1st April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day
Marked by the playing of practical jokes. The origin of this is unknown, but it is generally thought to derive from the French poisson d’avril (literally April fish).
3rd Mothering Sunday (in 2011)
This is the fourth Sunday in Lent. This was an occasion when young people in service could go home taking bunches of primroses and violets for their mothers. Simnel cakes were baked and given. This is a rich fruit cake baked with a layer of marzipan in the centre and decorated with a topping of marzipan and flowers.
On Mothering Sunday, above all other,
Every child should dine with his mother.
6th Old Lady Day
“On Old Lady Day the latter
The cold comes over the water.”
10th Passion Sunday (in 2011)
Also known as Carling Sunday. Carlings are grey peas that are soaked, boiled and fried, and eaten on this day.
On this day in 1633 a bunch of bananas was put in a shop window, the first time they had been so displayed in England.
11th St Guthlar’s
He was a hermit who lived in the fens and in whose honour Crowland Abbey was built by King Ethelbad.
14th First Cuckoo Day
The cuckoo is released from a basket by the old woman at Heathfield Fair in Sussex. He flies up England carrying warmer days with him.
The cuckoo sings from St Tiburtius Day (14th April) to St Johns Day (24th June).
“The cuckoo comes in April,
And stays the month of May,
Sings a song at midsummer
And then goes away.”
“The cuckoo is a pretty bird,
She singeth as she flies;
She bringeth us good tidings,
She telleth us no lies;
She sucketh all sweet flowers
To keep her throttle clear,
And every time she singeth
‘Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo,’
The summer draweth near.”
17th Palm Sunday (in 2011)
The Sunday before Easter (6th Sunday in Lent). It can fall anywhere between 15th March and 18th April. A time for eating figgy pudding.
When people used to wear a sprig of pussy willow
“I have a little pussy,
Her coat is silver grey,
I found her in the meadow,
Not very far away.
My little silver pussy
Will never be a cat
‘Cause she’s a pussy-willow
Now – what do you think of that?”
19th St Alphage (952-1012)
Murdered by the Danes at Greenwich, where his church still stands.
21st St Anselm (1033-1109)
Archbishop of Canterbury.
23rd St George’s Day
The real St George was a Christian born in Cappadogg, and served in the Roman Army. The legend of him fighting a dragon was added in the 14th century.
He was introduced to Britain by returning crusaders, and by the mid 14th century he had replaced Edward the Confessor as patron saint of England.
“Oh, where is St George,
Oh, where is he oh?
He is out in his long boat all on the salt sea oh.
Up flies the kite and down falls the lark oh,
Aunt Ursula Birdwood she had an old ewe
But it died in her own park oh!”
24th St Mark’s Eve
‘Tis now, replied the village belle,
“On St Mark’s Eve, at twelve o’clock,
St Mark’s mysterious eve,
And all that old traditions tell
I tremblingly believe;
How, when the midnight signal tolls,
Along the churchyard green,
A mournful train of sentenced souls
In winding sheets are seen.
The ghosts of all whom death shall down
Within the coming year,
In pale procession walk the gloom,
Amid the silence drear.
The fair maid she will watch her smock
To find her husband in the dark
By praying unto good St Mark.”
Bertha was a maiden fair
Dwelling in the old Minster-square;
From her fireside she could see
Sidelong its rich antiquity—
Far as the Bishop’s garden wall
Where Sycamores and elm trees tall
Full-leav’d the forest had outstript—
By no sharp north wind ever nipt
So shelter’d by the mighty pile—
Bertha arose and read awhile
With forehead ‘gainst the window-pane—
Again she tried and then again
Until the dusk eve left her dark
Upon the Legend of St. Mark.
From plaited lawn-frill, fine and thin
She lifted up her soft warm chin,
With aching neck and swimming eyes
And daz’d with saintly imageries.
– from “The Eve of St. Mark” by John Keats, 1819
27th St Zita’s Day
Patron saint of housewives, servants and bakers. Invoked by people who cannot find their keys.
On this day in 1772 a goat died. He had twice circumnavigated the globe, first in the ‘Dolphin’ and secondly in the renowned ‘Endeavour’ with Captain Cook. The Lords of the Admiralty had just previous to her death signed a warrant admitting her to the privileges of a pensioner of Greenwich Hospital, a boon she did not live to enjoy.
Noah left the ark, having entered it on 17th March. Or so it says in the Bible.
30th May Day Eve
Also Beltane, Walpurgis night. The ancient festival of Beltane began when the winter sun had died. Walpurgis night is an important witch’s festival.