I don't want to make this sound like a bigger deal than it is. Most of us just go about our business--it isn't a major school holiday or anything, just a few people playing pranks or doing other things, just like anywhere else. Usually one or two of the pranks are funny enough--or disastrous enough--that the whole campus finds out and everybody talks about it for days. Most pass ignored except by those most immediately involved.
My second year, Space Alien Steve was a yearling, and rebelled against the campus dietary choices by keeping his own stash of Frosted Lucky Charms. The cereal became kind of A Thing with him, he refused to share, and people started teasing him about it. It all came to a head on April 1st that year when someone--we never found out who--stole his box of Lucky Charms and removed all the marshmallows, then replaced the box in its spot on his dresser. Suspecting nothing, Steve came to breakfast, box in hand, poured himself a big bowl, and proceeded to freak out. He stood up in the middle of breakfast and started shouting "where are my marshmallows? Who took my marshmallows? Bring back my marshmallows!" But in his very melodrama it was obvious that on some level he appreciated the joke. He was making a clown of himself. And the marshmallows turned out to be hidden in an otherwise empty milk pitcher on his table, a nice touch, since none of us were ever able to figure out how it happened. He kept talking about his marshmallows, trying to track down the guilty party, for days. It was great.
Last year someone tried to play a prank on Andy--I forget what it was, other than that it was classic April Fools in that it involved someone lying to him and then saying "April Fools!" when he reacted. That did not go so well. Andy was completely taken in by the lie and it really upset him, and then when he found out it was a joke he actually started to cry. The thing is, we all basically like Andy, but Andy himself doesn't know it or can't believe it. He is estranged from his surviving family and he lost all his old friends during his long years of using drugs. I guess, on some level he's convinced he's going to be rejected again, so he takes any hint of disrespect very personally. And I know he always felt very self-conscious as one of the few Christians in the community. The prankster hadn't realized that and felt just awful afterwards.
Anyway, but, as I said, pranks aren't the only thing that happens here on this day. Ideas about what the First of April means include:
- Pranks are ok all day
- Pranks before noon confer good luck, but playing pranks after noon is bad luck
- It's bad luck for the victim to not find the prank funny
- Pranks are never ok, and the whole tradition is stupid
- The tradition is a remnant of paleolithic Laughing Festivals and so the day is a good time for jokes of all sorts
- The tradition goes back to making fun of people who were slow to accept the Gregorian calendar in the 16th century
- The tradition goes back to a form of Saturnalia in France in the 13th century, which was eventually suppressed by the Catholic Church, and is therefor a good time for drinking and raucous behavior
- The tradition is Christian in origin
- The tradition is pagan in origin
- The tradition is actually part of Ostar
- The tradition is actually part of Beltane
Greg says that most of these ideas are at least partially based on misunderstandings of history and shakes his head at it, but he makes no serious attempt to intervene.
"Far be it from me to enforce a singular, approved truth," he says.
This year he said something different, speculating at breakfast that the day may be called "April Fools'" because so many people behaved foolishly on it. I've heard he was considering doing a talk on the history of the day to try to set the record straight, but gave it up as a lost cause--in any case, he seemed to be in A Mood over it.
Allen, who was sitting at the same table with us--I think he and Greg were deliberately eating together, whereas the rest of us were at that particular table only incidentally--seemed to be in a different kind of mood.
"That's not what I think of," he told Greg, in an odd, distracted voice. He was swirling around a cup of something, milk or coffee, I think, and looking at it as though he expected something important to rise from its depths.
"Oh?" said Greg.
"You remember the idea that the fools of the Middle Ages were actually autistic, right?"
"Yeah, sure. The Holy Fools of Russia."
"April is also Autism Awareness month," Allen explained, still in an odd voice.