April Fool’s Day always seemed to be a holiday designed to show off that you finally understood jokes and knew how to tell one (usually starting in second grade) and as a plague for younger siblings. Breakfast on the morning of April Fool’s Day was especially trying for the youngest sibling because anyone older in the house had to try out their April Fool’s Day joke on you making you the butt of countless juvenile attempts to scare you out of your wits. “There’s a spider over your head,” or “Why are there ants crawling on your socks?” or “I don’t know how the salt got in the sugar bowl.” These jokes would continue into the school day with the “Kick me now” notes taped to one’s back. You had to have a thick skin if you were a younger sibling. Then, as one got older, there were the teachers who were wise acres and gave you a surprise test that ended with “this doesn’t count – April Fools” as the last statement on the paper. One would laugh feebly in relief and think that all that younger sibling practice that helped with a thick skin was worth it. It was always a rough day, interrupted with laughter.
Apparently, April Fool’s Day might have come from the change of calendars in the mid-1500’s. The Council of Trent declared that the calendar change from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. That change made the new year start with January 1st instead of April 1st. Those people who hadn’t cottoned onto the change were called April Fools.
Some others think that the holiday started even earlier in ancient Rome when followers of Cybele would dress in costumes and mock others, even magistrates. Cybele is the Roman name for the Greek goddess Rhea, the wife of Cronus and the mother of Zeus. The cult had a major following in ancient Rome, so the poor magistrates probably didn’t look forward to the traditional celebration of April 1st each year!
This year, April 1st is more than a prankster’s day. It points us towards many holidays for the week. Food shopping is more fun because we get to try out recipes that are family traditions as well as try new ones. The freezer and refrigerator are stuffed with bits and pieces waiting to be made into delicious tastes and smells. If only I could find a recipe for my grandmother’s potato muffins. Try as I might, I can’t find the right recipe. This year, I’m not telling anyone, I’m planning to experiment. Maybe I can resurrect the recipe from a child’s memory.
She was always quite proud of the potato muffins. My grandfather would do that “I can’t wait for dinner” dance around the kitchen table while we set the dining room table with the fine china dishes. The kitchen table was laden with the platters for the dinner that would happen “in a bit” and he would beg for a taste. They would play act – he would “steal” a muffin off the platter and act as if he were secretly eating it. Then she would turn around and wipe her hands on her apron and peer at the platter and say, “Did you take a muffin off this platter, Sam?” and he would giggle. Every year was the same. It was tradition.
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I hope that your holidays are filled with traditions and happiness!