Martini Quotes

"I'm not talking a cup of cheap gin splashed over an ice cube.

I'm talking satin, fire and ice; Fred Astaire in a glass; surgical cleanliness, insight.. comfort; redemption and absolution. I'm talking MARTINI.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools

Fools, Chaucer and Welles


    In trying to trace the roots of April Fool's Day, the path through history to the truth is anything but clear.  It is reminiscent of the history of Valentine's Day, a seemingly obvious holiday in honor of Saint Valentinus. But, in reality, there is more fiction than fact to the story.  One commonly held belief is that April Fool's Day dates back to that most famous Pope Gregory XIII.  When in 1582 he supplanted the Julian Calendar with the modern Gregorian one, he not only reset Spring, he also changed the beginning of the New Year.  In the Julian calendar, people typically celebrated the beginning of the new year with the start of spring which was celebrated at the end of march or the beginning of April.  In the Gregorian calendar, the new year clearly began on January 1.  Lacking 24 hour news, cell phones, and email, the news was a little slow to circulate.  Those negligent to the changes were still celebrating the onset of the new year on April 1.  The more enlightened crowd looked at those who were remiss as a bit silly and dubbed them "April Fools".  

     Whether this is the true origin of April Fool's Day or not, I cannot say for certain.  There are some other dark horse theories out there, which I am typically inclined to side with, but in this case, I'll go with the crowd favorite.  Besides, I like to go with the Popes.  I am hoping that perhaps it may lessen my time in Purgatorio.


      Geoffrey Chaucer, or at least his enthusiasts, can not stop from trying to weave themselves into history.  First, it was the initial literary mention of Valentines Day, and now the first mention of April Fools Day.  What next, did Chaucer first chronicle Easter? I think not.  In any event, there is a common misconception that the first reference to April Fool's Day dates back to The Canterbury Tales, written circa 1392.
      In the Nun's Priest's Tale, Chaucer tells the story of the vain cock, Chauntecler, who falls for the tricks of a fox, and as a consequence is almost eaten. The narrator describes the tale as occurring:

When that the monthe in which the world bigan
That highte March, whan God first maked man,
Was complet, and passed were also

Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two.

There is some ambiguity as to the translation.  While some scholars associate the 32 days to the start of March, others ascribe it to the end of the month.  Thus, it either pertains to April 1, or May 3.  Because the Nun's Priest Tale is essentially the story of a prank perpetrated upon the "foolish" cock by the sly fox, it is easy to see why choosing the date of April 1 would conveniently fit this theory.  If it is a reference to April Fool's Day, then it would be the earliest recorded reference to the day. However, Chaucer's choice of words is extremely ambiguous, and most scholars think he meant May 3, since that would be "thritty dayes and two" after March "was complet."


      Perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated upon the American public, the current presidency notwithstanding, was the radio production of The War of the Worlds, written by H.G. Wells.  The book portrays an alien invasion of Earth.  The radio show was produced by a young Orson Welles and aired as a Halloween episode on October 30, 1938.  As the show was aired without commercial interruption, and was portrayed as a series of newscast bulletins, the show had a very real atmosphere about it.   A large number of people were duped by the show, lighting up the switchboards of the local authorities.  Welles gained significant notoriety and went on to a rather illustrious career in show business, producing and directing Citizen Kane, as well as The Magnificent Ambersons.  As some of you may recall from a previous post, Orson Welles was famously quoted on his take on the Negroni, “The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other."    I take exception with his description of gin as being bad for you.  We all know that it is actually quite medicinal.   But what did he know, he pulled an April fools joke on Halloween!

And so tonight, in honor of  Welles, Chaucer, and Pope Gregory XIII, I will have a vodka martini.

April's Fools!

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