weird and wacky holidays happening in March

March 18 is Awkward Moments Day

awkward moments

is for Awkward


US /ˈɔk·wərd/
1. difficult to use, do, or deal with:
The computer came in a big box that was awkward to carry.
2. causing inconvenience, anxiety, or embarrassment:
It was an awkward situation, because the restaurant was too expensive for us but we didn’t want to just get up and walk out.
3. Someone who feels awkward feels embarrassed or nervous:
We were the first to arrive at the party and felt a little awkward.
4. lacking grace or skill when moving:
He’s too awkward – he’ll never be a good dancer.

(Definition from Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

hear pronunciation Warning: If you decide to listen to this  audio clip at the office, be warned that it is automatically followed by pronunciation of the word “pedophile.” That will not be easy to explain to Human Resources.

In honor of Awkward Moments Day, we’d like to offer a few examples of instances when you would gladly teleport onto the face of the sun to get away from the situation in which you find yourself.

You meet your boyfriend’s parents and, in the middle of dinner, realize you have a need to defecate that will not be denied. You excuse yourself to use their bathroom. When you finish, the toilet won’t flush. Panic-stricken, you flush again. The toilet overflows.

You keep telling your parents about a favorite show you’re sure they’ll love. When they visit, you queue it up on Netflix. Unfortunately, you forgot about the nudity and “sexposition”–when boring plot points are discussed while two or more people enjoy each other’s earthly wares. You might call it Game of Thrones Syndrome when you’re ready to laugh about it a decade from now. But most likely, never.

You’re on your way out when a neighbor gets on the elevator with you. You say hi and then stare at the door as if it’s so interesting it should be hanging in an art gallery. You purposely lag behind when getting off on the first floor, but she holds the front door open so you have to break into a half-jog to catch up. You say “thanks,” she says, “you’re welcome,” and turns away. You realize you’re going in the same direction.

After everyone else leaves and the boss is gone, you blast rap music through the office’s stereo system. The doorbell rings and you buzz the person in, figuring it’s a late delivery. But it’s a prospective client who’s stopped by to pick up information just as a song kicks in with, “Hey, m*f*, hey, m*f*, yo!” You scramble to turn it off, then pretend nothing happened, desperate that he do the same. After a minute that feels like an hour, he turns around and leaves.

Your debit card is rejected after the cashier has rung up a huge load of groceries. You start to sweat as you ask her to try again, stammering about how it must be a mistake, that you checked your balance just hours before. You try to ignore her facial expression as she puts your bags aside so you can run to the store’s ATM. Once there, you realize it’s not a mistake, and you can either go back, remove items and split payment between cash and the card…or run away and never shop there again.

You’re wheeling a cart stuffed with dirty clothes to the laundromat. As you cross the street, you see a cute guy walking toward you. You think he might be looking at you; you’re not interested but, still, it’s nice to be noticed. The cart abruptly halts as the wheels catch on the edge of the curb, and you walk into it, bashing your shins and falling over it as it tips over, spilling your underwear out onto the ground as the guy passes by. He never breaks stride.

Have a happy Awkward Moments Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

March 17 is St. Patrick’s Day

st patrick's day

St. Patrick

Today is St. Patrick’s Day, the rare religious holiday that everybody celebrates. Everybody.

It’s believed he was born in Roman-ruled Britain in 385 AD. At age sixteen, he was kidnapped by marauders who took him to Ireland and sold him into slavery. Several years later, Patrick had a religious experience in which God told him to flee to the coast, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. When he got back, he became a priest.

Later, he returned to Ireland as a missionary and carried a shamrock, which has three leaves, to help explain the trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. He may have used it to appeal to pagans who worshiped nature or believed in triple deities. One thing is certain: the four-leaf clover has nothing to do with St. Patrick’s Day.

Patrick is said to have converted thousands. The story that he drove all the snakes out of Ireland probably refers to his efforts to rid the country of Druids, members of a religious sect who were often labeled as sorcerers. There have never been any snakes in Ireland, except for those in zoos.

Patrick died of natural causes on March 17, 461. Today, people around the world will celebrate the 1,555th anniversary of his death. The rules governing Lent–prayer, fasting, penance, etc.–are lifted today, which may help explain why St. Patrick’s Day has become associated with parades and parties and drinking to excess.

