A Chance to Start Over

By The Isle of Thanet News

As April is National Pet Month, it seems an opportune time to introduce the two cats that live in my house. Lilu is part-Siamese, part-silver tabby, and doesn’t like strangers. She enjoys sitting on top of the fridge, and is an excellent hunter. She is playful and talkative, but only if she knows and trusts you. Ripley, on the other hand, is a moggy. She has patches of white, black, and ginger fur, and is tubbier than your average cat. She loves anyone instantly and is overly-friendly, but also likes enclosed spaces and regularly makes herself nests.

April also heralds St George’s Day, an annual celebration of St George of Lydda, a Syrian of Greek and Palestinian origins who supposedly defeated a dragon in eastern Turkey (though before the 11th Century this legend belonged to Saint Theodore Tiro, and can be traced to an earlier Roman tale before Christianity was widely adopted by the empire). St George was a soldier in the Roman army and refused to renounce his Christian faith, resulting in his execution on 23rd April in the year 303AD. He was regarded as a compassionate man who risked his own life to save people he did not know in a country that was not his own by fighting their local dragon.

On the subject of ancient Rome, the word April is an anglicised version of Aprilis, the Roman name for the month, meaning ‘to open’. As well as ushering in the beginnings of Spring, April brings many celebrations and festivities for many religions, including Easter.

Easter is typically held on the Sunday following the full moon which falls on or after the equinox—the date when day and night are exactly the same length. The dating system is taken from the Jewish festival Passover (or Pesach) which starts on the full moon after the equinox. The name comes from the Pagan goddess Ēostre (or Ostara), who was celebrated in April (ēastre-monaþ in Anglo-Saxon Britain), and known for having pet hares.

Various pre-historical cultures throughout the world decorated eggs in Spring, and the practice can be traced back 60,000 years. Decorative eggshells were given as gifts to family members, friends, and sacrificed to gods. It was only in the late 19th Century that the practice of chocolate eggs was introduced to the Britain by a chocolatier spying a new business opportunity. The concept of new life in April, and that linking hares (or rabbits), eggs (and therefore chicks), and the opening of flowers, fruits, harvests, and the sea’s bounty, is older than the countries that celebrate it, and certainly older than the UK. Perhaps we should all take this month to consider our common ground with others, instead of being divisive, and look to work together with those we disagree with. If you can share your home with a pet, then surely you can share a planet with people who have a differing opinion to you, or even offer a helping hand, just like St George did.

First published in the Isle of Thanet News, 1 April 2019