March 25th is the Feast of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary. This event is mentioned only in St. Luke's Gospel, but since Christ was born at the winter solstice (though this date is not to be found in any Gospel), it was logical that he should be conceived at the spring equinox.
The subject was always a great favourite with artists, especially in the Italian renaissance. The setting is almost always the same. Mary is wearing her traditional colours of red dress and blue cloak, and she is sitting in a cloister or loggia. Often she is shown reading a book, open at the prophecy of the birth of the Saviour. Gabriel usually enters from the left of the picture. Sometimes he carries a white lily, symbolising Mary's purity. Often there is a white dove, or a single narrow shaft of light.
This version by Lorenzo Lotto is not typical of the genre, but I love it because of the cat, which has seen the archangel and is suitably
Until 1753 England used the Julian calendar, which had become increasingly inaccurate, and March 25th was the start of the New Year; but then Lord Chesterfield pushed through Parliament his reform to bring the country in line with the continental Gregorian calendar. The start of the year was changed to January 1st, and eleven days were added to the year to catch up with correct dating. However, the financial year did not change, and continued to start at March 25th plus eleven days.
A glance at a newspaper horoscope will show that the astrological year still begins with the sign of Aries, the Ram, starting at the spring equinox in March.