Since at least 1909, a superstition has lived in North American and the United Kingdom that if a person says or repeats the word “rabbit” upon waking up on the first day of the month, good luck will follow for the remainder of that month.
Elements of the tradition exist in the United Kingdom, New England, and even in various First Nation cultures.
While I’m not necessarily endorsing the superstition, it provides a way to look in depth at each month of the year, from history and observances to miscellaneous trivia. The topic this month is April.
April started as a Roman month with the Latin name Aprilis. The origin of the name is uncertain, but the Romans believed that it derived from the verbs aperio, aperire, and/or apertus, which each mean “to open”. In modern day, that’s where we get the word aperture. The the famous grammarian Verrius Flaccus expanded on these thoughts, writing that “fruits and flowers and animals and seas and lands do open” in this season.
Ironically, my sinuses close up as the pollen starts flying.
Since the Romans had a tradition of tying months to honor of divinities, and since April was sacred to the goddess Venus – her Veneralia festival was held on the first day – some have suggested that Aprilis was originally the goddess’s month of Aphrilis, stemming from her equivalent Greek goddess name Aphrodite of the Etruscan equivalent Apru.
April was originally the second month of the earliest Roman calendar, but the addition of Ianuarius and Februarius by King Numa Pompilius circa 700 BC knocked it to third. It became the fourth month of the calendar year during the time of the decemvirs circa 450 BC. Julius Caesar gave the month 30 days during his reforms in the 40s BC.
The Anglo-Saxons called April ēastre-monaþ, which led the Venerable Bede to conclude in The Reckoning of Time that the month was the root of the word Easter. He also believed that the month was named after a goddess Eostre, a Western Germanic spring goddess whose feast was in that month.
In China, the third month brought the symbolic ploughing of the earth by the emperor and princes of the blood, and that month frequently corresponds to April. In Finnish, April is huhtikuu, meaning slash-and-burn moon, when gymnosperms (seed-producing plants) for beat and burn clearing of farmland were felled. Equivalently in Slovene, the most established traditional name is mali traven, meaning the month when plants start growing.
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 varying dates. The Romans also observed Veneralia (April 1), Megalesia (April 10–16), Fordicidia (April 15), Parilia (April 21), and Vinalia Urbana, Robigalia, and Serapia, which 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. The Eta Aquariids meteor shower also appears in April, typically between April 21 and 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.
In Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox traditions, April is the Month of the Resurrection of the Lord. April and March are the months in which is celebrated the moveable feast of Easter Sunday. In the Jewish faith, Passover tends to fall around the same time.
In the United Kingdom, April is National Pet Month. The United States once again takes the lion’s share of observances, including Arab American Heritage Month, Autism Awareness Month, Cancer Control Month, Community College Awareness Month, Donate Life Month (which boosts awareness for organ donation), Financial Literacy Month, Jazz Appreciation Month, Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, National Poetry Month, National Poetry Writing Month, Occupational Therapy Month, National Prevent Child Abuse Month, National Volunteer Month, Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
Considering food, April is also Fresh Florida Tomato Month, National Food Month, National Grilled Cheese Month, National Pecan Month, National Soft Pretzel Month, and National Soyfoods Month.
It sounds like a great month for a grilled cheese and tomato soup combo.
- April’s birthstone is the diamond, which comes with a boatload of mythology, symbolism, and lore.
- The western zodiac signs of April are Aries (until April 19) and Taurus (April 20 and beyond).
- The month’s birth flowers are the daisy and the sweet pea.
Rabbit Rabbit is a project designed to look at each month of the year with respect to history, observances, and more.
For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.