The Scribe in Me.

The Scribe in Me.

April Fool's Day

April Fool's day is celebrated on the first day of that month every year. It's history harks back to the Romans who had a feast around the vernal equinox known as Hilaria, which in Latin denotes 'joyful' and from where we get the word 'hilarious'. The day of its celebration was the first day of the year which was longer than the night. The winter with its gloom had died, and the first day of a better season was spent in rejoicings. It marked the day Mother Nature fooled people that the weather was changing.

'Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two' is how Geoffrey Chaucer refers to it in the Canterbury Tales refering  to the time when a vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox in the Nun's Priest's Tale. One story goes that April Fools’ Day began with France’s 1564 Edict of Roussillon, which decreed that New Year’s Day, historically observed on Easter by Christians, was moved to January 1 and those that continued to celebrate the new year on the wrong date were 'April Fools.'

The word 'Gawk' stems from the gaelic word for Cuckoo, a bird long since associated with being able to fool people and is a term commonly applied to a gullible or naive person. In Ireland a popular tradition is to have someone deliver a letter which read 'Send the Gawk further.' The virtues of satire eh?

Mothering Sunday

My very cynical response to my daughters enquiry as to the history or herstory of Mothering Sunday was; 'Halmark probably.' Of course I was wrong, it dates back to the Greeks and the Romans, who knew? The Greeks celebrated Rhea, the Mother of the Gods and Goddesses, while the Romans celebrated the Goddess, Cybele, every March as far back as 250BC.

Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent and that tradition goes back to medieval times. This is exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and it also served to remind the faithful of their 'Mother' church as well. On this day you were expected to revisit the church in which you were christened and anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone "a-mothering". Because of the religious observation those in service and apprenticeships had the day off and went home to their mothers with gifts such as hand-picked flowers.

Eventually this tradition evolved into the spoil our mother's day that we celebrate nowadays.

'Beware of the Ides of March.'

When you read history (which I do a lot) and in particular Church history (wherein lie many gems) you come upon terms that relate to the Roman Calendar; namely the kalends, nones and ides. They are Latin terms that refer to the ancient markers used to reference dates in relation to lunar phases. We are all familiar with the quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar ‘Beware of the Ides of March.’

Kalends = New Moon (no moon to be seen). Nones = 1st quarter moon. Ides = Full Moon (whole moon visible in the night sky). The Kalends fell on the first day of the month. Nones was the 7th of 31 day months March, May, July, and October, and the 5th of other months. Ides fell on the 15th of 31 day months March, May, July, and October, and on the 13th of other months.

 

 

The Ides of March fell on the 15th of March. In fact, it once signified the New Year, a key date in the Roman Calendar and was marked with celebrations and rejoicing. In the Roman world, the Ides of each month were sacred to the God Jupiter. On this day the high priest would lead the Ides sheep and goats in procession along the main street to Rome’s citadel. Because it marked the New Year, there was extra revelry and other ritual practices. On this day the Feast of Anna Perenna, a goddess or deity of the circle of the year was also celebrated. From her name we get the term ‘per annum.’ All scores and debts had to be settled by this date. A specially selected man was dressed in goat’s skin and ritually flogged and hounded outside of the city walls to mark the passing from the old year and into the new. He was imbued with all the sins of others and everyone was given a new slate into the New Year. It is from this practice that we get the term ‘Scapegoat.’

After the establishment of the Roman Republic, rulers began exercising control over the calendar, lengthening dates of when they were in power and shortening dates when their rivals were in power. Having won his war with Pompey, Julius Caesar used his position as Rome's chief pontiff to enact a calendar reform in 46 BC and in so doing he changed Rome’s New Year celebration from March 15 date to January. In fact, our modern calendar is very much like the one that Julius Caesar enacted. It had 365 days and 12 months each year and took into account the fact that Earth’s orbit around the sun by adding a leap day every four years.

Ironically on this foreboding day, the Roman Senate conspired to kill Julius Caesar. After ignoring numerous warnings–including those of a seer, Caesar was lured into an ambush and was stabbed 23 times before he died. The expression 'Beware the Ides of March' is first found in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, 1601. The line is the soothsayer's message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death.