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April Holidays

Asterisks appear next to saintsí names - see Celebrating Saints


April 1 April Fool’s Day
A woman who marries on April Fool's Day will be the boss in her family. [Kightly]

In Scotland, people “hunt the gowk,” that is send someone on a fruitless errand, by asking them to bring back some impossible item like pigeon's milk, striped paint, a copy of “The Life of Eve’s Mother,” elbow grease, hen's teeth, etc. Another ploy is to send a person off with a sealed envelope to deliver to someone else who opens it and reads this message:

Don’t you laugh and don’t you smile
Hunt the gowk another mile

Apparently similar pranks were pulled in England. "Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the tower Ditch to see the lions washed," reports Dawks' Newsletter in 1698.

Sometimes the person so fooled is known as an April cuckoo. In France, the fool is called an April fish. People send joke notes signed with the symbol of a fish and try to surreptitiously pin (paper, I assume) fishes to each other's asses.

The origins of April Fool's Day are unclear although it may have something to do with the confusion caused by the change of the calendar. The New Year used to be celebrated on March 25th until the eighteenth century. Those who got confused and still celebrated New Year in April were considered April Fools.

April Fool's Day has similarities to many other festivities during which people are encouraged to act foolish, for instance the Medieval Feast of Fools, which took place on December 28th, or the election of a Lord of Misrule on Twelfth Night or the license and role reversals of Carnival. Notice that most of these also happen in this liminal period between the end of one year and the start of a new one.

According to the great cookbook encyclopedia, Larousse Gastronomique, April Fool's day began in 1565 when the French King Charles IX issued a decree stating that the year would begin on 1 January rather than 1 April. To protest this unpopular change, people began sending each other worthless presents as New Year's gifts on April 1st. As the sun happens to be in Pisces on this date, the gifts became sweetmeats in the shape of fish. In France, it is traditional to eat chocolate, marzipan or sugar fish. In Alsace, cakes are molded into the shape of fish.

However, according to Blackburn, the April fish is the mackerel, which is most abundant in this month, and the French term maquereau also means "pimp." The term poisson d'avril was a term used for anyone who served as a pander or go-between in a love affair.

Sarah ban Breathnach in the identity of her alter ego, Mrs Sharp reports that her family goes on outings, has a treasure hunt and enjoys a dinner of faux dishes like mock turtle soup, hedgehogs and April fool for dessert. They also switch roles with the kids acting like the parents and the parents like the kids. Other role reversals that might be fun on April Fool's Day: wife and husband, teachers and students, male and female, boss and employees.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Breathnach, Sarah Ban, Mrs Sharp's Traditions, Simon & Schuster 1990
Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987
Lang, Jennifer Harvey, editor, Larousse Gastronomique, Crown 1984

April 1 Venus Verticordia
This Roman festival was consecrated to Venus Verticordia (the Heart-turner), "Goddess of Beauty, Mother of Love, Queen of Laugher, Mistress of the Grapes." At the temple of Venus, women washed Her statue, replaced her golden necklace and other jewelry, and offered Her roses and other flowers. Women bathed in myrtle and scented water and wore crowns of myrtle. Ovid says Venus requested them to bathe beneath the green myrtle. English folklore says myrtle won't grow unless planted by a woman.

This day was also called Fortuna Virilis, meaning "Men's Fortune." By classical times, it was interpreted as "Luck with Men," for which women of the lower classes prayed to Venus in the men's baths.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames & Hudson 1987

April 1 Thirteenth Outside/Sizdeh Bedar
On the thirteenth day after Persian New Year (Spring Equinox), Persians leave their homes before dawn and stay outside all day. All of the greenery of the holiday is removed—the budding branches, the yellowing sprouts. It is considered unlucky to leave them inside as they might offer the devil a hiding place. It is understood that on this day, the spirits will have the run of the house in return for leaving the family alone the rest of the year. According to Elizabeth Luard this helps speed their spirits towards heaven.

The sabzeh, the dish of sprouted seeds, which appeared on the No Rooz table, is taken along and thrown into a running stream or over a garden wall. This is said to rid the home of the evil eye and "divs" or demons. The sprouted seed dishes are similar to gardens of Adonis, an ancient custom still part of Italian Good Friday celebrations.

The mandated day spent outdoors is similar to other spring holidays when people are encouraged to spend the day in the open air: Easter Monday and Maimuna. Luard describes people packing tables, chairs, carpets, cushions, silverware, plates, glasses, portable stoves and richly woven carpets and heading out to the hills. They take along a pot of golden rice pilaf, eggs for making omelets, yogurt which is cooled in the streams, freshly baked bread wrapped in cloth, sherbets, pastries and ices, plus coffee and tea to be made in the open air, using the fire and the samovar.

When dusk falls, the carpets are rolled out and people relax under the stars. Candles are lit, each one representing a death or a birth in the previous year. Luard writes: "Newlyweds look for portents—the call of a night-bird seven times repeated, seven white flowers shining under the moon, a piece of bread torn into seven pieces—that speak of a new candle to be lit, a new infant to be born, and doubly blessed if conceived under the dome of heaven."

On the thirteenth day after Persian New Year (Spring Equinox), Persians leave their homes before dawn and stay outside all day. It is considered unlucky to stay inside. On this day, the spirits romp in the empty houses with an understanding they will leave the family alone the rest of the year.

The sabzeh, the dish of sprouted seeds, which appeared on the Nawruz table (see Mar 20), is taken along and thrown into a running stream or over a garden wall. This is said to rid the home of the evil eye and "divs" or demons. The rest of the day is spent outdoors in celebration: dancing and singing, drinking and eating.

The sprouted seed dishes are similar to gardens of Adonis, an ancient custom that is still part of Italian Good Friday celebrations. And the mandated day outdoors suggests other festivals with mandated time outdoors like Lag B'Omer, the Jewish festival in the middle of counting the Omer (May 11 this year), Easter Monday (see Apr 1) and Maimuna (see Apr 8).

http://www.payvand.com/ny/4shanbeh.html
Luard, Elizabeth, Sacred Food, Chicago Review Press
Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

Fool
April 3 Megalisia

A Phrygian festival in honor of Cybele, the Magna Mater. Following the advice of the Sibylline oracle on how to end the Punic wars, the meteorite which represented Cybele was brought from Phrygia to Rome in 204 BCE where it was installed in the Temple of victory on April 4th. The following harvest was great and the war ended the next year. The Roman began to celebrate Cybele on this day, with a parade, in which her image was carried through the streets in a chariot drawn by lions, her animals. The castrated priests who served her danced alongside, playing timbrels and cymbals and gashing themselves. Lucretius says "with bronze and silver they strew all the paths of her journey … and snow rose-blossoms over her."

Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

Apr 4 St Isidore of Seville
Patron saint of the Internet because of his compilation called Etymologies, an encyclopedia of all the knowledge of his time. Like the Internet, his sources and his explanations were not always accurate but his desire to provide the most extensive information was.

April 5 New Moon
The new moon at the start of the third month of the Chinese lunar calendar is known as the Sleepy Moon. On the first three days of this month, the Chinese honor the Mother of the Western Heaven.

This is also the start of the Greek month of Mounichion and the second month of Adar in the Jewish lunar calendar.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999

Cybele
Cybele

April 8 Hana Matsuri (Flower Festival)
The Japanese celebrate the birth of Buddha on this day, by gathering at temples, where they present offerings of flowers and take turns pouring hydrangea tea over the head of the bronze statue of the infant Buddha which sits in a basin of the naturally sweet dark tea.

This is one of the Japanese holidays assigned to the solar calendar which was originally a lunar holiday celebrated on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, 1999
Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

April 8 Azalea Cakes
The Chinese eat azalea cakes on the third day of the third moon.

Tae Hung Ha, Folk Customs and Family Life, Seoul, Korea: Yonsei, 1958, p. 37

Buddha

April 11 Oracle at Praeneste
The biggest shrine in Italy, at Praeneste, belonged to the Roman goddess, Fortuna, whose emblem is a ship's wheel. On this holiday in her honor, people came from all over to have their questions answered by reading the words written on slips of oakwood drawn at random from a jar.

Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

April 11 Artemis the Savior
Not much is known about this Greek lunar festival which took place on the 6th day of Mounichion, except that it honored Artemis Soteira, Artemis the Savior.

April 12 Cerealia
Roman farmers honored Ceres by walking around their fields with torches and dancing in the grain, showing by the height of their leaps how high they wanted it to grow. This was the start of a week of games established in her honor.

Rufus, Anneli, The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

April 13 Songkran
The New Year began in mid-April in the ancient Buddhist calendar. In Thailand, Buddhists celebrate their New Year between April 13 and April 14. Water is an important element of the festival. Statues of the Buddha are bathed in water and people throw water at each other until everyone is soaking wet. There are boat races, parades, plays, concerts and fireworks. Women add gold leaf to a statue of the Buddha as an offering. [Rosen]

In the morning, young people wash their parents' hands in scented water. Then everyone goes to the temple, where statues of the Buddha are washed with flower-water, a ritual which is also repeated in each home. Young girls purchase small live fish and take them to the river to set them free. The same is done with songbirds. Along the river banks, people build pyramids of sand into which they stick tiny colored flags. The newest accoutrements to the festival include Miss Songkran beauty pageants and gifts of towels (to sop up all the water). [Rufus]

Rosen, Mike, Spring Festivals, Bookwright Press 1991
Rufus, Anneli,
The World Holiday Book, Harper San Francisco 1994

April 13 New Year in Sri Lanka
In Sri Lanka, people celebrate the New Year by visiting friends and families, giving gifts and attending dances and concerts. This is a time for reflection on the past year and offering forgiveness to those you have hurt or harmed so the new year can begin free from anger.

Rosen, Mike, Spring Festivals, Bookwright Press 1991

April 15 Fordicidia
A Roman festival when a pregnant cow (fordus) was sacrificed to Tellus Mater, the Earth Mother on the Capitol and in each of the thirty ancient wards of Rome.

Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press, 1999



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