April is a very busy and much anticipated month in Newfoundland Labrador. If Easter is celebrated in April, it makes the month all that more special. By the time April arrives, New Years celebrations are just a blur in our memory. The only reminder of Christmas is a dried up poinsettia poked in a dark corner of the living room waiting for a ray of sunshine to convince us the faded dusty red leaves will not perk up, despite our best intentions. February arrives, cold and bitter, with only one special day, Valentines Day to warm our hearts.
Folklore claims that March comes in like a lamb and goes out like a lion or in like a lion and out like a lamb. But most of the time March comes in like a lion roaring through the whole month and then uses Sheilagh's Brush to vigorously groom his fur, thus a snowstorm soon after St. Patrick's Day. The lion is gentle for a few days giving us a false hope of spring weather and then roars out at the end of the month. Except for St. Patrick's Day, with its festive celebrations, Irish stew and green beer, the third month of the year in Newfoundland and Labrador is known as the cold and hungry month of March!
Alas! April arrives and immediately the kid in every one of us is resurrected with April Fools Day! Mark Twain once wrote: "The first of April is the day we remember what we are, the other 364 days of the year."
The origins of April Fool's Day are clouded in mystery. Basically no one knows exactly where, when, or why the celebration began. There are many theories but a popular one is that in 1562, Pope Gregory changed the calendar to the one we use today and from then on, the New Year began on January 1st. Some people didn't know about the new calendar, or they ignored the new calendar and kept celebrating on April 1st. Everyone else called them April fools and played tricks on them. In North America, April Fools ends at noon and the morning is spent playing tricks on people.
Recently, the media has gotten into the act of playing jokes and one of the local newspapers actually reported that the city of St. John's had actually pulled the plug in the harbor to drain it for cleaning! Actually that method would have been much cheaper than the treatment plant now under construction in St. John's for the same purpose, cleaning the harbour!
Sending unsuspecting people on silly errands is also a common April fool prank. I remember as a young teenager being the victim of such a prank. Visiting a small outport town for the first time with a friend, an adult sent me to the local hardware store for a lb. of killick seed and 50 feet of shoreline!
Children love April fools to occur on a school day and many an hour would be spent scheming and planning to torture the teacher. Chalk embedded in erasers, desks turned backwards and empty classrooms, would be just a few of the pranks facing teachers on April 1st. Teachers would pray that April 1st would fall on the weekend!
Soon forgotten however, this foolish day is a pleasant way to start a month. Promises of warmer weather, a possible Easter break, and the much-anticipated appearance of the first crocus, causes spring fever to burn inside us. Our footsteps are a little lighter in April as we shed those heavy winter boots for shoes and sneakers. Children skipping, riding bicycles and the sight of crisp, clean clothes hung on the clothesline enhances our fever.
Sealers, selling flippers and carcasses on the waterfront with ravenous gulls overhead is another noteworthy happening during the month of April. Flippers would be the choice of many Newfoundland and Labradorians Good Friday supper. Seal meat was considered to be fish and some church laws would not be broken if a flipper pie consisting of seal flippers smothered in gravy and topped with a tender pastry adorned the Good Friday supper table. For those who found seal meat unpalatable, fresh cod was also available in huge quantities for Good Friday supper. Easter customs in different parts of Newfoundland and Labrador were varied probably due to the fact that the many religions practiced different customs and rituals but one common Easter tradition was the arrival of Easter bunny with eggs and treats for all.
April 15th is also a very important and much anticipated date. Lobster season opens on this date and for Lobster lovers the very sight of a steaming cooked lobster causes uncontrollable salivation.
Putting all lightheartedness aside, April is also the month for a very worthy cause. Every April the Canadian Cancer Society holds its annual Daffodil Drive. I don't think there is one Newfoundlander or Labradorian out there who hasn't been touched by this disease; Newfoundlander's are known world wide for their generosity. As we enjoy our April Fool's pranks, our Easter dinner, flipper pie, cod and lobster, don't forget to support this worthy cause and at the same time enjoy a beautiful spring flower, the daffodil.
Yes indeed, April is a very welcomed and interesting month in Newfoundland and Labrador. Even though the spring bulbs might have to push their tender heads through two feet of snow to greet the day, we all have fond memories of a month that because of its showers brings May flowers.