No-one knows how April came by its name, but it may have come from the Latin word ‘aperire’, to open. April is, after all, the month when buds open and Spring begins, but only in the Northern hemisphere of course.
Anglo Saxons called April ‘Eastremonath’ which is where the word ‘Easter’ comes from. Eastre or Ostara was the Saxon goddess of the Dawn and therefore worshipped at the time of the Spring equinox, marking a new beginning in nature.
Above: The Goddess Ostara
The connection between Easter and the ‘egg’ symbolising new life also originates from pre-Christian times but fits perfectly with the Christian belief of the resurrection.
The original Easter Bunny was the Hare. The Anglo-Saxons believed that the hare laid eggs in its form to signify the imminence of the year’s rebirth, but the Church changed the hare into a ‘bunny’ in order to lead people away from pagan stories. The Spring Goddess was often depicted as a woman’s body with the head of a hare.
April begins with a day of fun and jokes - April Fool’s Day. The origin of this custom is shrouded in the mists of time but it has been kept for hundreds of years.
According to country lore, the arrival of the cuckoo heralds the beginning of Spring, with the result that cuckoo fairs are still held in many villages today, eg. Marsden in West Yorkshire, Heathfield in East Sussex
and Downton in Wiltshire. Traditionally, the cuckoo was supposed to sing from St. Tiburtius’ Day (14 April) to St. John’s Day (24 June).
Above: St. Tiburtius
The first Sunday in April is Daffodil Sunday, when in Victorian times families picked daffodils from their gardens and took them to local hospitals.
Maundy Thursday, 5 April, commemmorates The Last Supper and refers to Christ’s final instruction to his Disciples. The word ‘Maundy’ comes from the Latin ‘mandatum’, meaning to command. During The Last Supper, Christ washed the feet of his Disciples and in England the custom of the monarch washing people’s feet continued until 1689.
Good Friday (6 April in 2012, the date of the full moon) was believed to be the date of Jesus’ crucifixion and Easter Monday, the date of the resurrection.
23 April is Shakespeare’s birthday and St. George’s Day. Dragons are woven into the folklore of many English villages and hamlets, appearing in rhymes and in church sculpture. They are believed to have derived from serpent worship, found in most pagan cultures. Pagans believed that serpents brought wisdom, but the Church, of course, equated them with evil and sin, as in the book of Genesis. The dragon myth took hold and in a thirteenth century book of saints, dragons were depicted as demanding sacrifices of sheep and innocent maidens, requiring ‘dragon slayers’ such as St George and St Michael to come to their aid. The use of dragons on crests and as a heraldic device on shields became popular and connections with Arthurian legend and other romantic Medieval stories popularised the dragon myth.
Other dates of interest:
8 April Buddha’s birthday
12 April 1961 Yuri Gagarin made the first flight into space.
15 April 1912 RMS Titanic struck and iceberg and sank.
16 April 1889 Charlie Chaplin was born.
18 April 1934 First launderette was opened!
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