The traditional Chinese New year holiday is absolutely the worst time to travel anywhere in China when millions head home to spend the traditional Chinese New year holiday at their parental homes, and railway stations like Guangzhou in Guangdong, a province in South China, see around 175,000 passengers daily.
The phrase “All Men Are Same!” was coined after a Chinese woman lost her husband in a crowd during the festive season.
It was a nightmare for the Chinese woman and her husband to reach their cosy hotel in an alleyway off the main tourist thoroughfare. They had to push and shove their way through the thick crowd of people who all looked the same, and got separated.
She desperately searched for her husband and ultimately went with a man to his home who too had lost his partner in the crowd.
The people in the lane where I live are all respectable. However, an old woman living on the first floor of a nearby apartment has been lately having trouble with a ‘Peeping Tom’ living in a nearby building. Every time she goes to her bathroom, this peeping tom looks through the Louvre and stares at her.
She complained to the old caretaker of the building about this annoying peeping Tom but he wantedpositive proof before he could take any action.
So, the old woman went to a friend’s apartment in the adjoining building and took a photo of the culprit peeping into her bathroom!
One of the most light-hearted days of the year is April Fools’ Day, sometimes called All Fools’ Day, celebrated every year on April 1.
On April Fools’ Day, people indulge in playing harmless practical jokes, for example, telling friends that their shoelaces are untied or sending them on so-called fools’ errands, and also spreading hoaxes. Both the jokes and their victims are labelled “April fools”. So, people indulging in playing April Fool jokes expose their prank by shouting “April Fool!“.
On this day some newspapers, magazines and other published media report fake stories, which are usually explained on the following day or printed below the news section in small letters like those found in some agreements.
Although April Fools’ Day or All Fools’ Day, has been celebrated by different cultures for several centuries no country has yet declared the day as a public holiday.
The exact origins of All Fools’ Day still remain a mystery.
Some forerunners of April Fools’ Day, the custom of setting aside a day for the playing of harmless pranks upon one’s neighbours, include the Roman festival of Hilaria.
The Hilaria (Latin “the cheerful ones“) were ancient Roman religious festivals celebrated on the March equinox to honour Cybele.
The term ” Hilaria” seems to have originally been a name which was given to any day or season of rejoicing, celebrated in Rome at the end of March and involved people dressing up in disguises. According to Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 – August 13, 662), a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar, the Hilaria were, either private or public. If private, it is the day in which a person gets married, or a day when a son was born. If public, those days of public rejoicings decided by a new emperor which were devoted to general rejoicings and public sacrifices, and no one was allowed.
Some speculate that April Fools’ Day was tied to the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere, when Mother Nature fooled people with changing, unpredictable weather.
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales
The first recorded association between April 1 and foolishness appeared around 1392, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In The Prologue to the “Nun’s Priest’s Tale“, Chaucer tells the story of the vain cock Chauntecler who falls for the tricks of a fox. The narrator describes the tale as occurring:
When that the monthein which the world bigan That highte March, whan God first maked man, Was complet, and passed were also Syn March biganthritty dayes and two
Unfortunately, the reference “Syn March biganthritty dayes and two” is ambiguous and worthless as historical evidence.
Readers apparently misunderstood this line to mean “32 March”, meaning April 1. Modern scholars believe that there is a copying error in the extant manuscripts and that Chaucer actually wrote, Syn March was gon. Thus the passage originally meant 32 days after March, namely, May 2nd, the anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, which took place in 1381.
Whatever Chaucer may have meant to convey, we can not conclude, based on these few lines, that he was aware of a custom of playing pranks on April 1st.
In 1508, in a poem titled “Le livre de la deablerie” written by Eloy d’Amerval, a French choirmaster and composer might have a possible reference to April Fool’s Day. According to Wikipedia, it consists of “a dialogue between Satan and Lucifer, in which their nefarious plotting of future evil deeds is interrupted periodically by the author, who among other accounts of earthly and divine virtue, records useful information on contemporary musical practice.”
Though the poem would only be of interest to historians of music, it includes the line, “maquereau infâme de maintt homme et de mainte femme, poisson d’vril.“
The phrase “poisson d’vril” (April Fish) is the French term for an April Fool, a possible reference to the holiday when people were made fools for having paper fish placed on their backs to symbolize a gullible person or a young, easily caught fish. However, it is unclear whether d’Amerval’s use of the term referred to April 1st specifically. He might have intended the phrase simply to mean a foolish person.
