The Roots of April

The US Congress mandated the Days of Remembrance which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust, and they created the US Holocaust Memorial Museum as a memorial to those victims. Congress also mandated that the Museum be responsible for leading the country in the Remembrance. The time period that spans Days of Remembrance include Holocaust Remembrance Day, known as Yom Hashoah, which this year is Tuesday, April 21, while the museum hosts events from April 19 through the 26th. The premise of the observance is to keep the travesty in mind so that it does not happen again. People are urged to learn about what happened, and why it happened, and to understand the reasons that it went on for so long before it was stopped.

While April Fool's Day is celebrated in the United States on April 1, it is a two-day celebration in the land of the Scots. The first day is called "April Gowk," as is the person on whom the prank is pulled. The gowk is another word for a cuckoo bird. The second day is devoted to pranks which involve the posterior of the anatomy and is called Taily Day. The "kick me" sign is traced back to Taily Day.

Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13, 1743. He was the third President of the United States. While he was eloquent in his writings, he was, from all reports, not very good at all at public speaking. Instead of speeches, he contributed his writing to the cause of American freedom, including the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom. He dedicated the next chapter in his life championing the cause of non-entanglement. While the Napoleonic wars raged on in France and in Britain, he wrote, "The fundamental principle of our government [is] never to entangle us with the broils of Europe." He was the target of John Adams' Alien and Sedition Acts because of his stance with regard to neutrality.

In the final part of his life, he founded the University of Virginia at Charlottesville in 1819. This was one of the three events he apparently wished to be remembered for, as he dictated that his tombstone should read, "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, And Father of the University of Virginia."

On April 28, 1758, James Monroe was born. He became the fifth President of the United States, and presided over the Missouri Compromise, which declared Missouri a slave state. During his presidency, Maine was admitted into the Union, and Florida was bought from Spain. He is perhaps best known for the Monroe Doctrine, which declared that efforts by European governments to colonize land or otherwise interfere with the states in America would be seen by the government of the U.S. as acts of aggression. So influential on foreign policy was the Doctrine that it was invoked over the years by Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. The Monroe Doctrine was actually written by John Quincy Adams, who was Secretary of State under Monroe.

National Arbor Day was established in 1872 by J. Sterling Morton, a journalist who would soon become the editor of a newspaper in Nebraska, in order to encourage tree planting and care. It is observed on the last Friday in April, though many states observe it on different dates which are better suited to tree-planting in their locations. Maine, for example, celebrates during the third full week in May; California, March 7 through 14; New Mexico, the second Friday in March; and Hawaii, the first Friday in November. This year, National Arbor Day is observed on April 24.

Passover is observed from April 8 through April 16 this year to commemorate the events in Exodus 12, which narrates the story of God plaguing Pharoah's people by killing the first-born in each household. He instructed the Israelites to kill one lamb for each household and paint the blood on the doorposts, and when the angel of death arrived, he would "pass over" those houses. The Passover begins with the Seder supper, which is a symbolic dinner which describes the history and the hopes of the future. It ends with the declaration, "Next year in Jerusalem!: The Passover Seder supper was the meal which Jesus was celebrating at the Last Supper.

A few luminaries who were born during the month of April include movie stars Eddie Murphy, Marlon Brando, Heath Ledger, Gregory Peck, Bette Davis, Spencer Tracy, Al Pacino, and Jackie Chan. Other famous April people are David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, and Jay Leno.

Additional information for April:

  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum - Provides information for encouraging and sponsoring the Days of Remembrance to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.
  • Arbor Day Foundation - Online resources, programs, and educational information for planting, nurturing, and celebrating trees.
  • Chabad.org: Passover - Features a guides, calendars, and how-to articles for organizing a Seder and acknowledging Passover.
  • Thomas Jefferson's Monticello - Provides an overview of the Jefferson Foundation, a biography and timeline of the United States third president, and a layout of Jefferson's Monticello home.