Thursday, April 1

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest.

I'll refrain from an April Fool's day joke today, despite my urges. I had several jokes on tap, certain to enrage most of my family. I was going to say that me and Celia got married yesterday, in favor of ditching all the hassle of our upcoming wedding. We were going to have pictures and everything, saying how we felt bad not being able to invite everyone, so we opted to invite nobody and marry in secret. Absolute hilarity indeed, but I scrapped it in favor of a history lesson.

In 1582, France became the first country to switch from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar established by the Council of Trent (1563). This switch meant, among other things, that the beginning of the year was moved from the end of March to January 1. Those who failed to keep up with the change, who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th (known in England as Lady Day) and April 1st, had various jokes played on them. For instance, pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were given the epithet Poisson d'Avril, or April Fish. Thus, April Fool's Day was born. There are many precursors to April Fool's Day before this example, but this seems to be the most widespread modern theory. Take from it what you will.

Moving on, in keeping with the theme, here's yet another reason why I love Madison, and my most favorite April Fool's Day story. In 1933 the Madison Capital-Times solemnly announced that the Wisconsin state capitol building lay in ruins following a series of mysterious explosions. The explosions were attributed to "large quantities of gas, generated through many weeks of verbose debate in the Senate and Assembly chambers." Accompanying the article was a picture showing the capitol building collapsing:

The picture wasn't the most believable thing in the world, but it fooled a lot of folks in 1933. Hoards of people got mad, tons more came out to look at the destroyed Capitol, and the Capital-Times didn't care.

Have fun today, take everything with a grain of salt, and don't open any e-mail attachments from strangers. Of course, if you didn't already know that, you deserve to be burned.

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