Local Opinion Editorials

April Is The 4th Month Of The Year… We Think

The month of April has a variety of titles, meanings, and sayings, and some are contradictory with each other. For example, April is a spring month in the northern half of the world and a fall month in the southern half.

The month of April goes way back. Before January and February were added to the end of the year by King Numa Pompilius around 700 BCE, April was already the second month of the Roman calendar year (March was the first). Around 450 BCE, April was rearranged into the fourth slot, and was assigned 29 days.

With the introduction of the Gregorian calendar by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582, an extra day was added, and even though it took Mother Goose a while to standardize the rhyme, we’ve been able to count on “30 days hath April” ever since.

But how did April get its name? Being confident about the origin of a word that’s been around since before 1150 isn’t simple because there are a few common theories behind April’s naming. One is that the name is rooted in the Latin aprilis, derived from the Latin aperire meaning “to open,” which could be a reference to the opening or blossoming of flowers and trees, a common occurrence throughout the month in the Northern Hemisphere. April’s birth flower is the daisy.

Wait a minute, I thought April always has been associated with rain, you know, “April showers bring May flowers?” The origin of this phrase can be traced back to England from the 1500s Poet Thomas Tusser. He wrote “Sweet April showers do spring May flowers” in his poem “A Hundred Good Points of Husbandry.”

Speaking of dear old England, the month of April does bring huge weather swings with the jet stream lifting northward at the start of spring. In the U.S. the jet stream also moves northward in the spring. As winter comes to an end, precipitation falls more as rain instead of snow. Many times, but not always, Good Friday, Easter, Passover, and Ramadan fall in April; other times, the holidays fall in March, like this year. Another holiday that falls in April that many consider major is Earth Day.

A number of dreadful historical events have occurred in past Aprils. They include:

  • April 19, 1775: The American Revolutionary War began with the Battles of Lexington and Concord. April 14, 1865: President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.
  • April 9, 1942: The United States surrendered the Bataan Peninsula to the Japanese during World War II.
  • April 4, 1968: Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, TN.
  • April 26, 1986: The Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster occurred in Ukraine, leading to the worst nuclear accident in history.

And, of course, on April 1, people in countries throughout the world like to play pranks on other people. Depending on the culture, the victim of such a joke is known as a fool or a fish. It’s not clear when the tradition started, and there are countless theories.

The likely answer as to why we play hoaxes on each other in April is because winter is over. In many cultures, this was celebrated with colorful festivities, dancing, and making fun of each other.

Speaking earlier of dreadful events occurring in April, in the U.S. the month is the deadline for filing federal income tax returns, usually on April 15. However, this was not always the case. The first federal income tax was enacted in 1861 to fund the Civil War, and it had a due date of March 1. According to Time magazine, one of the reasons for the last change was to give taxpayers an extra month to recover from Christmas expenses.

Finally, this particular April was historic because of the total solar eclipse that occurred on April 8 – a celestial spectacle that had astronomers and sky enthusiasts buzzing with excitement.

Vince LaBarbera
Latest posts by Vince LaBarbera (see all)

Vince LaBarbera

Vince is a Fort Wayne native. He earned a master of science degree in journalism and advertising from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. LaBarbera is retired but continues to enjoy freelance writing and serving the Radio Reading Service of the Allen County Public Library. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer