Welcome to April 2023
April Fool! Caught you! Were you the prankster or the pranked? Even an institution as stuffy as the British Broadcasting Corporation isn’t above pranking the public on the first day of April. If a fool and his money are soon parted, then whatever the BBC was selling, they were having a jolly good time in their advertising department. You can watch their mini documentary on Flying Penguins below:
When I was at Perkins Seminary, we editors of the weekly newsletter had a tradition of an April Surprise. This followed the practice of the former Babylonian Schismatic, which was an alternative, satirical student newsletter published occasionally between 1981 and 1988.
One year, when I was coeditor, it was more of an April Debacle. My partner in crime and I were sure the beach ball bouncing off the usual chapel steeple logo would be enough to clue our community into the prank. However, we failed to realize how little sleep our fellow students actually got during school weeks, how seriously they took the printed word, and worst of all, that our newsletter also went to bishops’ widows in faraway places. This last was what got us into the real trouble.
Our faux reports of Perkins losing its accreditation due to shenanigans of prior graduates, who were in the news at the time, had graduate students storming the dean’s office. Even worse, the bishop’s widows were calling him to inquire what kind of school he was overseeing. The fact schools can only lose accreditation for their own failures (and not the trespasses of former students or faculty) never crossed anyone’s mind in the ensuing uproar. So of course, we criminals wrote handwritten letters of apology to the widows and printed retractions in the next newsletter for the students. I now understand why my mother said I sometimes take things too seriously. Still, I’ve have found others who make me look like a giggle queen.
Speaking of giggles, although the historical roots of April Fool’s Day are shrouded in mystery, the British, who are mostly known for their dry wit and stiff upper lip, seem to enjoy this holiday to excess. Especially at the BBC, which back in 1957, produced a fascinating prank documentary on the Swiss Artisanal Spaghetti Industry. They showed a Swiss family harvesting ripe spaghetti strands from their spaghetti bushes. At the time because of rationing, spaghetti wasn’t widely available. After 1956 in the British Isles, Italian companies opened spaghetti factories and Italian immigrants opened restaurants. The British developed a taste for this food. As a result, some British families were so enthusiastic, they wanted to purchase their own spaghetti bushes for a home garden. Others were unhappy to be pranked. This may be one of the first times the medium of television was used to stage an April Fool’s Day hoax.
Moveable Feasts: Passover and Easter
Israel was an ancient agricultural culture and followed a lunar calendar, so sighting the full moon was important. Passover is always pegged to the Hebrew calendar, which is based on the lunar cycle. It starts in the middle of the month of Nisan, when the moon is full, typically falling in March or April of the modern Gregorian calendar. As a result, Passover typically begins very close to Easter. Easter Sunday is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring Equinox. However, due to the shorter Hebrew calendar, sometimes it gets a leap month to keep it in tune with the seasons. In 2024, when the leap month plays a part, we’ll have an early Easter on March 21st, but Passover won’t start until April 22nd.
These religious holidays are forever entertwined because of the historical events of the Last Supper, which we assume was a ritual meal or Seder, and the crucifixion on a Friday, which required Christ’s body to be taken down from the cross due to the beginning of Passover at sunset.The Last Supper took place on a Thursday night, even though the actual Passover didn’t begin until Friday night.
As Wesley’s Notes on The New Testament observe, “Jesus took the bread—the bread or cake, which the master of the family used to divide among them, after they had eaten the passover. The custom our Lord now transferred to a nobler use. This bread is, that is, signifies or represents my body, according to the style of the sacred writers.”
We know this because Jesus was arrested in Gesthemane after this meal and then taken to the Roman Governor Pilate on Friday morning, the day of Preparation for the Passover. John 18:28 reminds us how the temple priests “…took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning. They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.”
The Jews in the first century kept faithfulness according to laws of separation and purity, so they kept away from unbelievers on holy days. This was the biblical practice of the time. Early Christians continued this practice until Paul began his outreach to the Greek and Roman citizens of the world. When in the later gospel of John (14:15) Christ says, “if ye love me, keep my commandments, Wesley’s commentary understands this to mean: “Immediately after faith he exhorts to love and good works.” This is why we United Methodists practice an open table at Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, for all who love the Lord and desire to be in love and fellowship with their neighbors are welcome at his table. We don’t exclude anyone, for God includes all people into the circle of God’s love.
Since Easter Sunday is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, this makes Easter a “moveable feast.” Unlike a picnic, for which we tote our fixings from our kitchen to a park or to the countryside, or unlike a house to house “progressive dinner,” Easter is called “moveable” because it’s not on a fixed date like Christmas or New Year’s Day.
My family’s Easter feast always centered about a baked ham, often covered with canned pineapple rings and studded with cloves. We were a modern American 1950-60’s family and Betty Crocker reigned in my mother’s kitchen. Just this week I saw a tv advertisement of a family feast with this very same baked ham. I suppose when the economy gets dicey, people pull out old familiar recipes from the great-great-grandmother’s kitchen. Since I have a new great-grandchild on the way, and a knitting project started, I can safely say, this isn’t an April Fool’s joke. I’ve seen the sonogram images!
“April showers bring May flowers” is an ancient rhyme. Unfortunately, these showers also bring pollens of every kind, since trees and flowers both acquire crowns of glory. The Old Farmer’s’ Almanac notes while November has a bit more rain in store for Arkansas than April usually brings, this month’s warmer weather favors conditions for flowers to bloom and trees to bud. While we might tire of the storms and the havoc they wrack upon the populace, we’re always thankful if they only cause damage to property and don’t take human lives.
Across North America, the pollen season has lengthened by 20 days since 1990. Pollen concentrations have also increased by 21 percent over the past three decades. This means some of us have been doctoring ourselves or visiting the RD—real doctor—since February. The stubbornest of us waited until almost April because we were convinced we could heal ourselves. If you still have no energy and are grumpy to boot after a month, you too need a RD. Better living through chemistry with put a perk back into your bunny hop.
Speaking of the weather, I have seen many years now of Easter sunrise services, and even more later noontime Easter feasts. One thing ties them all together: no matter how cute my spring outfit is, no one ever sees it because I’m always wearing a raincoat or a winter coat over it. My guess is rain and cool weather will come and our egg hunts will likely be inside. As long as there’s a dark chocolate Easter rabbit for my personal gratification, I’ll be happy. I discovered last year’s version stored in the cabinet, so I’d better make some chocolate chip cookies soon.
There’s plenty of silly or merchandising holidays in April, but you can read about them at the link below my name. Until May, I remain your April Fool…
Joy, peace, and chocolate rabbits for everyone,
April Daily Holidays, National, International. Holiday Insights.
Why Easter and Passover are observed on different dates each year
The worst cities in the U.S. for allergies
BBC Flying Penguin Documentary April Fool Prank
BBC 1957 Spaghetti Documentary April Fool Prank
BBC ON THIS DAY | 1 | 1957: BBC fools the nation
No spuds please, we’re British
Is April Really The Month of Showers? – Farmers’ Almanac
Where the Most Weather Warnings Are Issued in the U.S. | Weather Underground