March is the month when spring season starts. “Aprite le finestre al nuovo sole! E’ primavera! Festa dell’amor!” are the words of a famous Italian song of the ‘50s, which means, “Open your windows to the new sun! It is spring! Feast of love!”. Italians know the old saying “A San Benedetto le rondini sul tetto”, that is “On the day of St. Benedict, swallows are back on the roofs of houses”. In other words, with the warming up of the season in the days around spring equinox (21st March), this kind of bird is back again from Africa to Europe making nests on the roofs of houses. Flocks of swallows flying and twittering through blue skies is the main sign of spring for Italian people.
Weather in Italy during March is quite unpredictable, swinging fast with the wind between sunshine and rain. This is the reason for the old saying “Marzo pazzerello, esce il sole e prendi l’ombrello”, which means, “Crazy March, the sun comes out and you take the umbrella”.
March 8th is “Festa delle Donne” (“Women’s Day”), celebrating women’s contribution to humankind in their roles for family, at work, and in all other aspects of life. Italians show it with flower presents to women in their circles, specifically bunches of yellow mimosa flowers. In some cities, activists organize mass rallies in main streets, with slogans and chants in support of women liberation from their past social customs submissive to men.
March 19th is “Giorno di San Giuseppe” (“Day of St. Joseph”), when “bonfire night” takes place all over Italy’s countryside towns, with people having fun in circle around bonfires. As with many Christian traditions, this too preserves a previous non-Christian practice more connected to the rhythms of life through the seasons. In this case, the idea for bonfire is to get rid of the cold winter and to welcome spring with fun, food and dances around warm bonfires.
March 25th is “Domenica delle Palme” (“Palm Sunday”), when people go to church and get “palms” blessed by the priest. “Palms” are little branches with leaves of either palm tree or olive tree, which churchgoers exchange one another and, to ward off evil, keep at home on walls or above doors, or even on the roofs. It is a tradition inspired by a story in the Christian Gospels, when Jesus and his followers went to Jerusalem, Jesus riding on a donkey and his followers brandishing palm branches and hailing him as the Messiah expected by the Jews.