Eduard de Dene’s comical poem (1561)
In 1561, Flemish poet Eduard de Dene published a comical poem titled “Refereyn vp verzendekens dach / Twelck den eersten April te zyne plach” meaning (roughly) “Refrain on errand-day / which is the first of April.” In this poem, a nobleman who hatches a plan to send his servant on absurd errands on April 1st, supposedly to help prepare for a wedding feast. In the closing line of each stanza, the servant says, “I am afraid… that you are trying to make me run a fool’s errand.“
This is a fairly clear reference to a custom of playing practical jokes on April 1st. So, we can infer that April Fool’s Day dates back at least to the sixteenth century.
Because of this reference to poet Eduard de Dene and other vague French references, historians believe that April Fool’s Day must have originated in continental northern Europe and then spread to Britain.
The changeover from Julian Calendar to Gregorian Calendar
The Romans used a complicated lunar calendar, based on the phases of the moon. A group of people decided the addition and removal of days to keep this calendar in unison with the astronomical seasons, marked by equinoxes and solstices.
Julius Caesar consulted an Alexandrian astronomer named Sosigenes and in 45 BCE, created a more regulated civil solar calendar, based on the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. In this Julian calendar, a common year had 365 days divided into 12 months with every fourth a leap year with a leap day added to the month of February.
Today, the Gregorian calendar also known as the Western or Christian Calendar is the most widely used calendar in the world. In 1582, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563, some European Catholic countries such as France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain introduced the Gregorian calendar. However, many countries non-Catholic continued to use the Julian Calendar. Turkey was the last country to changeover officially to the Gregorian calendar on January 1, 1927, So, it took almost 300 years for all the countries to switch over to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian Calendar.
In the Middle Ages, most European towns celebrated New Year’s Day on March 25. In some areas of France, New Year’s Day was a week-long holiday ending on April 1. The use of January 1 as New Year’s Day was common in France by the mid-16th century, and this date was adopted officially in 1564 by the Edict of Roussillon.
So, according to some historians, the April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582 when people who were slow to get the news of the changeover to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian Calendar, or failed to understand the new calendar. So, those who celebrated the New Year’s Day on some other dates other January 1, became victims of the butt of jokes and hoaxes of those who celebrated New Year’s Day on January 1.
Escape of Duke of Lorraine and his wife on April 1, 1632
According to a legend, the Duke of Lorraine and his wife were imprisoned at Nantes. On April 1, 1632, disguising themselves as peasants, they escaped from the prison by walking through the front gate. A person who recognized them told the guards about it. The guards thought the warning was a “Poissond’vril“ joke and scoffed at the person who reported it.
John Aubrey (1686)
In 1686, John Aubrey, an English antiquarian, collected notes about popular customs and superstitions, as research for a contemplated work to be titled, Remains of Gentilism and Judaism. His collected notes were published posthumously. He wrote, “Fooles holy day. We observe it on ye first of April. And so it is kept in Germany everywhere.”
So by the late seventeenth century, April Fool’s Day had definitely spread to Britain.
Washing the Lions prank (1968)
The tradition of keeping animals at the Tower of London began in the 13th century when Emperor Frederic II sent three leopards to King Henry III. In the following years, elephants, lions, and even a polar bear trained to catch fish in the Thames were added to the collection.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a German visitor wrote, “all variety of creatures in the Tower including three lionesses, one lion of great size called Edward VI from his having been born in that reign; a tyger; a lynx; a wolf excessively old… there is besides a porcupine, and an eagle.”
At that time, a popular traditional prank to be played on April Fool’s Day was sending gullible victims to the Tower of London to see the “washing of the lions” (a non-existent ceremony).
On April 2, 1698, a British newspaper Dawks’s News-Letter reported: “Yesterday being the first of April, several persons were sent to the Tower Ditch to see the Lions washed.”
Examples of this “washing of the lions” prank occurred as late as the mid-nineteenth century. For more about the history of this prank, see the article: Washing the Lions.
The above is an image of a card printed by the late Albert Smith and distributed among his friends. It’s hard to say whether any of these cards were sold as he did not authorise the transaction nor whether any person tried to use these cards at the non-existent “White Gate.”
By the eighteenth century, one of the most popular outing for visitors to London was to visit the Tower of London to see the menagerie. However, the population of the animals declined during the early nineteenth century. In 1834, the few remaining animals were transferred to the London Zoo opened to the public in 1828 in an area of Regent’s Park.
In the 18th century, April Fools’ Day spread throughout Britain. In 1708, a correspondent wrote to the British Apollo magazine asking, “Whence proceeds the custom of making April Fools?“
In Scotland, it turned into a traditional two-day event that began with “hunting the gowk,” in which people were sent on phoney errands. Gowk is a word that denotes a cuckoo bird, a symbol for a fool.
