Dear Travellati Friends,
April 1 is coming up and with it your last chance to get an Early Bird discount on our June Papa’s Paris Tour. Don't lose this chance to put your tax refund to good use!
My upcoming Hemingway's Paris talks:
Wednesday, 3/22/17, 2:00 PM Bedford Free Library, NY
Wednesday, 3/29/17, 7:00 PM Round Table at The Hunting Tavern, Andes, NY
Monday, 4/3/17, 7:00:00 PM Larchmont Public Library, NY
See https://www.facebook.com/pg/Travellati/events for description and full schedule.
How did April 1 become the date on which light-hearted folks around the world play gentle jokes on their nearest and dearest? For those of us on the Gregorian calendar, it came into being in the late 1500s when the New Year’s celebration was changed from March 25-April 1 to January 1. Anyone continuing to celebrate New Year’s Day in March or April was thus a fool. Amazingly cultures as diverse as India, Denmark, and Iran celebrate a form of April Fool’s Day on or about the same date.
In France, the holiday is known as poisson d’avril – April’s Fish – and it is celebrated by secretly pinning or taping a picture or cutout of a fish on an unsuspecting victim, usually your best friend, one of your parents, or your pesky baby brother. I remember that even some of the teachers at my school had a fish on their back, to our great delight.
In India, the Holi festival was celebrated on March 13 this year. It is a day to play jokes, toss colored dust on others, and wear face and body paint to inaugurate Spring. It commemorates the victory of good over evil, brought about by the burning and destruction of the demoness Holika. This was enabled through unwavering devotion to the Hindu god of preservation, Lord Vishnu. Holi got its name as the "Festival of Colors" from Lord Krishna, a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu, who liked to play pranks on the village girls by drenching them in water and colors.
Portugal has a similar custom in which they throw flour on each other, but it comes earlier, on the Sunday and Monday prior to Lent, this year on February 26 and 27. In Spain and Ibero-America, an equivalent festival is December 28, the "Day of the Holy Innocents." After somebody plays a joke or a prank on somebody else, the joker usually cries out: "Inocente palomita que te dejaste engañar" ("You innocent little dove that let yourself be fooled"). On the Spanish island of Minorca, "Dia d'enganyar" ("Fooling day") is celebrated on April 1 because Minorca was a British possession during part of the 18th century.
The 13th day of the Persian New Year, called Sizdah Bedar, usually falls on April 1 or 2. In Iran, it has been celebrated as a prank day since 536 BC, so presumably the Iranians have had the most practice at pranking. They usually go on a picnic and indulge in food, laughter, games, and good natured jokes. After the picnic, they throw away green vegetables, known as sabzeh, which represent any potential illnesses or bad luck for the coming year. I could contribute quite a few formerly green sabzeh from my own fridge.
Denmark and Sweden have two joke days, but then again, their winters are pretty long so they probably need them. They celebrate April Fool’s on April 1 and Maj-kat – May Cat – on May 1. Above is a photo of Sweden's biggest joke.
Norway pulled a good one on Sweden on April 1, 2004, when The Norwegian Board of Tourism ran an ad in Swedish newspapers debuting a new underground super-train, Scandinavian Earthlines, that would connect Sweden and Norway and allow a trip from Stockholm to Lofoten to be made in under an hour. Readers were invited to call a phone number for more information. Those who phoned were informed that the super-train wasn't actually real, but were given a pitch inviting them to visit Norway anyway.
Scotland also has two days of fooling around – April 1 which was traditionally known as Hunt the Gowk day, “gowk” meaning cukoo, the goal being to send someone on a wild goose chase. April 2 was known as Taily Day which involves the infamous “Kick Me” sign and numerous jokes about posteriors.
On April 1, the Polish enjoy an entire day of serious fun. No one — from public institutions to the media — takes this day seriously, to the point where the anti-Turkish alliance which Leopold I signed on April 1, 1683, was backdated to March 31.
We will have many of our own amusing and light-hearted experiences during our Papa’s Paris Tour, June 17-25. Save some moolah if you reserve your spot by April 1. We'd love to have you, and that's a fact!
As always, happy travels,