I refuse to be intimidated by reality anymore. After all, what is reality anyway? Nothin’ but a collective hunch. My space chums think reality was once a primitive method of crowd control. I made some studies, and reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it. I can take it in small doses, but as a lifestyle I find it too confining.
–Trudy the Bag Lady, played by Lily Tomlin in The Search For Intelligent Life in the Universe, by Jane Wagner
How often has someone really had you going on some disturbing piece of news, only to end it with a shout of “April Fool’s!” April Fool’s Day is a day dedicated to humor, usually in the form of these little pranks. Its specific origins go back to the initial confusion among French peasants when, in 1582, the Pope changed the calendar year. Up until then, the New Year was April 1st, a few days after the Spring Equinox. The Pope changed it to January 1st, a few days after the Winter Solstice. But that first year, in the absence of mass media, some peasants hadn’t heard of the change, so they continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1st. Those who did so were the target of pranks, and were called April fools, or April fish, poisson d’Avril, after the young fish that appear in France in early April—fish that are easily caught.
The custom of tricks on April 1st spread to the British Isles, where people were sent to buy left-handed hammers (I could use one of those!) or pints of pigeon’s milk, and the tradition was brought here by British settlers. Today we still are subject to, or plotters of, little loving acts of deceit.
With April Fool’s Day, we enter a month whose name may come from the Latin “aperire,” to open. Whether or not that is its etymology, April is a month of opening up: buds and bulbs tightly closed against winter burst open to reveal their color and scent, and the earth “laughs in flowers,” as St. Ralph Waldo Emerson so aptly put it. This month, we can finally throw open our doors and windows to let in the warmed air. Our very lives seem to open up toward spring, and we have a hard time sitting still at our indoor desks. May we all be touched with the comic festival that is spring, and may each of you fully enjoy the season of playfulness, and at least at times, may you abandon all reason and the heaviness of too much reality, and become a frolicking April Fool!