This was followed by Tailie Day, a prank played on people’s derrieres, such as pinning fake tails or “kick me” signs on them.
Nowadays, newspapers, radio and TV stations, and Web sites have participated in the April 1 tradition creating intricate April Fools’ Day hoaxes by reporting outrageous fictional claims to fool their audiences.
In 1957, BBC reported that Swiss farmers were experiencing a record spaghetti crop and showed footage of people harvesting noodles from trees. In fact, many viewers fell for this report.
In 1985, Sports Illustrated tricked many of its readers when it ran a cooked-up article about a rookie pitcher named Sidd Finch who could throw a fastball over 168 miles per hour.
In 1996, Taco Bell, the fast-food restaurant chain, duped people by announcing that it had agreed to purchase Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell and intended to rename it the Taco Liberty Bell.
In 1998, Burger King advertised a “Left-Handed Whopper,” and many clueless customers requested the fake sandwich.
On the eve of All Souls Day, two boys ventured into one of the orange orchards in the village. They saw two bags of freshly plucked oranges lying unattended. Grabbing a bag each, they left the orchard unobserved. They then decided to go to a quiet place to share the lot equally.
While they jumped over the parapet wall of the village cemetery two oranges fell out of one of the bags but they did not bother to pick them at that time.
A few minutes later, the village drunkard Carolis Appuhamy, who looked after the churchyard and the cemetery was returning inebriated from the tavern. While passing the cemetery he heard a monotonous mumbling: “One for me, one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me, …“
Frightened Carolis Appu ran as fast as he could to the church. When he saw Father Augustine he blurted “Anéy father, please come, come. I heard Satan and Saint Peduru sharing the dead at the cemetery.“
Curiosity taking the upper hand, Fr Augustine followed Carolis Appu to the cemetery. The crouched near the parapet wall and heard the voice muttering, “One for me, one for you, one for me, one for you, one for me, …“
Suddenly, the voice stopped counting and said: “Finished. What about those two outside the parapet wall?“
Fr Augustine and Carolis Appu immediately took to flight. They ran towards the Church shouting madly in unison: “We are not dead, we are not dead…“
Donald Trump, the current nominee of the Republican Party for President of the United States in 2016 had thought of running for president in 1988, 2004, and 2012, and for Governor of New York in 2006 and 2014, but did not enter any of those races. In 1988, Trump was considered as a potential running mate for George H. W. Bush but lost out to Vice President Dan Quayle.
Trump, who wants to be the next president of the United States has voiced whatever caustic thoughts he has. To him, the Mexicans were “rapists” and “anchor babies“, he has used adjectives such as “bimbo” and “fat pig” to describe women. For months he has preoccupied himself with mocking Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, by calling her “the Indian” and “Pocahontas“, and insisted that she was a racist for having listed her heritage while on the faculty of Harvard Law School.
I was surprised when I was told that Donald Trump was invited to address a major gathering of the American Indian Nation. At the meeting, he spoke about his plans for increasing every Native American’s standard of living. Although Trump was vague about his plans, he spoke eloquently about helping his “Red sisters and brothers“.
When he concluded his speech, the Chiefs of the American Indian Tribes presented him with a plaque inscribed with his new Indian name, “Walking Eagle” which a proud Trump accepted pompously.
After he left the venue, a reporter asked the group of chiefs how they came to select the new name for Trump. They explained that “Walking Eagle” is the name given to a bird so full of shit it can no longerﬂy.
Every year, the married Hindu women in the southern states of India undertake the Varalakshmi Vratam. It is a pooja (a prayer ritual) to honour and worship goddess Varalakshmi, the granter of boons (Varam). Varalakshmi Vratam falls on the Second Friday or the Friday before Poornima (full moon day) in the month of Śravaṇā, also called Śawan in Hindi and Aadi in Tamil, corresponding to the Gregorian months of July–August.
Last Friday, my wife on invitation attended the Varalakshmi Vratam celebration at three houses of our Hindu neighbours.
This brings to my mind an apocryphal yarn about Chanakya and his advice to Chitragupta, the Hindu god who keeps complete records of actions of all human beings on earth and decides whether to send them to heaven or to hell after their mortal death.
Chanakya, traditionally identified as Kauṭilya or Vishnu Gupta was a teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor to Chandragupta, the first Mauryan emperor. He authored the Arthashastra, the ancient Indian political treatise.
In Hinduism, the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction cum transformation are personified as a triad of deities, namely Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva respectively.
