01 April 2012

Palm Sunday

Weather: If the sun shines clear today, there will be a great store of fair weather and abundance of food.

All glory, laud and honor
To Thee, Redeemer, King
To Whom the lips of children
Made sweet hosannas ring.

Thou art the King of Israel,
Thou David's royal Son,
Who in the Lord's Name comest,
The King and Blessed One.

Today we commemorate the triumphant entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem, when the people acclaimed him, waving palm branches and strewing flowers in his path.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter or Zion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: 
Behold, thy king will come to thee, the just and saviour. (Zechariah 9:9)

It is traditional for parishioners to receive consecrated palm fronds today, which are carried in procession into the church, and then taken home. 

Our ancestors entered in to the spirit of the day, by lining the streets as a wooden form representing Jesus sitting on a donkey was drawn in procession.  Before this effigy, they threw down their palm branches, retrieving them afterwards, as they believed the ridden-over fronds to be charms against storms and lighting.

Of course, sour ol’ Naogeorgus couldn’t let such a celebration pass without sticking his curmudgeonly oar in.  First in his crosshairs are the pageants which taught the people their Bible stories.  Merciful Heavens!  It’s not a real ass nor the real Jesus!  It's like a play!  Scandalous!
Here comes that worthy day wherein our Savior Christ is thought
To come unto Jerusalem on ass's shoulders brought:
When as again these Papists fond their foolish pageants have
With pomp and great solemnity, and countenance wondrous grave.
A wooden Ass they have, and Image great that on him rides,
But underneath the Ass’s feet a table broad there slides,
Being borne on wheels, which ready dressed, and all things meet therefore,
The Ass is brought abroad and set before the church’s door.

Next are those stupid, simple peasants, so foolishly taking part in the pageant (and for Heaven’s sake, don’t let anyone who can’t sing open their mouths!  Despite the Psalmist, we want no joyful noises here!)
The people all do come, and boughs of trees and Palms they bear,
Which thing against the tempest great the Parson conjures there,
And straightway down before the Ass, upon his face he lies,
Whom there another Priest doth strike with rod of largest size;
He rising up, two lubbers great upon their faces fall,
In strange attire, and loathsomely, with filthy tune, they bawl:
Who, when again they risen are, with stretching out their hand,
They point unto the wooden knight, and singing as they stand,
Declare that that is he that came into the world to save,
And to redeem such as in him their hope assured have:
And even the same that long ago, while in the street he rode,
The people met and Olive boughs so thick before him strewed.

Oh, those Papists!  Not content with bearing their idol through the streets, they bring it into the church!
This being sung, the people cast the branches as they pass,
Some part upon the Image, and some part upon the Ass:
Before whose feet a wondrous heap of boughs and branches lie:
This done, into the Church he straight is drawn full solemnly:
The shaven Priests before them march, the people follow fast,
Still striving who shall gather first the boughs that down are cast:
For falsely they believe that these have force and virtue great
Against the rage of winter storms and thunders flashing heat.
In some place wealthy citizens, and men of sober cheer,
For no small sum do hire this Ass with them about to bear,
And mannerly they use the same, not suffering any by
To touch this Ass, nor to presume into his presence nigh.

And here is the clincher.  Those boys, who never miss an opportunity to beg for treats at the doors of honest citizens, borrow the figures (after bribing the sexton) and again wander through the streets, serenading those whom they hope will be generous.  What is this world coming to?  Why are those children not engaged in some useful activity, instead of asking alms of those who worked hard to earn their money?
When as the priests and people all have ended this their sport,
The boys do after dinner come, and to the Church resort:
The Sexton pleased with price, and looking well no harm be done:
They take the Ass, and through the streets and crooked lanes they roam,
Whereas they common verses sing, according to the guise,
The people giving money, bread, and eggs of largest size.
Of this their gains they are compelled the master half to give,
Lest he alone without his portion of the Ass should live.

