The Condenser

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's Day

An appropriate post for April Fool's day, as well as an interesting reminder of the mostly forgotten Fast Day holiday that was once observed across New England - taken from "Curiosities of Popular Customs and of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities" (1897) by William Shepard Walsh.

There is a story current that one April the governor, in the absence of his secretary, intrusted the drawing up of a Fast-Day proclamation to his messenger. The latter, being a bit of a wag, instead of penning a stately and pious document, wrote out the following:

"Having consulted my Council and learned that none of them has an engagement to dine on that day, and feeling fully assured that I shall receive no invitation to dine out until the high school graduating exercises begin and field strawberries get down to eight cents a quart, I do hereby appoint Thursday, the 17th day of April, as a day of public humiliation, fasting, and prayer. While the scoffers in our sister State are holding horse-races, playing base-ball, and gorging themselves with forbidden food, let us thank our stars that we know when we have enough, and feel grateful for the empty stomachs and clear heads we shall have the morning after. Though I am unable to say what the Council will do on that day, for myself I shall attend church if I can find a minister who will stay long enough to preach to me. Given in the Council chamber," etc.

The messenger, having made a rough draught, copied it on a new sheet in an engrossing clerk's handwriting, and took it to the governor, who signed it without reading a line. From here the messenger carried the proclamation down to the secretary of state, who tried to affix his signature, but could not do so on account of a bad pen. While he waited for a clerk to bring him a box of new pens he cast his eyes down the sheet, discovered the unusual phraseology, and read the document from beginning to end. Then he gave the messenger apiece of his mind, telling him it was bad enough to make light of Fast-Day, but when he began to trifle with the feelings of the chief magistrate, who was also commander-in-chiuf of the army, no State could endure such an outrage The messenger argued that it was nothing but an April joke, and the bigger the man it hit the better the joke was. This remark led the secretary to look at his calendar, and when he found it was April 1 he forgave the messenger, who retained his job through the administration.

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