04/01/03
Holy Humor
    by Kevin Shortsleeve

Today is a very important day for children all over the United States and Europe. For today is April Fools Day - so father's and mother's beware; that next spoon of sugar just might be salt.

The ancient origins of this most peculiar holiday are not known for certain. The oldest tradition tells of the Roman legend of Ceres and Pluto. Pluto, God of the Dead, kidnapped Ceres daughter Prosperina and took her to the underworld where Prosperina proceeded to call out for help. Up on the Earth her mother, Ceres, could hear the cries - and kept calling and searching for Prosperina, but because she was mortal, Ceres could not go to the underworld. She went on and on, vainly calling with no hope of finding Prosperina. This is perhaps, the original fool's errand.

It is believed that the modern version of April Fools day had its beginnings in France. In the year 1564, King Charles the IX decided to use the new Gregorian Calendar, which moved New Years Day from April First to January First. Some of the population did not catch on so quickly to the new calendar - and it eventually came to pass that those who were still celebrating the old date, April 1, were regarded as Fools, and it became traditional to play tricks on them.

Since then, the tradition has spread. One of the most notorious April Fools Day hoaxes occurred in London in 1857, when crowds began arriving at the Tower of London with tickets they had purchased to see the Annual Washing of the Lions. Of course, there was no Annual Washing of the Lions and the tickets had been faked. And in 1959, a disc jockey in Hawaii created quite a stir, when, on April 1st of that year, he announced that, in celebration of Hawaii becoming a state, the govern- ment had decided to give back all the money collected on the previous years taxes.

But April Fools Day is perhaps celebrated best right in the home, where children wrack their brains trying to figure out how to outsmart their parents. - and it seems that every family has their own April Fools Day legends. In mine, we often recall what happened to my poor brother Mike. Ever the good father; Mike followed a set of hand-written directions about forty miles out into the country. But the soccer match - which his teenage son had invited him to - and had provided directions for - was not to be. Mike arrived at a dead end road over-looking a pumpkin patch, wondering where all the other parents were. After a while, he glanced at his watch and noticed the date - Ahhh... April 1st. Score one for the kids.

Copyright 2003 Kevin Shortsleeve

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Tuesday, 25-Feb-2003 18:47:33 EST


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