In northern countries where palms are not numerous or common, branches of other trees - willow, boxwood, yew, and olive - were used instead.  Ol’ Naogeorgus inveighed against this as well:
Besides they candles up do light, of virtue like in all,
And willow branches hallow, that they ‘palms’ do use to call.
This done, they verily believe the tempest nor the storm
Can neither hurt themselves, nor yet their cattle, nor their corn.

An old Welsh tradition is to walk the boundaries of your property today.  Doing so will keep thieves away. [However, let us not place temptation in the path of our fellow man. Continue to use stout locks and other paraphernalia which discourages law-breaking].

This is also called Fig Sunday, from the practice of eating figs and fig puddings today. [A fig pudding, for those who wish to make one, is like a plum pudding with the addition of chopped dried figs.]
John M. Neale, the translator of the above hymn into English, also noted another verse, which he says was sung until the 17th century.
Be Thou, O Lord, the Rider,
And we the little ass,
That to God's holy city
Together we may pass.

 Certainly appropriate to me, for I have a tendency to asinine behavior on occasion.


‘From ancient texts I sing the days and seasons,
And the star-signs that rise and set, beneath the Earth.
I’ve reached the fourth month, where you’re most honoured,
And you know, Venus, both month and poet are yours.’
The goddess, moved, touching my brow lightly
With Cytherean myrtle, said: ‘Finish what you’ve begun.’
                                                                                    Ovid, Fasti, Book IV

Next came fresh April, full of lustyhead,
And wanton as a kid whose horn new buds;
Upon a bull he rode, the same which led
Europa floating through th’ Argolick floods:
His horns were gilden all with golden studs,
And garnished with garlands goodly dight
Of all the fairest flowers and freshest buds
Which th’ earth brings forth; and wet he seem’d in sight
With waves, through which he waded for his love’s delight.

“April – The fourth month of the modern year, and the first month of spring… The name has been a subject of considerable etymological guess-work.  It has been supposed to come for aperio, “I open,” as marking the time when buds of trees and flowers begin to open.  But, inasmuch as all the other months are named after divinities or suppositious demigods, and as the Romans always looked upon April as being under the peculiar tutelage of Venus, it seems not impossible that Aprilis was originally Aphrilis, for Aphrodite, the Greek name of Venus.” William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898) p. 58
Astronomy for April:

Pink Moon on the 6th. [the Pink is another name for the Carnation]

Lyrid Meteor Shower, from late night on the 21st to just before dawn on the 22nd.  And no moon to interfere this year!
April weather:
Rain and sunshine, both together.

Weather for April:
Based on the 12 Days of Christmas:  Warm.  Sunny, then overcast, then sunny, then overcast...
Based on the first 12 days of January:  Mostly sunny and very, very cold.
Based on the Ember Days:  Chilly, with rain and light snow.
[I don't think April can make up its mind what to be.]
Weather Lore for April

Rain in April will bring a good May.

Betwixt April and May if there be rain,
Tis worth more than oxen and wain [wagon].

April rains for men, May for beasts (a wet April is good for corn, a wet May good for grass)

April showers bring milk and meal.

April rains make large sheaves.

In April, each drop counts for a thousand.

If it rains in April, it will rain incessantly in May.

A wet April makes a dry June.

A cold April will fill the barn.
        on the other hand
Warm April, great blessing.

Cold April gives bread and wine [at least in France.  In Spain, however, "A cold April, much bread and little wine".  I prefer a French April.]

A cold April brings much fruit.

A cold and moist April fills the cellar and fattens the cow.

Moist April, clear June,
Cloudy April, dewy May.

Fogs in April foretell a failure of the wheat-crop next year [at least in Alabama]

When April blows his horn, it's good for both hay and corn.
April thunder indicates a good hay and corn crop.

