March 29, 2007

Five Light-Hearted Celebrations in March and April

In Western countries, April 1st has long been celebrated as April Fools’ Day, an opportunity to play tricks on others and to suspend seriousness for a short period of time. As it turns out, there are other holiday traditions that nearly coincide with the beginning of April; some have suggested that the start of spring in the Northern hemisphere may have an influence on these playful and light-hearted celebrations.

  • Holi (March): This festival in India is dedicated to the Hindu Demoness, Holika, and is marked by celebrants throwing colored powder and water over each other, and the usual social distinctions of caste, sex, status, and age are set aside for its duration.
  • Purim (March): Purim is a Jewish holiday celebrating the triumph of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai over the evildoer Haman, and often involves games, costumes, and joyful noisemaking. Christopher Guest’s 2006 movie, For Your Consideration, focuses on the making of a fictional film called “Home for Purim.”
  • Hilaria (March 25): On March 25th, ancient Romans observed Hilaria, a day marking the resurrection of the god Attis and also honoring his mother, Cybele, on which Romans conducted games, masquerades, and other revelries.
  • Poisson d’Avril (April 1): Literally, “fish of April,” this French version of April Fools’ Day involves pinning paper cut-outs of fish on other peoples’ backs, thus making them the “Poisson d’Avril,” or a fish so young and foolish that it is easily caught.
  • Taily Day (April 1): Also known as “Hunting the gowk” in Scotland, those who are tricked are known as “April-gowks,” or cuckoos.

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