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April 1 is April Fools’ Day

Today is April Fools’ Day, also known as April Fool’s Day. When we set out to determine its origins, we found a lot more theories than answers.

april fools' day

Satellites around Mars hoax – 1959

The ancient Romans celebrated the aptly-named Hilaria festival in late March to honor the resurrection of Attis, son of the Great Mother Cybele. It was essentially a big costume party, copied from the Greek ΑΝΑΒΑΣΙΣ (Ascensus). Did they play practical jokes? We like to imagine the thrill of tying someone’s gladiator sandals together and asking him to go get us more punch.

Was Chaucer the first author to refer to April Fools’ Day when he wrote Nun’s Priest’s Tale in 1392? Probably not. Scholars disagree in their interpretation of the phrase “thritty days and two.” Some believe it is meant to be added at the end of March (May 3rd); others, to its beginning (April 1st). The latter would seem to link the date to his tale of a fool being tricked by a fox. Chaucer may have been intentionally vague and, as a master of satire, would almost certainly delight in the literary dustup he caused.

The first direct reference to April 1st as a day to play jokes was written by Flemish poet Eduard de Dene in 1561. It is titled “Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach,” which translates very roughly to “Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April.” In it, a nobleman decides to trick his servant by sending him on numerous silly and unnecessary errands. What a funny guy! The servant realizes what his boss is up to and in the closing line of each stanza, says, “I am afraid…that you are trying to make me run a fool’s errand.”

april fools' day

Flying bus hoax – 1950

Another story claims that April Fools’ Day originated in France. On a trip to survey his kingdom, Charles IX noticed that church districts began the new year on many different days, including Christmas and Easter. On August 9, 1564, not long after his 14th birthday, the king issued the Edict of Roussillon, which included the decree that January 1st would mark the new year for all. It was enacted on January 1, 1567.

Legend holds that some people clung stubbornly to the old New Year’s Day and they were mocked as “April fools.” Dealing with multiple calendars and moveable feast days, some timed to consolidate pagan and Christian holidays, must have been confusing. But there is no record of anyone in France ever celebrating New Year’s Day on April 1st.

In Great Britain, March 25th was celebrated as New Year’s Day because it coincided with the Feast of Annunciation. The Christian observance lasted seven days, ending on April 1st. But the April Fool’s calendar-change theory doesn’t work there, either, since the country as a whole clung stubbornly to its tradition until 1752. By then, April Fools’ Day had already become a time-honored tradition.

As it turns out, Great Britain had been in on the joke for quite a while. On April 2, 1698, Dawks’s News-Letter reported, “Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.” Tickets were issued for admittance to the Annual Ceremony of Washing the Lions. Visitors were informed they must go to the White Gate to gain entrance.

april fools' day

Ticket hoax – 1857

There was no White Gate. There were no lions. But the ticket allowed the bearer to bring one friend. True humiliation only takes place when someone you know is there to see it.

To sum up, we still don’t know who created this holiday. We suspect the first prank happened in a cave when one guy stuck another guy’s hand in a puddle while he was sleeping to see if he could get him to wet his loincloth.

Have a happy April Fools’ Day!

 

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January 24 is Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day

Today is Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day. On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold while building a sawmill for John Sutter in Coloma, California. Those few nuggets ultimately led to the Gold Rush.

This holiday was introduced in 2010 by Chris Jepsen as a “fun way to commemorate an important moment in California history.” Need a quick lesson in Prospector-ese? Watch Jack Starrett speak frontier gibberish in Blazing Saddles.

Then kick up your heels and dance like Walter Huston in Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

We also highly recommend the Frontier Doctor skit on the Dean Martin Comedy Hour. There’s no useful jargon but Foster Brooks is the most convincing Old West drunk we’ve ever seen. We hope you’ll agree.

Congratulations. You’re ready to talk like a grizzled prospector, Get out there and give those dadblamed claim-jumpin’ varmints what for. Happy Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day!

Copyright notice Worldwide Weird Holidays 2021

 

April 23 is Talk Like Shakespeare Day

Talk Like Shakespeare Day

William Shakespeare: Bard, babe magnet

Did you miss Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day on January 24th? Do you need to recapture the fun you had on International Talk Like William Shatner Day on March 22nd? Rejoice! Today is Talk Like Shakespeare Day, begun in 2009 by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater to celebrate the Bard’s birthday.

Church records confirm that William Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564. Since this was typically performed three days after birth, it’s believed he was born on April 23, 1564. He died on April 23, 1616, according to the Julian calendar in use at that time. Many sources report his birth in the Julian but his death in the Gregorian calendar, which would make it May 3, 1616.

In 2016, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel proclaimed this day Talk Like Shakespeare Day in honor of Shakespeare400, a yearlong celebration of the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. He prescribed a lot of thees and thous. But if we truly want to talk like Shakespeare, wouldn’t it be helpful to hear how a gentleman born in Stratford-upon-Avon would have spoken?

According to scholar John Barton, Shakespeare’s accent would sound to us like a blend of modern Irish, Yorkshire, and West Country English accents. Recordings compiled by National Public Radio feature pieces performed as Shakespeare probably heard them.

Here’s a recitation of one of his most popular sonnets: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment…”

If you’d rather celebrate the holiday without having to hire a dialect coach, just memorize a few of the greatest insults Shakespeare ever wrote. Here are nine of our favorites:

Thy food is such as hath been belch’d upon by infected lungs.
Pericles

Would the fountain of your mind were clear again, that I might water an ass at it.
Troilus and Cressida

If you spend word for word with me, I shall make your wit bankrupt.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona

I find the ass in compound with the major part of your syllables.
Coriolanus

Thou clay-brained guts, thou knotty-pated fool, thou whoreson obscene greasy tallow-catch!
Henry IV, part I

Your bedded hair, like life in excrements, start up and stand on end.
Hamlet

Methink’st thou art a general offence and every man should beat thee.
All’s Well That Ends Well

Thou wert best set thy lower part where thy nose stands.
All’s Well That Ends Well

Come, come, you talk greasily; your lips grow foul.
Love’s Labour’s Lost

Want more? Use CNN’s Shakespeare Insult-o-Meter to choose the gender of your intended victim, select the severity of invective you desire and let the generator do the rest.

Happy Talk Like Shakespeare Day! And don’t forget to save some energy for International Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19th. Then cleanse your palate with National Gibberish Day on September 20th.

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August 4 is U.S. Coast Guard Day

u.s. coast guard dayToday is U.S. Coast Guard Day.

After the Continental Navy disbanded in 1785, no proviso existed in the U.S. Constitution for the establishment of a permanent maritime force.

In 1790, Alexander Hamilton, the country’s first Department of Treasury Secretary, founded the service that would become the Coast Guard.

Established to enforce tariff laws and manned by crews of civilians, the fleet became known as the system of cutters, named for the type of vessel used: armed ships, usually single-masted, that measured at least 65 feet in length.

From 1798 through 1800, the U.S. and France fought an undeclared naval war known as the “Quasi-War,” precipitated by the U.S. reneging on the repayment of loans received from France during the American Revolutionary War.

Congress passed legislation authorizing President John Adams to reestablish the U.S. Navy and conscript revenue cutters from the Treasury Department during the conflict.

In September of 1800, Adams and Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of France, signed a treaty ending hostilities between the two countries.

The Revenue Cutter Service and the United States Life-Saving Service, created in 1848 to save shipwrecked sailors, merged in 1915 to become the U.S. Coast Guard.

Happy U.S. Coast Guard Day!

Copyright © 2018 Worldwide Weird Holidays