenty-three acres! These same twenty-three acres are, even today, still known as the 'Crawls'.

Before Lady Maybela died she made Sir Roger promise to give all the flour grown on the 'Crawls' to the poor every 25th March, and just to make sure he kept his promise, she put a curse on the Tichborne family and house. The curse said that anyone in the family not giving flour to the poor on 25th March would find that their house would collapse, their money would be lost and seven sons would be born followed by seven daughters and the name Tichborne would die out.

The flour was given every year until 1796, when Sir Henry Tichborne gave money to the church instead of flour to the poor. He had seven sons, his eldest son had seven daughters and half the family fell down, so a very worried son of Sir Henry, a Sir Edward Doughty-Tichborne, started up the custom again - and things have been all right ever since.

Story as re-told by Toni Arthur in her book 'All the Year Round'

All year round Lent Lily

Lent LillyOne of the flowers most associated with March is the narcissus (Wild daffodil). Named after the boy in Greek mythology, who was changed into a flower. Narciccus is also known as Lent Lily because it blooms in early spring and the blooms usually dropping before Easter. It is the main daffodil species of Britain.

The daffodil became a popular Welsh symbol in the 19th Century. Lloyd George used it to symbolise Wales at the 1911 Investiture and in official publications.

In England the daffodil inspired amongst others William Wordsworth to write his famous poem "Daffodils."


I WANDER'D lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

By William Wordsworth (1770-1850).

All year round Weather-lore, beliefs and sayings

Like most months, March weather lore has many old sayings to guide us:

'When March comes in like a lion it goes out like a lamb.'

'A dry March and a wet May
Fill barns and bays with corn and hay.

'As it rains in March so it rains in June.'

'March winds and April showers
Bring forth May flowers.'

All year roundFestivals and Traditions

01St David's Day - Patron Saint of Wales

05 St Piran's Day Cornwall

All over Cornwall celebrations are staged for St Piran's Day.

datesMothers Day / Mothering Sunday (3 weeks before Easter)

datesSimnel Sunday

The fourth Sunday in Lent (3 weeks before Easter) when Simnel cakes are eaten.

17 St Patrick's Day - Patron Saint of Ireland

25 Lady Day

datesPalm Sunday

This special day marks the beginning of Holy Week when we remember Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem and the waving of palm branches. Read more here

31 Oranges and Lemons.

In the days when the River Thames at London was wider than it is now, barges carrying oranges and lemons landed just below the churchyard of St. Clements Dane. On the last day of March, local primary school children gather at the church to attend a service. They recite the famous nursery ' rhyme and, on occasions, play the tune on hand bells. At the end of the service, the children are presented with an orange and a lemon from a table outside the church .

The nursery' ' rhyme, which begins with the lines:

'Oranges and lemons
Say the bells of St Clement's'

Unusual Customs

All year round Anniversaries

3rd - Alexander Bell, inventor of the telephone was born in 1847

15th - This date was the 'Ides of March' in the Roman calendar. This meant it was the day on which the month was divided into two equal parts. Julius Caesar was murdered on this date in 44 BC.

18th - 30 mile an hour speed limit imposed on built up areas in 1935

22nd - English football league formed in 1888

23rd- In 1891 goal nets were used for the first time in English football.

25th - Heathrow Airport Opened in 1948

26th - Anniversary of the first daily weather forecast.

29th - Coca-Cola was introduced on this date in 1886.

31st - The Eiffel Tower in Paris was officially opened in 1889

All year round

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