It’s April – watch for exploding cigars

It's April – watch for exploding cigars
I know that April 1 is past history and, to tell you the truth, I didn't fool anyone this year – so to make up for it, I'm going to call this April Fool's Month!

What else would you name it? The federal income tax is due on the 15th. The real estate tax – at least half of it – must be paid by the 30th. And I'm going to be 85 on the 26th! Believe me, that qualifies to make it 30 days to remember.

Getting back to the first month, everybody wanted to get in on the act. Some say that April Fool's Day started when Noah sent two doves on a "fool's errand" to find land before any of it appeared after the flood.

Others contend that Hindus of ancient India got it stared in their Huli day celebration when they sent people on silly trumped up missions. In France they say that it was due to the switching from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one which put New Year's Day on January 1 instead of the first of April.

The French, who were used to exchanging their New Year's greetings and gifts on April 1, continued to do so – only the presents were mock ones. They named the custom d' poissons avril or April Fish Day. The Scots had one called April Gowk (cuckoo), and Great Britain had an April Fool's Day, too. Even the ancient Romans had a Feast of Fools.

But however it came about, there was no April Fool's Month – until now, that is!

Surprisingly, the British were the best at pulling off April Fool's jokes. In one of their hoaxes, they sent out fancy engraved invitations to friends inviting them to parties which were never held. But the best one included a newspaper ad which said that somebody would pay a good price for anyone who brought in a black cat.

Eight hundred Brits showed up – each carried an ebony feline – but the London address in the ad proved to be a vacant house. Nobody shouted "April Fool" – but 800 people with 800 cats fell for the gag.

They even sent gullible folks after "a pennies worth of crocodile quills," "a pint of pigeon's milk" or "a bucket of steam" – and the fools ate it up.

Americans sent kids to hardware stores for left-handed monkey wrenches and checkered paint, served up chocolate-covered cotton balls and made phony calls to zoos and aquarians asking to talk to Mr. Wolfe or Mr. Fisch. They also used whoopee cushions, buzzer rings and exploding cigars – but they couldn't outdo the British.

Another good one involved Peter the Great of Russia who stacked a big pile of wood, garnished with tar and flammable materials, in front of his palace in St. Petersburg. When he lit it, people from miles around came to fight the fire, only to hear it was April 1, and the tsar was fooling the folks – thinking the palace was on fire!

I never did anything as elaborate as that, but I did hook "Kick Me" signs or the backs of unsuspecting fools, substituted salt for sugar in the sugar bowls and put bricks in paper sacks on the sidewalk for people to kick.

They never did, to my knowledge, but at least I participated in the celebration – if you could call it that.

I used to fool Phyllis on April 1 occasionally, but she finally got wise to me. That's why I "invented" April Fool's Month, and now she doesn't know when I'll strike!

© 2007 Robert F. Karolevitz

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