Once upon a time, back when the world was still fresh and young, and the months barely more than children, things were a lot different than what we know now. Out of the twelve sons of the Time March was the shortest, having been born with twenty-eight days instead of thirty or thirty-one. Not that it bothered him. By the time his turn on the Wheel of the Year arrived people were more eager to prepare for his brother April’s arrival and the actual beginning of spring. March, for all his quick temper, was good-natured at heart and didn’t mind helping the people adjust from his elder brothers’ icy temperaments to the youngers’ warmth and exuberance. So he had a bad habit of dealing frosts with one hand and sunshine with the other. Who could blame him? He was stuck right in the middle!
Truth be told, most people didn’t mind March’s changefulness, thinking of him as the actual beginning of spring rather than the more accommodating April. There was one though, one who dislike poor March more than anyone in the world and that was Old Missy. Old Missy lived in a small house at the edge of her village with her two goats and her giant cauldron. She was cheese-maker and there was little she enjoyed more than complaining about everything and everyone around her. None, not even the months could escape her tongue-lashings and she always seemed dissatisfied with something, be it the weather, the children playing near her house too loudly or her poor goats for not giving the right amount of milk.
When March found out, he took it upon himself to change Old Missy’s mind. He heard her complaining about the children’s’ noise so he blew cold winds to send them back to their mothers’ hearths. Still the old woman complained.
“Ah March! Fickle March! You blow your cold winds and make my old bones ache. You send the earth back to winter’s sleep, no grass is growing and what will my goats eat?”
So March tried again, eager to make Missy happy. He gave her warm, sunny days so that grass would grow for her goats to eat and for her old joints no to hurt. Still the old woman complained.
“Ah March! Fickle March! You grow hot and spoil my milk before I can make cheese. Your sun makes folk and beast lazy and none will come to my house to buy my wares and how will I live with no profit?”
Every day for all his twenty-eight days March tried to make the old woman happy. He brought rain to cool the heat, she complained of rheumatisms. He made flowers bloom in her front yard, she moaned the colours hurt her eyes. He coaxed the birds to sing sweetly by her windows, she groaned for the noise that wouldn’t let her sleep. At last the twenty-eighth day arrived. Old Missy sat on her porch and cackled in delight.
“Ah March! Fickle March! There’s still some life left in these old bones! You tried your best but I beat you and lived through all your topsy-turvy weather!”
March, exhausted as he was, grew angry. He had tried everything in his power to make Missy happy and still she mocked him. He wrapped himself in a cloud of early-morning frost and off he marched to his elder brother’s icy castle. He found February tending to his snowdrops.
“Brother February, grand me a boon,” March said, as he joined his brother’s gardening efforts.
“If it is in my power, will all my heart,” February answered and another flower bloomed cautiously under his gaze.
“There is an old woman mocking my powers,” March said. “Grant me three days so that I may punish her.”
February nodded silently. He knew of Old Missy and of her bitterness. His bad leg had been bothering him a lot more lately. Maybe it would do him good to roam the earth less. So he chose his three coldest days and gave them to March. The younger month thanked him and, armed as he was, stood right over Missy’s house and blew the worst storm that the old woman had ever seen. For three days the wind tore and the rain fell and when April finally poked his mischievous head around the corner, he found the old woman and her goats hiding under the giant cauldron for protection, the house having been completely blown away.
Thus February became the shortest month, March gained three days and an old woman learnt the value of silence.