April is the fourth month of the year in the Gregorian Calendar, and one of four months with the length of 30 days. The month of April begins (astrologically) with the sun in the sign of Aries and ends in the sign of Taurus. Astronomically speaking, the sun begins in the constellation of Pisces and ends in the constellation of Aries. The signs of the zodiac do not necessarily coincide with the actual constellations for which they are named. The precession of the equinoxes, a phenomenon discovered c. 130 BC by Hipparchus and known to Ptolemy, results in a shift between the two systems of about one degree every 70 years. The vernal equinox lay near the beginning of the Aries constellation around 500 BC, consistent with a Babylonian origin of the system.
The derivation of the name (Latin Aprilis) is uncertain. The traditional etymology from the Latin 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 ἁνοιξις (opening) for spring. Since most of the Roman months were named in honor 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 (Aphros), or from the Etruscan name Apru. Jacob Grimm suggests the name of a hypothetical god or hero, Aper or Aprus.
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. April is known to be "National Poetry Month" The Finnish called this month Huhtikuu, or 'Burnwood Month', when the wood for beat and burn clearing of farmland was felled.
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'avrill.
April was originally the second month of the Roman calendar, before January and February 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. The Julian calendar reform of 46 BC gave April 30 days, effective in 45 BC.
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- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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