Why do people celebrate the Ides of March?

The Ides of March is a day on the Roman calendar, observed on the March 15th of each year.

The Ancient Romans believed that the 15th day of every month was noteworthy. We won't get into their calendar-keeping too much, but here's the simple version: The Romans tracked time by the first day of the month (the Kalends), the seventh day (the Nones), and the fifteenth (the Ides). Any day after the 15th was said to be "before the Kalends," while days between the 7th and 15th were "before the Ides."

On the Ides of each month, the Romans would celebrate and praise Jupiter, the god of sky and thunder. That meant a big public festival with songs, food, and drink. On the Ides of March, they also marked the end of their New Year celebrations with the Feast of Anna Perenna (the lunar Roman calendar marked March as the first month of the new year). The day was also a deadline for settling debts-if you owed money, you certainly had a reason to watch the calendar.

In the modern world, most people know about the Ides of March thanks to Greek historian Plutarch, who wrote that a seer warned Roman emperor Julius Caesar to "beware the Ides of March."

While passing by the seer during the Ides of March festival, Caesar said, "The Ides of March are Come," implying that the man's prediction hadn't come true.

"Aye, Caesar" the soothsayer said, "but not gone."

Of course, the emperor was assassinated later that day. Shakespeare incorporated this story into his play Julius Caesar, and the phrase "beware the Ides of March" entered the pop culture phrasebook.

Today, some people see the Ides of March as unlucky, but there's no reason to believe that the day is any more ominous than any other date on the calendar. So, why do we still celebrate it?

The death of Julius Caesar was an important moment in world history, and Shakespeare's characterization of the event was certainly striking. Today, most people don't get together to have a huge party on the Ides of March, but it's at least a good opportunity to read some Shakespeare and think about our place in the world.