Monday, April 1, 2019

Aprilis

The Romans gave this month the Latin name Aprilis but the derivation of this name is uncertain.   The traditional etymology is from the verb aperire, "to open", in allusion to its being the season when trees and flowers begin to "open", which is supported by comparison with the modern Greek use of άνοιξη (ánixi) (opening) for spring. Since some of the Roman months were named in honor of divinities, and as April was sacred to the goddess Venus, her Veneralia being held on the first day, it has been suggested that Aprilis was originally her month Aphrilis, from her equivalent Greek goddess name Aphrodite (Aphros), or from the Etruscan name Apru. Jacob Grimm suggests the name of a hypothetical god or hero, Aper or Aprus.  In the Roman calendar, the fourth month April is spelled Aprilis, meaning "to open." Festivals which were planned for April included Parrilla, a day celebrating the founding of Rome.


April is the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, the fifth in the early Julian, the first of four months to have a length of 30 days, and the second of five months to have a length of less than 31 days.

April is commonly associated with the season of autumn in parts of the Southern Hemisphere, and spring in parts of the Northern Hemisphere, where it is the seasonal equivalent to October in the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa.
 
Two signs in the traditional Zodiac calendar fall in April, both of which are domestic animals, quadrupeds with cloven hoofs. People born in the first part of the month between March 21st and April 19th are said to be born under the sign of Aries the Ram, a Sun sign which is ruled by the planet and the Roman god of War, Mars. Those born from April 20th to May 20th are born under Taurus the Bull, an Earth sign who is ruled by the planet and the Roman goddess of love, Venus. No wonder people born on the cusp (between April 19th and 20th) are just confused.
The name Aprilis, then, fits April, because in so many places in the northern hemisphere April is the month when trees and flowers begin to bloom and go on to flower.

Two flowers signify the month of April: the daisy (Bellis perennis) or the sweet pea.  The daisy symbolizes innocence, loyal love, and purity; but it also means "I'll never tell!" The oldest daisy on record is the Bellis perennis, known as Daeges eage (or Day's eye) in the Middle Ages because its petals close at night to cover the yellow center.

Today there are more than 90 varieties of flowers that are called daisies, and they come in red, yellow, purple, orange, blue, and pink colored petals, and vary widely in size. But they are, as director/writer Nora Ephron once wrote, "the friendliest flower."

The sweat pea signifies blissful pleasure, and are used to say goodbye. Sweet peas may be a pretty flower, but they are also one of the oldest food crops on our planet, domesticated by humans about 11,000 years ago. 
Daisy flower
  
Sweet pea
  
The English poet William Wordsworth was born April 7, 1770, and one of his best-known poems is perfect for April in the northern hemisphere: "I wandered lonely as a cloud," which he first published in 1807. Here's a little snippet for an April day:
 
 I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

What can you possibly say about Leonardo in 100 words? He was a painter, a scientist who painted many pieces of religious art; he was fascinated by the flight of birds and the mechanisms of guns. He was a Renaissance genius for his and any other time, capable of turning his hand to anything. And he was born in April.
 
The Elizabethan playwright William Shakespeare was another April genius, born on April 23, 1564, and died on or about his April birthday at the age of 52 in England in 1616. He may have stolen whole plots and plot twists from his fellow playwrights and ancient history, but his prose and poetic output is unmatched for originality and complexity. William Shakespeare is still rightly revered today.
 
There are so many different poems written for April that it's hard to pick. Here's one from Sara Teasdale, called April Song: 

Willow, in your April gown
Delicate and gleaming,
Do you mind in years gone by
All my dreaming?
Spring was like a call to me
That I could not answer,
I was chained to loneliness,
I, the dancer.
Willow, twinkling in the sun,
Still your leaves and hear me,
I can answer spring at last,
Love is near me!
 
The birthstone for people born in April is the diamond, one of the hardest substances on earth, and one that formed deep in the earth, even if we don't know how long ago that happened. The word diamond comes from the early Greek word adamas, meaning untamable and related to our word adamant. That's because the Greeks knew a tough customer when they saw one. Among the earliest historical mentions of diamonds is found in the book of Exodus, where diamond (jahalom in Hebrew) is mentioned as one of twelve engraved precious stones set in the breastplate of the high priest.
Diamonds are said to bring all kinds of benefits to their owners, supposedly leading the wearer to experience better relationships and an increase in inner strength. They are supposed to bring balance, clarity, and abundance, and it is symbolic of eternal love and the bringer of wealth to six centuries of the diamond trade.

 
 In China the symbolic ploughing of the earth by the emperor and princes of the blood took place in their third month, which frequently corresponds to April. In Finnish April is huhtikuu, meaning slash-and-burn moon, when gymnosperms for beat and burn clearing of farmland were felled. In Slovene, the most established traditional name is mali traven, meaning the month when plants start growing. It was first written in 1466 in the Škofja Loka manuscript.


In Ancient Rome, the festival of Cerealia was held for seven days from mid-to-late April, but exact dates are uncertain. Feriae Latinae was also held in April, with the date varying. Other ancient Roman observances include Veneralia (April 1), Megalesia (April 10–16), Fordicidia (April 15), Parilia (April 21), Vinalia Urbana, Robigalia, and Serapia were celebrated on (April 25). Floralia was held April 27 during the Republican era, or April 28 on the Julian calendar, and lasted until May 3. However, these dates do not correspond to the modern Gregorian calendar.

The Lyrids meteor shower appears on April 16 – April 26 each year, with the peak generally occurring on April 22. Eta Aquariids meteor shower also appears in April. It is visible from about April 21 to about May 20 each year with peak activity on or around May 6. The Pi Puppids appear on April 23, but only in years around the parent comet's perihelion date. The Virginids also shower at various dates in April.

The "Days of April" (journées d'avril) is a name appropriated in French history to a series of insurrections at Lyons, Paris and elsewhere, against the government of Louis Philippe in 1834, which led to violent repressive measures, and to a famous trial known as the procès d'avril.

 April is also: 
In the northern hemisphere April is a most confusing month; rainy and wet one day, the next full of a warm promise of green growth to come. Besides the weather, the month is full of surprises and contradictions, prized for rebirth and endings, and a birth month to amazing geniuses and crazed despots both, making fun of astrological predictions. 

You must love April. It is just like life. 

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