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20 Offbeat Holidays and Anniversaries to Celebrate in March

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This year presents a month of March packed to the gills with traditional holidays: St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Passover, Passover: Night Two. Luckily our gills have extra room for all the unusual holidays and memorable anniversaries March has to offer as well.

1. March 1: National Peanut Butter Lovers Day


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If you love peanut butter, today is the day to proudly polish off your PB-based sandwich of choice. Reflect on all of the amazing qualities of peanut butter, from its delicious taste to its fantastic gum-removing capabilities. If that’s not enough, there’s even a year-round website for lovers of the legume-based spread.

2. March 1: 52nd Anniversary of the Peace Corps


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A volunteer army intended to combat the evils of Cold War communism with kindness, the Peace Corps took its first steps when President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order on this day in 1961. At the time he was only requesting a trial mission, but the Peace Corps has since become a worldwide humanitarian institution.

3. March 2: National Old Stuff Day

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Sorry hoarders, this holiday does not actually honor the person with the most (old) stuff. Rather, National Old Stuff Day encourages its observers to take a moment to recognize the same old stuff you do every day, and think about how you can break out of these stale routines. So seize the day, because tomorrow may just be more of the same old, same old.

4. March 3: National Anthem Day


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By the dawn’s early light, we do believe the United States adopted The Star Spangled Banner as its national anthem on this very day. Francis Scott Key wrote the famous words in his 1814 poem “Defence of Fort McHenry,” which would later be set to a popular British standard tune. Although recognized over time by various American institutions, the song did not become the official anthem until Congress passed a resolution making it so in 1931.

5. March 4: Casimir Pulaski Day


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The name may sound familiar to fans of indie soft-rocker Sufjan Stevens, but Casimir Pulaski Day is in fact a real Illinois holiday. Observed on the first Monday in March, CPD honors Revolutionary – and Polish – officer Casimir Pulaski. He died in battle, never having become a citizen of the country for which he fought. In 2009, President Obama signed a joint resolution granting him posthumous citizenship 230 years later. (New York City also celebrates Pulaski, but they do it on October 11.)

6. March 5: Cinco de Marcho


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Last year, one of our readers tipped us off to a new holiday called Cinco de Marcho. The 12 Days of Cinco de Marcho commence on the fifth of March, followed with a rigorous training regimen by observers to prepare their livers for St. Patrick’s Day. For games and activities, check out the official site. For your inevitable 12-day-long hangover, aspirin or ibuprofen should help.

7. March 7: Alexander Graham Bell Day


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One hundred thirty-seven years ago to the day, American inventor Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for a little invention called “the telephone.” He was only 29 years old at the time. Instead of spending the day asking yourself what meaningful contribution you made to society before the age of 30, fill your heart with thankfulness because without Graham Bell there wouldn’t be text messages.

8. March 9: National Panic Day


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Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy enthusiasts may struggle to fully embrace this holiday, but this March 9th event encourages you to indulge all of your deepest fears and let loose a rampage of unbridled hysteria. Observational practices may include—but are certainly not limited to—tearing out one’s hair, standing in public spaces and shrieking like a banshee, sobbing uncontrollably, or finally breaking ground on that underground bunker you have always dreamed of building.

9. March 12: National Alfred Hitchcock Day


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Did you know Alfred Hitchcock never won an Oscar for Best Director? Today, regale your friends and family with your encyclopedic knowledge of Hitchcock trivia, or learn some new facts. May we suggest a movie marathon for the evening activity? If you dare…

10. March 12: Katie Fisher Day

Started this year by comedian Matt Fisher in memory of his sister Katie, Katie Fisher Day asks observers to select a person they love, bake cookies, and mail said cookies to said loved one. Sweet message, sweet reward. We're really hoping this new offbeat holiday sticks around!

