Wednesday 1 April 2009

April Fools!

Have you ever had an April Fools day trick played on you? When I was an adolescent a friend of my father helping him in the welding shop my dad owned and operated beside our home once asked me on April Fools Day to go fetch him some “elbow grease.” I finally went to ask dad what sort of grease that was and when he just laughed - long and loud - I knew I’d been “had!”

Since today is April Fools Day once again, I was curious to find out why we celebrate it the way we do. Apparently people are not exactly sure why it came about. I found much earlier corroboration of my own experience by reading this in “Poor Robin's Almanac” of 1790:

The first of April, some do say,
Is set apart for All Fools' Day.
But why the people call it so,
I, nor they themselves do know.
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.

That brought to mind how I once got in on the “merriment” by sending one of my younger brothers on a fool’s errand to get a left handed screwdriver!

I’ve discovered here in Australia they really get “into it” in a major way on the 1st of April – apparently each year there is a sort of a competition to see who can perpetrate something on the entire public with the most “massive” and humorous effects!

For example, a caller told a Melbourne radio revealed this morning how he and a group of friends were the April Fool's Day pranksters who shrink-wrapped over 400 cars during the night, saying they just wanted to "bring some fun back into Melbourne''. Read all about it here – and check out the interesting photo – along with reports of other interesting hijinks.

This morning Sydney citizens heard about a football with in-built GPS and artificial intelligence, controversial plans for three new monorails for their city - including one over the Spit Bridge - and how Members of Parliament were going to start offering free child care to their constituents.

Even a public official here in Canberra got quite “creative.” Listeners of a popular morning radio talk show got very stirred this morning hearing about a major government-sponsored utility's plans to reduce Canberra's carbon footprint by turning off street lights in "safe" neighborhoods!

Some people think April Fools Day started in 1562 when Pope Gregory introduced a new calendar for the Christian world. In this new calendar they started the New Year on January 1st. Up till this time, in France at least, it had been celebrated on April 1st. Of course when the change came about there was no way of effectively telling everybody. No television. No radio. So word spread slowly. There were also those who chose to simply ignore the change or they didn’t believe it. Others simply forgot. These then were the people considered "fools" and so invitations to non-existent parties and other practical jokes were played on them.

"All Fools' Day" is practiced in many parts of the world. In France today, French children fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their friends' backs. When the "young fool" discovers this trick, the prankster yells “April Fish!” The connection is that the fish in April are newly hatched and so are an easy catch. Did anyone find you being an “easy catch” today?

I wasn't thrown by this one at the Sojourners' news blog - I expected it because I knew they have an annual "tradition" of doing something like this, but it was still great fun to read! So was this one.

What is the best April Fools joke you ever played on someone – or that someone played on you?

-Clair, in Canberra

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