British Traditions > April

April Fools' Day - 1st April

On the first of April it has long been the custom in England for people to play practical jokes on each other up until midday. In Christow in Devon, however, tricks were played in the afternoon and the day was called "Tail Pipe Day" because of the joke signs like "Kick me" pinned to a victim's coat tails.

In Scotland the traditional name for the first of April is "Gowkie Day" or "Hunt The Gowk". The gowk is a name for the cuckoo which begins to sing in april. In Orkney the day of pranks is traditionally celebrated on April 2nd and was known as "Tailing Day". The celebrations were very similar to those of Christow except that real pigs' tails from the butcher were fixed to coat tails as well as signs.

It is thought that the tradition of April Fools' Day originated with the festival of Lud, a Celtic God of humour which was celebrated at the beginning of April.

St George's Day - 23rd April

St. George
St George's Day falls on April 23rd. St George is the patron saint of England, Aragon and Portugal. He is famous for killing a dragon and his white flag with a red cross is flown on the day of his former festival. Unfortunately in 1960 the feast day of St George was abolished by the Pope and St George was demoted from sainthood. He is still counted as England's Patron Saint and instead of having an official feast day he gets a mention in the Mass on April 23rd.

In farming communities St George's Day was traditionally referred to as "Borrowing Day" because at this time of year the farmers were able to project the value of their crops and take out a loan from the bank based on that value.

St Martin's Eve - 24th April

At midnight on the 24th of April superstitious people would sit in the church porch and riddle chaff. It was said that doing this would enable them to see the spectres of those who were to die during the following year.