April is the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian calendar, the fifth in the early Julian.
It is the first of four months to have a length of 30 days, and the second of five months to have a length of less than 31 days.
April comes from the Latin Aprilis. The meaning is not clear – some historians believe that it comes from the Latin words aperire – to open in allusion to its being the season when trees and flowers begin to “open” or apricus – sunny because April is seen as the month of Sun and growth in the Northern Hemisphere.
Another explanation for the etymology of April goes back to Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and procreation. The Etruscans knew her as Apru. Since the Romans inherited many Etruscan customs and myths, they celebrated the same goddess in April.
April was the second month of the earliest Roman calendar, before Ianuarius and Februarius were added by King Numa Pompilius about 700 BC. It became the fourth month of the calendar year (the year when twelve months are displayed in order) during the time of the decemvirs about 450 BC, when it also was given 29 days.
In the year 46 BC, Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar system—the Julian calendar. He added ten days to the year and introduced the leap day. In the new Julian calendar, April was expanded to 30 days.
The Anglo-Saxons called April ēastre-monaþ. The Venerable Bede says in The Reckoning of Time that this month ēastre is the root of the word Easter. He further states that the month was named after a goddess Eostre whose feast was in that month. It is also attested by Einhard in his work, Vita Karoli Magni.
St George’s day is the twenty-third of the month – and St Mark’s Eve, with its superstition that the ghosts of those who are doomed to die within the year will be seen to pass into the church, falls on the twenty-fourth.
In China the symbolic ploughing of the earth by the emperor and princes of the blood took place in their third month, which frequently corresponds to April.
In Finnish April is huhtikuu, meaning slash-and-burn moon, when gymnosperms for beat and burn clearing of farmland were felled.
In Slovene, the most established traditional name is mali traven, meaning the month when plants start growing. It was first written in 1466 in the Škofja Loka manuscript.
The “Days of April” (journées d’avril) is a name appropriated in French history to a series of insurrections at Lyons, Paris and elsewhere, against the government of Louis Philippe in 1834, which led to violent repressive measures, and to a famous trial known as the procès d’avril.
April Fools’ Day is an annual custom on 1 April consisting of practical jokes and hoaxes. Jokesters often expose their actions by shouting “April Fools!” at the recipient. Mass media can be involved in these pranks, which may be revealed as such the following day. The day is not a public holiday in any country except Odessa, Ukraine, where the first of April is an official city holiday. The custom of setting aside a day for playing harmless pranks upon one’s neighbour has been relatively common in the world historically.
April’s Full Moon is traditionally known as the Pink Moon because of the pink flowers (Phlox subulata) that bloom in North America during this time of year.
The Lyrids meteor shower appears on April 16 – April 26 each year, with the peak generally occurring on April 22. Eta Aquariids meteor shower also appears in April. It is visible from about April 21 to about 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.
April’s birthstone is the diamond. It is one of the best-known and most sought-after gemstones. They have been used as decorative items since ancient times.
The birth flower is typically listed as either the Daisy (Bellis perennis) or the Sweet Pea. The Daisy is native to western, central and northern Europe, including remote islands such as the Faroe Islands but has become widely naturalised in most temperate regions, including the Americas and Australasia. Sweet peas have been cultivated since the 17th century and a vast number of cultivars are commercially available. They are grown for their flower colour (usually in pastel shades of blue, pink, purple and white, including bi-colours), and for their intense unique fragrance.
The zodiac signs for the month of April are Aries and Taurus.