Jorge said he planned the prank a day ahead of time. He knew that I’d never expect it and especially not from him. A year ago, we were both enjoying some cafe con leches and gossiping about his brother. I finished drinking my coffee when I noticed the small spider in the bottom of my cup. At least I didn’t spew liquid all over the table, I did feel a bit queezy. I don’t mind spiders, just not in my drinks. Jorge snickered and then burst out laughing. He told me not to worry, that the spider was fake. I had to admit that it was a funny, harmless joke on me.
One year, somebody added some alarms and memos to my cellphone. At first they looked like legit memos, then the memos came up, containing really lame knock-knock jokes. I never was able to figure out who did that. You can bet that I kept an eagle eye on my phone from then on.
I love to investigate phenomenon to see if I can find the actual sources of our social practices and behavior. Holidays are some of my favorites. I had been told that in 16th Century France, the citizens celebrated New Year’s Day on this day. But in 1562, Pope Gregory changed the calendars so that New Year’s Day was on January 1st. Communication, in those days, was poor. The people who hadn’t found out about the new calendar continued to celebrate New Years on April 1st. Those people were called April Fools.
This seemed logical to me, but my inner skeptic knew there had to be more to it than a calendar switch. Indeed, I found other references to prank filled days prior to the middle ages. One, in particular, I found appealing.
An old Roman holiday that was adapted from the ancient Greek called “Hilaria”. No, I’m not kidding, the holidays were actually called Hilaria. They were generally the last day of celebration during the festival of Cybele, the mother of the gods. The Hilaria usually fell around the end of our modern day March or very early April. The common Hilaria occured after the vernal equinox. It was when daytimes became longer than nighttimes. Other Hilaria were celebrated at the appointment of a new emporor.
On Hilaria, games and amusements ran rampant. Masquerades were extremely popular. People were allowed to imitate whomever he wished. The merriment was socially expected to take place. Nobody was allowed to express any symptoms of sorrow or sadness during Hilaria.
My skepticism had again served me well. As is the case in many contemporary holidays and commemorations, April Fools’ Day had its roots in an ancient Roman holiday. You probably guessed that the name “hilaria” is the root word of hilarious.
The Blue Jay of Happiness hasn’t thought up a comeback to last year’s April Fools’ prank from Jorge, yet.