Kids Fun File © Paul & Wendy Potton 1995.
It seems very odd now, but before 1752, the first month of the Christian year was actually April.
In 1752, Pope Gregory decided to change all the calendars so that January became the first month instead. This is called the Gregorian calendar after him. Not surprisingly, some people found this very confusing and forgot, so they were called April Fools. Since then it has become a tradition to play tricks on your family and friends on the morning of 1 April.
APRIL FOOL’S DAY
Most of these are just the sort of thing Dennis the Menace would enjoy, such as sending someone off to find a tin of elbow grease or tartan paint, or a left handed screwdriver. You can glue coins to the ground so that people who find them can’t pick them up, or tie a thin thread to a £5 note and yank it away whenever anyone tries to touch it. At breakfast time it’s fun to get downstairs first, eat a boiled egg, turn the empty shell upside down and put it back into the egg cup. You can then offer it to someone and enjoy their look of surprise when they cut into it to find it empty.
But beware, if you play a trick on someone after midday, you become the fool and they can recite the rhyme:
“April Fool’s past,
So you’re the ass,
Up a tree and down a tree
You’re the fool instead of me”
April is the month when swallows and cuckoos fly back to Britain from Africa and lots of little creatures come out of hibernation. It seems appropriate therefore that it should be National Pet Month.
National Pet Month aims to educate people about all the different types of pets that are available and how best to look after them. The most child friendly website I’ve found for this is www.pdsa.org.uk
It has downloads like this colourful pet care poster, plus educational resources and a Pet Protectors section for kids, which is full of pet care info, videos, pictures, competitions and fun activities.
NATIONAL PET MONTH
ARLINGTON BLUEBELL WALK & FARM TRAIL
11 April - 19 May
The people of Sussex can only be absolutely sure that Spring has sprung when they’ve enjoyed a morning or an afternoon at the Arlington Bluebell Walk & Farm Trail. The Japanese may celebrate the arrival of the cherry blossom, but we have swathes of bluebells!
Due to this year’s cold snap the woods will also be full of lovely daffodils, so it’ll be a particularly good year to visit. There are river, woodland and bluebell walks, farm animals to see, plus lovely home-made cakes and refreshments to enjoy. If this isn’t already a family tradition, then this year is a good time to start, you’ll find all the details on our What’s On page.
Little girls will be delighted to know that bluebells have always been associated with fairies. People used to believe that the fairy folk would call their friends to a woodland gathering by ringing the little flowery bells. This is a sweet wee poem from 1908, when even grown ups still believed in fairies:
The Bluebell Fairies
When all is dark and quiet,
And nobody’s about,
‘Tis then the bluebell fairies
Come dancing softly out.
They first peep from the bluebells
To see that no one’s there —
At us they might be frightened;
They don’t mind Mr. Hare!
They tell him elfin stories
Of wonder and delight,
And creep, when morning wakens,
Back in the bluebells bright.
Mother Nature Stories- Howard E. Altemus
Just in case you still need persuading, watch this charity video from the Woodland Trust. The song has been rattling around my head ever since I watched it, so I’m glad it’s such a cheerful one!
The first cuckoo of Spring is traditionally believed to arrive in Sussex from Africa on 14 April. It will have flown more than 5,000 km from the other side of the Sahara desert!
There is a legend that at the Heathfield Fair in April an old woman releases the cuckoo from her basket and he then “flies up England carrying warmer days with him”.
Because of this legend, the railway line between Polegate and Tunbridge Wells (which went through Heathfield) was called the Cuckoo Line. When this railway line was closed in the 1960s, part of it was turned into a Nature Reserve, with a long walk where the track used to be. So, now you also know how the Cuckoo Trail got it’s name!
Up until very recently, people were very proud to hear the first cuckoo and they would write to “The Times” newspaper to tell them about it. When a Winter has lasted as long as this year’s, it’s easy to see why they were so excited about this sign of the arrival of Spring!
Delius was even inspired “On Hearing the First Cuckoo of Spring” to compose beautiful music around the distinctive call of the cuckoo. This video of glorious English country scenes, set to Delius’ music, is enormously soothing and will make you dream of lovely summer days, whatever the weather outside is trying to throw at you!
With luck, the weather will have warmed enough to start getting out into the garden and thinking about some Spring planting.
This year, the Royal Horticultural Society hopes to encourage families to sow more wild flowers and to grow their own vegetables and fruit.
The RHS have a lovely section on their website for children and families. There’s plenty of advice plus activities like making ladybird pebbles, fun facts and how to spot the signs of Spring.
The Kids Garden is another excellent website, this time with a rather more educational slant.
NATIONAL GARDENING WEEK
The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “The Face of Climate Change”.
For kids, however, Earth Day is also a time to celebrate our wonderful
world and think of ways to protect it. If you want to see just how beautiful and amazing our world is, you'll find videos, activities, games and stories at: kids.nationalgeographic.com
Find out how you can Reduce, Reuse, Recycle at the seriously cool www.recyclezone.org.uk
You'll also find interesting facts about the environment and fun stuff such as interactive games and activities to print, cut and play at: www.planetpals.com
Photograph by lizardwatchers, NG Kids My Shot
St George’s day is England’s National Day and it honours an early Christian knight. St George is the patron saint of England and also of the Boy Scouts.
St George is believed to have lived in the third century. On his travels through the Middle East, he reached a town that was being terrorized by a fierce dragon. To keep the dragon happy, every so often the townspeople would bring to it a young maiden. These girls were chosen by drawing lots and it so happened that, on the day St George arrived, the unlucky maiden was to be the Princess Cleodolinda, the king’s daughter. Being enormously brave and chivalrous, St George decided to fight the dragon and save the damsel in distress. He fought the dragon so fiercely that by the end of the battle the princess was able to lead the dragon meekly back to the city by a ribbon. The king and his people were so impressed by St George, they immediately became Christians too.
In the olden days in England, St George’s Day was a day for great celebration and displays of bravery and skill. There were jousts and sword fights and mighty feasts.
It is still celebrated all over the country. Here in Eastbourne on 20 April, there will be a St George’s Fayre at St Mary’s Church in Old Town.
One of the very best St George’s Day celebrations takes place in Salisbury, Wiltshire, where there are processions, sword-fighting knights, and the fearsome (?) dragon is slain by St George in the city's market square. It’s well worth the trip!
ST GEORGE’S DAY
FIRST CUCKOO OF SPRING