1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/April

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APRIL, the second month of the ancient Roman, and the fourth of the modern calendar, containing thirty days. The derivation of the name is uncertain. The traditional etymology from Lat. aperire, “to open,” in allusion to its being the season when trees and flowers begin to “open,” is supported by comparison with the modern Greek use of ἅνοιξις (opening) for spring. This seems very possible, though, as all the Roman months were named in honour of divinities, and as April was sacred to Venus, the Festum Veneris et Fortunae Virilis being held on the first day, it has been suggested that Aprilis was originally her month Aphrilis, from her Greek name Aphrodite. Jacob Grimm suggests the name of a hypothetical god or hero, Aper or Aprus. On the fourth and the five following days, games (Ludi Megalenses) were celebrated in honour of Cybele; on the fifth there was the Festum Fortunae Publicae; on the tenth (?) games in the circus, and on the nineteenth equestrian combats, in honour of Ceres; on the twenty-first—which was regarded as the birthday of Rome—the Vinalia urbana, when the wine of the previous autumn was first tasted; on the twenty-fifth, the Robigalia, for the averting of mildew; and on the twenty-eighth and four following days, the riotous Floralia. The Anglo-Saxons called April Oster-monath or Eostur-monath, the period sacred to Eostre or Ostara, the pagan Saxon goddess of spring, from whose name is derived the modern Easter. 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 symbolical ploughing of the earth by the emperor and princes of the blood takes place in their third month, which frequently corresponds to our April; and in Japan the feast of Dolls is celebrated in the same month. 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.

See Chambers’s Book of Days; Grimm’s Geschichte der deutschen Sprache. Cap. “Monate”; also April-Fools' Day.