Episode 4 (formerly 1504): April Fool’s Day

Transcript:

Each April 1st in the USA people participate in April Fool’s Day. Other countries also celebrate April Fool’s Day or a similar “fool’s” day. However, it is not an official federal holiday; it is just for fun.

On April Fool’s Day people play harmless practical jokes on each other. In addition, print and broadcast media often create hoaxes that are then explained the next day. Of course, the Internet is a perfect place for jokes and hoaxes to appear every April 1st. Some even go viral.

A day set aside for jokes and tricks has a long history in much of the world. Ancient Romans had a festival of Hilaria in which pranks were part of the revelry. In India, playful teasing is part of the longstanding Holi festival every spring. Nowadays, in addition to America, other countries celebrate April Fool’s Day, or All Fool’s Day, such as Canada, Australia, South America and across Europe. In France and other countries, the victims of pranks and hoaxes are called “April Fish”.

Mention of April 1st as a day of tricks and shenanigans has been found in literature since the Middle Ages. In The Canterbury Tales, which date from the late 1300s, Chaucer writes in Middle English of April 1st as the day a sly fox tricked an egotistical rooster named Chauntecleer.

April Fool’s Day is so well known that it is referred to often in songs, poetry, books and films, either as part of the title, references in dialogues and descriptions, or as inspiration for the plotline.

Many notable, creative April Fool’s pranks have been perpetrated globally throughout the years. For example, in 1698, people were tricked into visiting the Tower of London to see the annual (nonexistent) lion-washing ceremony. In 1957, England’s BBC broadcast a fake documentary about Swiss farmers harvesting spaghetti from trees. There is even a virtual Museum of Hoaxes online at www.hoaxes.org which claims to have a location in San Diego, California, but in truth does not exist aside from the website.

One category of April Fool’s hoaxes is a company announcing a phony product. For example, American fast food company Taco Bell one year announced it had bought the Liberty Bell, a cherished American historical artifact. Another fast food company, Burger King, promoted a new “left-handed” hamburger on April 1st a few years ago.

Individuals must be on high alert on April Fool’s Day because friends and family may prank them by replacing their deodorant with cream cheese or by putting plastic pink flamingos in their front yards. Co-workers may secretly change one’s computer operating system to a foreign language. Their bosses may send them on wild goose chases, or ridiculous, pointless errands.

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Episode 3 (formerly 1503): St. Patrick’s Day

Transcript:

Many places around the world celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 each year. St. Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in Britain and was captured by Irish pirates at the age of 16. After spending several years in captivity in Ireland, he escaped and made his way back to Britain. He became a priest and returned to Ireland later in life as a missionary. He died there in the year 461. Today he is venerated by several religions, including the Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican Churches.

St. Patrick’s Day became important in the USA because of the sudden influx of Irish immigrants in the late 1840s. Hundreds of thousands of Irish people came to America then because of a famine in their home country. Since the first Irish immigrants were persecuted and discriminated against, early St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the US afforded them a way to demonstrate not only religious dedication, but also Irish culture and pride. Thus, St. Patrick’s Day evolved into a secular holiday.

Soon the Irish immigrants realized they had political power as a large group and organized for their rights. Eventually they formed a large political group known as the Green Machine. Politicians recognized the importance of this group’s vote and began changing policies and attitudes toward the Irish. Still today, politicians attend the festivities to show support and garner votes.

Nowadays in America, people celebrate St. Patrick’s Day even if they aren’t Irish. Many choose to be “Irish for the day”. Special church services are scheduled, school children have lessons about Ireland, and cities hold parades.

Even though St. Patrick’s Day is not a legal holiday, individuals, neighborhoods and most bars, especially Irish pubs, throw big parties with Irish music, food and dancing. Decorations consist of Irish flags, banners and cartoon leprechauns with cartoon pots of gold. Hosts commonly dye the beer green for a St. Patrick’s Day party, and you can even find green cupcakes at the supermarkets.

St. Patrick’s Day parades actually began in America. The first parade, held on March 17, 1762, in New York City, consisted of little more than a group of Irish soldiers serving in the British army before America declared its independence. Their small march has evolved into the largest and longest St. Patrick’s Day parade outside Ireland. Some of the biggest and most well known parades also occur in Boston, Chicago and Savannah, Georgia, where large populations of Irish immigrants settled. In addition to green clothes and shamrocks, you can almost count on seeing and hearing a bagpipes-and-drums corps in any given St. Patrick’s Day parade. The Chicago River, which flows through that city, is dyed green for their parade.

Green is the color of Ireland, owing to St. Patrick’s purported use of the shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity during his missions, and also to the fact that Ireland is called The Emerald Isle. On St. Patrick’s Day, people wear green clothes, party hats and shamrocks. Many green T-shirts say “Kiss me, I’m Irish”. This tradition of green clothing on March 17 is called “the wearing of the green.” People who don’t wear green on St. Patrick’s Day are subject to be pinched. Even some baseball teams wear green uniforms on St. Patrick’s Day, notably the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox.

Although St. Patrick’s Day began as a religious observance and there are annual church services especially honoring St. Patrick, today most celebrations are more about Irish culture and fun. So, on March 17, don your green clothes, see an Irish parade, and raise a green beer to Ireland. Erin go bragh!

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