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March, more than just a windy month

March is a “woe” month, and not just because the virus boom has been lowered on us, or this year’s announcement that March Madness games will be held without spectators, but also dating back to the Ides (15th day) of March, when Caesar was stabbed to death, now considered a day to be feared – and on to what is called Triskaidekaphobia (the fear of the number 13), often observed as a bad luck day.

There are varied explanations for the fear of Friday the 13th, but most often it’s traced back to the fact that there were 13 people at the Last Supper – Christ and his 12 disciples – and you know what happened after that tragic meal, observed as bad luck with the superstitious Victorians of the 19th century, who feared it as a bad luck day.

Since ancient history was often incorrectly recorded, the bad luck day became Tuesday the 13th in Spain, and in Italy as Friday the 17th, while another suggestion added the same fear to a Norse myth about a dinner in the Norse heaven, where 12 gods were invited, but a 13th crashed the affair and wreaked havoc. 

A British 1993 scientific study under the title “Is Friday the 13th bad for your health?” stated that the risk of leaving one’s home on that day might result in bad luck, predicting that hospital admissions could skyrocket.

And more from the same study, estimating that up to $800 million is lost every Friday the 13th. Why? People who believe the day is unlucky refuse to travel, go to work, shop nor do much of anything except stay home, avoid black cats and 13th floors in public buildings.

(You might have noticed missing 13th floors in many high rise buildings; now you know why.)

Napoleon and Franklyn D. Roosevelt are also among the superstitious; neither would travel on that day nor would ever host a meal with 13 guests. 

On Friday, October 13, 1307, when French King Philip !V arrested hundreds of Catholic Knights, whom, he wrongly believed, that during their Templar ceremonies were forced to spit on the cross, deny Christ, and engage in homosexual acts. Charged with confessions obtained under torture, many of the Knights were burned at the stake on that fatal day in Paris; it was quoted that the Grand Master of the Knights, facing the flames in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, was quoted as saying, “God knows who is wrong; soon a calamity will occur to those who have condemned us to death.” And so again Friday the 13th became bad luck.

But the month of March is also the month dedicated to the Irish and this year to women. To honor both, here is a statement from a disconcerted Irish lass, registering for our interest her generation’s modern thoughts:

“What does it mean to be Irish? Lately, I’ve been wondering what is special about it? The language, for one thing. Only a few old people speak Gaelic on a daily basis, sometimes learnt in school but rarely used outside the classroom.

“And like the language: most of Irish culture is being forgotten, carried on by the elderly in remote parts of the country, or to impress tourists. Gaelic culture is what foreigners come here to experience – the language, the traditional music, Irish dancing, and our drinking habits – yet few of these are now practiced by most of us. Oh, we still drink plenty and Irish music still survives, and Irish dancing, too, but all, except on special occasions like Saint Patrick’s Day (originally created in America, by the way), are concentrated among the older and more remote people. 

“Sports are still important to us: Gaelic football and hurling (hockey played outdoors in summer) are still supported by us all, male and female – and fought over constantly – while foreign sports like soccer, rugby, basketball, even cricket and American football are now gaining popularity.

“Any traditional values worth keeping? – like religion, which was extremely important to us until of late, with the Church abusing its power, most disliked among us young people – almost gone.

“We all feel some connection to the past, to the Great Famine, various rebellions against the Vikings and Brits for our freedom. But outside of sports, there’s been little display of nationalism and flag waving.

“We used to have strong family ties, but electronics competes with earlier family closeness.

“We do have a strong connection with the land. Irish means having been born on the island of Ireland. But does this mean we have a national identity which at its core is what culture and nationality is all about? Is Irish simply a label we use for ourselves? What does it mean to be Irish? Wish I knew.”

To conclude more optimistically, and for a moment forget about our own current medical problems, let’s enjoy an old fashioned Irish tradition with this invocation:

“May your troubles be less and your blessings be more, and nothing but happiness come through your door.” It’s still possible!

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