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A month by month of forgotten legends and pastimes from Britain's folk history
Facts about the Month of April
 

Gemstone : Diamond
Flower : Sweet Pea

Where does the word April orginate from?

No one knows for certain how April got its name, but it may have come from the Latin word 'aperire' which means 'to open'. April is, after all, the month when in the northern hemisphere buds begin to open and things start to grow again after the winter.

Eostre monath or Eastremonath was the Anglo-Saxon name for the month. The name of the Christian Festival of Easter comes from this Anglo-Saxon word.

All year round April Fools Day

April begins with a day of fun and jokes - April Fool's Day. No one really knows when this custom began but it has been kept for hundreds of years.

The First of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fools Day;
But why the people call it so,
Not I, nor they themselves do know.

Follow this link to read more about April Fools' Day - customs, traditions and history

All year round The Cuckoo

The arrival of the cuckoo is the signal that spring has come. It arrives some time in mid April.

cuckoo

The cuckoo sings from St. Tiburtius' Day (14th April) to St John's Day (24th June). However in Worcestershire there is a saying that the cuckoo is never heard before Tenbury fair (April 21st), or after Pershore fair (June 26th). The difference in dates is because traditionally the bird arrives in different parts of the country during April.

Various April dates are called 'Cuckoo Day ' and some places hold 'Cuckoo Fairs'.

Marsden Cuckoo Day in West Yorkshire is an annual traditional festival that celebrates the arrival of spring. According to a local legend, Marsdeners used to try to prolong the cuckoo's stay by building a wall around its nest.

Heathfield Cuckoo Fair in East Sussex is an annual tradition of releasing a cuckoo to mark the beginning of summer. A tale of Heathfield Fair depicts an Old Woman releasing the Cuckoo from her basket, whereupon he "flies up England carrying warmer days with him".

Downton Cuckoo Fair is an annual traditional event held on the greens of the picturesque village of Downton, south of Salisbury, Wiltshire. The fair marks the "opening the gate" to let the cuckoo through.

Here is an old traditional rhyme about the Cuckoo's summer life cycle:

In April I open my bill
In May I sing night and day
In June I change my tune
In July far far I fly
In August away I must

14thSt. Tiburtius' Day

The cuckoo sings from St. Tiburtius' Day (14th April) to St John's Day (24th June).

Superstition

moneyIf you should hear the cuckoo sing on St. Tiburtius' Day, you should turn over all the money in your pockets, spit and not look at the ground! If you do this and are standing on soft ground when you do it, you will have loads of good luck. However if you are standing on hard ground - the cuckoo's call means bad luck.

 

Find out more about English Superstitions

swallowAll year round The Swallow

The swallow makes its reappearance during April. Earlier people were mystified by the disappearance of many birds during the winter and at one time thought that the swallow spent the cold months hidden in the mud at the bottom of ponds. Traditionally April 15th is 'Swallow Day' in England , the date on which returning swallows were seen again.

All year round Weather-lore, beliefs and sayings

April showers bring May flowers.

If early April is foggy
Rain in June
Will make lanes boggy.

When April blows its horn
'Tis good for hay and corn.

April wet - good wheat.

Till April's dead, change not a thread.

All year round April Traditions and Festivals

Easter usually comes in the month of April. It is what is called a 'moveable feast' because the date of it is fixed according to the moon. Easter Sunday has to be the first Sunday after the full moon which means that Easter can fall as early as 22 March or as late as 25 April .

01 April Fool’s Day

date Maundy Thursday / Holy Thursday 2010

The word ‘Maundy’ comes from the Latin Mandatum meaning an order or command. It refers to Christ’s final command to us via His Apostles, given at the Last Supper.
Read more about what happens on this special day in England.

date Good Friday 2010

The saddest day of the Christian Year, when Jesus was put to death.
Read more here

daffodildateDaffodil Sunday

The 1st Sunday in April is called Daffodil Sunday. In Victorian times families picked daffodils from their gardens and took them to local hospitals to give to the sick.

 

easter

12Easter Day 2010

The happiest day of the Christian Year,
when Jesus rose from the dead.

Read more here

 

6th Candle Auctions

On 6 April there used to be Candle Auctions. A candle was lit and a pin stuck in it about two and a half centimetres from the top. Then people would start bidding for a piece of church land to let to the poor for a year. The person bidding when the candle burned down enough to let the pin fall became the owner of the land.

primroses19 Primrose Day

In the late 19 century, 19 April was celebrated as Primrose Day in memory of British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli (Lord Beaconsfield), who died on this day in 1881. People were encouraged to pay tribute to the statesman by wearing primroses as they were supposedly his favourite flower. However, it seems there was a misunderstanding and that the flower was not his favourite after all. Queen Victoria sent a wreath of primroses to Disraeli's funeral with a note stating that they were "his favourite flowers"; people assumed that the 'his' referred to Disraeli, but in fact it referred to Victoria's late husband, Prince Albert.

23rd St Georges Day - England's National Day

The 23rd April is St. George’s Day . St. George is the Patron Saint of England and also of Scouting.

st georg and the dragon

It is said that St. George once saved a village from great danger. The village were frightened of a fierce dragon who lived close by, so St George killed the dragon.
Read more about St George here

 

Unusual Customs throughout the year

All year round Anniversaries

April 1969 Concorde's maiden flight.

1st - In 1973 VAT (Value Added Tax) was introduced in Britain.

2nd April 1805 Hans Christian Andersen was born in Denmark. He wrote poetry and fables but is famous chiefly for his fairy tales. He died in 1875.

2nd April – 14th June 1982 The Falklands War.

5th April 1640 Pocahontas got married.

6th April Robert Edwin Peary reached the North Pole in 1909

7th April 1827 First matches sold.

8th April 1973 Pablo Picasso, Spanish painter, died aged 91.

8th April Buddhist: Hanamatsuri (Buddha’s Birthday). Zen Buddhists use this day as a flower festival to celebrate the birth of the Buddha.

9th April 1806 Brunel (Great Western Railway) born.

10th April 1998 The signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

12th April 1606 Union Flag became the official flag of the United Kingdom.

12th April 1961 Yuri Gagarin made the first flight into space.

13th April 1936 Jow Payne (Luton Town F.C.) scored ten goals in one match.

14th April 1931 Highway Code first issued.

15th April 1912 R.M.S. Titanic struck an iceberg and sank.

16th April 1889 Charlie Chaplin born.

18th April 1934 First launderette opened.

19th April 1978 Post marks were introduced in Britain by the Post Office.

21st April Queen Elizabeth II was born.

22nd April Earth Day.

23rd April St. George’s Day – Patron Saint of England and also of Scouting.

23rd April 1584 / 1613 Shakespeare’s Birthday (1584). Also the anniversary of his death (1613). William Shakespeare was born in Stratford on Avon. He earned his living by acting small parts, by rewriting old plays and then by writing plays himself. His plays were written in verse.

25th April 1953 DNA, the building blocks of all life forms, was discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick. Their achievement was recognised in 1962 when they received the Nobel Prize for Physiology.

26th April 1957 First broadcast of "The Sky at Night".

27th April 1791 Samuel Morse was born. Learn and practice Morse Code.

All year round

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© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2013

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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites projectbritain.com and primaryhomeworkhelp.co.uk are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consulatant. 
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.