Don't Look Now, Your Shoes Are Untied!
By Sam Johnson
The first of April, some do
Is set apart for All Fool's Day;
But why the people call it so
Nor I, nor they themselves, do know,
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.
Robin's Almanac (1790)
Ah yes, April Fool's Day. The day
officially sanctioned as a time when practical jokes can be played on friends
and family without fear.
And, it is the
one day of the year when we become fair game for those irrepressible pranksters
around us -- friends (particularly our so-called "best friends"),
students, spouses (yes, even spouses!), and children (those innocent, wide-eyed
little darlings who on April 1st turn into little pixies full of surprises).
Day has always been a special day in the Johnson household. In fact, when I was
growing up, April Fool's Day was one of our favorite times of the year, maybe second
to Christmas, or third to Halloween.
A typical April
Fool's Day would go something like this:
Fairfield, California, 1967; Saturday, 5:59 a.m.
The folks are sound asleep and
unsuspecting when the radio alarm clock "clicks" 6 a.m. and starts
buzzing loudly and blaring rock-n-roll music full volume.
We giggle to
ourselves in the hallway.
A few hours
later, Mom is in the kitchen preparing breakfast when the doorbell rings. She
rushes downstairs to answer it, but no one is there.
"Tee-hee-hee" we twitter, trying not to laugh
When Mom gets
back to the kitchen, the buzzer on the oven suddenly goes off and she jumps a
foot or two.
innocently in front of the T.V., we are besides ourselves with laughter.
Meanwhile, Dad has gotten up only to find all his
shoes tied together, and shaving cream in his best pair. (One year, I think
Peter put raw eggs in the old man's shoes, and that didn't go over too well!).
breakfast table, Dad picks up the salt shaker to sprinkle a little on his eggs,
and the lid falls off dumping salt all over his plate.
what's going on here?" Mom asks suspiciously, looking right at me.
There's a long
dunno," I say, grinning in my Cheerios. "Maybe Margie did it."
(I was a
rascally tyke of twelve at the time, Margie a pixie of ten, so I could most
things on her).
Margie?" Mom's eyebrows raised inquisitively.
wiggling and giggling in the chair next to me, her hand over her mouth to keep
from laughing out loud.
either Mom," she giggled, "BUT DON'T LOOK NOW, YOUR SHOES ARE
FOOLS!" we blurted out together, no longer able to keep the laughter in.
And we giggled ourselves silly.
But why do so many people delight in prank
playing, and why April 1st?
Phillip Kunz, a professor of sociology at Brigham Young University, "April
Fool's Day is a time when people can violate the usual norms, just like
Halloween or Mardi Gras.
importantly, though, it allows people of unequal status to trick each
other -- children to trick parents, students to trick teachers, employees to
trick bosses -- in a forgivable way. It releases tension, as long as people
don't do anything harmful to one another."
As to where and
how this dubious custom of prank-playing began, it is uncertain. Though there
are several popular explanations.
commonly accepted are those linking our April Fool's pranks to the ancient
celebrations of the vernal equinox which were filled with much feasting and
celebration was the feast of "Huli" held in India around the end of
March. Part of the custom was to send someone out on a foolish errand. In
Scotland, the same custom was known as "hunting the gowk" (cuckoo),
and those fooled were taunted and called "April gowks."
explanation links the trickery to the Roman legend of Proserpina and Pluto.
Proserpina had been gathering flowers one spring day only to be abducted by the
Roman god Pluto. When her mother came looking for her, Pluto fooled the mother
with the echo of her daughter's voice.
And then there
is the French version that says April Fool's Day evolved from the reform
calendar of Charles IX in 1564, Under the old calendar, the custom was for
people to exchange New Year's gifts and make visits on April 1. Under the new
calendar this custom was moved to January 1st, but the conservative faction
objected so strongly to the change, that its supporters sent them mock gifts
and made calls of pretended ceremony on April 1st, thus "fooling"
silly prank gifts of today's April Fool's Day.
But no matter what
the explanation for our April Fool's traditions, the point is to have a little
fun on this day, to let our hair down and laugh at ourselves with our children
think it's too bad we relegate much of April Fool's Day to children, for there
are certainly more fools among the adults, and we all need a good laugh now and
A little levity
can go a long way in the world today. We need at least one day of the year when
we can loosen up a bit and see how silly we are; one day a year when we can
laugh at ourselves and each other.
Fool's Day is just the day to do this.
Don't look now, your shoes are untied
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