St. Patrick isn’t officially a saint. The Roman Catholic Church had no canonization process in place at the time. Still, by sheer force of numbers, he is celebrated more than any other saint. His appeal has grown far beyond that of a religious icon; he is a cultural superstar. So raise a glass, sing an Irish Rovers tune at the top of your lungs and, whatever you do, have a happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays


March 16 is Goddard Day

Goddard Day

Goddard and his rocket – March 1926

Today is Goddard Day. On March 16, 1926, scientist Robert Goddard successfully launched the first liquid-fueled rocket.

In 1915, he had challenged accepted beliefs about propulsion when he theorized that a rocket could produce thrust in the vacuum of space, where there was no air to push against. He was widely ignored and paid for the supplies he needed to build his prototypes from his salary as a part-time teacher at Clark University in his hometown of Worcester, MA.

By 1916, the costs of his research exceeded his ability to pay and he applied to several places for financial support. Only the Smithsonian Institution granted Goddard $5,000 after he sent them a paper he’d written, “A Method for Reaching Extreme Altitudes.”

In 1920, the Smithsonian published the article, which included a thought experiment about sending a rocket carrying flash powder to the surface of the moon, where it would ignite and be visible through telescopes on Earth. Although it amounted to eight lines on the next to last of 69 pages, the press pounced upon it, ridiculing Goddard as a fool.

The most notable mockery came from the New York Times, which ran an editorial the day after the paper’s release, which read, in part:

…after the rocket quits our air and and really starts on its longer journey, its flight would be neither accelerated nor maintained by the explosion of the charges it then might have left. To claim that it would be is to deny a fundamental law of dynamics, and only Dr. Einstein and his chosen dozen, so few and fit, are licensed to do that.

That Professor Goddard, with his “chair” in Clark College and the countenancing of the Smithsonian Institution, does not know the relation of action to reaction, and of the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react–to say that would be absurd. Of course he only seems to lack the knowledge ladled out daily in high schools.

The author and, by extension, the Times, showed a failure of imagination and fact-checking. Goddard, a physics professor, had read Newton’s Principia Mathematica in high school and recognized that his Third Law could allow for the navigation of objects through space. A rocket ejecting fuel while traveling at high speed creates its own action and equal, opposite reaction, enabling thrust in a vacuum.

Goddard’s response to the ridicule heaped upon him was simple and straightforward:

Every vision is a joke until the first man accomplishes it. Once realized, it becomes commonplace.

Six years later, Goddard launched the first rocket fueled by gasoline and liquid oxygen from his Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn, MA. His log entry the next day described the scene:

Even though the release was pulled, the rocket did not rise at first, but the flame came out, and there was a steady roar. After a number of seconds it rose, slowly until it cleared the frame, and then at express train speed, curving over to the left, and striking the ice and snow, still going at a rapid rate.

The rocket, later named “Nell,” rose just 41 feet during a 2.5-second flight that ended 184 feet away in a cabbage patch but it was an important demonstration that liquid propellants were possible. Goddard paved the way for a generation of scientists to make space exploration a reality.

In 1930, Goddard received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation and relocated to Roswell, NM, with his wife and a small team to continue his research in seclusion. Within a few years, his rockets had broken the sound barrier, reaching speeds up to 741 miles per hour and heights of up to 1.7 miles. (The speed of sound isn’t static. It’s influenced by altitude and temperature. So even though 741 mph is too slow to break the sound barrier at sea level, it’s more than enough when you launch from an elevation high above sea level—like New Mexico—and climb upward from there.)

Goddard paved the way for the Space Age but died in 1945 at age 62, before he could witness its fruition. Now known as the father of modern rocketry, he is recognized for his research and its role as a precursor to the field of rocket propulsion.

In 1951, Goddard’s widow and the Guggenheim Foundation jointly filed a patent infringement claim against the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense. In June of 1960, the U.S. government paid the estate $1 million to acquire the rights to more than 200 patents covering “basic inventions in the field of rockets, guided missiles, and space exploration.” NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD, is named in his honor.