Chitragupta and goddess Varalakshmi noticed that every woman in the course of the Vratam prayed to the goddess to grant her the boon of getting married to her present husband in the next seven incarnations.
Chitragupta also heard the men pray for a new wife in each and every future incarnation!
Chitragupta and goddess Varalakshmi were perturbed.
So, they approached the four-faced Brahma, the creator deity, for advice.
Brahma: “The wish of these women are laudable! So, what is the problem? “
Chitragupta: “Lord, every woman wants her present husband to be reborn and marry only her in her next seven incarnations, but all men want a new wife in each and every future incarnation!”
Brahma: “Yes. It is a real dilemma indeed!”
Chitragupta: “Lord, what are we to do?”
Brahma thought for a while and said: “Go to Earth and seek the advice of Chanakya, the wise man.”
Chitragupta and goddess Varalakshmi appeared before Chanakya. After relating the problem they asked the scholar for a solution.
Chanakya smiled at them and said: “This is not a problem at all. Tell those silly women that if they want their present husband to be theirs for the next seven incarnations then they will have to accept their current mother-in-law too to be theirs for the next seven incarnations!”
Today, I received a copy of a clipping of the poem titled “Human Anatomy” from my dear niece Fiona Devotta Vazirani.
I remember having first read this humoristic poem in the mid-1990s. Since then it had appeared in many newspapers and clippings – sometimes with long titles such as “Let’s call it, unsolved mysteries of anatomy” and at times without any title at all.
The author was William Rossa Cole.
Here is that poem appearing under the title “Foolish Questions” (adapted) from “Oh, Such Foolishness” (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1978) as found in Kids Pick the Funniest Poems, edited by Bruce Lansky (Meadowbrook Press, 1991).
by William Cole
Where can a man buy a cap for his knee? Or a key for the lock of his hair?
And can his eyes be called a school? I would think there are pupils there!
What jewels are found in the crown of his head, And who walks on the bridge of his nose?
Can he use, in building the roof of his mouth, the nails on the ends of his toes?
Can the crook of his elbow be sent to jail? If it can, well, then, what did it do?
And how does he sharpen his shoulder blades? I’ll be hanged if I know – do you?
Can he sit in the shade of the palm of his hand, and beat time with the drum in his ear?
Can the calf of his leg eat the corn on his toe?
There’s somethin’ pretty strange around here!
William Rossa Cole, an American editor, anthologist, columnist, author, and writer of light verse was born on November 20, 1919, to William Harrison Cole and Margaret O’Donovan-Rossa of Staten Island, New York. He was the grandson of the Irish national hero, Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa.
William Cole served in the infantry in Europe in World War II, rising to sergeant and receiving the Purple Heart. After military service, he entered the publishing industry. He served as publicity director at Alfred A. Knopf, publicity director and editor at Simon & Schuster, and publisher of William Cole Books at Viking Press. He was a columnist for The Saturday Review, a vice president of PEN American Center and a member of the governing board of the Poetry Society of America and the executive board of Poets and Writers.
William Cole wrote children’s books and light verse. His whimsical poetry appeared often in Light Quarterly and was widely anthologized, He was an author, co-author, editor, and co-editor, of about 75 books of which 50 were anthologies. The American Library Association were honoured three of his books:
In 1958, “I Went to the Animal Fair: A Book of Animal Poems” which was on the List of Notable Children’s Books of 1940–1959.
In 1964, “Beastly Boys and Ghastly Girls: Poems“.
In 1965, “The Birds and Beasts Were There: Animal Poems” .
His marriage to Peggy Bennett in 1947 and his marriage to Galen Williams in 1967 both ended in divorce.
William Cole died on August 2, 2000, in his Manhattan home, aged 80.
Seamus Heaney, Member of the Royal Irish Academy and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 memorialized William Cole in a poem.
A few days ago, during the incessant rain and floods in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India, a little boy wanted 100 rupees to buy food for his family who had not eaten for two days. He prayed to God. When nothing happened and no one officially came to help them, he decided to write a request letter to God.
A puzzled post office staff on seeing the letter addressed to God forwarded it to the Chief Minister.
The amused Chief Minister thought that 100 rupees would be a lot of money for a little boy to buy food. So, she instructed her secretary to send the little boy 30 rupees instead from the Chief Minister’s relief fund.
When the little boy received the money he was delighted. He wrote the following ‘Thank you’ letter to the CM:
“Dear God, I thank you for sending me money through the Chief Minister’s Office Secretariat in Chennai. However, I would like you to know that corrupt asses there must have swindled 70 rupees as their commission! “