On the Shelf

By Paul Guffin


According to the Gregorian calendar (the one we currently use in this country), April is the fourth month of the year (it was the fifth month in the earlier Julian calendar, and the second month of the even earlier Roman calendar). In the Northern Hemisphere, April comes early in the season of spring, while in the Southern Hemisphere, it comes early in the season of Autumn.

The name of the month comes from the Romans (in Latin, Aprilis), but its derivation is uncertain. Traditional etymology assigns the name to the verb aperire, meaning “to open”, in allusion to its being the season when trees and flowers begin to open. It is also possible the name refers to the goddess Venus, to whom the month was sacred, and that April was originally her month “Aphrilis”, from the equivalent Greek goddess name Aphrodite. Jacob Grimm, of Brothers fame, suggested that it came from the name of a hypothetical god or hero, Aper or Aprus.

Those of us who remember the old rhyme about the length of the various months will know April is the first in the year of four months with a length of only 30 days, and the second in the year of five months with less than 31 days. However, it didn’t always have 30 days; in that earliest Roman calendar (about 450 BCE) it was given only 29 days. The 30th day was added during the reform of the calendar by Julius Caesar in the mid-40s BCE, which produced the Julian calendar. Since that time, the month has managed to hold on to its 30 days (despite complaints from February).

Symbols of the month include diamond as the birthstone, and the common daisy or sweet pea as the birth flower. Those who follow the zodiac will find a ram (Aries) followed by a bull (Taurus) wandering through the month.

As with every months, there are observances and celebrations of various kinds scattered about. Here are some of the month-long observances:

  • National Pet Month (Canada)
  • Arab American Heritage Month (United States)
  • Autism Awareness Month (United States)
  • National Prevent Child Abuse Month (United States)
  • Sexual Assault Awareness Month (United States)
  • National Poetry Month & National Poetry Writing Month (United States)

Some moveable observances during April:

  • First Wednesday: National Day of Hope (United States)
  • First full week: National Library Week (United States)(That’s this week, folk!)
  • Second Wednesday: International Day of Pink
  • Second Sunday: Children’s Day (Peru)
  • Third Wednesday: Administrative Professionals’ Day (New Zealand)
  • Third Thursday: National High Five Day (United States)
  • April 22-30: International Dark-Sky Week
  • Week of April 23: Canada Book Week (Canada)
  • Week of the New Moon: National Dark-Sky Week (United States)
  • Fourth Thursday: Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day (United States)
  • Last Saturday: Children’s Day (Columbia)
  • Last Wednesday: International Noise Awareness Day

And, we wrap up with some fixed observances during the month:

  • April 1: April Fools’ Day
  • April 2: International Children’s Book Day & National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day (United States)
  • April 6: National Beer Day (United Kingdom)
  • April 7: Women’s Day (Mozambique)
  • April 11: International Louie Louie Day & World Parkinson’s Day
  • April 12: Walk on Your Wild Side Day
  • April 13: Teacher’s Day (Ecuador)
  • April 15: Universal Day of Culture & World Art Day
  • April 19: Bicycle Day & National Garlic Day (United States)
  • April 22: Earth Day (International)
  • April 30: Children’s Day (Mexico)

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