The Day of Jesters…April 1 and trees of spaghetti….
Ever wondered about the origins of April Fools Day?
Or pondered how long we have been playing the joker,
under cover of the calendar, on this special day of the year?
Turns out the history of April Fools Day is as elusive as the
masquerade of the jester himself,
with few historians agreeing as to the definitive origins.
The most widely held view is that it began in the Middle Ages,
under the direction of Pope Gregory XIII,
who decided, in 1582, that the civilised world would adopt
his Gregorian Calendar, which involved shifting some dates
around to suit his political purposes.
One of these alterations involved moving the first day of the year
from the end of March to April 1st.
So far, the history is irrefutable.
But what happens next isn't, although it makes a great story.
Apparently, in the absence of social media,
not all of the constituents got the memo about the change of dates.
So those unfortunate few who continued to celebrate the
first day of the year on April 1st became known as April Fools.
It's also likely that the day has its history in the pagan festivals
celebrating the return of spring, many of which involved
dressing in costume and playing tricks on strangers.
And if we go further back,
the Ancient Romans even had a day of feasting, games and merriment,
held on the first day of the year which was longer than the night preceding It.
This day, held at the end of March, was know as Hilaria
(from which our modern word "hilarious" is derived).
Anybody was allowed to dress in disguise as anybody else,
including officials and magistrates.
Probably the most spectacularly effective prank in modern times
was the audaciously bold broadcast of the Swiss Spaghetti Tree Harvest
on the BBC in 1957.
With a serious voiceover, and accompanying visuals of a family picking
their annual spring harvest of spaghetti strands,
the package was aired to around 10 million viewers.
Hundreds rang the next day to double-check the audacity of the story,
and to ask for further information as to how to grow their own spaghetti trees.
If you have never seen the original footage,
you can marvel at it here.
But before we get too smug about how so many people
were conned into believing that spaghetti is a harvestable fruit
and not a food product,
we only need to find a young child living in any urbanised environment
today and ask them "where does milk come from?"
The resultant answer,
as we increasingly step away from knowledge of our food origins,
may well make fools of us all,
and not just today, on April Fools Day.
But to finish on a flippant note,
being the day for fun, and the importance of it,
the tale of the Spaghetti Trees inspired the creation of a much-loved
restaurant in Melbourne several decades ago,
called The Spaghetti Tree.
Entering the restaurant is like stepping into a time machine,
with classic Italian style food on the menu
and a robust and lively atmosphere,
it's a favourite spot for a bowl of pasta after a night at the theatre.
And the name of the restaurant is a delicious reminder,
that sometimes, life doesn't have to be too serious.