March, originally the first month of the year, is named for Mars, who, unlike the Greek Ares, has a dual aspect; war and agriculture.
Come Mars, God of War, lay aside your shield and spear:The theme this month may be said to be "good health and safety".
A moment, from your helmet, free your shining hair. (Ovid, Fasti, III)
Matronalia: 1st. The kalends is always sacred to Juno, and this month the kalends is also the anniversary of the dedication of the temple of Juno Lucina (Juno who brings children into the light) on the Esquiline, where Dionysius of Halicarnanus says Servius Tullius began the practice of depositing a coin at the birth of a child. The Matronalia festival celebrates childbirth and motherhood. "[M]atrons offered prayers to Juno and her son Mars at the Temple of Juno Lucina on the Esquiline. On this feast day, husbands traditionally gave their wives presents, and female slaves were given special meals and relieved of work.(McManus)". Only women were permitted at this festival, where they untied the knots in their clothing and unbound their hair, symbolically loosening the perils of childbirth.
New fire in the temple of Vesta: 1st. On this date the Vestals renew the sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta.
Feriae Marti: 1st - 24th. Much of the month is taken up with the Feriae Marti, featuring the leaping priests, the Salii. Their leaping is sometimes understood in relation to agriculture, encouraging crops to grow. Whatever the meaning, the Romans thought that the establishment of the Salii predated the republic.
Anna Perenna: 15th. Anna Perenna is the eternal circle of the year. Offerings are made to her "so that the circle of the year may be completed happily" ("ut annare perannareque commode liccat") (Macrobius, Saturnalia 1.12.6)
The happy feast of Anna Perenna is held on the Ides,A fountain dedicated to Anna Perenna was recently discovered in Rome (report, in Italian) in which was found a large number of curse tablets (report on the tablets, with photos, in English). Some people didn't want others to have a happy year, it seems!
Not far from your banks, Tiber, far flowing river.
The people come and drink there, scattered on the grass,
And every man reclines there with his girl.
Some tolerate the open sky, a few pitch tents,
And some make leafy huts out of branches,
While others set reeds up, to form rigid pillars,
And hang their outspread robes from the reeds.
But they’re warmed by sun and wine, and pray
For as many years as cups, as many as they drink. (Ovid, Fasti, III)
Bacchanalia and Liberalia: 17th. According to Varro, this is also known as the Agonalia or Agonium Martiale. Priests and priestesses wearing garlands of ivy carried portable altars on which offerings were burned. They carried wine, honey, cakes and sweet-meats. 16 year old boys received the toga virilis today.
Liber, before your birth the altars were without offerings,The Dionysia were introduced from Greece into Italy, becoming the Bacchanalia, but at some point things got out out of hand (so said the authorities) and in the early 2nd century BCE (See Livy XXXIX) the Bacchanalia was suppressed and the Liberalia took its place.
And grass appeared on the stone-cold hearths.
They tell how you set aside the first fruits for Jupiter,
After subduing the Ganges region, and the whole of the East.
You were the first to offer up cinnamon and incense
From conquered lands, and the roast entrails of triumphal oxen.
Libations derive their name from their originator,
And cake (liba) since a part is offered on the sacred hearth.
Honey-cakes are baked for the god, because he delights in sweet
Substances, and they say that Bacchus discovered honey.
Quinquatria: 19th to 23rd, ending with the Tubilustrium on the 23rd.
... the rites of Minerva are performed, Which take their name from the sequence of five days. The first day is bloodless, and sword fights are unlawful, Because Minerva was born on that very day. (Ovid, Fasti, III)
Festival of Salus: 30th. Salus is not only health, but prosperity in general. Coins often show Salus standing, feeding a snake (a symbol of prosperity) from a patera. A temple of Salus was built on the Quirinal in the late 4th century BCE (aedes Salutis a C. Iunio Bubulco censore locata est, quam consul bello Samnitium voverat Livy IX.43) but the cultus there is believed to be much older. There was also a statue of Salus in the Temple of Concord, who was also honored along with Janus and from the time of Augustus there was a celebration at the Altar of Peace. (... Ianus adorandus cumque hoc Concordia mitis et Romana Salus Araque Pacis erit. Ovid Fasti III)
Ideas for celebrations in March
The date of Mother's Day varies around the world and in many countries March 8th is International Women's Day. We can celebrate our "Mothers' Day" now, and you can add a second one following the customs of your own country.
If the weather permits, have an informal outdoor party. In Japan, it is nearly hanami season, and the feeling is much like celebrating Anna Perenna. Party with friends outdoors and pray for long life!
The vernal Equinox is March 21st. Your own Liberalia is not only a great chance to celebrate the end of winter (in the northern hemisphere at least), but it is also the best time to learn to make some liba: step by step instructions; photos and recipe.