by Kathy Wolfe

This week, Tidbits’ focus is on some rather obscure events commemorated during the month of April.

As you celebrate National Dandelion Day on April 5, consider all the good things about what we often think of as a pesky weed. Dandelions have been used in Chinese traditional medicine for more than 1,000 years, when they were prescribed for many ailments – warts, constipation, and even the plague! Every bit of the dandelion is edible, with a cup of raw greens providing 112% of the daily requirement for Vitamin A. They have more Vitamin A than spinach and more Vitamin C than tomatoes. Dandelions are rich in iron, calcium, and potassium, and are beneficial in helping the body’s liver eliminate toxins from the blood. Dandelion tea is a proven remedy for digestive problems. Although we make efforts to remove them from our lawns, as part of the daisy family, they were a favorite flower in European gardens. It’s believed the plants arrived in North America on the Mayflower, brought for medicinal purposes. Why are they so hard to get rid of? It’s because their roots go as deep as 10 to 15 feet (3 to 4.5 m)!

National Pecan Day is observed on April 14. The word “pecan” has its origins in an Algonquin word that means “a nut that requires a stone to crack,” due to its hard shell. Yet pecans aren’t technically nuts. They’re drupes, as they are the fruit of a tree, along with peaches, plums, and cherries. The trees, which are native to the United States, (where 90% of the world’s supply is grown) are a variety of hickory tree, and there are more 1,000 different varieties of pecans. The trees won’t bear their fruit until it’s is 12 years old. A tree might reach a height of 150 feet (45.7 m), with a trunk diameter of over 3 feet (0.9 m). Each tree will have plenty of time to bear pecans, as the trees live for 300 years.

April 15 is set aside every year as Titanic Remembrance Day in honor of the victims and survivors of this tragedy. When the luxurious 883-ft. (269 m) ship departed Southampton, England on its maiden voyage on April 10, 1912, it was deemed unsinkable. Yet when the ship struck an iceberg in the frigid waters of the Atlantic at 11:40 PM on April 14, it took just two-and-a-half hours for water to fill and rupture at least five of the hull compartments, breaking the ship in half, and sending it to the bottom of the ocean. A shortage of lifeboats and lack of adequate emergency procedures led to the deaths of more than 1,500 people. 706 survived. The remains of the Titanic were found during a 1985 expedition at a depth of 13,000 feet (3,962 m), 370 miles (595 km) off the coast of Newfoundland.

Hocking County Veterans Service Commission

Haiku poetry has a very strict pattern of structure. Traditional Japanese haiku is composed of one line of five syllables, followed by one line of seven syllables, and another line of five syllables, a total of 17 syllables. There is no rhyme scheme. It’s a brief poem with simple phrases, frequently articulating the imagery of nature. National Haiku Poetry Day is observed on April 17.

Mark your calendars on April 30 for the celebration of National Mahjongg Day. The game originated in China about 200 years ago and takes its name from the Chinese word for “sparrow.” Mahjongg is a rather complicated game requiring strategy and calculation. Although most of the 144 tiles in the game are now mass-produced plastic, they were originally hand-carved tiles engraved with Chinese characters and symbols. A few artisans still produce handcrafted sets, made of bamboo, bone, or ivory, first engraving the tiles, then cleaning them, followed by a painting process that can take weeks to complete. Each of the four players receives 13 tiles, then draw and discard tiles until they complete their hand. Although Americans think of Abercrombie & Fitch as a vendor of stylish fashions, the company, which was founded in 1892, was the first U.S. company to sell mahjongg sets during the 1920s. The game became immediately popular, requiring Ezra Fitch to send representatives to China to purchase every set that could be found.

    April 30 is also National Raisin Day, a day created by California raisin growers in 1909. Raisins can be considered one of nature’s nearly-perfect foods. They are rich in antioxidants to protect the body’s cells from damage and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Raisins are a good source of iron necessary for the production of red blood cells. Their calcium and boron content contributes to strong and healthy bones, while raisins’ potassium helps regulate blood pressure levels. If all of that isn’t enough, raisins are rich in the Vitamin B complex as well as a source of Vitamins C, E, and K and zinc.

    Even 8-track tapes have their own day, April 11. Coming to the market in 1964, this invention changed the way the public listened to music and provided a new way to enjoy music, especially on road trips. The 8-track was invented by William Powell Lear, best known for his design and development of the Lear Jet, and his founding of the Lear Corporation, the first mass-manufacturer of business jets. Lear, who received more than 140 patents during his career, improved on an earlier system, the 4-track tape, by doubling the number of tracks, producing longer uninterrupted playback. By 1965, the Ford Motor Company was offering 8-track players as an option in their new cars. Although 8-tracks enjoyed significant popularity during the 1960s and 1970s, with 1978 marking their peak, improved technology led to their decline. Cassette tapes were smaller and had better sound quality, and could be rewound or fast-forwarded to particular songs. Compact discs were introduced in 1982, giving rise to the final downfall of 8-tracks.

      Although Easter falls on March 31 this year, many years it lands during April. Why does the date change every year? Easter, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is observed on the first Sunday after the Paschal full moon, which is the first full moon on or after the Spring Equinox. The word “paschal” is a translation of the Aramaic word meaning “Passover.” Easter’s earliest possible date is March 22, with latest possible date of April 25.