Thunder in April signifieth that same year to be fruitful and merry (with the death of wicked men, says the Book of Knowledge)

Thunderstorm in April is the end of hoar-frost.
It's not April without a frosty crown.
'Til April's dead, change not a thread [don't put your winter woolies away just yet]

April wears a white hat [either frost or snow, especially at the beginning of the month]

Snow in April is manure.

4/1 – If it thunders on All Fools' Day, it brings good crops of corn and hay.

         If it rains on the first day of April, there will be rain for fifteen successive days.

         If the weather is not clear on Palm Sunday, it means a bad year.

         If the first three days are foggy, rain in June will make the lanes boggy.

         As the weather is on the first three days of April, so it will be for the next forty days.

4/3 – If St. Rosemund’s day brings storm and wind,
         Then will St. Sibylle’s day (April 29) be mild.

4/6 – Rain on Good Friday foreshows a fruitful year.

         The sun never shines on Good Friday.

          In whatever direction the wind blows on Good Friday, it will blow for forty days.

4/8 – Rain on Easter either means a good harvest, or very little hay

         If there is enough rain on Easter Sunday to wet a pocket handkerchief, there will be a good crop year.

         If it rains on Easter Sunday, it will rain on seven Sundays in succession.

         If the wind blows a certain way on Easter Sunday, it will blow that way for six weeks.

         When there is an early Easter, there is an early spring.
                                     so therefore
         When there is a late Easter, there is a late spring.
                                   Makes sense...

4/15 – The first Sunday after Easter settles the weather for the whole summer

4/22 – If it rains on Pastor Sunday (second after Easter), it will rain every Sunday until Pentecost.

4/25 – If it rains on St. Mark’s eve, there will be an abundance of figs.

Gardening for April:

April brings the primrose sweet
Scatters daisies at our feet.

[and it would seem that, after a long Lenten fast, it is time to feast and make merry!]

The wine of April is the wine of God
The wine of May is the wine of lackeys.

4/23 – When on St. George rye will hide a crow, a good harvest may be expected. 

From the 1817 Almanac:
“With the Farmer and Gardener this is the busiest Month in the whole Year; for now whatsoever you have a mind to plant or sow, the Earth is fit to receive.  Hoe your Carrots, Radishes, Onions, &c.  Set French Beans, plant Asparagus, separate the Layers of Artichokes, and plant three of them in one Hole.  Plant Garden Beans, Rouncival, and other large Pease to succeed other Crops.  Plant Slips of Sage, Rude, Rosemary, Lavender, &c.  Sow all Sorts of Sallad Herbs and Spinach in moist Places for the last time.  Sow Turnips, and all Sorts of Cabbage-Lettuce, and transplant Cos and Silesia Lettuces which were sown last Month.

Cassell’s Illustrated almanac 1871 for April.
Flowers.—Plant out wallflowers, stocks, sweet-williams, &e . Complete the sowing of hardy annuals, and the half-hardy kinds may be sown towards the end of the month. Look carefully over your roses after curled leaves, which will be found to contain a grub that will prove destructive to the bloom if unmolested.

Vegetables.—Make a fresh sowing of beans and peas, for a succession of crops. Sow Brussels sprouts rather thinly. Get in your main crop of celery, and of onions, if not completed last month. Continue the sowing of lettuce, and water the young plants constantly in dry weather. Plant slips of herbs in shady places.

Fruit.—Grafting and trimming operations may be completed early in the month. The ground about gooseberry and currant trees should be frequently turned over with the hoe, and the stems and young leaves should be watched for the appearance of caterpillars. Clear away suckers from trees and bushes, digging toward the root for that purpose if necessary.


It is now a good Time to Bleed and take Physic; abstain from much Wine, or other strong Liquors; as they will cause a ferment in your Blood, and ruin your Constitution.

Artwork: April. Engraving by William Hone. The Everyday Book and Table Book. (1838) p. 406.

April - Feasting. Engraving based on an 11th century manuscript. William Walsh, Curiosities of Popular Customs (1898) p. 58