11. March 13: 232nd Anniversary of the Discovery of Uranus


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The most unfortunately named planet had the good fortune to be discovered by Sir William Herschel on this day in 1781. The world almost missed out on one of the best astronomical puns, as Herschel initially misreported his finding as a common comet. A few other earlier scientists are believed to have observed Uranus prior to Herschel’s discovery, but because he was the one who notified the Astronomer Royal, Herschel gets all the credit for Uranus. We hope you giggled as much reading this paragraph as we did writing it.

12. March 14: National Pi Day


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Don’t let the sound of the name fool you, 3/14 does not commemorate the sweet, baked circuitous treat. However, it is circuitous-related. It is the official day of the Greek letter symbolizing the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter, pi, also known as 3.14159265359…

13. March 15: The Ides of March


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Or, roughly, the 2057th anniversary of Julius Caesar’s assassination by Brutus & Co. One of the most famous Roman emperors received the ultimate backstabbing from his political contemporaries who felt he had gotten a little too big for his britches—or in his case, his toga. The word “ides” derives from the Latin word idus, a time word that indicates “middle of the month.” In the case of March, May, July, and October, this meant the 15th day. If you’re a Shakespeare fan, you know that it’s best to beware on this day.

14. March 16: Everything You Do Is Right Day


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Yes, that’s correct. We couldn’t agree more.

15. March 20: Extraterrestrial Abductions Day


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There’s no reason to believe that there will be an unusual proliferation of Unidentified Flying Objects on this out-of-this-world holiday. At least that’s what Big Brother wants you to believe…

16. March 22: 50th Anniversary of the Beatles’ First Album


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Only 50 years ago did the Fab Four embark on their career that would arguably change music forever. Not necessarily their most famous album, Please Please Me still featured such classics as I Saw Her Standing There and Love Me Do. The album was so popular in the British Isles that it topped the charts for 30 consecutive weeks only to be bumped from the top spot by another Beatles album.

17. March 23: National Puppy Day


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You never need an excuse to spend all day long watching adorable young pups playing, but today it is your nationally mandated duty. If merely observing is not enough for you, go to the official website to vote for America’s Most Beautiful Puppy, consider donating to your local animal shelter, or just take the plunge and adopt one! We strongly advise first consulting your partner, parent, or roommate on that last option.

18. March 25: 150th Anniversary of the U.S. Medal of Honor


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Though created in 1861, the highest military honor the United States has to offer made its official debut in 1863 when the United States Department of War awarded it to Union Army soldier Jacob Parrott. Since then, more than 3400 Medals of Honor have been presented to individuals across all divisions of the military.

19. March 25: International Waffle Day


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A tradition that originated in Sweden, and should not be confused with America’s “National Waffle Day” in August, International Waffle Day basically encourages the consumption of all things bready and waffled. The world holiday came out of a religious Swedish holiday called Våffeldagen, which basically means “Our Lady’s Day” or at least so the Internet tells us. To celebrate this day, Swedish families would make waffles. One day, someone had the brilliant idea to divide into two holidays and conquer the world. We can all agree everyone won that day.

20. March 31: Eiffel Tower Day


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One of the world’s most famous “towers” was dedicated to the city of Paris on this day in 1889. Named for its designer, Gustav Eiffel, the structure was intended to commemorate the French Revolution. This Parisian landmark isn’t the only famous structure with Eiffel’s paw prints all over it. He also helped design the framework of New York’s own Statue of Liberty.

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Autumn Equinox 2017: Today Is the First Day of Fall
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On September 22, at 4:02 p.m. ET, the Sun will shine directly over the equator—the midpoint of the Earth. The whole world will thus experience a day and night of equal length. In the Northern Hemisphere, we call this the autumn equinox. It marks the first day of fall. Around the world, people are marking the day with ceremonies, some of them ancient (and some less so).

You might be wondering two things: 1. Why on almost every other day of the year (the vernal equinox being the other exception) do different parts of the world have days and nights of differing length? 2. What do they call the day in the Southern Hemisphere?

