Talk of the Dales
Editorial contributions from our readers play a vital part in the success of the Peak Advertiser. We are very grateful to everyone who takes the time to send us their articles and photographs, but from time-to-time we receive more than we can possibly have space for in the paper.
Here on our website we now have the opportunity to publish a selection of those stories that didn’t appear in our latest issue.
WHEEL OFTHE YEAR - APRIL
Moon: Pink Moon Zodiac: Aries-Taurus
Notable Days: April Fools’ Day (1st); Good Friday (10th); Easter Sunday (12th); St. George’s Day (23rd)
April: a month that doesn’t start well for anyone unlucky enough to fall victim to an April fools’ prank. Just where this annoying custom came from is unknown; setting aside a day for mischief was common enough in the Middle Ages, with one such “Mischief Night” evolving into trick-or-treating on Halloween. The April date may arise from old arguments about when to celebrate New Year. For centuries until the 1700s, March 25th was classed as New Year’s Day, with people celebrating until April 1st. Those who held to January 1st thought such people “April fools”.
The name “April” itself is similarly mysterious in origin. Like other months, it was named by the Romans and seems to derive from the Latin “aperir”, meaning “opening”, perhaps an allusion to the opening of flowers at this time. However, as a spring month, April had associations with romance, and was dedicated to Rome’s love goddess, Venus, whose Greek name was Aphrodite, so it may also be named for that deity.
April is not, however, a major milestone in the seasonal cycle. Along with May, it lies in-between two such milestones: the Spring Equinox in March and the Summer Solstice of June. Yet even with no seasonal highpoint to celebrate, April has become the most iconic spring month, thanks to its regular hosting of Easter celebrations. According to tradition, Easter Sunday occurs “on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox”, so it doesn’t always fall in April. Yet its very name derives from the Old English word for April, “Eastramonad” (the Saxons apparently naming the month after their spring goddess, Eostra).
The Easter celebrations recall the events of Christ’s death and Resurrection, the core beliefs of Christianity. They begin the week before Easter, on Palm Sunday, marking Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as crowds lay palms before him. Holy Week continues through Maundy Thursday – the day of the Last Supper – and Good Friday, the day of The Crucifixion. The Gospels relate how Christ’s body was then placed in a tomb, yet when his followers visited on Easter Sunday, they found it empty. Jesus had risen, and soon appeared to his disciples.
Church leaders deliberately placed Easter in the season of nature’s rebirth to symbolise Christ’s Resurrection. Thus, many pre-Christian spring customs became associated with Easter. While pagans had used hens’ eggs to symbolise nature’s rebirth, Christians adopted them as a symbol of the Resurrection. Decorating eggs with paint is recorded in England as early as 1290, a precursor to the chocolate treats of today. And some local pagan customs persisted here in the Peak District. In the 1800s Easter Sunday still saw children dropping pins into wells as offerings to the “fairies that presided over them”, Derbyshire’s ancient fascination with well-spirits surviving the transition to Christianity.
Festivities surrounding Easter may be one reason the English have neglected their patron saint’s feast on April 23rd. In fairness, the Church doesn’t make much fuss of St. George either, suspecting many details of his life to be legendary. If George lived – around 300 AD – then he was a soldier born in Turkey and executed for his Christian faith by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Later, during the Middle Ages, George’s military prowess made him a symbol for the Crusader armies. Around the same time, a red-on-white cross became a popular Crusader symbol, and this was how St. George came to be depicted bearing a red-on-white cross. Then, in 1348, England’s king, Edward III, made George patron of his new Order of the Garter, beginning the journey to national patronage by Tudor times.