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6 Amazing Facts About the Month of April

April is a time of change. With the vernal equinox in the recent rearview mirror in the Northern Hemisphere, nature is slowly stirring from its months-long slumber, preparing to soon be in full bloom. April also has outsized importance compared to other months: The ancient Romans tied the month to the goddess Venus because of its beautiful and life-affirming effects, and for thousands of years the month was seen as the true beginning of the year. Today, April is full of moments of mischief, reverence, and a budding excitement for the warmer times ahead. These six facts explore the history of the month, and why it’s sometimes considered one of the best times of the year.

The Word April Comes From the Latin “Aperire,” Meaning “To Open”

When it comes to the names of months, April is a bit of an outlier. Other months are either intimately tied to Roman history and culture — whether named after Roman gods (January, March, June, etc.), rituals (February), or leaders (July and August) — or are related to Latin numbers (September to December). April, however, is simply derived from the Latin aperire, which means “to open.” This is likely a reference to the beginning of spring, when flowers “open” as the weather warms.

Although April’s name isn’t etymologically tied to Roman culture, April (or Aprilis, as the Romans called it) was a

The Anglo-Saxons Called It “Ēosturmōnaþ” — the Root of “Easter”

One of the most important holidays in April (and occasionally March) is the celebration of Easter, which marks the death and resurrection of Jesus. Much like Christmas, this holiday has pagan origins, and its name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon term for the month, “Ēosturmōnaþ.” That name literally meant “Ēostre’s month,” a reference to the West Germanic spring goddess of the same name. The only known historical text mentioning Ēostre comes from the Venerable Bede, a Christian monk who lived in the eighth century CE and who mentions the goddess (and the festivals dedicated in her name) in his work The Reckoning of Time. Because so little evidence of Ēostre exists, some wonder if the goddess was a complete invention of Bede’s, but whether she was real or not, Ēostre remains the namesake of April’s holiest days for Christians.

April Used To Be the Second Month of the Year

You know how September, October, November, and December mean the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth month, respectively? (If you didn’t, you do now.) There was a time when those names actually made sense, and that time was around the eighth century BCE in ancient Rome, when legend says the 10-month Roman calendar was created by Romulus — the mythical founder of Rome.

Romulus’ calendar began in the month of March (Romulus himself was said to be the son of the Roman god Mars), making April the second month of the year. But Romulus’ calendar had many shortcomings (chief among them being that it was about 60 days too short), so around the eighth century BCE, legendary Roman king Numa Pompiliusdecided to create two new months, known today as January and February. By at least 450 BCE, both had moved to the start of the year, and April has been the fourth month of the year ever since.

The “April Showers” Saying Dates Back to 16th-Century England

The surprisingly resilient phrase “April showers bring May flowers” first appeared in English poet Thomas Tusser’s 1557 work A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandrie, which contained both poetry and practical advice. The book was widely read throughout England, and scholars believe it was possibly the most popular book of poetry during the Elizabethan era. In the book, Tusser writes, “Swéete April showers, Doo spring Maie flowers.” Of course the validity of such a phrase is very much dependent on where you live. In the U.S., for example, April is only the fifth-wettest month on average, with June often being the wettest overall. Today, the phrase is often seen as less of an indictment of April’s proclivity for wetness and more of a statement on the value of patience and persistence.

The Oldest Recorded Meteor Shower Occurs in April

Occurring between April 16 and 25 (and peaking on April 22), the Lyrids are the oldest recorded meteor shower still visible in the night sky today. Chinese astronomers recorded a Lyrids meteor shower back in 687 BCE, and 10 to 20 meteors can be seen per hour during the shower’s peak. The Lyrids are named after the constellation Lyra, which is where the meteors seem to streak from in the night sky. However, these meteors don’t actually come from that region of space; they’re the result of the Earth crossing the debris-strewn path of comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was named after its discoverer A. E. Thatcher. Although people down south can glimpse a few meteors, the best meteoric displays are reserved for the Northern Hemisphere.

We’ll Likely Never Know the Origin of April Fools’ Day

One of the oddest annual traditions on the modern calendar falls on the first day of April, otherwise known as April Fools’ Day. Once a day reserved for harmless pranks pulled on friends and family, April Fools’ Day now reaches into the furthest depths of the internet, with multimillion-dollar brands and corporationsgetting in on the fun. Although the tradition is certainly an oddity, it’s stranger still that no one is exactly sure where April Fools’ Day comes from. Some historians think when France moved to the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century, those who still celebrated the new year in April (having not gotten the memo, wilfully or otherwise, about the calendar change) were labeled “April fools.” Others have tied the tradition to an ancient Roman festival called Hilaria, which took place in late March, along with many more theories. A more modern version of April Fools' Day took root in 18th-century Britain before evolving into the mischief holiday we know today.

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