A DAY AT THE BEACH

The answer to each of these questions resides in the Earth's axial tilt. The easiest way to imagine that tilt is to think about tanning on the beach. (Stay with me here.) If you lay on your stomach, your back gets blasted by the Sun. You don't wait 30 minutes then flop over and call it a day. Rather, as you tan, every once in a while, you shift positions a little. Maybe you lay a bit more on one side. Maybe you lift a shoulder, move a leg a little. Why? Because you want the Sun to shine directly on a different part of you. You want an even tan.

It might seem a little silly when you think about it. The Sun is a giant fusion reactor 93 million miles away. Solar radiation is hitting your entire back and arms and legs and so on whether or not you adjust your shoulder just so. But you adjust, and it really does improve your tan, and you know this instinctively.

An autumn equinox celebration at the Neris River waterfront in Vilnius, Lithuania.
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The Earth works a lot like that, except it's operating by physics, not instinct. If there were no tilt, only one line of latitude would ever receive the most direct blast of sunlight: the equator. As the Earth revolved around the Sun, the planet would be bathed in sunlight, but it would only be the equator that would always get the most direct hit (and the darkest tan). But the Earth does have a tilt. Shove a pole through the planet with one end sticking out the North Pole and one end sticking out the South, and angle the whole thing by 23.5 degrees. That's the grade of Earth's tilt.

Now spin our little skewered Earth and place it in orbit around the Sun. At various points in the orbit, the Sun will shine directly on different latitudes. It will shine directly on the equator twice in a complete orbit—the fall and spring equinoxes—and at various points in the year, the most direct blast of sunlight will slide up or down. The highest latitude receiving direct sunlight is called the Tropic of Cancer. The lowest point is the Tropic of Capricorn. The poles, you will note, are snow white. They have, if you will, a terrible tan—and that's because they never receive solar radiation from a directly overhead Sun (even during the long polar summer, when the Sun never sinks below the horizon).

WHEN DO THE SEASONS CHANGE?

A Maya priestess conducts an autumn equinox ceremony at El Salvador's Cihuatan Archeological Park.
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The seasons have nothing to do with the Earth's distance from the Sun. Axial tilt is the reason for the seasons. The Sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer (66.5 degrees latitude in the Northern Hemisphere) on June 21 or 22. When that occurs, the Northern Hemisphere is in the summer solstice. The days grow long and hot. As the year elapses, the days slowly get shorter and cooler as summer gives way to autumn. On September 21 or 22, the Sun's direct light has reached the equator. Days and night reach parity, and because the Sun is hitting the whole world head-on, every latitude experiences this simultaneously.

On December 21 or 22, the Sun is directly over the Tropic of Capricorn in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning the Northern Hemisphere is receiving the least sunlight it will get all year. The Northern Hemisphere is therefore in winter solstice. Our days are short and nights are long. Parity will again be reached on March 21 or 22, the vernal equinox for the Northern Hemisphere, and the whole process will repeat itself.

Druids on London's Primrose Hill marking the autumn equinox.
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Now reverse all of this for the Southern Hemisphere. When we're at autumnal equinox, they're at vernal equinox. Happy first day of spring, Southern Hemisphere!

And welcome to fall, Northern Hemisphere! Enjoy this long day of sunlight, because dark days are ahead. You'll get less and less light until the winter solstice, and the days will grow colder. Take solace, though, in knowing that the whole world is experiencing the very same thing. Now it's the Southern Hemisphere's turn to get ready to spend some time at the beach.

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11 Sweet Facts About Rosh Hashanah
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The first Rosh Hashanah supposedly occurred in the Garden of Eden. But what does this important Jewish holiday involve today?

1. IT LITERALLY TRANSLATES AS "HEAD OF THE YEAR."

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, can fall any time between the fifth of September and the fifth of October on the Gregorian Calendar. On the Jewish calendar, it is the first day of the month of Tishrei and marks the start of the High Holy Days. These days are also known as the days of awe, ushering in the final phase of atonement. The holiday celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the world.

2. FOR THE MONTH BEFORE, JEWS ASK FOR FORGIVENESS FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY.

In order to have a clean slate going into the New Year, Jews ask for forgiveness from those close to them. The idea here is that God cannot forgive transgressions against people until those wronged have forgiven.

