March 21 in History
For the week of Mar. 19, 2023
Feast of St. Joseph: Roman Catholic. This feast day honors St Joseph, the husband of Mary. The celebration is especially important in Italy, because during the Middle ages when Sicily was plagued with a horrible drought, St. Joseph (San Giuseppe) answered the peopleis prayers to him by ending the drought. A giant feast was held to honor San Giuseppe, a tradition that continues to this day. On the eve of March 19, bonfires are lit in the streets. The next day, an elderly carpenter is chosen to act the part of San Giuseppe, while a poor girl is chosen to play the part of Mary, and a young orphan boy plays the infant Jesus. A midday mass is held, followed by and outdoor banquet where crespoli di riso (rice made into sausages and fried in honey) and sfinci (cream-puff fritters with ricotta filling) are eaten. After the banquet, the Holy Family mounts richly adorned mules and leads a procession while being showered with gifts. The feast became widespread in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and in 1621 Pope Gregory XV made the Feast of St. Joseph a holy day.
Independence Day: Tunisia. This holiday commemorates the treaty of March 20, 1956, by which France recognized Tunisia as a sovereign nation.
Now Rouz (New Year): Iran. This is the traditional New Year in Iran, coming at the time of the spring equinox and marking year 1380. The two days before Now Rouz are celebrated as holidays, as are the thirteen days following Now Rouz.
Vernal Equinox Day (Shumbun No Hi): Japan. This celebrates the beginning of spring *and is a public holiday in Japan. *
Benito Pablo Juarez (1806-1872): Mexico. Political leader. One of the national heroes of Mexico, Juarez served his country as minister of justice, vice president, and president during the turbulent period from 1855 until his death. Among Juarezis achievements are both the successful military resistance to the French emperoris attempt to impose a puppet ruler, the archduke Maximilian of Austria, as emperor of Mexico, and the institution of a number of civil reforms.
Naw Ruz (New Year): Bahaii. The Bahaii year consists of 19 months with 19 days in each month. The new year is preceded by a 19 day period of fasting from sundown to sunset beginning on March 2 and ending on March 20, during which Bahai is set time aside for prayer and meditation. Children under 15, the ill and pregnant women and nursing mothers are exempt from the fast. Bahaii days begin at sunset, so the New Year starts at sundown on March 20.
Robert Smalls (1839-1915): African American. War hero and legislator. As a slave forced to serve in the Confederate navy, Smalls took control of his vessel and turned it over to Union forces. He then served as a pilot and later captain in the United States Congress.
Emancipation Day: Puerto Rico. On this day in 1873 the Spanish colonial government of Puerto Rico abolished slavery, fulfilling the commitment made after the Lares uprising of 1868. (September 23 is commemorated in Puerto Rico as the anniversary of the uprising that initiated the movement for Puerto Rican independence. On this date, a 400-man army of liberation led by Manual Rojas, under orders from the exiled leader Ramon Emeterio Betances, gathered and took the town of Lares. They formed a provisional government and issued four proclamations, including one promising freedom for all slaves who joined the rebel army. Although the army was defeated and disbanded the following day, some of its aims were realized nearly immediately (the Spanish government decreed the gradual abolition of slavery by 1873), and the revolt is *remembered as the first large-scale armed rebellion against Spanish colonial rule. *
Independence Day: Greece. During the early 19th century, Greeks throughout the world *Joined a secret society, the Philike Hetairia (Friendly Association), whose purpose was to collect money and arms for a revolution to free Greece from Turkish rule. In March of 1821 the head of the organization, Alexander Ypsilanti, entered Turkish territory with a group of armed followers and declared the independence of Greece. Although his uprising was crushed, it is remembered as the first event in Greeceis struggle for independence. *
Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957): Italian American. Orchestra conductor. Toscanini, one of the great virtuoso conductors of the early twentieth century, first came to prominence as a conductor of operas. After serving as musical director of La Scala, the opera house of Milan in his native Italy, and then of the Metropolitan Opera in New York, he became conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and finally of the NBC Symphony, sponsored by the radio network, which broadcast his performances to millions of homes across the nation. He was legendary for his phenomenal memory, his attention to detail, and his powers of interpretation, particularly in his performances of Verdi, Beethoven, and Wagner.
Independence Day: Greece. During the early 19th century, Greeks throughout the world joined a secret society, the Philike Hetairia (Friendly Association), whose purpose was to collect money and arms for a revolution to free Greece from Turkish rule. In March of 1821 the head of the organization, Alexander Ypsilanti, entered Turkish territory with a group of armed followers and declared the independence of Greece. Although his uprising was crushed, it is remembered as the first event in Greeceis struggle for independence.
The Annunciation: Christian. Based on the gospel in Luke 1:266-56, this holy day celebrates the Angel Gabrielis announcement to Mary of Galilee that she would become the mother of Jesus.
Henry O. Flipper (1856-1940): African American. Military officer. Henry Flipper was the first Black West Point graduate. Although the fifth Black accepted to West Point, he was the first to graduate and in 1877 became the first Black commissioned officer in the United States Army. Flipper described his successful struggle against ostracism and prejudice in The Colored Cadet at West Point (1878). He joined the Tenth Cavalry, one of two all-Black army units. At Fort Sill in the Oklahoma territory, he perfected a system for draining mosquito ninfested stagnant water that caused outbreaks of malaria at the fort. In 1881, he was court-martialed on charges of embezzlement. A review of the trial record at the time concluded that the charges were dubious, but President Chester Arthur refused to set the verdict aside. In 1976, the United States Army lifted Flipperis dishonorable discharge, recognizing that the conviction was racially motivated. On February 19, 1999, President Clinton granted a posthumous pardon to Flipper. Flipper has also been honored at West Point with an annual award given in his name to an outstanding cadet, and with a section of the library named after him.
National Day: Bangladesh. Formerly the eastern part of Pakistan, Bangladesh is the worldis 139th independent nation, having emerged as a sovereign, independent state on December 16, 1971. March 26, 1971 marks the day the newly formed Bangladesh government declared independence form Pakistan.
Muharram (New Year): Islam This begins the New Year of 1422 based on the Islamic lunar calendar for Muslims. The Islamic lunar calendar dates from the hegira, the flight of the Prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 (based on the solar calendar.)