April 1 is celebrated all over the world as the World Laughter Day (also called the All Fools’ Day), a fest that is not included in any official calendar, but is one of the most truly international ones. Eco Tourism Expert speaks about how it originated and suggested together with an expert which of the Russian cities could become the Capital of Laughter and attract many tourists.
There is still much debate among historians about where the April All Fools’ Day came from. One of the versions is that it was ancient Rome where the Day of the Fools was celebrated, but it was in February, not in April. Another version is the celebration of the Laughter Day as the day of worship of Gelos, the God of laugher, or personified spirit (daimon) of laughter. According to ancient Greek mythology, Gelos was a companion of festive Dionysus, the God of Wine and Fun (as well as of grape-harvest, winemaking, orchards and fruit, vegetation, fertility, festivity and theatre), along with his son Comus, the God of Festivity, revels and nocturnal dalliances. In the ancient Roman mythology, this God was called Risus.
India is also often called the country where the Laughter Day came from, the Indians celebrate the festival of jokes on March 31. And in the Icelandic sagas, there is a mention that the custom of playing practical jokes on friends and acquaintances on April 1 was introduced by the gods in memory of Skadi, daughter of Thjazi, the giant. In the Scandinavian mythology, it is said that when the gods killed her father Thjazi, Skadi took a weapon and went to the town of Asgard to avenge him. The gods offered Skadi to choose one of them as her husband - as a ransom for her father. She agreed, setting a condition that the Aesir (main gods in the Scandinavian mythology) had to make her laugh, which no one had been able to do, yet.
There is also a simpler version. In the middle of the 16th century, King Charles IX reformed the calendar in France, moving the New Year to January 1, but many continued to celebrate it on April 1. People who presented gifts to each other on this day were called ‘April Fools’. That’s how the Fools’ Day (the Laughter Day) originated.
Russian travel agencies and tour operators have never made special programmes to travel abroad on the Laughter Day, but it is worth saying that in many countries of the world, there is something to see and something to laugh at on this date.
In Scotland, this day is called Gowk Day (Gowk is Scots for ‘cuckoo’ but is also became the word for a ‘fool’) and the festival lasts for two days. It is noteworthy that the second day of the festival is a Tailie Day (also called or Preen-tail Day), and all jokes and pranks are made involving the buttocks. It is very popular to put special rubber bags on the chair, which, when pressed, make sounds that are considered indecent. In Portugal, the Laughter Day falls on Sunday and Monday before the Great Lent. On this day, people throw flour at each other. In France, on the Laughter Day, one of the most common jokes is sticking a paper fish to a person’s back. In India, it is customary to ‘daub’ other people with paints, throw spices at each other, jump over a fire, and celebrate the arrival of spring on the April Fools’ Day.
Only in Germany, April 1 is considered an unlucky day. The Germans believe that those born on this day are unlucky. In the villages, people don’t work on April 1, they don’t start new businesses, and they don’t let cattle out of their stalls. But the tough Germans also make some jokes on this day - adults and children joke on each other telling each other to carry out impossible tasks - it’s a time of fruitless errands and daft jokes.
In the tradition of celebrating April 1, Russia was not behind the rest of the world. In pagan Russia, April 1 was celebrated as the Day of Awakening Brownie (a good-natured elf). On April 1, people joked, had fun, laughed while greeting a house sprite awakening from winter hibernation. It was customary to dress up in amusing clothes, make jokes on each other and make fun. Subsequently, April 1 became exactly a festive day thanks to Peter the Great. Once on April 1, the inhabitants of St. Petersburg were awakened by a fire alarm - it turned out to be a joke.
Odessa has always been the capital of humour in the USSR. And even now, when the surrounding reality makes the celebration of such a festival almost impossible, the Odessites do not lose heart. As the mayor of the city Gennady Trukhanov said on social networks, “The Odessites have a peculiar feature - a sense of irony, self-irony, which does not disappear even in the most difficult circumstances.” He noted that together with the Odessa stand-up comedians, a show had been prepared that would be offered to the residents of the city, if the circumstances permit.
During the Soviet era and later, the Humorina festival was held in Odessa on April 1, the first one took place back in 1973. Since 1976, the local authorities - frightened by the scale of the festival and being unable to cope with the spontaneous enthusiasm of the people - banned Humorina. However, it was held until 1987 despite the ban without explicitly calling it that; many schools and universities held the KVNs (shows of the Club of the Cheerful and Sharp-Witted), and Fun Meeting Club functioned.
Since 1991, the tradition of the annual Humorina festival has been revived, and its most spectacular and amazing part is the large-scale carnival procession.
As for today’s Russia, there is no separate city to be called the capital of humour in our country, although in different years, it was supposed to call various settlements the capital of humour - from the village of Kindasovo in the Republic of Karelia where a festival of folk humour has been held annually since 1985 to the city of Taganrog where Chekhov wrote mostly humorous stories, especially at the beginning of his writer’s journey. In Taganrog, a talented Russian comedienne Faina Ranevskaya was born who became a famous comedy actress having a great sense of humor and a smart mouth. The famous “sir Zyuzya” from “Tavern ‘13 Chairs”’, the actors Zinovy Vysokovsky, Fyodor Dobronravov, Pavel Derevyanko are from Taganrog, they created and keep on creating vivid satirical images today.
In this context, the name “Capitals of Humour of Russia” sounds much better than just one “Capital of Humour,” believes Sergey Pozdnyakov, an expert in the event tourism.
“Kindasovo is a very small village and, of course, there is no infrastructure around it to accommodate tourists on the April Fools’ Day. As for Taganrog, this city, although located in the south, has a number of problems with logistics and hotel rooms. Ranevskaya born in Taganrog lived in Moscow all her life, but Moscow is the capital of Russia and making it also the capital of humour is wrong,” the expert believes.
“I am in favour of having several capitals of humour. This will contribute to the growth of the tourist attractiveness of various regions of Russia, and travellers will have a choice where to go and what to see,” Sergey Pozdnyakov concluded.