3. TRADITIONALLY, ROSH HASHANAH HAPPENS OVER TWO DAYS.

These days are combined into the yoma arichta, or "long day." At sunset on the first evening, candles are lit by the lady of the house. Then blessings are recited: a traditional holiday blessing over the candles, followed by the shehecheyanu, a thanksgiving prayer for special occasions. Both evenings also feature a festive meal.

4. UNLIKE DECEMBER 31, THE JEWISH NEW YEAR IS A TIME OF SERIOUS REFLECTION AND REPENTANCE.

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Even Jews who go to synagogue at no other time of year will often go on the high holidays, which include Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Religious poems called piyyutim are recited and a special high holy day prayer book called the machzor is used. The service is often longer than Sabbath services, and centers around the theme of God’s sovereignty, remembrance, and blasts of the shofar (see below).

5. DESPITE NOT BEING A HUGE PARTY, JEWS ARE EXPECTED TO ENJOY THE YOM TOV, OR HOLIDAY.

People often get fresh haircuts and new clothes in order to celebrate. The tradition is to wear white clothing as a sign of purity and renewal. Some avoid wearing red, since it's the color of blood.

6. ACCORDING TO THE TALMUD, ON ROSH HASHANAH, GOD INSCRIBES EVERYONE'S NAMES INTO ONE OF THREE BOOKS.

The metaphorical understanding is that good people go into the Book of Life, and evil ones into the Book of Death; those who are in the middle are put in an intermediate one and have judgment put off until Yom Kippur. Since virtually no one is all good or all evil, you're supposed to assume you fall somewhere in the middle, and in order to be inscribed in the Book of Life for the coming year, it is important to do everything possible to atone before Yom Kippur.

7. THE SOUNDING OF THE SHOFAR IS THE MOST ICONIC IMAGE OF THIS HOLIDAY.

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The shofar is a ram’s horn that is curved and bent. It is hollowed out and blown during religious ceremonies to make three different sounds. Hearing it is meant to call you to repent.

8. WHILE SOME JEWISH HOLIDAYS INVOLVE FASTING, ROSH HASHANAH INVOLVES A FEAST.

It is traditional to eat apples dipped in honey to represent having a sweet year ahead. A round challah bread symbolizes the cycle of the year (another interpretation is that it represents a crown and thus God’s sovereignty). Sometimes a fish, or just its head, is included, possibly to represent that as fish cannot survive without water, Jews cannot survive without the Torah. Pomegranates contain many seeds, which have long been associated with the commandments that Jews follow, so by eating them they remind themselves to be good in the coming year. Other common foods include dates, leeks, gourds, and black-eyed peas, all of which are mentioned in the Talmud as foods to eat on New Year’s.

9. SOME BRANCHES OF JUDAISM PARTICIPATE IN THE RITUAL OF TASHLIKH, OR "CASTING OFF."

The ritual involves standing near water, like a river, and reciting prayers. Then participants symbolically cast away their sins by throwing bread crumbs or stones into the water. This is supposedly derived from the Biblical passage “You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19), although most Jewish sources trace it back to 15th century Germany. In New York City, large groups gather on the Brooklyn Bridge, while in Israel—where there is much less open water—people might use something as small as a fish pond.

10. THERE ARE VARIOUS TRADITIONAL GREETINGS FOR ROSH HASHANAH.

L'Shana Tova Tea-ka-tayvu is Hebrew for “May you be inscribed for a good year,” referring to that person’s name being put in the Book of Life. This is often shortened to Shana Tova, which just means “Good Year.” This isn’t to be confused with wishing each other a “Happy New Year.” Happy implies a level of superficiality, while the Jewish wish for a good year hopes the person will achieve their purpose.

11. THE HAVDALAH PRAYER IS PERFORMED AS NIGHT FALLS ON THE SECOND AND LAST DAY.

It involves saying blessings over a full cup of kosher wine or grape juice, although other drinks can be used in a pinch. After this, Rosh Hashanah is over.

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