The original launch site was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966 with a stone marker on what is now the Pakachoag Golf Course in Auburn, MA.

On July 17, 1969, the day after Apollo 11 launched on its way to the moon, the New York Times issued a correction to its 1920 editorial:

Further investigation and experimentation have confirmed the findings of Isaac Newton in the 17th Century and it is now definitely established that a rocket can function in a vacuum as well as in an atmosphere. The Times regrets the error.

It made no mention of Robert Goddard.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays


March 15 is the Ides of March

ides of march

Caesar was killed on this spot.

Today is the Ides of March, which marks the date in 44 B.C. that Julius Caesar was assassinated.

To learn why it was called the Ides of March, we need to take a look at the Roman calendar in use 2,060 years ago. Days of the year weren’t not numbered sequentially. Instead, each month had three division days: Kalends, Nones and Ides.

Kalends always fell on the first day of the month. The Nones fell on the fifth, except in months that had fewer than 31 days. In March, May, July and October, the Nones fell on the seventh. The Ides occurred eight days after the Nones. Easy, right?

Not so fast. Some histories report that the Ides were considered a time to pay debts and settle accounts. It also appears that the Ides stood not just for one day but the following month. This is important to the understanding the events leading up to the assassination of Julius Caesar.

William Shakespeare studied the writings of Plutarch when crafting Julius Caesar, so even though he used poetic license when penning the famous line, “Beware the Ides of March,” he based the scene surrounding it upon a real occurrence. To wit: there was a soothsayer named Spurinna, who warned Caesar of his rapidly-approaching fate.

Spurinna was a haruspex, one who discovered and interpreted omens by inspecting the entrails and organs of animal sacrifices. He hailed from Etruria, known for its training in divination. Etruscans were accorded high social status in Rome. Spurinna had access to prominent citizens and was undoubtedly privy to gossip and rumors, which could only help him in his occupation.

Caesar was not well-liked. He had brazenly taken a foreigner (Cleopatra) as his mistress. He had declared himself dictator perpetuo, dictator in perpetuity, on February 14th, spurring fears he would declare himself king and do away with the Senate altogether.

On February 15th, Caesar consulted Spurinna. A bull was sacrificed and its innards interpreted. Spurinna announced a bad omen: the bull had no heart. It’s a testament to belief that no one demanded to inspect the body or asked how the animal survived to adulthood, until its sacrifice, without a heart.

Spurinna told Caesar to beware the next 30 days, not just March 15th. Was it sound advice by way of divination, an educated guess or something more? It was common knowledge that Caesar was scheduled to leave Rome on March 18th to lead his army on a military campaign that would last for years. The assassins had to strike before then.

According to historian Barry Strauss, author of The Death of Caesar: The Story of History’s Most Famous Assassination, Caesar took the warning seriously. He had no intention of attending the Senate meeting on March 15th. His wife Calpurnia awoke that morning from a nightmare that he’d been murdered, which strengthened his resolve to stay home.

He almost made it but succumbed to peer pressure when his friend Decimus, whom you’ve probably never heard of, came to his home and goaded him into attending. He told Caesar the Senate would brand him a tyrant, that everyone would laugh at him and think him weak and feeble-minded for allowing himself to be cowed by a woman’s dream and a fool’s omen.

The ploy worked. Decimus persuaded his friend to walk into the arms of his killers. Caesar never cried out in anguish, “Et tu, Brute?” The phrase has become shorthand for the experience of being stabbed in the back–hopefully metaphorically–by someone close. But Caesar and Brutus were never friends.

He must have been shocked to see Decimus stabbing him but didn’t call out his name, either. He was too busy trying to fight back and escape. Of course, he had no chance against the men surrounding him. Many of the 23 wounds occurred after he was dead; they took turns sticking him so they could all claim a role in the assassination.

Even in death, Caesar had a surprise in store, In his will, Caesar bequeathed a large cash payment to every citizen and soldier. He posthumously adopted Octavian as his heir and left him three-quarters of his private fortune to help him purchase the love of the populace and the loyalty of the military.

After years of civil war, Octavian became sole ruler of the Roman Empire. The fight for a new republic, which had driven men to slay their leader, was lost.

It seems all Romans would have done well to beware the Ides of March.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays