April bring us more than showers.
Easter often falls in April, although the calculation of the first Sunday after
the first ecclesiastical full moon (which may not really be full at all) after
the vernal equinox (which is set at March 21, whether it is or
not) is a question best left to astronomers. And I hope you're not expecting an explanation of what
colored eggs and Easter bunnies have to do with the religious holiday. Suffice it to say that rabbits, tulips,
and eggs are all signs of the new beginnings of Spring and pre-date the
celebration of Easter.
Easter does not have to occur in April at all, the one thing we can count on is
that some of us will start April by making fools of ourselves. Did you ever wonder where April Fool's Day originated? Fools are always with us, of course,
but why is there a special day to call attention to them?
One explanation is tied to that
confusing date of Easter. In the
calendar devised by Julius Caesar's astronomers, there were a few too many
days. They had posited a year of
365 days and even added a leap year every four years. But the solar year is a actually 365.242199 days
long, which means that the calendar got ahead of itself by one day every 128
years. By 1582, there were serious
concerns that Easter was not being celebrated on the right day because the
calendar was out of whack.
Gregory XIII declared that something had to be done to restore God's timetable. His official astronomers went to work
and created the Gregorian calendar, which most Christian countries still
follow. To make up for the ten days that had been added over the centuries,
they cancelled the days between October 5 and October 14. They also declared that any full
century year would not be a leap year unless it was divisible by 40 (so 2000,
but not 1900). And while they were at it, they moved the beginning of the year
from April 1 to January 1. Then all they had to do was convince the rest of Europe to
adopt the new calendar.
was not as easy as it sounded, especially since a large part of Europe was
occupied by Frenchmen, who did not like being told what to do by an Italian
pope. On April 1, there were New Year's celebrations all over
France, while the rest of the continent made fun of those "poor French
fish" who didn't know what day it was. The first April Fools Day prank seems to have been pinning a
picture of a fish on a Frenchman's back to show his foolishness.
then, the jokes have gotten more elaborate, if not more sophisticated. Historians of such things are pretty
much agreed upon the best joke of all time. In 1957, BBC news ran a picture of a tree festooned with
long strands of spaghetti. The accompanying
report announced that ideal pasta-growing conditions in Switzerland were
producing a bumper crop. Thousands
of views wrote or called to ask where they could by their own spaghetti trees. Inquirers were instructed to plant a
strand of pasta in a can of tomato sauce and hope for the best.
personal favorites include the pranks played by fast food companies. Taco Bell
announced in 1996 that it had purchased the Liberty Bell, which would from then
on be known as the Taco Liberty Bell.
Patriotic citizens were outraged and besieged Washington D.C. with their
demands to cancel the sale. Two years later, Burger King proudly heralded the
creation of a left-handed Whopper.
It would contain exactly the same ingredients, but everything would be
rotated 180 degrees for the convenience of their left-hand customers. Customers dutifully ordered one or the
Our local paper, the Commercial Appeal, points out this morning that the most successful April Fool's Day prank in Memphis history was the one committed against The Peabody Hotel by drunken duck hunters in
1933 when they dumped live ducks in the lobby's fountain. Seven years
later, the hotel's first duckmaster began his 51-year tenure. Ducks have been swimming in that lobby fountain ever since. No foolin'!