It was quite a while ago that I first heard of March 25 being called Lady Day. Of course I thought that sounded just lovely, but I was only aware of it as a Christian festival, the Annunciation of Our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary, or The Feast of the Annunciation. It is given as the day that Mary conceived Christ, and was told by an angel that she would be carrying the Son of God.
Now of course that's not something that means much to me. Seeing as I don't believe that any such thing happened, I didn't feel at all entitled to claim or celebrate this holiday, in spite of its most excellent title. But then lately I started hearing references to March 25 being the birthday or celebration day of much older, pagan goddesses. I've looked into it, and discovered the missing piece to a puzzle that I've wondered about for a long time.
Why would March 25 be anything of much excitement in itself, falling just three days after the Equinox (spring in the northern hemisphere, autumn in the southern), when all the action really happens? It turns out that it all comes down to the shift from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar that we all mostly agree upon nowadays. Before this change, which shifted the dates by about three days, March 25 was in fact the date of the Equinox, and it was celebrated accordingly on this date. This post here explains it all as simply as can be, for something so convoluted. Now it all makes sense! It also sheds new light on my understanding of how December 25 came to be Christmas Day - it's the same three-day translation of the date of Yule, the winter solstice.
So, quite simply, March 25 is just the Equinox in the old money. In the northern hemisphere, this was celebrated as the festival of Eostre, or a celebration for Ishtar or Astarte or whoever the local Goddess of Spring was. The Catholic Church made a clean sweep of assimilating both interpretations of the date of the Equinox by assigning one as the conception of Christ, and one as his death/resurrection.
It was interesting to discover that for several centuries March 25 was considered New Year's Day. This date was significant in many legal and official aspects of life. On this day, rents were paid to landlords and leases and contracts of all kinds were granted or renewed. It was a also a time when many marriages and handfastings were performed.
This aspect of the tradition of this day really struck a chord with me, as it was a year ago today that the Goddess came to me and released me from a spiritual contract that was a great trial to me. Though of course there was, and still is, a heavy price to pay for it, the freedom from this burden has been a great blessing to me. Today I give thanks for this bittersweet blessing.
And now the concept of March 25 being 'Lady Day' makes sense to me, it has a reality and I can claim it as part of my cultural history and tradition. Whether we call her Mary or Eostre or by any of a multitude of other sacred names, today is a day to celebrate and honour the power of the Great Lady.